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10 Azamara Quest Caribbean - Southern Cruise Reviews

I have just returned home from my first but not last Azamara cruise with my husband. We have sailed on a wide number of lines from Royal Caribbean to Silver Seas and this was the best yet. I follow the reviews and was skeptical when ... Read More
I have just returned home from my first but not last Azamara cruise with my husband. We have sailed on a wide number of lines from Royal Caribbean to Silver Seas and this was the best yet. I follow the reviews and was skeptical when reading the Azamara ones. But in all honesty, we can say they exceeded our expectations. The ship is older as reported and the bathroom and balconies are small, however, this is to do with the basic restrictions of an older ship. From the moment we arrived in the cruise ship terminal until the disembarkation with Captain Smith seeing us off and thanking us for coming, we felt at home. The service is excellent and friendly without being snobby. The food was really good and healthy choices could be found everywhere. We did not try the Prime C or Aqualina because we loved the theme buffets each evening on the back deck. A perfect combination of self service and wait staff assistance. Fellow passengers were Brits, Americans and Aussies with a sprinkling of others. Everyone was cheerful and friendly and happy with the cruise. The ports of call were super, all small Caribbean islands without the hubbub of shopping and thousands of other cruisers. The entertainment was terrific with a live orchestra. The dancers were all accomplished and Russ the cruise director was a welcome addition as he is also a professional singer. We enjoyed the lecturers on board and learned more about the history of the Caribbean. The wine which was served in abundance was just fine. If we didn't like one they found us another. It is not billed as a wine cruise so expect decent drinkable wine. All in all we were impressed from start to finish and tips really are included. While we tipped our excellent room attendant be because he was just so good, we never got the feeling from any staff that is was expected. Loved the Azamara Quest Read Less
Sail Date March 2014
694 people signed up for a cruise advertised as New Year's Eve in St. Barts!!!!!!! On every photo it said south beach to st. Barts New Year's Eve!!!! Why didn't they deliver what was promised???? Why don't the ... Read More
694 people signed up for a cruise advertised as New Year's Eve in St. Barts!!!!!!! On every photo it said south beach to st. Barts New Year's Eve!!!! Why didn't they deliver what was promised???? Why don't the passengers have any recourse????? All of us could have taken any cruise line!!!! We signed up because we were going to st barts. The captain knew that the harbor was going to be busy. He knew in advance that we were going to tender! Why weren't the proper provisions made???? My entire 8 day cruise was ruined as was everyone else's!!!! That is all anyone spoke about!!! People came from all over the world to go on this cruise!!! The food was awful, the service wasn't great, they had the casino closed for 3 nights! Who heard of a casino closed on New Year's Eve???? it was beyond boring!!! instead of being in st barts where the casino would of opened at 6pm we were docked in st Maarten where we were the previous day until 12 midnight!!!! We were there for the aza amazing evening!!! We were promised a 16 piece calypso band! I didn't know that we would be seeing 5 year old s playing the drums and women wearing inappropriate costumes dancing around!!!! We tendered in Nevis and virgin gorda where the water was rougher. Two men took your hand and put you in the tenders, no big deal!!! Supposedly in st barts, one or two tenders went out. The president of azamara was on our ship and you know that his wife was on one of those tenders!!!!! We had to wait for 5 hours while the people who had excursions came back!!! They let them go, because they made money on that , but the other people who wanted to explore on their own, were tole that the water was too choppy and couldn't get off!!!! How did the other 154 yachts get their passengers off and into st barts??????? The only nice thing about the cruise was the room was crisp and clean!!!!! Read Less
Sail Date December 2013
December 2013. We have just returned home from our 2nd Azamara Club Cruise. This time we were aboard the Quest, last fall we were on the Journey. The ships are virtually identical so we felt quite at home. Hospitality is the name of the ... Read More
December 2013. We have just returned home from our 2nd Azamara Club Cruise. This time we were aboard the Quest, last fall we were on the Journey. The ships are virtually identical so we felt quite at home. Hospitality is the name of the game and Azamara does it very well. There have been a few changes to the Azamara line since we travelled in September 2012, the most notable being new carpets and upholstery and the number of beverages that are now included in your ticket price. We didn't buy a beverage card this time; it really was not necessary. For this cruise we upgraded to a suite, and it was well worth it. Suite privileges included priority check in and departure, butler service (Xavier was dressed in tails at all times, and we were in the Caribbean!), a welcome bottle of wine, fresh fruit and flowers in the cabin, 4 bottles of assorted liquor in the cabin (we were able to swap the liquor out for 2 bottles of wine), afternoon hors d'oevres served on our veranda, complimentary seating in the two specialty restaurants, Prime C and Aqualina, and complimentary access to the Spa deck and pool. Captain José, the daily "voice from the bridge", was informative and amusing. This was his first voyage as captain with Azamara, and he certainly echoed the Azamara standard of excellence. He was a wonderful host, friendly and sociable. We felt very welcome on board. We saw him everywhere! There was a glitch in the power system on the ship one day, and it was handled very well. We were not among the guests without power in their cabins for a few hours, and I imagine they noticed the lack of air conditioning and toilet flushing, but we were fine. The "voice from the bridge" kept everyone well informed on the state of repairs. The main restaurant, Discoveries, was without power as well, so it was closed for dinner. To compensate, the pool deck was cleared of lounges, and Chef Fabio and his food and beverage team rallied to provide one of the best meals we had on the ship. One can only imagine what went on behind the scenes to provide this seamless conversion from dining room to pool deck buffet. Kudos to the crew for this one. The only disappointment we had on this cruise was the 'Amazing Azamara Evening' that took place at the Fairview Great House on St. Kitts. The logistics of transporting several hundred people to the site in an acceptable amount of time proved to be beyond the capacity of the local bus and taxi service. As a result, the first guests had been at the site for long enough to get restless before the last group arrived, and the last to arrive did not have time to enjoy the venue before the entertainment began. The itinerary for this cruise, the 12 Night West Indies Hideaway Voyage, was very good, with stops at St. John (US Virgin Islands), Marigot (Saint Martin), Roseau (Dominica), Basseterre (St. Kitts), Charlestown (Nevis), Gustavia (St. Barts), and Virgin Gorda (B.V.I.). There were many options for land discoveries, and we enjoyed a catamaran sail and snorkel expedition, although the wind and wave conditions prevented us from visiting the preferred snorkel site. The cruise started and ended with two days at sea, which we also enjoyed. Seminars on jewelry and wine tasting as well as tours of the ship were of special interest. We were as busy as we wanted to be and that made it a wonderful vacation. Maybe the next time we will try to find the putting green and take part in the trivia challenges. The ship is great, the food was great, but the crew is exceptional, and will keep us coming back to Azamara. Vipin and his colleagues in the boutiques, Carlo, Mustafa, Boban, Aileen, and many others in the restaurants, Carlos, Constance, Jade and fellow spa employees, and of course Captain Jose, Cruise Director Tony, Activity manager SaraLou, Nathalia in Future Cruises, Wade, our excursion companion and all the others whose names I have forgotten, you all made us feel like we were more than travelers, but guests in your home. We will be travelling on the Azamara Journey in February, and look forward to another wonderful experience.   Read Less
