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27 Azamara Middle East Cruise Reviews

The Gulf has been on our bucket list for quite a while. We have frequently stopped over at DXB but never before been outside the airport. It was certainly worth while! Service aboard was typically Azamara, laid back, friendly and ... Read More
The Gulf has been on our bucket list for quite a while. We have frequently stopped over at DXB but never before been outside the airport. It was certainly worth while! Service aboard was typically Azamara, laid back, friendly and efficient, sort of feels like home without the work. Dubai is spectacular, all the world's biggest, tallest, busiest things they say and didn't disappoint. Try using the Metro to explore. Boarding and Disembark very smooth. Oman is great but the Azamazing evening didn't live up to usual standard, The Cultural centre was spectacular but a pretty ordinary Brass band disappointed. Then previous trips have set a very high standard. The other ports were also interesting with the Grande Mosque in Abu Dhabi being a highlight and the compact, beautifully lit skyline of Qatar also living in memory. Premium dining is only just better than Discovery or Windows foodwise and having to fit with the times available makes it a dubious extra charge. Service certainly isn't better. Only complaint is WiFi speed and login hassles. Great trip Quest. We will be back. Read Less
Sail Date November 2019
We were first timers on Azamara but it won't be our last. We liked the size of the ship it never felt crowded, we never had to wait for, lifts, tables, sunloungers or seats in the cabaret lounge. The staff from the Captain down to ... Read More
We were first timers on Azamara but it won't be our last. We liked the size of the ship it never felt crowded, we never had to wait for, lifts, tables, sunloungers or seats in the cabaret lounge. The staff from the Captain down to the room stewards were very attentive, nothing was too much trouble. The food was some of the best we have had on a cruise ship. Our cabin was great, the only slight problem was the size of the bathroom and the shower curtain, just another 20cm pinched from the bedroom would make alot of difference. The entertainment was good and varied, the cruise director Ernest had an incredible voice! We were surprised just how varied the port of calls were. The highlight for us was "At home with an Emirati family" in Khor al Fakkan, we were made so welcome and it was wonderful to be able to talk to them and discover their customs and way of life I would thoroughly recommend this. Read Less
Sail Date November 2019
We took this cruise to experience the Middle East in style. Felt like we were splurging a bit since I had just retired and went on a more expensive brand. Expected more than we got. All the people on the ship were nice, but it did not ... Read More
We took this cruise to experience the Middle East in style. Felt like we were splurging a bit since I had just retired and went on a more expensive brand. Expected more than we got. All the people on the ship were nice, but it did not live up to expectations. The shower was so small, worse than a Carnival ship. The room was standard sized for a cruise, as was the balcony. We had booked a suite originally and then backed out due to the flights costs. Wish I had stayed with it. The food was mediocre and did not have the variety that we expected. We went for the destinations, and they were amazing. Also, since the ship is so small, the entertainment was weak. The cruise director's staff was also the entertainment. A bit strange! I would take them again, knowing all this, as they go to destinations others do not. Just know what you are getting into. Read Less
Sail Date October 2018
Our friends had cruised on Azamara previously and had already booked this cruise. We have cruised before on large ships and didn’t really like the experience. So we weren’t really interested in cruising again until we checked out the ... Read More
Our friends had cruised on Azamara previously and had already booked this cruise. We have cruised before on large ships and didn’t really like the experience. So we weren’t really interested in cruising again until we checked out the itinerary which included Petra, Jordan and Athens, and that our friends raved about the cruise line. The ship, cabin, facilities and crew: Ship was nice and had everything we needed. Pool area was very nice with chaise lounges (used “at sea” days). Restaurants were clean; staff attentive although some staff stood out, but no complaints except for shore excursion staff (discuss later). The cabin (deck 4) was dated and not as clean as I would have liked. The cabin is small but manageable. We brought extra hangers for our clothes which helped. Bed was very comfortable and sheets were luxurious. The cabin has a TV with limited number of channels including news (if interested). Cabin was quiet. We didn’t hear the neighbors very often only when leaving occasionally. The ship has complementary laundry facility including detergent but it’s often busy and at least one washer and dryer was not operational. Suggest using early or when in port if possible otherwise you’ll have to wait. The staff takes ship’s cleanliness seriously to prevent illness from spreading. As far as I know the ship didn’t have any gastrointestinal illnesses (thankfully!). We ate at all but the Italian restaurant. The food, presentation, and serving staff were excellent. We did eat at the Prime C (upgrade $30 pp),which was good but I don’t think it was any better than the Discoveries dining room which is included in cost. No better base wine selection either (disappointing). Which leads me to the beverages ... base alcohol choices included in cost was disappointing especially the wine selection. Some (and I am being nice) were literally undrinkable in my opinion but others in party seemed ok with the choices (I don’t think I’m a wine snob as we typically drink California wines about the $10- $20 price range). These wines were worse than some box wine I’ve had! Many came from So Africa (the worst), Portugal, Spain, Italy; occasionally New Zealand, S America and California. We considered buying the upgraded wine package but with no opportunity to taste and unfamiliar with the wineries it didn’t seem worth it. I drank the wine when I could but generally opting for Newcastle beer and lemon drop martini! Azamara needs a much better sommelier. Entertainment was better than I expected. I typically don’t like ship entertainment and definitely didn’t attend all but the ones I did attend were enjoyable and quality. Tim Seals pianist was exceptional. There was a magician too which I thought would be hokey but he was very good. The cruise ship’s band Smooth Sensations were also very good. They had another singer “Big Red” who was also good. Excursions: since we were traveling with seasoned Azamara travelers they generally don’t use the cruise line’s excursions instead opting to book private tours for just our group (7 to 10 people). But we did book four cruise excursions (extra cost). One was to the Valley of the Kings in Luxor. Several buses carrying about 20-25 people were used. While traveling to destination the tour guide spoke about the area and customs (and q&a) and discussed history of the site at destination. He was knowledgeable. The tour included a buffet lunch at a hotel which was good but I thought took too long because we felt rushed at the site. It was a long day about 14 hours. Other excursions (salalah, muscat, and Dubai) were enjoyable and local guides were knowledgeable. We are not fans of coach buses or touring with that many people - always seem to be waiting for someone. We had prebooked our ship excursions before boarding the ship, which I recommend. In conversation with other travelers, we were surprised how many travelers who did not. Some missed out on excursions because they were booked and Azamara wasn’t able to get more buses/guides. So book ship’s excursions ahead. Ship’s shore excursion staff: we noticed one of our booked tours that we paid more than the ship’s published price. Not much; $10 pp. we asked the ship’s staff and was told he would check with his manager and get back to us. A few days passed and we still hadn’t been contacted nor did we receive a refund. We contacted staff again but this time different person. He immediately refunded the difference. So the first guy forgot I guess? Suez Canal and Security: thought I would cover this because we hadn’t been to Middle East and wasn’t sure what to expect culturally and with safety. We never felt unsafe or threatened in any ports or cities. Our guides were local and were very patient with answering our group’s questions about culture, history, food, laws etc. I did some research on appropriate dress especially for women so I was prepared to dress more conservatively in Muslim countries (Jordan, Egypt, Oman) which was usually just covered shoulders and capris unless visiting a Mosque or religious site (head covered, pants/skirt full length, long sleeved tops). Jordan, Oman and Dubai are extremely safe. Guides insisted they have very little crime. they were clean and graffiti free. Egypt was dirty and very rural. If you have seen the movie Captain Phillips you know that Somalia has pirates. Don’t worry the ship is prepared for the unlikely incident. So during this section of the cruise near the gulf of Aden the Ship takes precautions (lookouts posted, fire hoses ready, dims lights at night). I also read that cruise ships aren’t usually targeted because the ship are faster and can create wakes that can sink a small boat). We didn’t see any pirates. AzAmazing and White Night: unfortunately because of a long private tour in Israel that returned late we were unable to attend the AzAmazing night. However other travelers told us it was great. We did attend the Ehite Night which was enjoyable and plenty of food. Cons: started to rain lightly and with some tables out in open that was an issue. Thankfully it didn’t last long! Tables are first come first grab. We had a group of 10. Even though we got there early we were still challenged to find a suitable table. I think seating should be assigned/reserved especially for larger groups. Also the food is buffet and was chaotic with everyone getting up at same time; some pushed/ shoved! They should number the tables and call just a few tables up at a time. A bit too unorganized in my opinion. Fitness and other activities: many travelers walk the upper deck above pool. There is a well equipped fitness center which we used a couple of times. They have spa services which we did not use. The ship holds discussions on locations, history, and art by professors in the field - not exciting but informative. Other activities are also available such as arts and crafts, casino, bingo but we didn’t do any of those. There’s a library and business center with internet and board games. We did not purchase internet so never used that service. We used our mobile phones service (T mobile international plan) in ports. Worked well for us and was much less expensive ($15 per month per device for text and data). Overall we had a great time. Most travelers were friendly and wanted to chat. Many were from Australia, Britain, NZ, and US. Most travelers were in their 70’s; we are about 10+ years younger. Only one or two kids under five. A couple of travelers in their late 20’s who appeared to be traveling with family. Mostly couples, single older women and some LBGTQ. They do offer mixers for singles and LBGTQ. Apparently if you book a cabin you can somehow place your name to be considered for upgrade at lower cost, but you need to do this in the website. Our travel agent didn’t tell us and our group forgot to mention it. About a month before embarking they were all notified of cabin upgrades for a discounted cost. We contacted our travel agent who said she would do what she could but we were never contacted. They all got veranda cabins on deck 7; we were stuck in steerage. Lol. They got better cabins for about the same price we paid. So be sure to sign up for the upgrade! We would travel again on Azamara. Read Less
Sail Date October 2018
The ship has a passenger size of 620+ and a crew size of 403. If you are looking for a first cruise this is the ship to be on. It is big enough to be enjoyable but, not to big that its like a small town. We were a little ... Read More
The ship has a passenger size of 620+ and a crew size of 403. If you are looking for a first cruise this is the ship to be on. It is big enough to be enjoyable but, not to big that its like a small town. We were a little apprehensive on arriving at the port in Dubai handing over our passports which we did not see until we left the ship on a shuttle bus and even then we did not take them with us. The ship has all the amenities that you would find in a 5 star hotel and more. There is a wide range of food and its possible to dine buffet style or waiter service every day in one or other restaurants. We were pleasantly surprised to find that most if not all the crew we came into contact with new what we liked to drink at any time of the day and the captain made you feel just like an old friend. Our cabin crew were just great, both Anwar and Paulo could not be more helpful. Ok, so excursions and entertainment. You are not required to attend any entertainment programme or go on any excursion if you don not want too, I guess some may think that if its there you have too, no not the case its your holiday. However, you would be foolish not to go and see some of the places the ship visits, its a cruise after all. (tip, don't always use the cruise excursions, do a little research before you go and if a shuttle bus is available do your own thing it can be very rewarding). All the shore trips apart from one were great including the Azamazing night on shore. One we did was not brilliant, we did it on our own not a problem, just that the town was a little, well not a tourist town (tip... When you go a shore take some local currency with you, one bank we went too for money would not exchange as we did not have our passports). I could go on and mention all the places visited like Doha, lovely place we are actually thinking of going there on holiday now. so many things to see and do in all the ports, go on try it I am sure you will enjoy it. Oh nearly forgot, don't forget to use the laundry on deck 7 its worth it, banks of washing machines and dryers 2 ironing boards and you get to chat to fellow guests too, saves on laundry bills. Read Less
Sail Date October 2016
The dates fit into our schedule.The food was very ok on this ship. Not bad, not great. Too many people at the buffet lines and tables. MDR too physically crowded. The shows were fabulous. Momma Mia was Broadway quality. The shows were ... Read More
The dates fit into our schedule.The food was very ok on this ship. Not bad, not great. Too many people at the buffet lines and tables. MDR too physically crowded. The shows were fabulous. Momma Mia was Broadway quality. The shows were great.The cabin was a good size with a nice seating area. There was plenty of storage for 2 people. Also we enjoyed our excursions specially in country of oman with the best tourism Company there ( Lifetime-tours),Oman was my third stop on a four country vacation and I immediately fell in love with this country. At first I could not put my finger on why, but I think it was the heart of the people that made this place special. Ahmed, our tour guide was extremely knowledgeable and professional. He spoke with a certain pride about his country and I could see why. He took great care to make sure we had a great time and he altered the tour a bit due to my disability to make sure I could still experience a Wadi, but just not a challenging.Also the excellent service and organisation we had with this agency.Finally it was everything beautiful and relaxing. Read Less
Sail Date October 2016
The review is overdue, but I feel that I must recount the following details of a truly wonderful 32 days cruising we had on the Quest post dry dock – 15 April and 1 May sailings from Singapore to Dubai to Athens. We boarded promptly ... Read More
The review is overdue, but I feel that I must recount the following details of a truly wonderful 32 days cruising we had on the Quest post dry dock – 15 April and 1 May sailings from Singapore to Dubai to Athens. We boarded promptly on our arrival at the Singapore Cruise Centre and soon were amongst very excited fellow travellers and our extended ‘family’. We were very impressed with the itinerary not having been to this part of the world before. A Suez Canal transit had long been on my bucket list. What ensured was two terrific itineraries back to back with great ports and positive post dry dock experiences that further confirmed our preference of and continued commitment to cruising Azamara. If you’ve never been to India, Oman, Jordan and Israel consider doing it with Azamara you won’t be disappointed. We enjoyed our Continental Cabin very much and loved everything about it. Some of the things we enjoyed that there were usb chargers incorporated into the reading light switches, the drawer system provided heaps of storage, the beds, linens and soft furnishings were all very beautiful and new. We felt we were really spoilt with the complimentary speciality dining access, afternoon savouries and just the extra space and always a view ‘to die for’! Absolutely loved the new Interactive TV system. Noticeable differences were mostly stubble, with the exception of the staterooms, laundry, widows seating and vast improvements to the Living Room [formerly The Looking Glass]. This once under unutilised area has had a major refurbishment and the décor and ambience is stunning. It is now well patronised with the addition of a small sandwich bar at noon which becomes a Tapas bar from 5pm, the installation of a coffee bar [which takes the pressure off the Coffee Shop on Deck 5], good background live entertainment from 6pm and overall a great place to enjoy the complimentary drinks and great company. It is also well used post late evening shows. As these were ‘hot’ cruises we enjoyed the fact that the Sunset Bar hadn’t become an Asian fusion restaurant and was retained in its original format for us to enjoy. A number of firm friendships were rekindled (from prior Azamara sailings) with new ones being made by these new sailings. We very much enjoyed seeing our regular our ‘Azamara family’ again an opportunity to meet ‘new family members’. This was our seventh and eighth Azamara cruises and our first opportunity to sail with Captain Jose who is delightful, entertaining and extremely professional. We had both Russ and Tony as Cruise Directors who each bring their own personal stamp to these positons. They were ably supported by professional and friendly team. Hotel Director, Phillip remains one of the most delightfull human beings we’ve ever met. Right from the top of the staff, (Senior Officers) to the remainder of the crew I’m in awe of how well the ship runs behind the scenes. I can’t speak highly enough of all to the teams we interacted with, which wasn’t limited to only the entertainers, musicians, security staff, waitstaff, guest relations and shore discoveries. The service, friendliness and professionalism is and continues to be outstanding and we’re really not interested in taking our business elsewhere to better the experiences we have had. In our belief this is what puts Azamara aside from its competitors. On a down side, it was noticed there are still the few passengers that forget manners and appear negative and sometimes rude to staff that work long hours and spend much of their lives away from their families. It’s fortunate that Azamara appreciates their staff and crew when sadly some passengers didn’t. Despite what I had read in previous reviews the quality of the food ship wide was outstanding and probably at the best we’d ever had. We had Chef Monica and Chef Fabio to thank for this. We did the French Chef’s table for our wedding anniversary and whilst not hosted by an officer as advertised we received an excellent explanation of the food preparations from Chef Fabio and wine pairings from Sommelier Jackson. Again Azamara have exceeded our high expectations of cruising and we’ve already booked our next adventure with them. We thank the teams on the Quest for making this trip memorable. We can’t wait to go back. Read Less
Sail Date April 2016
What a pleasure to be back on the Quest - - my four most recent Azamara cruises were on the Journey, which I also love. The two ships are equally welcoming; however I would give the Quest a slight edge for one reason: the entertainment. I ... Read More
What a pleasure to be back on the Quest - - my four most recent Azamara cruises were on the Journey, which I also love. The two ships are equally welcoming; however I would give the Quest a slight edge for one reason: the entertainment. I never thought I would say this, but this cast of singers (and dancers) were a cut above! And they worked on a ship! Herewith some random observations and comparisons: Embarkation and disembarkation: both were a breeze. We took our own suitcases on and off. Never a problem, and cabins were ready in Piraeus at 1PM. Food: There were a couple of disappointing meals in the Discoveries Dining Room: food arrived less than hot, and once it took an hour for the second course to arrive. (This did not happen on the Journey.) All was forgiven as most of the meals there were just fine. The two meals in Aqualina and one in Prime C were stellar. Just delicious. Of the three souffles, the current winner is the Grand Marnier (both the chocolate and the limoncello were not to be dismissed). We ate outdoors in Windows three times, and these three were themed buffets: Greek, Middle Eastern and Thai. There were plenty of delicious options, and the occasional miss: the felaffel was not crispy, for example. But what a treat to be able to dine under the stars in late October and early November. Service: As usual, an Azamara strength. A shout out to our server in Aqualina, Milena. She is a jewel. AzAmazing Evening: Our one night of rain in 15 days occurred during this concert at Kolossi Castle, a Crusader stronghold on the outskirts of Limassol, Cyprus. It was an evening consisting of a song cycle by Anastasia Guy, and it was a world premiere. The venue and the music were special and memorable. Yes - it would have been amazing indeed had the concert been outdoors with the illuminated castle behind the stage; however a huge tent was set up, and despite the torrential rain (it had not rained in Limassol in several months, and they needed it badly) and noise, the musicians and singers persevered beautifully. We all made it back to the ship safely, thanks to the Azamara and local staff. Bravo. In fact, by the time our bus #5 departed, the rain had stopped! The storm made this an evening to remember. Entertainment: I admit to being a snob: living in New York, I see hundreds of shows and ballets each year. Cruise ship entertainment has rarely been top-notch. I credit Russ Thomas Grieve, the Cruise Director, for good taste: several shows were intimate, cabaret-style entertainments, with the seats pulled closer to the stage, using one to four of the singers involved. Examples: "Double Standards," "Divas and Duets" and "Unsung Broadway." For my money, the one "big" show which should be retired is "Voices." Ugh. The penultimate night's Broadway tribute, "Stage Door to Dreams" was a lot of fun, culminating in Russ's delicious turn as Edna Turnblad in the "Hairspray" finale: You Can't Stop the Beat. Overall, the guest entertainers were just fine too: I even liked the magician. The ship: The Quest will be in drydock in April (the Journey in January) and all the cabins will be renovated.The carpeting in all areas will be replaced, and the Looking Glass will be reconfigured and renamed The Living Room. The decks will also be replaced: the Quest is showing its age a bit more than the Journey, especially around the pool. But the basics that please so much will remain: the R ships are a perfect size. You never get lost. They never seem crowded. You hardly ever have to wait for a dinner table. White Night: Again, a highlight. This time it occurred on October 31st, in Muscat. So it became White/Fright night, and it was so much fun to see the crew in costume. Captain Jose made a terrific pirate, all the more apropos as we spent a few days cruising the Gulf of Aden, a hotbed of piracy just a few years ago. The only thing I would change: Get rid of the art auctions. The art is just terrible. A shame because what is actually on the walls throughout the ship is very good. The Park West stuff is execrable. Thanks again, Azamara. I'll be back. Read Less
Sail Date October 2015
We went on Holly Lands cruise Athens -> Istanbul, with Israel, Turkey and Greece ports. Azamara managed to completely ruin Israel, Phahos Greece) and Kas (Turkey) because all 3 days in Israel were a holiday and Shabbat: Thursday ... Read More
We went on Holly Lands cruise Athens -> Istanbul, with Israel, Turkey and Greece ports. Azamara managed to completely ruin Israel, Phahos Greece) and Kas (Turkey) because all 3 days in Israel were a holiday and Shabbat: Thursday through Saturday. Why Azamara named this cruise Holly Lands (the main attraction of this cruise) just to schedule Israel on a holiday and Shabbat when everything is closed? Azamara docked at Phaphos on Sunday and the main attraction, market and a church, where closed. In Kas (Turkey) Azamara printed out instructions that going to Meis (Greek island) all we need are our passports. It was absolutely wrong information. We brought our passports and bought the tickets for a ferry to Meis. 1.5 hours later, we were denied boarding a ferry to Meis because it is not allowed to cross the Turkish border to go to Greece (Island Meis) with papers that Azamara gave us. Since it was already 10am, we missed other options and had to stay in port. If Azamara would plan this cruise just one day earlier, we would not be in Israel on Shabbat and in a Greek port on Sunday. Azamara planning office was absolutely clueless about their own itinerary which was inexcusable and we, the passengers, lost. The food was inconsistent in buffet: some days good, some bad and some average. The captain scheduled the most inconvenient times for his Bridge tours (ex: 11:30am on port days) which made it impossible to attend. Azamara also increased a booking cancellation period with no penalty from 90 days to 6 months starting in 2015 and then lowered prices during a penalty period. I gave Azamara 2 stars instead of 1 star only because the tenders were well organized and the special event in Ephesus was very good. It was my first and last time with Azamara. Read Less
Sail Date September 2015
Upon boarding the Quest for our first Azamara cruise we met so many people who were on their 4th,5th or 6th (and in some cases more) cruise which is always a good sign. We had a mini suite on the 8th deck (8053) and everything was very ... Read More
Upon boarding the Quest for our first Azamara cruise we met so many people who were on their 4th,5th or 6th (and in some cases more) cruise which is always a good sign. We had a mini suite on the 8th deck (8053) and everything was very good. The staff were excellent, the senior staff including the Captain were personable, friendly, helpful and communicative (quite the opposite to the cruise we took immediately prior to this on Silver Wind - for all we saw the senior crew on that ship it might just have well been on 'automatic pilot'') the food was superb and the staff most attentive at all times. It would help if there was more than one choice of red and white wines at dinner. We will travel with Azamara again and have no hesitation in recommending this ship on the basis of this most enjoyable experience. The entertainment was very good orchestrated by the personable Cruise Director who also did a 'one man' show which was excellent - the activities including the Bridge lessons were just what was wanted. The purpose of the cruise was to relax after 16 months in the Middle east - this was easily achieved. The Azamazing experience was exactly that - the staff are to be commended in organising a most enjoyable evening in the grounds of the Cochin Meridien hotel for 500 passengers - the dancing and the food were excellent.We had been to most ports of call before and arranged our own trips locally. Some public areas were a little too cold but that is exteremely subjective! Read Less
Sail Date March 2015
We booked this cruise from Mumbai to Athens as a complete package, which included a pre-cruise land tour of the “Golden Triangle” of India - with visits to New Delhi to Agra (for the Red Fort and the Taj Mahal) and Jaipur. More than ... Read More