Sail Date November 2013
Best Things about the Azamara Quest Cruise Non-smoking ship (almost) -- no smoking in rooms, balcony or Casino Free specialty coffee & Hot Chocolate in real Cappuccino Glasses & China Cups. You can talk to the Captain ... Read More
Best Things about the Azamara Quest Cruise Non-smoking ship (almost) -- no smoking in rooms, balcony or Casino Free specialty coffee & Hot Chocolate in real Cappuccino Glasses & China Cups. You can talk to the Captain around the ship. Free cold bottled water & Coke products in staterooms Free Gator Aide in Exercise Room Theme Buffets every night -- Italian, British, German, Spanish, Greek, American, French, Indian, Sea Food, etc Two stations in Buffet making fresh dishes -- one for Pasta and one for meats Fresh made Waffles, Pancakes, Brioche (almond croissant), & Sticky Buns in Buffet International wines with lunch and dinner -- all you want -- Red & White every meal Fresh Energy drink for Br (Pureed Ginger & fruit juices) Freshly squeezed orange juice at breakfast (free) Fresh made smoothies in morning (free) Fresh Shushes (tuna, crab, salmon, shrimp, ell & veg) & Seaweed Salad at most Lunches in Buffet Gelatos (Italian Ice Cream) & Sorbets at every Lu & Dn in Buffet Fresh flowers in room Warm, Friendly staff at all levels Free self-service laundry with soap Nice comfortable chairs on balcony Interesting Shows & Musicians Hot Saunas in Spa area 89 minutes of free Internet per person (after first Celebrity or Azamara cruise). No formal nights Shore trips booked in advance of cruise were half-price. Use 3 tenders in morning to get passenger ashore faster. Sandals to wear in Hot Saunas. Free seasick pills from Guest Services. The Buffet operates with waiters like a restaurant, except you get your own food, unless you have something special made, in which case they bring it to you. Free Tote Bag per room Mattress Pad over the 2 single beds that make-up the King-sized bed so there is no "canyon" in the middle of the bed. No blaring live or canned music at the pool. You can bring beer or any other alcoholic drink on the ship (just remember you need and opener). Small Silver canister of bathroom spray Read Less
Sail Date March 2013
We arrived at the port and the Azamara/Celebrity/Royal Caribbean was the first parking structure. I pulled up to the terminal and was greeted by a friendly porter who asked our cabin number. We told him and he said I will take care of your ... Read More
We arrived at the port and the Azamara/Celebrity/Royal Caribbean was the first parking structure. I pulled up to the terminal and was greeted by a friendly porter who asked our cabin number. We told him and he said I will take care of your luggage. He escorted my wife to a seat to wait for me until I parked my car. I drove into the parking area. Parked and walked across the road to meet my wife. We entered the terminal and only one person was online. We were greeted by a friendly person who did the paper work and gave us our photo boarding passes. We walked onto the ship and were greeted by the friendly staff. They escorted us to our cabin. We were told the butler would meet us later. Ronald did and was friendly and informative. We proceeded to the beautiful buffet on deck nine. Everything looked good and tasted fresh. On the cruise: When we got to St. Barts everything was closed and there was no notification to the passengers. The parade was very nice and ran a little late. Passengers were afraid to stay to enjoy it. The time to depart could have been delayed for an hour. We were so close to our next port we could have made up the time. Religious services: It was Ash Wednesday. The town and the church were closed. Why didn't Azamara have church services for those who wanted to attend? This was very bad and those people will remember this and tell others. The Azamara cruise should have issued a notice before we went ashore in Fort De France aka MARTINIQUE that all the stores were closed for a holiday. We were at the dock that was about 1.5 miles from town. There was a dock right in town. Why didn't we dock there? The Fresh flowers in the room and the beautiful Orchards on the tables and all around the ship were a plus. The ladies were given a Red Rose on Valentines Day that was very nice. The buffet had a very good selection. We found ourselves dining up here most of the nights. I was very impressed with Michael Peterson the head chief of the buffet. I sent in a negative comment about the first Caribbean night. When he saw me at the buffet getting a stir fry he said, Hello Mr. Schecter how is everything. Again on the last night he asked me the same question. He also asked me about the next Caribbean night buffet. I told him the second Caribbean night was much better than the first one. Food was very good with many great selections and decorations that gave a nice ambiance to the theme. The guitar music was very good. The entertainment team and the band made it an unforgettable night. He thanked me and said he always try to improve his department. The decorations around the buffet were interesting. Ice cream was served in the buffet during lunch and diner was great. We think servers should wear gloves when they serve the ice cream cones. We were never told or discovered the soft serve ice cream until we found it by accident on the tenth day. More crafts are needed. Ladies love them on sea days. There was only one craft making Valentines cards. I believe everyone would like some good craft sessions. The movies and TV pre recorded programs were very enjoyable. Happy to be able to see some Olympic events on the TV. TNT is always a good movie channel. Room service menu had nice selections & servings were ample. Time from order to delivery was ok. Pedro did a great job cooking omelets in the morning at the buffet. We enjoyed eating on back deck with tropical breezes and panoramic views. We really enjoyed dining at Aqualina Restaurant. The seafood appetizer was absolutely delicious and presentation was excellent. The dining experience was outstanding. The matradi Daniel and our waiter Frederick were excellent and accommodating. As the head Chief Lisa adds a distinctive feminine touch to the presentation of all the food served. Her presence added more. I was also impressed by one of the chiefs at the buffet addressing me by my name. Sanitation aboard the ship was very good with Purell dispensers everywhere food was served and other places. At each place we boarded the tenders and after each tender ride there was always a person with a bottle of sanitizer but some of the bottled ones left our hands feeling sticky. The room butler Ronald did a great job keeping our room clean and neat. There was always fresh water and ice twice a day and new towels and soap, shampoo, and conditioner. I think it a very poor practice for a top cruise line to give badly worn and frayed bath towels. I have had at least four. They