We booked this cruise from Mumbai to Athens as a complete package, which included a pre-cruise land tour of the “Golden Triangle” of India - with visits to New Delhi to Agra (for the Red Fort and the Taj Mahal) and Jaipur. More than 120 passengers from the United Kingdom and Australia chose this tour - and we travelled in five, air-conditioned coaches. There was so much to see, so this review is very lengthy. Consequently, I have divided it into the following sections. Please skip any parts you find uninteresting. Section 1 - The itinerary (brief outline) Section 2 - Our accommodation in India Section 3 - Aboard Azamara Journey Section 4 - Our land tour in India Section 5 - Our itinerary and ports of call Section 1. The itinerary (brief outline): April 9th Overnight flight from London to New Delhi. April 10th & 11th Two nights at the Taj Palace Hotel in New Delhi, with guided tours of New and Old Delhi. April 12th Transfer by road to Agra. Overnight at the Radisson Blu Hotel. In Agra. Guided tours included the Red Fort and the Taj Mahal. April 13th & 14th Transfer by road to Jaipur. Two nights at the Radisson Blu Hotel, Jaipur. Guided tours included Amber Fort and the “Pink City” April 15th Flight from Jaipur to Mumbai, where we boarded Azamara Journey. April 16th & 17th Two days at sea April 18th Fujairah, United Arab Emirates April 19th to 24th Six days at sea April 25th & 26th (am) Eilat, Israel April 26th (pm) & 27th Aqaba, Jordan April 28th At sea April 29th Transit Suez Canal April 30th Paphos, Cyprus May 1st At sea May 2nd Disembarked Azamara Journey at Piraeus. Transfer by road to Athens Airport. Flight from Athens to London. Section 2. Hotel accommodation in India: All of our hotels were advertised as 5-star establishments. Our guide met us at New Delhi International Airport and we transferred to the Taj Palace Hotel at New Delhi, which really is a luxury hotel. Facilities included beautiful landscaped gardens, a nine-hole putting green, an outdoor swimming pool and a well-equipped fitness center. The hotel offered an excellent range of snacks and meals from four different restaurants, which were not outrageously expensive by Western standards (with the possible exception of the “Orient Express” cordon bleu restaurant). We were tired and jet-lagged after our overnight flight from London, so we opted for light meals on our first evening in the hotel. Both dishes were beautifully cooked. The extensive buffet breakfasts were also excellent. On our second evening, we travelled by taxi to the nearby Moti Mahal restaurant, which was recommended by the hotel concierge and is listed in the DK Eyewitness Top 10 guide book. Our meal of soup and a house specialty (butter chicken) was first class. The total cost for two people including water, G&Ts and beers and was only 3,600 rupees (approximately 36 GBP or US$58). We paid an additional 300 rupees (approximately 3 GBP or US$5) for the round trip by taxi, including waiting time and a tip. Facilities, food, comfort and attentive service at the Taj Palace were faultless - and we would happily return to this lovely hotel. It might be difficult for other establishments to match the standards of the Taj Palace but even so, the Radisson Blu hotels at Agra and Jaipur were unacceptable. Although our rooms were comfortable and well equipped, the meals and service were sub-standard. Our buffet dinner in the Radisson Blu at Agra, which included various local dishes, cost 800 rupees. Unfortunately, most of the food was tepid and my serving of mutton rogan josh was mainly bones with very little meat. Coffee, which had been stewing for ages, was undrinkable. Some of the “waiters” were inexperienced trainees and appeared to be unsupervised. The buffet breakfast was unexceptional. The Radisson Blu hotel at Jaipur is close to the airport, so it is a long way from the city center. Our bedroom overlooked a shanty town, occupied by roaming beggars and feral urchins. The occupants of the shanty town were burning garbage and the resulting smoke was most unpleasant. Following our arrival at the Radisson Blu, we learned that the hotel restaurant had been reserved for another group. So if we wanted to eat at the hotel, we would have to order from room service. That was unacceptable, so eight of us walked to a nearby restaurant, Barbeque Nation. Each table had built-in charcoal grills, where we cooked meat, fish and vegetable kebabs. Barbeque Nation was spotlessly clean and the restaurant was very busy. We were able to grill our own kebabs, so we had no concerns about hygiene and were able to ensure everything was thoroughly cooked. For our second evening in Jaipur, our tour guide took the entire group to the Spice Court, which displays a Trip Advisor certificate of excellence. Our Times of India guidebook described the restaurant as “a supreme multi-cuisine restaurant which offers the best in hospitality, ambience and entertainment”. Elaine must adhere to a gluten-free diet, so we opted for a buffet meal. However, our tables were situated on a terrace in the open-air, with no sign of any self-service buffet. Waiters emerged sporadically from the kitchen to deliver tepid bits and pieces - including pasta, which is not gluten-free. Other passengers, who ordered from the a la carte menu were happier with their meals. However, there was a brief thunderstorm, so we had to move indoors. After our meal, we returned to the terrace to watch an Indian dancer. However, our evening at Spice Court was not a great success. The following morning, the Radisson Blu hotel provided a cold buffet breakfast. Then, we transferred to the airport for an early morning flight to Mumbai, where we boarded Azamara Journey. Shortly after boarding the ship, some passengers from our group succumbed to gastro-intestinal illnesses. The ship’s medical team collated details of their previous movements, which suggested that all of the victims had consumed contaminated food or drink in India. However, it was impossible to identify the precise source of the infection - and not everyone had dined at Spice Court. Section 3. Aboard Azamara Journey Eight “R Class” ships, which were commissioned by the former Renaissance cruise line, are still in service. Azamara Journey and Azamara Quest (Azamara Club Cruises), Pacific Princess and Ocean Princess (Princess Cruises), Adonia (P&O Cruises), Insignia, Nautica and Regatta (Oceania Cruises) are virtually identical - and can accommodate around 700 passengers. We love these little ships and this was our third Azamara cruise. We have also cruised many times on Pacific and Ocean Princess and on P&O’s Adonia. . Azamara occupies a niche market and advertises cruises as “More Inclusive”. Principal differences from the major cruise lines include: Superior service The officers adopt a very high profile. Unusual itineraries, with late departures or overnight stays at many ports Complimentary wines from boutique wineries in all restaurants and bars Complimentary alcoholic drinks from a selected range Bottled water and most non-alcoholic drinks are complimentary Relaxed dress code with no formal or black tie evenings. Shuttle buses between ship and town are usually free of charge Gratuities are included in the cruise fare Less “hard sell” than other cruise lines “R Class” ships do not have a conventional theatre, so most of the entertainment is delivered in the Cabaret Lounge. Production shows relied upon a small cast of singers and dancers, accompanied by live music from the orchestra. Some cruise lines rely upon pre-recorded music and have reduced the numbers of live musicians. Azamara Journey employed a seven-piece orchestra. The shows included dazzling displays by the professional dance instructors, Sasha Antonova and Dima Levita. We were impressed by the standard of their dancing, which was as good as anything we have seen on TV (“Strictly Come Dancing” or “Dancing with the Stars”). Guest performers included: Ricki Jay - an English comedian with a brash style and a quick wit, which seemed to appeal to many of the Australian and British passengers. Paul Fredericks - a “big man with voice and personality to match” Ryan Rubek - a singer from New York A belly dance show at Fujairah (on the ship’s pool deck) Naomi Edemariam - a concert pianist who delivered two superb piano recitals from her wide repertoire, ranging from Gershwin to Chopin, Liszt and Mozart Kaitlyn Carr - a talented Scottish musician. Kaitlyn sang and played a selection of haunting “Celtic Sounds” on penny whistle, flute and Celtic fiddle. Mel Mellers - an English magician and illusionist, who combined his “magic” with very funny dialogue. And last but not least, Cruise Director Eric de Gray, who is a human dynamo and arguably, one of Azamara’s greatest assets. His one-man show ran for over one hour, and earned a standing ovation. Eric is a modest gentleman, but he describes himself as a singing sensation. You can view extracts from a typical performance at www.youtube.com/watch?v=YtWtPssjlfs. Guest speakers included thought provoking presentations by Dr. Richard Farkas (Professor of Political Science at DePaul University, Chicago) and a series of excellent enrichment lectures by Destination Lecturer, Michael Hick. However, Michael’s commentary, as we transited through the Suez Canal was monotonous and less inspiring. Other activities included the usual trivia quizzes etc., which were too numerous to mention. So what were the best aspects of our cruise on Azamara Journey? Azamara Journey emerged from dry dock in January 2013, following a comprehensive re-fit. Although most cabins on R Class ships are smaller than on major cruise lines, everything is furnished to a very high standard. The new beds in the cabins - and sun-loungers around the pool are exceptionally comfortable. We particularly liked the delicately perfumed “About Rose” range of toiletries on Azamara (top quality products, which have replaced the previous Elemis range). Captain Johannes Tysse (Norway) and his senior officers, Heike Berdos (Hotel Director), Tomasz Jadczyk (Food and Beverage Manager) and Eric De Gray (Cruise Director) adopted a very high profile and walked around the ship frequently, talking and listening to passengers. Service standards were outstanding. Our cabin attendants worked in pairs and nothing was too much trouble. The complimentary shoe shine service was very useful, after dusty days ashore. And unlike on our recent cruise with P&O, the attendants replenished our fruit bowl every day and replaced the flowers, when they began to wilt. After the first evening, the bartenders in the Discoveries Lounge remembered our preferences. So every time we visited the bar, two gins and tonics (without a lot of ice and not too strong) appeared as if by magic. Waiters in the restaurants greeted us by name. The Fitness Centre was well equipped and Simon, the instructor, was excellent. The ship offered a good program of fitness classes and the absence of “nominal” charges (as imposed by many other cruise lines) was a welcome feature. Meals and snacks in the Windows Cafe were excellent. Cooked and continental breakfasts were outstanding and the buffet menu always included English back bacon, two other types of bacon and two types of sausage. The omelet station cooked omelets and other egg dishes to order. Every morning, the juice bar offered a wide range of fruit smoothies (prepared to order) and the orange juice was always freshly pressed. Lunch and dinner options in the Windows Cafe were equally good. Unlike many cruise lines, Azamara makes no charge for specialty teas and coffees in the restaurants and in the Mosaic coffee bar. We were very impressed by the quality of the wide range of complimentary wines. Our particular favorite was the 2012 Clifford Bay Sauvignon Blanc from Marlborough, New Zealand. There are no fixed sittings or table allocations on Azamara ships, and we never had to wait for a table in the Discoveries Restaurant (the main dining room). Azamara handle this aspect so efficiently that we do not understand why Princess Cruises and P&O Cruises can only offer conventional fixed sittings on their small ships. Many passengers who toured India prior to boarding the ship at Mumbai suffered gastro-intestinal illnesses. Azamara implemented stringent hygiene precautions and the medical team worked tirelessly to provided treatment and medication. Victims were instructed to remain in their cabins and to telephone the Medical Centre immediately, irrespective of the time of day or night. Patients were invited to order meals from room service and Azamara waived the usual charges for in-room videos. Medical Centers on some cruise lines charge fees for diagnosis and treatment of gastrointestinal problems. That policy deters passengers from seeking assistance and can conceal the extent of a norovirus or food poisoning outbreak. Treatment was free of charge on Azamara - and you could not fault the prompt and efficient way the Medical Centre handled the problem. Even so, it took almost two weeks to bring the outbreak under control. Azamara’s loyalty program, Le Club Voyage, has the same structure as the Captain’s Club on Celebrity Cruises - so a voyage on Azamara qualifies for points with Celebrity and vice versa. However, rewards on Azamara are more generous than on Celebrity. For instance, the second (Explorer) tier offers a bottle of sparkling wine per cabin, two cocktail parties, 150 minutes of free Internet per person, and one bag of free laundry (wash and press) per cabin per week. Free laundry is a very useful benefit. So what was not so good on Azamara? Elaine must adhere to a gluten-free diet because as a coeliac, she must avoid anything that contains wheat, rye and barley. She was disappointed to discover that although the restaurants could provide pre-packed gluten-free sliced bread, there were no special pizzas, biscuits or cakes, etc. (items that are always available on Holland America, Princess and P&O). On the rare occasions that a standard sauce or gravy contains wheat flour, other cruise lines always offer a gluten-free alternative. Azamara attempted to serve meat dishes without any sauce or gravy, until my wife protested. Fried potatoes from the pool grill were pre-packed and had a crisp coating, which was unsuitable for a gluten-free diet. Azamara Journey did not cater for medical diets as well as other “R Class” ships, operated by Princess Cruises and P&O Cruises. The choice of desserts in the MDR was far too limited, with very few gluten-free options. Princess Cruises are happy to prepare special desserts to order. For instance, Elaine has enjoyed some lovely GF souffles on Princess ships. That option was not available on Azamara. On many evenings, the only suitable dessert options were creme brulee (from the always available list), or sorbets and ice cream. Dessert choices in the Windows Cafe, which usually included several clearly labelled gluten-free options, were more comprehensive. Some of the dinner menus in the Discoveries Restaurant (the main dining room) were disappointing. Menu planning lacked balance and flair and although we did enjoy some wonderful meals, choices on other days were far too rich and intricate. Two main courses went back to the kitchen virtually untouched, including pan fried lemon sole - which was billed as the “healthy option”, but was greasy and inedible. Very often, vegetable accompaniments were sauteed or stir-fried. Steamed vegetables would have been more attractive. One main course was accompanied by “stewed savoy cabbage with bacon”, which was revolting. We always prefer waiter service at dinner time but on two evenings, we chose to dine in the Windows Cafe, because we did not fancy anything from the main restaurant menu. We had heard mixed reports about the quality of the food in the specialty restaurants so on this cruise, we decided not to pay extra to dine in Aqualina or Prime C. Meals and menu choices in the MDR were not as good as on our two previous Azamara cruises. Furthermore (and I never thought I would say this), dinner menus and food quality during recent voyages on P&O Ventura and on Pacific Princess were better than on Azamara Journey. We were also surprised that unlike Princess Cruises, Azamara Journey did not set aside a separate lounge with refreshments on disembarkation day, for members of their loyalty program. However, those were our only disappointments and overall, this was still an excellent cruise. Section 4 - The land tour in India Our land tour involved an exhausting itinerary, with visits to countless tourist destinations. Consequently, this is an abbreviated description of the main highlights. Otherwise, this review would be even longer. Day 1. - Following our arrival in New Delhi, we paid an afternoon visit to the Qutub Minar, which is an early Islamic monument. The 100 meter tower was built between 1192 and 1368 AD, using red sandstone and marble. The complex includes the Quwwat-ul-Islam Mosque. Day 2. - Our tour started with a visit to an area of New Delhi, India, which is named after the leading British architect Edwin Lutyens. We viewed the exterior of the President’s Residence and Parliament House and our bus passed the India Gate War Memorial. Then, we continued to Old Delhi, where we visited the Jama Masjid Mosque, which was commissioned by Shah Jahan (the Mughal emperor who built the Taj Mahal) and is the largest mosque in India. The Mosque also offered views over the Chandni Chowk market. This was followed by one of the highlights of our tour, a ride by cycle rickshaw through streets of Old Delhi. The bustling streets, lined with shops, were too narrow for motor vehicles. The entire area was fascinating and the overhead electrical wiring defies description. Following the rickshaw ride, we were taken to a carpet showroom. The sales pitch was interesting and the showroom served a snack lunch, washed down with cups of tea. Then we drove out of the city to Raj Ghat, the memorial and cremation site of Mahatma Gandhi. Our final stop on this exhausting day was a visit to the magnificent mausoleum and tomb of the Mughal Emperor Humayun, set in gardens which included several other tombs and the Isa Khan Mosque. We passed the Lodhi Gardens, on our way back to the hotel. However, our tour did not include the Red Fort in Delhi, because our guide told us that the Red Fort at Agra was more impressive. Day 3. - After an early start, we drove to Agra, a dilapidated city with chaotic traffic, crumbling buildings, cattle roaming the streets and monkeys climbing the ruins. Our first stop in Agra was the Red Fort, a 16th-century Mughal monument and UNESCO World Heritage Site. The vast sandstone city, which was founded in 1565 by Emperor Akbar the Great, was the imperial walled city of the Mughal rulers. It includes audience halls, two beautiful mosques and several palaces, built by Shah Jahan. With time to spare, our guide arranged an extra visit to the Tomb of Itimad-ud-Daulah, also known as the “Baby Taj”. The complex comprises a small mausoleum, set in gardens on the bank of river Yamuna. More monkeys were playing in the grounds. As dusk approached, we visited the Mehtab Bagh gardens for a long distance view of the Taj Mahal (from the opposite bank of the river). We arrived eventually at the Radisson Blu hotel, after the sun had set. Day 4. - This involved a very early start from the hotel. We travelled by bus to the nearby Taj Mahal Visitor Centre and transferred to electric vehicles for the final 2 km to the Fatehbad Gate of the Taj Mahal. We waited in line until the security checkpoint opened at around 6:30 am - and walked through the grounds to the Taj Mahal. Then, we covered our shoes with fabric covers and entered the interior of the mausoleum and its surrounding terraces. The colors of the white marble building changed, as the sun rose. I have not attempted to describe the Taj Mahal, because so much detailed information is readily available in guidebooks and on the Internet. However, early morning is probably one of the best times to arrange a visit. We returned to our hotel for breakfast. Then, we were driven to Jaipur in Rajasthan, stopping en route at the ancient fortified city of Fatehpur Sikri - capital of the Mughal Empire between 1571 and 1585. As we approached Jaipur, our guide, who originated from Rajasthan, proudly advised us that his province is mainly mountains and desert. As if to emphasize this aspect, we passed herds of camels. We arrived at the Radisson Blu hotel in Jaipur at around 6:00 pm Day 5. - After a buffet breakfast at the hotel, we travelled through the Pink City of Jaipur. Our driver attempted to avoid road closures and political rallies (for the impending Indian general election). Bands and other performers in colorful uniforms were waiting to greet the visiting politicians. We continued to Amber and upon arrival, we queued to ride up the hill on elephants. The Palace and Fort dates from the 16th century and is part of a magnificent hilltop area with a series of gates and cobbled paths within massive ramparts. It is far too extensive to describe in detail. Suffice to say, the Amber Palace and Fort is a vast complex with many gates, courtyards and elegant palaces - and lovely views over the Maota Lake. Our visit was marred to some extent by armies of hawkers selling “tourist tat”, who refused to take no for an answer. Teams of photographers also lined the route, taking photographs of us on the elephants. Having explored the fort, we descended in a jeep with bald tires, chased by a photographer, who had failed to persuade us to purchase photographs at a reduced price. Following our return to the Pink City, we were taken to a jewelry factory and showroom. From a personal viewpoint, this was a waste of time (although several members of our party seemed to enjoy the complimentary drinks). Then, we visited the former Palace of the Maharaja, which includes the City Museum. The museum displays handcrafted products, uniforms of the rulers and other historical relics relating to the heritage of the Royal Palace. Our tour continued to the open-air Observatory, which was constructed in the 18th Century and comprises fourteen devices for measuring time, predicting eclipses, tracking planet locations, etc. The instruments, which were constructed from stone with bronze tablets, are said to be remarkably accurate. Finally, we walked through nearby streets, with local shops and markets. Indian drivers sounded their horns, whenever traffic came to a halt. The incessant noise and fumes were unbearable, so we were pleased to escape to our bus and return to the hotel. We enjoyed our visits to Delhi and the Golden Triangle but with hindsight, the intensive tour was far too brief and exhausting. If we return to India, we will arrange a longer tailor-made tour, interspersed by rest days. India is not a suitable country for a DIY tour - so unless you are super-confident, the services of a professional guide are essential. Our guide, Mahendra Singh Johal (from SITA Tours) was excellent. He also protected us from the worst aspects of the beggars and hawkers - and attended to tipping and gratuities on our behalf. He also negotiated the prices of evening meals with the hotels and restaurants. It is sensible for foreign visitors to India to stay in the very best luxury hotels they can afford. Even that precaution does not guarantee a trouble-free visit, because up to 60% of visitors from the West suffer from travelers’ diarrhea, usually within the first week of arrival. Consequently, visitors should adopt the following guidelines: Avoid street food or places that appear dirty Drink bottled or boiled drinks only Use bottled water, even when you clean your teeth Only eat fruit you can peel yourself Avoid shellfish and salads Ice cream and ice cubes may be contaminated Be careful about hand washing It is prudent to pack medication, just in case you suffer traveler’s diarrhea. Suitable drugs might include an anti-diarrheal (Loperamide); anti-sickness tablets (such as Avomine); rehydration salts and an antibiotic (such as Azithromycin or Ciprofloxacin). Seek professional advice and make sure your vaccinations are up to date. And if your itinerary includes areas where Malaria is endemic, take appropriate precautions and anti-malarial medication. Section 5 - Our itinerary and ports of call The published itinerary included a visit to Safaga, Egypt. In view of safety concerns in Egypt, Azamara decided to divert to Eilat, Israel. Consequently, our revised itinerary became: Mumbai, India (embarkation) Fujairah, United Arab Emirates Eilat, Israel (overnight stay) Aqaba, Jordan (overnight stay) Paphos, Cyprus Piraeus, Greece (disembarkation) Prior to our arrival in Fujairah, Azamara Journey sailed across the Indian Ocean and around the Horn of Africa, passing the coasts of Somalia, Eritrea and the Yemen. There is still a threat of piracy in this area, so Captain Johannes provided special safety briefings to all passengers. Specialist security personnel boarded Azamara Journey in the Indian Ocean. All curtains remained closed every evening and the ship’s exterior lights were extinguished during the hours of darkness. The outside decks remained out of bounds to passengers at night, until we had passed the danger area. The security personnel disembarked, somewhere in the Red Sea. In port, we usually arrange private shore excursions or explore independently. However, Azamara had advertised a 25% discount on excursions purchased prior to the first week of January 2014. In view of the nature of the itinerary, we felt it would be safer to book ship’s tours at Fujairah and Aqaba. Fujairah - The ship offered three different shore excursions, which included a morning at a beach resort, a full-day visit to Dubai (9.5 hours), or a 5-hour tour of the East Coast. We had previously stayed in Dubai and in any case, we did not relish the two-hour drive. Consequently, we opted for the East Coast tour with views of the mountains, a photo stop at a desert oasis and a visit to the “Friday Market” (which operates every day). We also stopped at the tiny Bidya Mosque, which was built with clay and is the oldest mosque in the UAE. The cost of this enjoyable excursion was not excessive. Incidentally, most inhabitants of the UAE are expatriates, who travel there to work. Our Australian tour guide had moved to Dubai to accompany her husband. Eilat, Israel. - Eilat is strategically important, because the port provides the only access from Israel to the Red Sea and ultimately, to the Indian Ocean. Eilat is also a seaside resort, with plush hotels and beaches. Azamara offered full-day tours to Jerusalem or to Bethlehem. Both excursions would have involved a road journey of 4:30 hours each way. Other options included a trip to Masada and the Dead Sea (a 3 hour drive each way), or a bus tour to the Timna Valley or a 4x4 Desert Tour. Having visited Jerusalem, Bethlehem and the Dead Sea previously, we decided to make our own arrangements locally. Azamara offered a free shuttle bus to the center, so we spent the morning in the downtown area. The local Tourist Office offered free, high-speed Wi-Fi Internet access. The Tourist Office also advised us that in addition to the beaches, there are several snorkeling and diving schools. Having travelled thousands of miles, we did not intend to spend too much of our valuable time in a fairly ordinary beach resort. Consequently, we returned to the ship for lunch and made two purchases from the duty-free shop in the cruise terminal. Then, we joined a four hour sunset tour to the Timna Valley and Eilat Mountains, arranged by another passenger from our ship. Our party travelled in a convoy of three canvas-topped 4x4 vehicles, each of which carried eight to ten passengers. The area was described by the operators (Desert Eco Tours) as “the last untouched wilderness”. The jeeps drove up the Israeli side of the frontier with Jordan, passing salt lakes with flocks of pink flamingos and other wildlife. Then, our journey to Timna Valley took us over dirt tracks through the Arava Valley and the canyons of the Southern Negev desert. Timna Valley is a UNESCO site of historical importance and its former copper mines date back 6,000 years. The tour paused briefly at an artificial oasis, where we filled glass bottles with colored sand from the desert - followed by a visit to Solomon’s Pillars, where many of us clambered through the rocks. Then, we returned at high speed along the main highway to Eilat and the ship. Desert Eco Tours, who also provided Azamara’s morning excursion, have received excellent reviews on Trip Advisor. We had a superb tour, even though the jeeps were rather cramped and not particularly comfortable. Suffice to say, the evening tour, which we booked direct with the operator, visited the same places in the same vehicles and cost much less than the ship’s shore excursion. Aqaba, Jordan - Aqaba, on the opposite side of the Gulf from Eilat, was only a few miles away. It is a duty-free port, which provides the only access from Jordan to the Red Sea and the Indian