should be taken out of service and donated to Haiti or homeless shelters. We have cruised with every major and some minor cruise lines. We have cruised more than sixty times in eight years. The entire staff was friendly, courteous, helpful, etc. The bright spots are Tony; He is without a doubt the best cruise director we have ever met. He was eager to set up a Military Veterans meeting at my request. He provided coffee, tea, cookies and more. He is bright, energetic and talented. He did a great job of entertaining everyone at his one man show with the assistance of the Dan Redner playing the piano. He is an excellent pianist. Lisa the activities director is very warm and friendly. She does a great job and has a great staff helping her. Oleg was there helping and did a great job with the pantomime classes. All the entertainers were very good. The Mirage trio, the solo guitarist, and Carlos Avalon were very good. We really liked JamiIa, and Antonio Salci. We did not care for the magician and the classical music by McSweny. She was very good but not for our taste. The five singers were great. The music chosen was excellent every time and the performance was outstanding. We also like the big shows on the larger ships with the cast of talented performers. I feel I am qualified to judge the talent as I have seen the best in my lifetime. In addition my son is Jeffrey Schecter. He has been a dancer, singer, and actor and has been on Broadway in many productions as well as world wide. He has been on TV and in films. You may have seen him recently in the Broadway production as MIKE in "A Chorus Line." Also in the film "Every Little Step." Read Less
Sail Date February 2010
We're avid Celebrity cruisers and decided to try this upscale ship with a different itinerary. Well the cruise price didn't live up to the upscale. I believe Azamara needs to learn from Celebrity. I've never been a critic of ... Read More
We're avid Celebrity cruisers and decided to try this upscale ship with a different itinerary. Well the cruise price didn't live up to the upscale. I believe Azamara needs to learn from Celebrity. I've never been a critic of Celebrity( there was no need to) however I wouldn't cruise on this line until the ship gets more organized. The buffet food became boring with not near the selection Celebrity has. It's very busy since the line on each side comes close in the center your bumping into people etc. Then try to find a seat which when you do the food that wasn't very warm to start with is cold. Trying to find a waiter is another problem, since there aren't many around. With no trays to carry your food it tests your coordination skills. The reason is they said it makes it look like a buffet..DUH. The main dining area does a pretty good job on getting you seated. The speciality restaurants were one excellent ( Prime C )the other ( Aqualina) wasn't as good and the phony Osco Buco was salty and veal shank is what it supposed to be was pieces of veal wrapped with Prosuitto It was a want to be Osco Buco. Entertainment was not like anything you find on Celebrity unless your into piano's,opera,or string guitars. The band (thats a compliment) by the pool played for 45 minutes songs that I never heard of. No steel band on a Caribbean cruise? They didn't even look like they wanted to be there and the music supported it. The ports left a lot to be desired and the ship excursions were very pricey, make your own arrangements you'll see more for less $$. The cabins weren't upscale with less room (1A category) than any of the Celebrity's M class which we've been on all of them. The butler is a dressed up cabin steward. His service was excellent on deck 7. His name is Fazio and he was great. I'm not big in girth or height but the showers only accommodate tiny and small. At 5'6" 150lbs it was close for me. There are still chair hogs at the pool who drop a book or shoe and then leave for 3 or more hours.They are very nice lounge chairs. The best part of this type of cruise is the people you meet and get to know. We had a great time meeting people from all over. The average ages are in the 55 and up with a number of cruises. This was our 20th and there's many with more. Most said they wanted the different ports and to try this UPSCALE line which many also said that to be upscale they should start at Celebrity's level and go from there. I'm sure they'll make adjustments to become upscale,it was disappointing however expecting more and getting less. I've never wrote about any cruise's but this one at this point doesn't make the grade of Upscale! Read Less
Sail Date February 2008
Returned home on Saturday from a terrific time on the Quest 14 day Caribbean cruise. We're die-hard Celebrity cruisers and we have never really had any complaints about Celebrity's product. However, I have to say Azamara is a ... Read More
Returned home on Saturday from a terrific time on the Quest 14 day Caribbean cruise. We're die-hard Celebrity cruisers and we have never really had any complaints about Celebrity's product. However, I have to say Azamara is a step above Celebrity and certainly worth the extra dollars, in my opinion. Just the small size of the ship and attention to detail made a big difference. To summarize, we absolutely loved it. The ship was lovely, the staff went far out of their way to ensure we had a wonderful experience, and the food was to die for (let's just say my skirts aren't feeling particularly loose these days). For what it's worth, I'm 46 and my hubby is 51. IMPROVEMENTS OVER CELEBRITY Lounge chairs - The thickly-cushioned lounge chairs by the pool - especially the double-size ones. What luxury! Many times we went out to lie in the sun to "read" and ended up snoring instead. We also got two of the 30 coveted spa passes, which allowed us to use the private area at the front of the ship. Many times, we were the only ones out there enjoying the comfy seating and quiet (although the seats were just as comfy at the main pool). One day, they had free champagne and chocolate covered strawberries in the area. Let's just say I didn't let that go to waste. Of course, chair hogs were out in full force at the main pool, but we seldom had trouble finding four chairs together. One day, after an hour had gone by with someone's shoes split on two chairs beside our friends' chairs for over an hour, we moved the shoes to the floor behind the chairs, and sat. Even an hour after that, that person had not retrieved his shoes. There was always a blurb in the daily stating a 20 minute time limit for chair saving. At our Cruise Critic meeting, someone complained about the chair hog situation, but I think most cruise lines have this problem, and it is hard for them to solve without alienating certain passengers. I think we have to deal with this problem ourselves and feel free to move items. Even if it hasn't been 20 minutes, if it looks to me like a chair is being arbitrarily saved by a book or shoe or whatever, I'd have no problem moving it, and if the person came back in less than 20 minutes, I'd apologize and find myself another chair. I think this is a safe way to deal with this annoyance, even though we really seldom had a problem finding chairs when we wanted them. Food - oh boy! I wish it hadn't been quite so good. I just couldn't say no. Even the salads at dinner, which on Celebrity I've found a little dull, were very good, with little treats like seeds and fruit on top of greens, which I love. We dined in Prime C twice and Aqualina once, but the food in Discoveries was just as good. We also dined at Breeza once and loved it, but we just couldn't find another night to go, since there was always something on the Discoveries menu we wanted to have. A few nights, they had special sampler desserts which were very nice. At breakfast, the