Ocean. It is also a beach resort. I cannot comment upon the city or the resort, because we booked ship’s excursions for both of our days in Aqaba. However, the tour buses passed through the city, which appeared to be fairly smart. On Day 1, our afternoon tour took us to Wadi Rum, a desolate area of rocks and desert, which formed the backdrop to the “Lawrence of Arabia” and “Red Planet” movies. We travelled by motor coach to the Visitor Centre, with a brief stop at Wadi Rum Railway Station, where saw a replica steam locomotive and wagons, based upon rolling stock from the Lawrence of Arabia era. At the Visitor Centre, we transferred to 4x4 vehicles for a drive through the desert, stopping at several Bedouin encampments for hot tea, dates and other refreshments. During our second stop, the weather changed and we experienced a short heavy shower of rain, followed by a sandstorm. We returned to the ship by coach. The scenery was magnificent and although the Bedouin visits were stage-managed, this was an enjoyable excursion. For our second day at Aqaba, Azamara offered two excursions - visits to the Dead Sea or Petra. We opted for Petra. Readers should consult guide books and the Internet for detailed information about this ancient city. Our bus did not depart from the port until 09:00 am and we made a compulsory stop en route at a souvenir shop with restrooms. Consequently, our group did not reach Petra until midday. Then, we had to undertake the 2 mile walk down the “Siq”, a deep and narrow gorge that leads from the modern city to the Treasury (which features in all of the guidebooks). Anyone unable to complete the walk could hire a horse-drawn carriage for 20 dinars each way (approximately GBP 20 or US$30). That seemed very expensive. Furthermore, the carriages travel up and down the Siq at breakneck speed and looked rather comfortable. We decided that it would be better to walk, despite the heat. Mad dogs and Englishmen !! Following our visit to the ancient city, our tour operator had arranged a buffet lunch in a local hotel. Then, we returned to Aqaba (with yet another stop at the souvenir shop). This was a long and exhausting excursion and the climb back to modern Petra was a real slog. With hindsight, our buses should have departed from the ship at the crack of dawn and proceeded directly to Petra, to avoid the heat of the midday sun. An even better option would have been an overnight stay in one of the first-class hotels in the modern part of Petra, followed by a morning visit to the ancient city. Even so, an excursion to Petra is an absolute “must”, if you are on a ship that calls at Aqaba. The Suez Canal. Although we did not call at any Egyptian ports, Azamara Journey transited the Suez Canal from the Red Sea to the Mediterranean. There are no locks on the Suez Canal and the terrain is mostly desert on both sides of the canal (unlike the Panama). There are several passing places, so ships must travel in convoy. The transit was interesting - but there was not a great deal to see. Paphos, Cyprus. Azamara Journey did not reach Paphos until 10:00 am - and the ship offered several shore excursions to the city and its surrounding area. They also offered one shore excursion to Limassol. We had previously enjoyed two land-based holidays in Paphos so this time, we wanted to visit Limassol. Consequently, we decided to travel on a local bus to the main bus station, to catch the Inter-City bus to Limassol. Timetables are available at www.intercity-buses.com. The Tourist Information Office in Limassol provided maps and a lot of useful information and we really enjoyed exploring the old city, including its back streets, the medieval castle and museum, and the former Carob Mill, which includes the Evagoras Lanitis Center. Tip: In Cyprus, senior citizens aged 65+ can request reduced price admission tickets to museums, etc. Furthermore citizens of other EU countries aged 65+ are entitled to a 50% discount on intercity buses, upon production of evidence of age and citizenship. Azamara advertise that every cruise itinerary includes a complimentary “Azamazing Evening”. The special evening for our cruise should have occurred at Safaga, Egypt. However, the ship’s visit to Safaga was cancelled, so Azamara arranged a replacement event at Paphos, comprising “an enchanting medley of music and poetry, performed by a musical quartet, baritone and soprano - with pretty music set to the poetry of Sappho and others with a climactic contest between the lyre, kiniri and flute”. The timetable for this event included 15 minutes for a welcome speech, followed by 30 minutes for the actual performance. Paphos was a tender port, so Azamara arranged an early buffet dinner from 5:00 pm, to enable passengers to go ashore from 6:45 pm. Tenders would return to the ship between 8:00 pm and 8:30 pm. The early start clashed with our visit to Limassol and we were not attracted by the description of the Azamazing Evening. Consequently, we opted out of this complimentary event and enjoyed a leisurely dinner in the virtually deserted Discoveries Restaurant. Athens - Following the ship’s arrival at Piraeus, we disembarked at 09:00 am and transferred to Athens Airport for our flight to London. Read Less
Sail Date April 2014
I was very happy with our recent Azamara cruise. I am a regular cruiser..usually two long cruises a year. I liked the size of the ship 680 pax...very easy to get around. The balcony cabin 6027 was well appointed, I particularly liked ... Read More
I was very happy with our recent Azamara cruise. I am a regular cruiser..usually two long cruises a year. I liked the size of the ship 680 pax...very easy to get around. The balcony cabin 6027 was well appointed, I particularly liked having a decent sized table out on the balcony...perfect for breakfast or afternoon tea. Service was excellent throughout the ship, no gratuities, free alcohol all very good. We bought a package for four nights in the speciality restaurants for $80 USD...excellent food but honestly the food in the dining was so good could hardly tell the difference. The entertainment was excellent..but get there early the sight lines in the small theatre lounge are not good. Cruise director Eric de Grey is a fantastic entertainer in his own right. I have never cruised with such an energetic captain he was everywhere, saying goodbye as we left on the tours, walking around the ship, eating in the restaurants. An outbreak of GI after our departure from Mumbai was handled very professionally, immediate steps were taken to make sure it did not spread. The long transit across the Gulf under pirate conditions was fine. The complimentary azamazing evening in Cyprus was a little underwhelming...Patmos was a tender port which made the evening very long for a half an hour program...we had to wait more than an hour in the cold to get back on board. Organisation for tours could be a little better managed, long transits for the tours could not be helped...but I found 12 hours just too long. The ship offered water as we left but none was available on the long bus rides..tours in 45degree heat really needs water to be available. No charge for shuttles was a pleasant surprise. Overall a very pleasant cruise...I have purchased an open passage..I'll be back..soon. Read Less
Sail Date April 2014
Report on 17-night (April 15 to May 2, 2014) Azamara Journey transit from Mumbai to Athens with stops in Fujairah, UAE (Dubai), Eilat, Israel (overnight), Aqaba, Jordon (overnight), transit to the Suez Canal and Paphos Cyprus. ... Read More
Report on 17-night (April 15 to May 2, 2014) Azamara Journey transit from Mumbai to Athens with stops in Fujairah, UAE (Dubai), Eilat, Israel (overnight), Aqaba, Jordon (overnight), transit to the Suez Canal and Paphos Cyprus. Independently my husband and I arranged a six-night land tour in India through "Magic Tours". I cannot say enough nice things about this group. We were picked up at the Delhi airport driven to the hotel, and an additional four days of tours (to Agra and Jaipur) with the same driver, and three different local guides in each city. Then we flew Indigo Airline to Mumbai, and were again met with the Magic Tours driver and a guide who looked after us until they dropped us at the ship. The entrance into the ship terminal in Mumbai was CRAZY. Our driver and guide helped us navigate the madness of getting port passes and taking our luggage through the required security screen. Interesting the ONLY thing I was questioned about by the "security" force was my jewelry in a small suitcase that I intended to carry on board the ship. They made me open my small jewelry bag and describe where each piece was from (Italy, my mother, my husband etc.). I had three pairs of gold earrings, a bracelet, two necklaces and a bracelet I bought in India. There is some new customs limit on gold being brought into the country by residents especially from the Gulf States, but tourists are allowed their personal jewelry. I guess I gave the correct answers, but the interrogation was rather scary. Once we boarded the ship things calmed down. Our luggage arrived promptly. Because this was a long trip (17 nights) we upgraded to a Continental Suite (which is about 1.5 times larger than the regular veranda cabins). I am very happy with our decision. We would have been trampling all over each other for the 17 nights. The other amenities: dinner in the premium restaurants (we ate 7 times), Thalassotherapy pool (multiple times), extra room service menu (one time), afternoon tea (multiple times) and the nicer pre-dinner savories were nice, but the extra space is the primary advantage. PORTS: Fujairah, UAE. We took the ship tour to "At the top". I general I avoid ship tours but booked this one due to the logistics and cost of getting tickets. The lines getting into the elevators to go up and then to go down were too much; we were in line for almost two hours. The views were amazing, although it was an overcast day. I am glad I did it, but do not need to repeat the experience. The rest of the tour was lunch and a drive around the city. No need to see Dubai again. That night there was a Bar-B-Q and a belly dancer for entertainment on the pool deck. Overnight in Eilat, Israel: After six sea days we arrived in Eilat, unfortunately an hour late due to port traffic. About three weeks prior to departure, Safaga, Egypt (Luxor) was dropped from the itinerary and Eilat Israel (with tours to Jerusalem and Masada/Dead Sea) was added. This itinerary change was handled poorly. I believe that Azamara should have emailed the passengers, but instead relied upon travel agents, who in my case had moved to another agency and the message was never conveyed. Thank goodness for "Cruise Critic"! I quickly arranged for a private tour (Ron Harari) for 6 persons and enlisted two other couples and we had a much better experience than the ship tour. Not only did we see much more of Jerusalem, have a nice local lunch, and got a swim in the Dead Sea (amazing), we arrived back at the ship over an hour ahead of the ship tours. It was a very long day with a delayed start. Overnight in Aqaba Jordan: The next day we did the 2-mile transit to Jordan! We arrived around noon. I had arranged for another private tour with "Red Rock Tours" to Wadi Rum on the first day in Aqaba. I like to believe we had a more "authentic" experience. I never did see the tour busses, so I don't know exactly where the tour groups went, but our little group drove into Rum Village and boarded a jeep with benches and pads and drove off into the desert. It was very fun! We saw Lawrence Spring and Khazali Canyon with really cool rock carvings. We also visited a large dune area, where you could climb to the top for a nice view if you wished. That overnight in Jordan was the "White Night Party". Originally we had been scheduled to depart Aqaba at 5 PM on the second day, so I had again opted for a ship tour and kept with that even after the departure was moved to 9PM. MISTAKE. We boarded the first excursion bus for Petra, but waited an hour until all the buses were loaded, so we could all leave together and then all pile up at the souvenir/ rest stop together where we wasted another hour, so we arrived at Petra at 11:30 and it was HOT. Also there is a lot of walking, down hill in the morning and all up hill in the afternoon, and did I mention it was HOT. It is over a mile from where the bus drops you off to the entrance to the Siq, another 1.2 miles through the Siq to the treasury, and then you could walk another 2 to 4 miles to fully explore the ruins. I figured I walked over 8 miles and I was wiped, as were most people. If you want to see Petra and you cannot walk -take the buggy. Don't bother with the "free horse rides" they don't go very far (only 700 m) and end up costing at least $15 in tips each way. Better take the buggy and negotiate the price and pick up time. People who took the buggy said it was very bumpy, but it saves almost 4 miles of walking! When you are at the Treasury you could take donkeys or camels to see more of Petra. I arrived back at the hotel for lunch at 3:00PM and it took about 20 minutes to cool down enough to eat. Everyone was tired. I ordered room service dinner, breakfast and lunch the next day! Paphos Cyprus: After two more sea days and the transit of the Suez Canal, we arrived in Cyprus. We were on a early tender and took a taxi (15 euro) to the old market in the upper town, did some shopping had a delicious grilled squid lunch and then took the public bus back to the beach (1.5 Euro). From there I went to visit the archeological park (4.5 Euro). I highly recommend this. The mosaics were the best I had ever seen. Overall: I love the size of the ship and the friendliness of the staff. The only negative about the cruise was the presence of Noro virus. Strict sanitation procedures were in place to combat the spread, but it was hard to beat after the large number of passengers had just toured India. Each time I put on my shoes, I made sure to wash my hands, just remembering some of the stuff I must have walked through. After a few days my hands were so dry from the continued washing. After the increased sanitation order was removed, about three days before the end of the cruise, I realized how much I missed all the little things, like silver ware and water glasses on the tables at the Window Cafe, the bread basket, salt and pepper shakers, meals with the officers etc. etc.   Read Less
Sail Date April 2014
This was our first small ship cruise and will not be our last. We selected this cruise because the itinerary appealed to us. We were most interested in visiting the Valley of the Kings in Egypt and Petra/Wadi Rum in Jordan. Dubai was a ... Read More
This was our first small ship cruise and will not be our last. We selected this cruise because the itinerary appealed to us. We were most interested in visiting the Valley of the Kings in Egypt and Petra/Wadi Rum in Jordan. Dubai was a bonus. The food was good, the service was excellent, the ship was clean and comfortable. The smaller ship provided easy access to all amenities. Shopping was bare boned compared to the larger ships but provided the basic necessities. Public areas were good except perhaps the theater could have had tiered seating to provide better views. Other benefits of the smaller ship were readily available deck chairs and quick, smooth and easy departures on land tours. We were impressed when we were always greeted by senior ship officers when we returned from land tours. State rooms were consistent with other cruises except there were lots of hangers for a change. The mini bar should have been stocked with drinks that were included in the price rather than pay for drinks. The balcony was okay but often not usable due to blackouts for the transit through pirate alley. The additional armed security brought on for the passage though pirate alley did give us a warm and comfortable feeling. What could they improve: The spa treatments that were included in our membership level were a real disappointment. I must admit, they seemed rather petty in this regard. The future cruise officer was aloof and didn't appear interested in our business so we didn't book a future cruise on board. Our biggest disappointment was the cancellation of the stop in Egypt. We really wanted to get the Valley of the Kings. Some passengers openly speculated that Azamera knew long in advance that they were not going to Egypt but kept to them selves until after the cancellation date. Perhaps this is true because we would have cancelled. What did they do right: everything else. The Norovirus was a pain in the butt, however the crew made every effort to minimize the spread. After all, we just came from India. In conclusion, this was probably the best cruise we have yet enjoyed and we would like to travel Azamara again. Great staff, relatively good food, okay land tours and interesting people. Read Less
Sail Date April 2014
We had never cruised with Azamara before and were encouraged to do so by friends who were frequent travelers on Azamara. We can't thank them enough. Having worked in the airline industry my whole career I understand very well the ... Read More
We had never cruised with Azamara before and were encouraged to do so by friends who were frequent travelers on Azamara. We can't thank them enough. Having worked in the airline industry my whole career I understand very well the importance of a first impression. We were greeted on our arrival at the port by a representative who helped with our luggage and immediately made us feel welcome. We lined up for max 5 minutes to check in, a process that only took a matter of minutes. When we stepped onboard we were offered champagne or juice and greeted very warmly. Just from the initial contact I knew that the staff were very well selected and it was obvious that they liked their job. After a buffet lunch we were in our cabin by 2:00 and settling in. Our balcony cabin was an adequate size, of course we would always like larger but we had everything we needed and it was immaculate. Our cabin stewards arrived to greet us and could not have been more friendly or helpful. We felt at home. We have cruised in the past with Cunard and P&O but never felt as though the staff really wanted to be there and thoroughly enjoyed what they were doing. Everywhere we went on board we were greeted with a genuinely friendly smile and nothing was too much trouble. We ate mostly in the Traditions restaurant, initially with others which enabled us to meet lots of other guests, and later sometimes just at a table for 2. I was surprised to read a previous reviewer said that he was coerced into always eating with others. Any night we said we would like to be at a table for 2 it was no problem. Sometimes we had to wait a bit for one to come free and if so we sat in the bar and they came to find us when it was ready. Every effort possible was made to accommodate anything we wanted. The food was terrific, always. We ate in the specialty restaurants one night each and although the food and service were exceptional we preferred the ambiance of the Traditions Restaurant. By the way, the specialty restaurants are in the stern of the ship, not the bow as was previously stated by a reviewer. We used the gym facility frequently and found everything there that we needed and it was always available. I did not attend any classes but there were often classes in Pilates going on and were very well attended. The entertainment was first class, always. The cruise director, Eric, is an exceptional entertainer with a terrific sense of humour. The shows every night were not to be missed, there was definitely something for everyone. Hours spent in the Looking Glass bar late at night topped off wonderful days with lots of new friends. I cannot say really enough about the Journey and the wonderful time that we had. I struggle to think of one thing that I could criticize. We will definitely be back, many times I hope. We can certainly understand why many we met on board had already traveled with Azamara...you will want to return. Read Less
Sail Date October 2013
We did Athens - Mumbai in 2012 - first time with Azamara and as a result resolved to return. So 2013 saw us cruise Athens to Dubai. A lot of crew remembered us from the year before - How do they do it? Within an hour it was as though we ... Read More
We did Athens - Mumbai in 2012 - first time with Azamara and as a result resolved to return. So 2013 saw us cruise Athens to Dubai. A lot of crew remembered us from the year before - How do they do it? Within an hour it was as though we had never left. Everything you hear about Azamara service is true. I now wouldn't cruise with anyone else. Food remains excellent. Despite the complimentary drinks now available I paid for a liquor package which allowed us to have Pimms, Grolsch & Pilsener Urquell beer, Bombay Sapphire gin [essential; for that pre-dinner martini!] al for about an extra £8/day. The new sunbeds are even more comfy than the old ones! Captain Johannes and Cruise Director Eric - what a team! We'll be sailing with Azamara in 2014 without doubt Read Less
Sail Date October 2013
We booked this repositioning cruise because we are both due to have knee operations in November, so we wanted a destination-light cruise. We have cruised before on HAL, but never on Azamara. We had a good flight with EasyJet and loved our ... Read More
We booked this repositioning cruise because we are both due to have knee operations in November, so we wanted a destination-light cruise. We have cruised before on HAL, but never on Azamara. We had a good flight with EasyJet and loved our Hotel,The Herodion, which is located just below the Acropolis. Although embarkation was not officially until 1:00, our agent had booked the transfer for 10:30 so we were at Pireus by 11:00. However this proved not to be a problem as embarkation started at 11:30 and by 11:45 we were on-board enjoying our glasses of bubbly. We left one of our cabin bags in the secure area near guest relations and had a wander around the ship, before going for lunch at the Pool Grill. Our first impressions were very favourable. Although there is a lot of wood panelling, the overall look of the interior rooms is much lighter than we had expected from the photos we had seen. Lunch was excellent, with beautifully cooked burgers and brochettes and free flowing wine. At 1:30 the staterooms were ready and we found our cases already there. The cabin was pleasant, with lots of storage space and plenty of hangers. There are two available electric plugs, one European 2/3 round pin and one digital style square pin(NOT UK square pin). There was also a safe and a fridge. The soft drinks in the fridge and the water that was provided every day were included, but the wine, beer and spirits were not. There were fresh flowers and a bowl of fruit that was replenished as required. The bathroom was small, especially the shower, but there was always plenty of hot water, the towels were thick and fluffy and the shampoo, conditioner, shower gel, soap and moisturiser were lovely. The stateroom steward Ahmed and his assistant Erlinda worked hard to keep the stateroom immaculate. Every night there were lovely chocolate based petit-fours left in the cabin at bedtime. We ate breakfast in the Windows buffet restaurant. I especially loved the smoothie bar - particularly the ginger based energiser which was a great start to the day. There is a terrific choice, the usual bacon, sausage, eggs cooked however you like, a roast and cold choices such as smoked salmon, herring, cold meats, cheese. We had a coffee 'to go' from the Mosaic cafe most days. For lunch we mostly ate in the Pool Grill. Our favourite part of the day was having dinner in the Discovery MDR. We shared tables every night, at tables of 4, 6 or 8. We met some great people that way. The food was exceptional - much better than on our previous cruises. We loved the way you can swap courses around, for example asking for a small portion of a main course salad or pasta dish as an appetiser. The service was generally very good, but on one night it was very slow, however a complaint was made to the Maître D which resulted in a glass of vintage port for the whole table as compensation. We also ate in both the speciality restaurants. The food and service in both was terrific, but we really struggled to eat all the food. Although you could pay to upgrade from the basic all inclusive drinks package, we were happy with the choice available in the basic included package. There was a different pair of wines every day, but you could always ask for a previous days wine if you preferred it. The bar staff were very good, especially Dale who ran the pool bar during the day and the Discovery lounge bar in the evening. The evening shows were generally very good. In the past we have spent very little time watching shows, but this time we watched quite a few of the shows all the way through. The Cruise Director, Eric, is amazing. His energy has to be seen to be believed. His voice is good too. We enjoyed all the song and dance shows, especially the Broadway and ABBA show. Kaitlin, who played the Celtic flute, penny whistle and violin and sang beautifully was tremendous too. We spent most days on the sun deck, where the breeze tempered the hot sun. Crew members regularly brought round cooling drinks and cold mist sprays to cool us off. There were only four ports in the whole of the 2 weeks. In Rhodes we had a walk around the old town, which was lovely. We didn't go ashore in Limassol, Cyprus, except for the Azamazing evening, of which more later. In Oman we went on a tour outside Muscat, to a fishing village, a fort, some hot springs and a resort for lunch. We had booked it before we went and found it very good value for money. In Dubai we booked the Big Bus Hop On Hop Off bus through the ship. This was the same price as booking it online and had the advantage that the bus came to the terminal to pick us up. We found it an excellent way to see a lot in a day. We did both routes, but only got off to do the 1hour included Dhow cruise, to see the gold and spice souks and to see the Dubai Mall and Burg Khalifa. The Azamazing evening was in Limassol. It was in Omoodos, a small village in the Troodos mountains, which took about an hour by coach. It was a lovely village with a beautiful monastery church. Lovely snacks,wine and liqueurs were provided and there was a local dancing display. Unfortunately there were far too many of us (500+) for it to work. It was impossible to see the church properly in our guided groups (1 guide per coach). Also being up in the mountains it soon became very cold and as a result the evening was curtailed. On the other hand the White Night,which was whilst we were docked in Muscat, was terrific. The barbecue and buffet was great, the song and dance show was marvellous and there was the biggest conga line I have ever seen - right round the pool and the jogging track. The Suez Canal was not too interesting - mostly just sand, although we did provide entertainment to the Egyptian soldiers on watch along the canal. They seemed to enjoy waving to us and us waving to them. The blackout was no problem at all. We had to remember to close our stateroom curtains at 6 if we had the light on. The whole pool area was in darkness, but you could walk across it and it was great to lie down on a sun-bed and see the stars without any light pollution. So far I've described the physical parts of the cruise, but what makes Azamara so special is the people - crew and passengers alike. The tone is set by the captain and senior staff such as the cruise director, hotel director and food and beverages manager. Nothing is too much trouble for anyone at whatever level. Ask and it is done! The daily announcements by the captain (Johannes) and the cruise director (Eric) were a joy to listen to. They have a terrific relationship and are both very funny. The whole atmosphere on board was just so happy - very different from any ship I have been on before. Would we go on Azamara again - you bet your life we would, tomorrow if we could. Read Less
Sail Date October 2013
On 24th April my partner and I embarked on a 14 day repositioning cruise from Mumbai to Cairo on Azamara Quest. This was our second cruise on "Quest". Azamara has become our favourite cruise line for several reasons - the ... Read More