waffles were as good as Celebrity, with the added bonus of never having to wait for them. They were entirely too convenient. The made-to-order omelets were also very tasty, and made with particular flair. Coffee - I just love the coffee machines at the main buffet which grind the beans and make your choice of espresso, decaf or regular coffee. And the larger cups and drinking glasses are wonderful. I am a fan of very strong coffee and I used the grinding machines to have two shots of espresso and one shot of regular coffee, which fit in the new big mugs wonderfully, and definitely got me moving in the morning (the flavor of this concoction was similar to Starbucks extra bold-type coffee). They also had regular coffee urns which most people used. The coffee in the dining room was okay, but lacked the intensity of my custom morning mixture. On Celebrity, we often felt the need to visit the Cova for a decent cup of coffee, but the only time we had anything from Mosaic on the Quest, it was the cold mochaccino's, which were calorie-laden heaven in a cup. Lines - I really haven't noticed a lot of lines on Celebrity, but on Azamara, it became apparent by comparison that Celebrity does sometimes have line ups at buffets and other venues, which we seldom encountered on Azamara. The only line I really remember was the immigration line, and you can't do much about that. At least we were waiting in a comfortable lounge with coffee available. And I never saw a line-up for Discoveries, except just before it opened at 6 and then everyone was always quickly seated. Granted, we eat early, and maybe there were lines later, but when we left the dining room around 7:30, I never saw a line either, except perhaps on last Thursday's lobster night, when it seemed that everyone chose Discoveries over the specialty restaurants. I think making Prime C and Aqualina free, in addition to the yummy choices in Breeza, has eliminated any problems in the main dining room. Our service was very quick most nights, and we never felt we waited too long nor did we feel rushed to leave. We did perhaps miss connecting with assigned seating wait staff, but really, all the staff were so great, we never felt we were missing out on much. The maitre d's and head waiters were all charming and funny and we really enjoyed joking with all of them. Little treats - I loved the little bedside treats - the chocolates were much better than the regular Celebrity ones and I happily went back to the cabin every night to snarf back the daily offering. One day, instead of a treat, a rose was left on the bed. I believe the general reaction all over the ship that night was "Nice rose, but where's my chocolate?" We were also given a letter apologizing for the fuel surcharge, along with a nice flannel type travel blanket to bring home. Since our fuel surcharge was refunded, this was an added bonus for us. The daily canapEs are pretty much like Celebrity's - I like them but I guess I'm one of the few who does. They had afternoon tea in Aqualina, but we never went so I can't comment. I'm sure it was good. Mosaic Cafe had nice baked treats in the daytime, and starting late afternoon, they had Tapas, which looked great but we never had room for any, since we ate dinner early and that did us in for the night. Norovirus - I'm sure you're wondering how norovirus can be a good thing. We've never been on any of the Celebrity dreaded "bleach" cruises, but, although there was norovirus on our ship, the staff made sure our inconveniences were kept to a bare minimum. Whatever cleaning solution they used did not smell strong (and I have a very sensitive sniffer), and other than hand sanitizers (both liquid and wipes) being prevalent and the daily update from the bridge, you would never had known there was a problem at all. Staff did the serving at the buffet instead of it being self-serve, but we really barely noticed it - it certainly didn't slow us down in getting plates full of lobster ravioli and other delights. The precautions were in effect pretty much the second day of the cruise till two days before the end, but, although I'm sure the staff was very overworked sanitizing all the menus, soft and hard surfaces (and even the pens we signed our slips with), we barely noticed we were on a cruise affected with the virus. Kudos to the staff for making the best of a tough situation. I do feel bad for anyone that was quarantined, although, with the selection of books in the library (they filled the library full of new books a few days into the cruise), I probably could have kept myself busy in the cabin for a few days without too much boredom. The TV selections seemed okay - I didn't watch much but they had movies on TNT and another station that I would have liked to have time to watch. I did watch most of the movie "Basic Instinct 2" but, somehow, they switched to another movie or something just before the end so I don't know how it ended. Not sure what happened there. Small ship - This is the biggest difference between Celebrity and Azamara. These small ships ensured that you saw the same staff and passengers over and over and you really got to know them over two weeks. We had a great Cruise Critic group and it was nice to see these new friends all over the ship. As mentioned before, line-ups were virtually non-existent - I certainly never had more than three people in front of me waiting for anything and even that was rare. Service above and beyond - Too many instances to mention, but I will mention one. I went to Guest Relations and asked if they had some tape, as I had broken a strap on my sandal and just wanted to hold it together temporarily. Marion at the desk suggested I leave the shoe with my butler with a note requesting that he bring it to her, as she knew people on the ship who might be able to fix it. I left the shoe on the bed with the note before dinner, and when we got back from dinner, the shoe was back, fixed perfectly. Staff were always asking if there was anything they could do for us, and if they could make our experience better in any way. Truly, we could not have asked for better service. Our cabin staff serviced our cabin very efficiently - they always seemed to drop by during a few minutes we were away from the cabin, and have it spotless when we returned. They recycled our towels as we wanted (as the card to "Save the Oceans" suggests) which I liked. I've been places where you hang your towel to use it another day, instead of putting it on the floor, and staff gives you new towels anyways, which seems wasteful to me. Embarkation and debarkation were seamless. Dress code - This ship was perfect, in that you could be country club casual every day, yet some people dressed up and were not out of place. You could still bring nice gowns and wear them if you wanted, but it was not necessary. I did notice a few couples where the woman was dressed to the nines with a lovely cocktail dress and heels, while her spouse was wearing khaki's and a golf shirt. It's nice that everyone can wear what they like. We didn't notice anyone dressed sloppily, although we really didn't pay much attention. Free Microsoft Office classes - On Celebrity you have to pay for them. Not sure how many people showed up but it was nice to see it was free. I teach Office product classes myself and was considering going to the Excel class just to yank the instructor's chain by asking him some ridiculously tough questions, but he seemed like such a nice guy, I didn't have the heart. However, when I asked him whether they use Office 2003 or 2007, he told me they use Office 2000! Hello! Time to upgrade, Azamara. They could really shake things up by showing people the wonders and horrors of Office 2007. By the way, these computers are really locked down - no way to open NotePad or Word