On 24th April my partner and I embarked on a 14 day repositioning cruise from Mumbai to Cairo on Azamara Quest. This was our second cruise on "Quest". Azamara has become our favourite cruise line for several reasons - the overall ambience and professional and genuinely happy crew - nothing is too much trouble. The complimentary inclusions of water, soft drinks, and wine at lunch and dinner. The top class entertainment. The excellent & well priced shore excursions. Last year we were on the ship in Nagasaki, Japan when the Tsunami hit and we new how professionally Azamara and the Quest crew operated in an emergency. So despite the ship having endured an engine fire causing the cancellation of the cruise from Singapore to Mumbai we had no hesitation in joining the cruise. On boarding the ship we were welcomed with open arms (and champagne) by a crew eager to resume normal duties after 3 weeks of maintenance. Due to some cancellations the ship was only half full and we immediately upgraded to a suite at minimal additional cost. This entitled us to the services of a butler - a charming young Mauritian who attended to our every need. We enjoyed breakfast served on our lovely balcony every morning, afternoon tea and evening cocktails from our complimentary bar and a selection of horsd'ouvres. We struggled to find room to enjoy the complimentary fine dining in the specialty restaurants (usually $25p.p.) Aqualina and Prime C. The entertainment was first class led by Russ Thomas Grieve one of the most talented Cruise Directors it has been our pleasure to meet. Russ often teamed up with the Hotel Directo Ryszard Gusmann & Executve Chef Fabio D'Agosta to demonstrate their culinary talents too! One of the joys of a repositioning cruise are the number of sea days enabling us to enjoy the ships many facilties. We started every day with the complimentary Qui Gong classes (a static form of Tai Chi) followed by a relaxing session in the Thalassotherapy spa private area(complimentary for suite guests). As members of Azamaras loyalty program"Le Club Voyage" we were also invited to a number of cocktail parties where we were greeted with genuine warmth each time by Captain Leif Karlsson and his senior officers. The ports of call on a repositioning cruise are not always very exciting. We were disappointed that Muscat was cancelled before the cruise and Fujairah substituted As we were staying in Egypt for 8 days to visit all the highlights we did not take the option to visit Luxor from the port of Safaga. Sharm El Sheik is only worth visiting for its luxury resorts and Red Sea diving options which we did not take. The highlight for us was Aqaba enabling us to visit Wadi Rum and Petra Passengers are welcomed on board Azamara Quest as family. Every effort is made to accommodate individual needs. There were approximately 80 Australian & New Zealand passengers on board. We were amazed that the ship had organised a special Anzac Day Dawn service for us - complete in every detail - a most moving experience. Safety was the highest priority at all times - traversing the Gulf of Aden we had been drilled in emergency procedures in case of pirate attack. Ths drill had to be put into action once - but there was no panic due to the professionalism of all the crew. A few days before we were due to dock in Sokhna there was another incident in Cairo and the guest relations staff were very helpful in contacting our hotel to ensure our safety. Azamara Quest will undergo a major refit in November and we look forward to booking another cruise next year. Azamara - Absolutely Fabulous! Read Less
Sail Date April 2012
We did 2 back to back cruises from Mumbai to Athens (24 days) for an excellent price including air from Australia. It was ages since we had been on a smaller ship and we rediscovered the benefits in terms of making friendships etc that the ... Read More
We did 2 back to back cruises from Mumbai to Athens (24 days) for an excellent price including air from Australia. It was ages since we had been on a smaller ship and we rediscovered the benefits in terms of making friendships etc that the anonymity of larger ships can make more difficult. Good for sole travellers. The itinerary was exciting as it included most places of interest to us in the Middle East area. It was our first time with Azamara who promised a special experience and really delivered. This was by far the friendliest, most welcoming and helpful ship's company that we have ever sailed with in our 349 cruising days. Our introduction to the company was not good as we were very concerned to know if our cruise was going ahead after we heard of the fire on TV. We never at any stage had any official communication from the company as to the happening of the fire, the state of the ship, the progress of the repairs etc and were reliant on this website for the best information. We didn't really even know if we'd be going or not until quite late in the week before we left, and even then we weren't sure. A word of caution: We did not use a travel agent and thus booked directly. Bookings etc are handled by RCCL staff and there was one major hitch. On booking we were told the package contained free flights and transfers but we were not told that there were no free transfers at all if we had to overnight because of flights, or if we were not flying out, again because of flight schedules, on the day of disembarkation, even if we just wanted to go to the airport, having booked an airport hotel. However, they would provide transfers if we booked their chosen hotel and booked it through RCCL. The cost of this was twice the price I could book the same hotel for online. After much argument, they agreed to let us book the said hotel ourselves and obtain the transfers, and also gave us the airport transfers in Greece. I would have preferred not to have had to argue. However the ship's company are not responsible for the administration. Embarkation, once past Indian officials, was very quick. The cruise director was even on shore to greet us. Our balcony cabin was always clean and tidy and the stewards always very pleasant, efficient and eager to help. Food in the main restaurant and the buffet was very good, though probably not excellent, but the atmosphere was lovely, and the waiters did their utmost to make us feel special by remembering us and our food and wine preferences. Not bad when it is always open sitting! Not having to pack a suit or formal clothes made it easier to meet flight weight limits and not having to dress up made the whole experience more relaxing. Even the buffet restaurant had white table cloths and candle type lighting at night, and there was a guitarist playing. We went to one of the two speciality restaurants for a special occasion celebration and found the food, service, attention to detail, and decor to be really excellent. Azamara also provide several barbeque evening functions which were a lot of fun with tables around the pool and on the upper running track. Blankets were provided if it became cool. The food was buffet style and quite interesting, and on several occasions we were entertained by an ethnic dance troupe from the local area, plus there was music for dancing from one of the ship's bands. At meal times you could order from the restaurant menus for room service (including the free wine). Otherwise the room service menu is adequate. Breakfast options are yummy and we enjoyed many of these on our balcony. Free bottled wine (a different red and white each day) was offered in all venues at lunch and dinner, was of good quality and flowed freely. All soft drinks, speciality coffees and bottled water were also included which really reduced the end of cruise bill. As we left on excursions, we were offered a bottle of cold water, which was really welcome. The Captain would often take his morning coffee in the foyer area and was very approachable. Entertainment was mostly of a high standard, though a couple of comedians were a bit disappointing. The production group was small with only 4 dancers and about 4 singers but the standard was really excellent and we found the shows more enjoyable than some of the mega productions on larger ships which have a sameness. Also the cruise director, Russ, was very talented having been on Broadway, and he took part in some shows. The piano-bar type entertainer in the foyer was very funny and had a large following most nights. In the day, there was plenty on including a lecture program on the ports which was informative and several fun things such as an iron chef competition, plus the usual bingo, trivia, etc. Our only complaint was that there was little opportunity for ballroom dancing. Having a free, guests laundry on board was excellent and welcomed by most guests. Excursions were well organised and each bus was accompanied by a member of the crew. We purchased all our excursions before sailing and therefore paid only half price which was often $90 each for a long day tour with lunch. Good Value! It was amazing to arrive back after a long hot day in the desert, eg. Egypt, to find waiters at the bus door with cocktails and cold washers, the ship's orchestra playing on the pier and several officers there to welcome us back. Even the security officers welcomed us 'home'. It just felt so good. One day in Jordon after walking for hours in Petra we were welcomed back by the Captain, cruise director (dressed as an Arab) and another officer all on camels! Of course the cocktails etc were again on offer. The onboard shops were a bit disappointing in range in that they had mainly middle and upmarket offerings, especially in the jewellery store where there was very little for under $500 which made small gift buying difficult. Fortunately there was a good range of Swarovski items which we resorted to to spend our onboard credit. More souvenir material needed. One of the jewellery shop's staff could benefit from a little of the 'Azamara attitude'. We were well prepared for the pirate incident. The Captain had explained the situation and the precautions the Quest was to take when in the pirate area, at a meeting early in the cruise and we had a drill so that when the pirates surrounded us, there was no panic. I think we all felt confident that the situation was in good hands and it was. Probably because that was obvious, the pirates did not attack. For the second cruise we were past passengers and got invited to more cocktail hours and events than we had time to attend! After getting home, we each received a gift of a passport folder and bag name tag which was a pleasant surprise. In summary, we were delighted with this ship, her company, value for money, and the ports we visited and look forward to sailing with Azamara again. Read Less
Sail Date April 2012
It was our first cruise with Azamara Quest and the first on a small ship. I was a bit apprehensive as to how it would measure up with the larger shipsI needn't have worried. The decor was like a retro hotel, spotless, and well ... Read More
It was our first cruise with Azamara Quest and the first on a small ship. I was a bit apprehensive as to how it would measure up with the larger shipsI needn't have worried. The decor was like a retro hotel, spotless, and well appointed. The food was very good hot and with plenty of choices, We had the choice to eat at the special restaurants and the food was good there too but the discovery was also very goodService was excellent couldn't do enough for us Cabin was comfortable, nice thick robes and slippers Enjoyed having overnight in the ports gave you more opportunity to explore Entertainment wasn't as good as the big ships ie the Diamond but thats understandableI suggested that they may provide more lectures for days at sea.Would recommend this cruise line? - certainly wouldForgot to say what impressed me no end was the senior staff including the captain was there to shake your hand as you left the ship How good is that!!!! Read Less
Sail Date April 2011
Azamara Quest review From our outset at the embarkation port, we quickly identified how much more engaged this ship's staff was compared to any other of the numerous upscale cruises we have previously completed. Even though we ... Read More
Azamara Quest review From our outset at the embarkation port, we quickly identified how much more engaged this ship's staff was compared to any other of the numerous upscale cruises we have previously completed. Even though we arrived much too early to go aboard as a result of our very early arrival flight into Athens with nowhere else to go but wait at the port, the Azamara Quest staff were immediately friendly and helpful to us even though they were still occupied with completing that day's disembarkation of the previous cruise's guests. The warmth of the greetings from the directors of both hotel and guest relations, and their welcoming of early arrivals with an assortment of continental breakfast items in the port was impressive when they could have been dismissive until they had completed their tasks of the cruise just ending. This introduction set the tone of the entire staff's attitude throughout the 24 days: every staff member whom we encountered was not just eager to serve, but also to add their extra personal warmth of inquiry, or helpfulness. The friendliness of this staff, and their pleasure and pride in working on this ship, built a tone of congeniality throughout the trip: even the captain and officers mixed amongst us on a daily basis, chatting and overseeing that all was as it needed to be. How much clearer an understanding management had by daily visitations throughout the ship while chatting with guests and staff. How much more serious the recognition was here that each guest has a broad array of travel choices, and that this ship really wanted our experiences to cause us to return eagerly. Dining choices were outstanding whether in the very elegant main open seating venue, in the two a la carte restaurants, or in the attractively presented cafeteria selections. An assortment of outdoor deck party dinners, gracious afternoon teas with harp music, and dining room brunches with live musical accompaniment rounded out these choices. In each, a very high standard of both choice and quality was present. The accommodation was attractive and comfortable, and the 8th floor suites had considerably more living and storage space than the veranda cabins. Entertainment covered a range of options from Broadway to classical, but more space could be set aside for those who enjoy dancing other than at the disco. Excursions covered the port highlights well, and were fairly priced. The exotic itinerary of this cruise was what brought us the first time to Quest: the excellent staff and delightful on board atmosphere will have us return. Read Less
Sail Date November 2010
I am back from my Azamara Quest 24 day; Singapore to Athens! THIS WAS THE BEST CRUISE I HAVE EVER TAKEN! ;) And, that sentiment was echoed throughout the ship! We had a lot of sea days but everyone seemed to be a seasoned cruiser and ... Read More
I am back from my Azamara Quest 24 day; Singapore to Athens! THIS WAS THE BEST CRUISE I HAVE EVER TAKEN! ;) And, that sentiment was echoed throughout the ship! We had a lot of sea days but everyone seemed to be a seasoned cruiser and really appreciated the time to relax, get to know each other and enjoy the events that the crew had planned. WE HAD 66 CRUISECRITIC.COM PEOPLE ON THE SHIP WHICH WAS AN AZAMARA RECORD! THE SHIP - The crew held our Meet and Mingle on our first sea day and with just a few days to go, had another get together with coffee and desserts. Unlike what I heard from the crew on the Oceania Regatta, the Azamara crew told us that they read all of our cruisecritic.com blogs. I loved hearing that they cared enough to do that and that they wanted all the feedback they could get. The crew on the Quest was absolutely the best, from Captain Carl Smith to the Cruise Director, John Howell, to Peter and Richard in hotel and restaurant, on down. In 2011, I am doing this same cruise again, plus the one before, Hong Kong to Singapore, and am hoping that we get the same crew. The Captain is a hoot; young with spunk and personality, available to anyone and totally present when you speak with him. John is outgoing, giving and very talented. He has the smallest ego of any Cruise Director I have met. Peter and Richard were always in service and seemed to be everywhere on the ship. They, with John, even donned chef hats and served ice cream at our socials and dished up food at our barbecues! They were very cute! I was on the Azamara Journey last summer in the Med and loved it but loved the Quest and this cruise even more. The food was absolutely fantastic. We had every kind of International cuisine imaginable and because the Indian food was so amazing, I asked Richard if they would prepare a special Indian dinner for a large group of cruisecritic.com people. He immediately set it up and we enjoyed the meal the very next evening in the main dining room. The large selection of salads in the buffet changed daily and unlike other ships where mixed vegetable and meat salads are all either vinegar or mayonnaise based and taste bland and similar, the salads on the Quest all had their own special consistency and seasonings. It was a treat each day to go to the buffet and see what delights the chef had created. The hot dishes at the buffet were equally as interesting. Everything was unique and spiced in a special way. They did a great job presenting a variety from all over the world and keeping each true to their traditional recipe but with a bit of zip. I live in Hawaii so am a huge sushi fan and the Quest buffet did not disappoint there either. The main dining room offerings were satisfying and the presentations impeccable. I only ate in Prime "C" twice and Aqualina once in the 24 days. The food in both specialty restaurants is great. I just didn't feel the need to pay the additional $15. as was so happy with the main dining room and the buffet. There were over 100 people from Australia on the ship and apparently some of them asked for something called Vegimite, which they put on their bread in the morning. At first chance, the staff was off the ship buying jars of the stuff and at the next stop, buying cases! Now, that for me is customer care! The new "Azamara Club Cruises" featuring complimentary wine at lunch and dinner was a very welcome addition and something I had asked for on previous cruisecritic.com blogs. People who said they rarely drank were enjoying wine both at lunch and at dinner so needless to say, we were a very happy and lively group! The pre-paid gratuities and complimentary laundry were appreciated as well as the complimentary soft drinks, water and specialty coffees and teas. I am a poker player so quickly found a group of 7 or 8 of us to meet daily at 2:00 p.m. and play 3-5 poker tournaments using the electronic poker table. I love that Azamara has that table! It is great entertainment and I am sure they are making money from it. Shows are not my cup of tea but I did go to two. They were small presentations and good but again, I am not that into shows. The ship offered the usual bingo and art auctions but so much more. They had barbecues on deck and a dress up "We Escaped the Pirates" party. They put together an amateur choir and had karaoke. They had bridge and duplicate bridge instruction and games. They had remote controlled sports car racing on the jogging track, which I think was inspired by the Captain having his wife and son onboard! They had port lectures and computer classes, yoga, Pilates, and other exercise classes. Even though we had 16 sea days, there was always something to do. Azamara Club Cruises new loyalty program is fantastic. They hosted 7 or 8 complimentary cocktail parties for us throughout the 24 days and had several 50% off happy hours. They also gave us a lot of free internet minutes, free mini spa events and free laundry service in addition to being able to do our own laundry at no cost. THE PORTS - Phuket - Deb, one of our CC members set up a private Phang Nga tour for 11 of us with Simbaseatrips.com. It was a great tour, which you can read about at their web site. I would highly recommend this company and this tour. Cochin - I took the Backwater of Alappuzha tour that the ship offered. I am not a fan of India but based on the feedback of others, this was probably the best tour to take. The lunch at the backwater resort was the highlight. The tour itself could have been an hour shorter. Mumbai Day 1 - On the first day, I put together a CC group of 9 people to do an 8 hour tour of Mumbai with Mumbaimagic.com. We visited the flower and vegetable market, bazaar, a dhobi laundry, a fishing village, had an Indian lunch, toured the Ghandi House, picked out Indian wine at the wine market for the next day's tour, and ended at the Taj Hotel for cocktails. I would highly recommend Mumbaimagic for a full day tour and let the guide set the pace for your day. Mumbai Day 2 - I put together a cooking tour for 5 of our CC group with Mumbaimagic.com and this was the highlight of all of my shore excursions. We went to the fish, vegetable and spice markets so that we could see what we would be eating. I purchased a large variety of spices to bring home and the whole bag cost me less than $5. We then went to the private home of our guide Sancia, which was in Bandra, a suburb of Mumbai. We all enjoyed meeting Sancia's family and drinking our Indian Chardonnay as we sang, shared and watched her staff person prepare our meal. Bandra is a lovely area and our guide's home was beautiful. It was a great way to get a peek inside family life in India. Our guide's mother, Sybil, is 82 and on the neighborhood committee that makes sure the streets are kept clean, garbage collected, and plants maintained. She was full of spirit and laughter, as was Sancia and the rest of the family. I would definitely recommend Mumbaimagic and this tour but please leave Sancia and her family for me on this cruise in April, 2011. I have reserved her for something special, which if you are on that cruise, you may be interested in joining. Just let me know. ;) Deepa, the owner of Mumbaimagic, also has other guides who do this tour so you can write to her as well. Dubai - I saw the city with the Big Bus Company doing both their bus and walking tours. You can buy a two day pass online from them for a very good price. I especially enjoyed the gold and spice souks in Dubai and came away with several treasures. I had booked the "Dinner with Royalty" excursion through the ship but the tour operator cancelled it, which was very disappointing. I had also made reservations at the Burj Al Arab for lunch but my lunch mates bowed out so I cancelled it. I really wasn't into spending $300. for lunch anyway so their change of heart was appreciated. The ship has a high tea excursion at the Burj and the Burj also has a rep at the cruise port where you can make reservations for lunch, dinner or high tea at the top of the hotel. I would recommend doing that when you get there rather than taking the time to do it ahead of time online. Alexandria - I put together a group of 12 CC people to do full day tour to Cairo with George at ramsestours.com. We tried to fit in too much so it was very hurried. It takes over 3 hours to get to Cairo. We left Alexandria at 7:30 a.m. and did not return until 9:00 p.m., 45 minutes before all aboard. We visited the Pyramids at Giza, Sphinx, some did a camel ride, went to a jewelry store to buy cartouches, had a buffet lunch at the Hard Rock located in the Grand Hyatt Cairo, took a felucca boat ride of the Nile, visited the Egyptian Antiquity Museum for a brief look at King Tut's treasures and made a quick stop at the Khan al-Khalili Bazaar. I would definitely recommend ramsestours.com but don't try to do all that we did. When I go back next year, I will focus on the Bazaars and life in Egypt today. I may try to find a cooking class to take in Alexandria and see that city instead of driving to Cairo. Athens - I have been to Athens several times before and had planned on spending 3 days there after the cruise. Due to the strike on the 5th however, I flew out on the 4th to avoid the conflict so saw very little beyond my hotel in the Plaka. It was the Hera Hotel and my Junior Suite had a large patio with a wonderful view of the Parthenon. The rooftop restaurant had the same view and the atrium on the first floor was a beautiful place to enjoy breakfast. I would recommend the Hera Hotel. To summarize this cruise experience; I had already booked 3 more cruises, including this one in 2011, with Azamara Club Cruises, but loved the Quest so much that I booked 3 more while aboard. I have definitely found my favorite cruise ship as well as my favorite cruise line. Vicky Read Less
Sail Date April 2010
We selected Azamara based on the recommendation of our T/A. We have sailed HAL numerous times, and Princess cruises once. The Azamara Journey was presented as a 'boutique' cruise line, similar to Oceana Cruise Lines. ... Read More
We selected Azamara based on the recommendation of our T/A. We have sailed HAL numerous times, and Princess cruises once. The Azamara Journey was presented as a 'boutique' cruise line, similar to Oceana Cruise Lines. Here's the down and dirty: Cruise ship was great; small and intimate. Very well maintained. Ports were fabulous! Holy Lands were a once in a lifetime experience. A must see for everyone... Staff was very courteous and gracious. Food was generally excellent. The main restaurant as well as the two 'special' restaurants were VERY GOOD. We did not care for the food in the buffet area. Quality in the buffet area was generally lacking. Coffee was uniformly AWFUL. Azamara really needs to pay attention to this detail. Entertainment: Orchestra was very good. Very! Singers/Dancers..well, they did what they could. Some of them were rather long of tooth and appeared to be arthritic.. While the entertainment was not great, it was passable. Cost: very competitive. We feel it was a very good value. Shore excursions: Staff was very helpful. Prices were somewhat high IMHO. Would we go again: Perhaps...maybe...probably.. DW and I do not think that Azamara is quite as good as Holland America. HAL's food is consistently superior, in the buffet section as well as their main restaurants. Staff on HAL were much more 'personable'. We noted that while the staff on Azamara was very good and courteous, they were not as warm or friendly as the HAL staff. Read Less
Sail Date November 2009
Azamara Journey 11th October 2009 A lot of what I am saying in this review has been said before but is worth repeating. This was our third cruise with Azamara with a fourth booked for 2010 which indicates how much we like Azamara. ... Read More
Azamara Journey 11th October 2009 A lot of what I am saying in this review has been said before but is worth repeating. This was our third cruise with Azamara with a fourth booked for 2010 which indicates how much we like Azamara. The first successful ingredient is the size of the ship which allows passengers to meet others and make friends more easily. The second is the wonderful people from Captain Georgios Theodorou to all the staff who go out of their way to ensure that your requests/complaints are met and always with a smile. Leisl, of the Captains club /future cruises with her lovely mischievous ways. Ryszard Gusmann who went the extra mile to source the wonderful beef served (so I can torment our local butcher!) and who is working hard to get the good coffee we all like! Hotel Director Heike Cramer with a lovely smile for all. Tony Markey Cruise Director who works so hard to entertain us. I hope he can persuade the powers that be that a little more classics would be appreciated. The pianist, harp player and the lovely Jazz band that greeted tired passenger returning to the ship from Egypt were all so appreciated. Third is open seating that allows people to eat alone, if feeling tired or unsociable, or on larger tables where interesting people can be met. We met lots of lovely and interesting people. Fourth is the wonderful food, both in the speciality restaurants and, if feeling casual after a tiring day, the Breeza where the buffet choice is exceptional. The breakfast has so much choice and can be enjoyed on the open deck. This we did on most days. Fifth is the interesting itinerary. This was very port intensive (which we enjoy) and could be better balanced. We have suggested a sea day between Egypt and Israel to recover from the 10 hour day excursions. Some irritations still remain and have been noted to staff.. We do not like the charges for the shuttle bus (which have doubled since May!) and when shore excursions are cancelled due to lack of support we feel the ship could do more. It is not unreasonable to have reserve arrangements available (say; for a smaller bus) or at least the ship could facilitate introductions for those passengers that were interested so that they could make alternative arrangements. Finally we have advised and written before about perceived weaknesses and are very pleased to record that notice has been taken and many elements improved. The port and shore excursion information, that is very useful for independent travellers, and the very informative Port lecturer presented the details in a way that was easily understandable. Keep smiling and listening Azamara . We look forward to meeting you again next year. . Read Less
Sail Date October 2009
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