in order to compose an e-mail before sending it. Only e-mail and internet seemed accessible. I did want to print out some contact information from Word one day and the instructor was kind enough to log into the computer to allow me to open Word to print my page, but I enjoy the personal network profiles on Celebrity's computers that allow you to save documents and open them on any of the PC's without having to bother anyone. Smoke-free air - No smoking (other than two designated areas) - Heaven! Enough said. Cruise director - We love Becky Field - too bad she's heading to the Mercury after she takes a few months off. She's a doll and we had dinner with her a couple of nights. She's bubbly and diplomatic and just a very nice person. I think she had a tough job getting people to participate in events; many were cancelled due to lack of participation. The crowd on this ship just seemed to want to do their own thing, and wasn't much into participating in dance lessons or going on stage for the "Love and Marriage game" - they nearly had to cancel that because she couldn't convince anyone to go on stage, even though the prize was a couples spa treatment, and the other participants also got a prize. Trivia was very popular (we love it) and we got every prize the cruise line offers up, mainly just by playing trivia so often (and because we clearly watch too many movies and TV shows and know it all!) LITTLE NITPICKS Entertainment - The "party band", Cruise Control, really didn't' seem suited to a Caribbean itinerary. Although talented musicians, they were very low key and seemed to play mellow, jazz-like music more than anything tropical or peppy, particularly the lead singer who looked less than enthused to be there. However, as always, the orchestra was excellent, and the five "production show" singers were incredibly talented. We didn't go to see many of individual musician shows, but what we saw was good, and the comedian made us laugh as he made jokes about our ports of call. The rest of his act seemed recycled from other cruises, as he joked about line ups and other large ship woes that were non-existent on the Quest. I'm sure some people who are used to the big ships were disappointed in the low key entertainment, but I think that Azamara is concentrating on offering unique itineraries and many passengers (like us) will amuse themselves by chatting in the bars with other passengers, or making donations in the casino before turning in early to prepare for an early morning of sightseeing. Perhaps a few more games other than Scrabble, chess and backgammon could be made available in the library (ie. Trivial Pursuit, Scattergories, Catchphrase, etc. - games that adults could have some fun with in the evenings if the shows aren't their thing.) People looking for big-ship entertainment will likely not be amused. Personally, I found there were more than enough things to do during the day. The naturalist who spoke on board about wildlife was very good, but I only got to see him once, as other things, like our Cruise Critic meetings, seemed to be scheduled when he was on. Buffet layout - It took me a few days to get the hang of how the buffet worked. I'm still not sure if you're meant to start at the middle and work your way down, or start at the prepared salads and work your way in. The hot food had two sides that were mostly the same, but the odd item would be on one side and not the other, and quite often I never saw a particular entree until I noticed someone had something on their plate. I think the salad bar, which was popular, could be more spread out - perhaps it could be expanded to where the desserts are, and the deserts could be moved to the side, mirror image spot to where the pizza is, in a cubby hole that didn't seem to be used for anything. Also, the juice and smoothie bar area, popular in the morning, didn't seem to be in use the rest of the day - perhaps desserts or ice cream could be moved there to make room for an expanded salad bar. Although really, the salad bar was fine, and other than having to get the greens served because they were too far back, it wasn't a problem. I just like a nice, roomy salad bar. Some people complained about the lack of trays at the buffet. In my opinion, the lack of trays was great, as I find them really awkward, and on Celebrity, as soon as I get to my table, I'm looking for somewhere to dump the unwieldy thing. They also remind me of a high school cafeteria. There were loads of staff around, and although they didn't seem to offer people help carrying their food, I'm sure any one of the staff in the buffet area would be happy to help someone who requested assistance. Really, we were constantly being asked if we wanted juice or a smoothie or more coffee; they would fetch anything you would ask for. Bar bill - Drinks were pricey, although they were definitely generous with the pours, and the bartenders are a great bunch. We especially enjoyed Michael Alvez who kept us amused with magic tricks. Beljania (sp?) and Gabriel in the casino bar were a lot of fun too. Tiny shower - Our friend remarked that the shower was the size and shape of a coffin. I found the shower extremely small and it was a challenge to find room to shave my legs. I finally found the best way was to open the curtain and prop my leg on the sink (probably something not everyone wants to try). The shower curtain always seemed to hang inward even though the bathroom door was closed. I can't imagine how larger people managed in that little shower (not that I'm particularly petite myself). The comic one night suggested larger folks soap down the walls and spin - not a bad idea. :-) Also, it was hard to maneuver around front of the cabin, between the bathroom door and the closet doors - and with the closet doors open, it was very hard to see into the closet because the light was blocked by the door. Also, the pegs on the bathroom door should be shaped more like hooks, so that the towels don't keep falling off. Small stuff, but on a very long itinerary, these things would grate. I guess that's why they make suites. A cruise cabin sure makes your house seem huge when you get home. By the way, we were in a standard verandah cabin. Ship motion - I'm not one to get seasick and generally like to feel the motion of a ship, but I must say, I really felt the motion on this one. Although I never felt sick, I did have trouble sleeping a few nights, although that may have been more due to the waiter refilling my water glass too often at dinner than anything else. I think perhaps the sea was a little rougher than normal most days, since there were two or three nights when I didn't feel the motion of the ship at all - either we were going much slower, or the sea had calmed down a bit. We had perfect weather on this cruise - sunny every day but one, but there was a bit of wind and choppiness a lot of the time. My husband said, as much as he loved this cruise, he would never take one of these ships on a transatlantic cruise. Anyone who is prone to seasickness might be wise to avoid these ships in favor of larger ships, like Celebrity's Millie class. Whiners - I guess you just can't get away from them. Although most people we spoke to loved this cruise, there are always a few just looking for something to complain about. We ran into a particularly unpleasant old buzzard at one of the ports, complaining that he couldn't remove his gratuities from his account, he couldn't bring hard liquor on board, and that this cruise was just awful in every way. He raged that he was on Crystal last year, for the same price, and they included so many more things and it was so much better. I don't doubt Crystal is more inclusive, but show me a Crystal cruise that isn't more than double what Azamara is charging. At our Cruise Critic meetings, there was also a bit of negativity - some about chair hogs which I think is a tough one to solve, and, of all things, about the quality of the paper towels in the restrooms. A few people at the Cruise Critic meeting were not message board members but just came in thinking it was a chance to complain. I guess you can't please everyone. I must say that the passengers all seemed to be very well traveled; I don't think we met anyone who had never sailed Celebrity before, and many people were very particular and expected absolute perfection, which may be a bit unrealistic - that's what the luxury lines are for, I guess. PORTS The main draw of Azamara, in my opinion, is the interesting, out of the ordinary itineraries. We chose this cruise because of the ports, and because we wanted to travel with Sue and Darren again, after we met them on the Galaxy last year and had such a nice time together. We were very happy to visit ports that we had not visited on other cruises, and for the most part, they all offered something interesting to see and do. Other than at Grand Turk, ours was the only ship at any of the ports on the day we were there. Miami - We stayed one night pre-cruise at the Sofitel in Miami, near the airport. We got a great rate by booking many months in advance (prices more than doubled by the time the cruise came along). The hotel was very nice and the meals we had at the hotel were quite good. Their shuttle from the airport to the hotel was quick and check in was fine. We booked our own transportation to the ship, figuring that cabs might be hard to come by on a Saturday morning in Miami, especially as the boat show and a big art show were also on that weekend. St. John - This was one of the few ports we had been to previously. This time, we took a cab from Cruz Bay to Cinnamon Bay, where we spent a very nice morning on the beach. Note to self: just because you have a snorkel doesn't mean you can swim, especially with no flippers. Let's just say I swam about halfway to the reef with Darren before it occurred to me I had nothing but a snorkel and a bathing suit, and I'm not a strong swimmer. I made it back to shore after a bit of hyperventilating, and decided to confine myself to the reef closer to the beach. Cabrits, Dominica - We went on a whale watching excursion. We saw a couple a spouts from a distance, and two tails, but in general, did not see much compared to Cayo Levantado last week. St. Vincent - Here we took a cab after deciding we'd like to see the Fort and the Botanical Gardens. The taxi prices are reasonable enough and our driver was knowledgeable. At both stops, as we got out of the cab, guides took us on a tour, pretty much without asking if we wanted one. We went along, and although the tours went a little longer than expected, particularly at the gardens where I think our guide would have personally introduced us to every plant in the place, they were nice and we were happy with the experience. If you go the private cab route and don't want guides at your stops, I would suggest telling your driver you'd just like to explore on your own, if possible. Tobago - This was an unexpected favorite. One of our Cruise Critic friends organized a tour with Hew's Tours, which included a glass bottom boat ride, snorkeling, and some general sightseeing. The beach at Pigeon Point is lovely, the forts were picturesque and Tobago seemed a little more affluent than some of the other islands. Our tour was to end at 2pm, but we didn't get back to the ship till after 3. They certainly gave us our money's worth; however, at one point I felt like saying to the driver "Hey! We're spoiled cruise passengers! We're not used to going 2 hours without food, let alone 6! We're dying here!" :-) St. Bart's - Now here's another place I could see myself spending a week. Very nice port. Unfortunately, as Sue said, it was the perfect storm of bad luck for a day in St. Bart's. It was a Sunday so most of the stores were closed, and the Oscars were on in Hollywood, so there were no Celebrities for us to stalk. Had a nice time anyways just walking around town. Virgin Gorda - Probably the most picturesque place I've been in the Caribbean. We took the ship's excursion to The Baths and Spring Bay, both of which were gorgeous. I took about a million photos. Cayo Levantado (Samana, Dominican Republic) - Here we did the ship's whale watching excursion and had way better luck than in Cabrits. We got very close to the whales and I got some great photos of the humpbacks, mostly of them slapping their giant fins on the water. Clearly, the same rules in place in Maui restricting how close you can get to a whale are not enforced here. Ponce, Puerto Rico - Other than Arica, Chile, I can't remember a port where we were made to feel more welcome. On exiting the ship, they gave away nylon drawstring bags with tourist literature; in town, they had a troupe of boys and girls dancing, and other entertainers, and everywhere in town, people would say "Welcome to Ponce" as we passed. Back after a few hours of walking around the city, they had a band at the dock, and a local lady leading a conga line. They had a string of tables set up at the pier selling locally made jewelry very cheaply. They also gave out free rum drinks - once again, we did not let that opportunity go to waste. We certainly found the best bargains of the cruise there. The people of Ponce did everything they could to make their port appealing for tourists, like going to the trouble of surrounding the band at the pier with potted plants and prettying up the port area for us. Cruise lines could definitely take the heat off San Juan by sending a few ships in this direction. Grand Turk - Ours was the only ship in any of the ports until we got to Grand Turk. We spent the morning on the Personal Miniboat excursion and when we came back, the Carnival Triumph was unleashing its hordes onto the pier. The Carnivalites invaded Margaritaville and before we knew it, the beach was covered with people, and they were having drinking contests at the pool. We bought some duty-free and headed back onto the ship. The mini boat excursion was a lot of fun - it would have been a bit more fun if it hadn't been quite so choppy (I did not attempt to snorkel). Our boat seemed to have some type of propulsion problem that prevented us from keeping up with the rest of the boaters. Not that I felt my hubby wasn't driving fast enough. It seemed plenty fast in those waves. My knees were feeling it when we got off the boat, and I've got bruises in all kinds of places. Fun stuff, though and I'd do it again. OVERALL CONCLUSIONS This cruise was similar to Celebrity, except that everything just seemed a little bit better. The small ship and low key entertainment suited us just fine, and I would not hesitate to book with Azamara again. The lack of crowds, the smoke-free rooms and fabulous service have convinced me that small ship sailing is my new favorite way to travel. If my husband weren't so bound and bent to sail the Solstice next year, I'd have us booked on another Azamara cruise already. We did notice that every passenger we met had sailed Celebrity previously, and that's where their customer base seems to be coming from. I was most interested to hear what previous Oceania customers had to say about their Azamara experience, and those I spoke to said that there was virtually no difference between the two. A few people said that they were the same, except that Azamara's food was a bit better. Most people I know have never heard of Azamara, and I hope Celebrity/RCI gets the word out about this gem of a cruise line. Perhaps they should advertise Azamara on the back of Celebrity brochures (not that I personally see many paper brochures these days, but I assume some people still book their travel old-school). This is definitely not a cruise line for children - I only saw two children on this cruise, and that was very briefly. I'm not sure how their parents kept them entertained but there really were no facilities at all for them. However, for experienced travelers who are interested in unusual ports, fine dining, and don't need poolside contests and loud entertainment to keep them busy, this cruise line should more than satisfy. This was a great cruise and we'd book Azamara again in a heartbeat. We loved chatting with our Cruise Critic friends, and hope to see many of them again on board another cruise. Read Less
Sail Date February 2008
Thought we'd add our review too, so people can have as much info as possible, as we are all looking for different things. We truly enjoyed our trip, and thought the Ship and Staff were just excellent! This was all a couple of notches ... Read More
Thought we'd add our review too, so people can have as much info as possible, as we are all looking for different things. We truly enjoyed our trip, and thought the Ship and Staff were just excellent! This was all a couple of notches above Celebrity (the food was several notch's above) and gave you a nicer experience without being too stuffy. So here goes... Azamara Quest Jan 5-Jan 19, 2008 To start, I think some background will help give you our perspective. We are both in our mid-30's, no kids and have been on 4-5 cruises, all Celebrity to the Caribbean and were on this vacation to "do nothing." The ports were not particularly important to us as we were not coming to experience the culture, but to relax and be warm for two weeks (we are from very Northern Maine, where the temp was -16 the day before we left and -30 the morning after we returned and we've had over 6 feet of snow so far this season.) Our one hobby outside of traveling is eating and we have been known to fly somewhere for a weekend for the sole purpose of eating at a particular restaurant. So food is important to us. We have only sailed Celebrity because we really like the brand. Every time we go we consider the other lines, but end up staying with Celebrity as we are worried we will be disappointed with the service/food on the others. Since Azamara was an offshoot of Celebrity we figured we'd be ok, and we were. So the Quest... Our trip down was fine. We used frequent flyer miles to get free tickets (always a plus) to Miami, and thankfully there were no problems with weather. We left on Jan 4, 2008 and had booked one night pre-cruise at the Marriott Biscayne Bay through Azamara. We arrived at the hotel around 7 PM and everything was in order for us. This hotel seems not to be walking distance to much, so at the hotels recommendation we took a cab to Bayside Marketplace to get dinner and do some last minute pre-cruise shopping (not to many shopping options in Caribou, Maine). We took the cruise line shuttle at 11:00 AM from the hotel to the pier, where we got a little nervous as there were several families with small children, but it turns out that the shuttle picked up for Azamara, Celebrity and RCCL, so only us a few older couples got off at the Azamara terminal. Phew! (There was only one child about 2 years old on our sailing, very well watched and behaved the couple of times I encountered him.) Embarkation was a breeze, sign-in, turn in express pass, get keys, set-up specialty dining for that night (apparently to take some heat off the main dining room for the first night all the suite passengers on our sailing were offered an extra specialty dining night the first night in addition to the other 3 you now get), sanitized our hands began walking on board, stopped for requisite photo and we were in. We were greeted as we arrived, handed champagne and told we could put our things in our stateroom, but that they wouldn't be really ready until 1:00-1:30 and to head to the lunch buffet that was ready and available in Windows Cafe, deck 9. We went to our room, a Sky Suite 8044, dropped off our bags and went straight to eat (we had skipped breakfast and were quite hungry.) At this point rather than a blow by blow account I think I'll describe each area (ie, food, spa, entertainment et cetera) with pluses and minuses (very few in our mind.) ATMOSPHERE The ship is beautiful. After having been only on Celebrity ships (and never Horizon or Zenith), this ship felt much smaller, but never crowded at just under 700 passengers. Our sailing was full. All the dEcor was very rich and tasteful, lots of nice little niche's to spend time in. During the day everyone was fairly casual, at night a whole range of dress was found, from shorts and polo's (up in the Breeza) to gowns and Tuxedo's. People seemed to enjoy being comfortable (whatever that meant to them). The staff were all so pleasant, greeting you in the halls, welcoming you back from shore, saying hi on deck. There was no waiting for anything really. Getting tenders was easy. I never felt herded anywhere (do have this feeling occasionally, especially on the M-Class Celebrity ships) and best of all, essentially no second hand smoke. The overall feel was quite quiet. Several evenings we went to the big Looking Glass lounge and found only a few people there. There was certainly not happening night life. The casino always seemed very busy. STATEROOM We had a Sky Suite. They are all on Deck 8 I believe and under the pool deck. The room itself is was similar in size to a regular hotel room (obviously a little smaller, but with the undersized furniture it still felt roomy). You could occasionally hear chairs being moved around up on deck, but never did it interfere with anything, or did it go on more than several minutes. The TV was a nice swiveling flat screen and we did have a DVD player. The satellite very frequently got the sound and picture out of sync with one another, sometimes it was only a little out and not bothersome, other times it was very, very out of sync and hard to watch, and sometimes it was right on. I had my laptop and used the wireless, expensive and slower than cable, but faster than dial-up most of the time...that said it was nice to have the service in my room. CRUISE CRITIC MEET AND GREET It was actually a very nice get together, and there was not just the usual social hostess there, but the entire senior staff including the captain came. Everyone at the meeting agreed that we didn't know which ship all the other Quest cruisers had been on before us (referring to all the bad reviews), but we felt like it was all going great, people were very pleased, and quite surprised at the turn out from the ship staff to this event. One person requested that the breakfast remain open a little later on sea days so that they could sleep in more, and the next sea day, breakfast hours were extended out at the pool grill for one more hour to accommodate the really late sleepers. ENTERTAINMENT Our favorite thing was actually the Azamara Cabaret Singers, a group of five energetic performers who put on 3 shows during the 14 days. The Cabaret environment is much more personal and up close with the performers, but does limit the size of the productions. A pianist Naki Ataman was also excellent as was a Broadway singer Jordan Bennett. There was also a comedian, and a couple of other acts that we didn't go see so I can't comment. I heard from others that they were good too though. There was a full slate of all the usual cruise activities each day, trivia, name that tune, wine tasting, culinary demonstrations, lectures, games, table tennis, shuffleboard et cetera. THE SPA This was a very nice (and very expensive) place. The thalassotherapy deck up front is small, but very comfortable and great to get away from all the chair hogs on the main deck (yes, they were on here too, the species seems pervasive and irrepressible). I had two hot stone massages, that were awesome. The area is beautiful as the rest of the ship and kept up nicely. The fitness area is also here, and it had a few bikes, treadmills and elliptical sans well as several weight machines and a open floor for classes. There were also Spin bikes. All the classes )yoga, pilates, spin) were only able to take 5 -8 people and filled very quickly the first day. Again, as in the rest of the ship the staff is just great. FOOD The Windows Cafe/Breeza - The buffet area is small (everything is smaller on this ship) but had a nice selection. The set-up is buffet style, there are waitstaff all over the place, you can sit inside or out on the back deck. Waiters will usually come by and get your beverages for you, but if the person in your area is off getting someone else's beverage when you sit down or otherwise involved you can also get your own ( big minus = people sitting at their table in a huff ticked that no one has come to get them coffee when there is a coffee urn 3 feet from them and they can serve themselves) The waitstaff are very helpful and friendly, and if someone knows you from the main dining room they tend to go out of their way to be extra helpful. It only occasionally felt "very" busy in there, and maybe three times we had to wait to get a table cleared to have somewhere to sit. We ate there everyday for breakfast and lunch and 4-6 times for dinner. At breakfast there is a waffle/pancake station made to order, made to order omelette station, eggs, bacon, sausage, potatoes, corned beef hash, selection of fruits (pineapple, honeydew, cantaloupe, watermelon, grapefruit, oranges, apples, mixed fruit salad, berries) cold meats, cheeses, all kinds of pastries, yogurt, granola, oatmeal or cream of wheat and probably a couple of other things I am forgetting. At lunch there are 3 cold salads, 3 main hot entrees plus sides, a carving station, make your own salad station, soup, make your own sandwich station, pizza, desserts and ice cream. At dinner the place gets called Windows Breeza, but is same venue. There is pizza, made to order stir fry, 3 entrees plus sides, usually 2 soups, salad bar, pasta bar, sushi bar, and carving station. To drink for free there is lemonade, cranberry juice, orange juice apple juice, ice tea, hot tea, coffee and milk. (Varies slightly depending on meal) The major pluses for this venue, are that it is quick, easy and has the very nice back deck to eat on. In the evening we enjoyed sitting there to have a drink at the Sunset bar regardless of whether or not we were eating dinner there. The only minus (except for obnoxious lazy passengers who couldn't get their own drinks) was even though there was a nice selection of things that I thought were all pretty tasty it did get repetitive after 14 days (many of the cold salads repeated several times etc) particularly at lunch, when on Port days your only other option was the pool grill (main dining room was only open for lunch on sea days). Pool Grill - Was open from 12-6 everyday, had lunch there one day, all the usual grill stuff, plus tacos, and a side station with the same salads available in Windows. Taco was good, enjoyed a plate of fries as a snack many afternoons, yummy! Also, noticed nachos some days. Mosaics Cafe - This area sold high end teas and coffees to drink there or to go and had little bites available all day, pastry in the AM, little sandwiches from lunch through afternoon and "tapas" through dinner. This area was right in the center of everything and was frequently used during the day for various activities (trivia, games, name that tune, et cetera.) Discoveries Dining Room - Generally open for breakfast and dinner on our sailing, open for lunch on sea days only. Open seating. In the 5 nights we ate there only one night did we have to wait for a table for two. There was always a small line when we arrived (two or three other groups.) The Maitre'd took your room number and table preference and then sat you, so this could take a minute or two to accomplish for each group, but the wait was brief. Because each table in a section could be at a different point in dining, things are a little more hectic feeling with open seating, than with assigned seating (I think the staff like assigned seating better), but the food is mostly cooked al 'minute and is significantly better than on Celebrity in our opinion. Had heard some comments about the beef, being badly cooked, ours was always cooked to our order (mine med rare and hubby's medium), but did talk to one couple who had a "charred" piece. The major plus for this dining room is that it is open seating, you can go when you want, eat with who you want. The caviar service was excellent. The major minus is that it is open seating so if everyone wants to go at the same time and everyone wants a table for two someone is going to have to wait. The waiting was no problem for us (its that way at any chain restaurant in the US all the time, and most of that food is terrible to boot) but we heard many people complaining about this. The two specialty restaurants worked the same - Reservations needed, you got to pick the time. Prime C is a steak house and Aqualina was American with a Mediterranean flair. The menus are posted on CC and on Azamara's website. The service was very good. Atmosphere quiet and relaxed in both. We got to go to each twice with no extra charge. On the whole the food was excellent. We thought it was comparable to a nice restaurant (3 stars, certainly much better than say Olive Garden or that sort of thing). Particularly with 14 day itinerary it was very nice to have 4 dining selections each evening. There are as usual, bars all over the ship, and people circulating too. The nicest improvement from the last time we were on Celebrity, was that we didn't ever get pestered by the circulating drink waiters. By the pool, they just walked by and only stopped if you approached them. In the Cabaret and at dinner, they came by once, and left you alone. The last 2 times on Celebrity the circulating waiters were very bothersome, pushing the drinks. This was an excellent improvement. PORTS As I mentioned early in this overly long report, we didn't really care about the ports. In most of the places we got off the boat took a quick walk around and went back to chill out and read. The thing to know is that they were mostly "developing ports" so you definitely had to be a little more adventurous to get around and do things if you didn't take ships tours. It was refreshing to get off and NOT see a Diamonds International, Columbian Emeralds et cetera in every port. We did spend the whole day on St. John and on St. Barth's , both very nice islands with beautiful beaches and good food. St. John also has some nice shopping (and a Columbian Emeralds for anyone in withdrawal). St. Barth's has very, very nice shopping, like you are in Paris shopping, so unless you have lots of expendable cash (its all priced in Euros to add to the pain) its window shopping only. Even window shopping made my wallet catch on fire! OVERALL We loved it! Would go again in a heartbeat. By the end of two weeks many of the staff (not just you Butler, but bartenders, activity staff, waiters, security) knew you. It was relaxing to an extreme degree for us, everything on our time, our schedule, our way and we got lucky with great weather too. A truly wonderful trip. Read Less
Sail Date January 2008
We arrived in Miami on Friday around 1:45 p.m. and after getting our luggage, grabbed a cab and headed to the Holiday Inn Downtown Miami. (If you have a lot of luggage, be prepared to wait for a minivan, which were in short supply and high ... Read More
We arrived in Miami on Friday around 1:45 p.m. and after getting our luggage, grabbed a cab and headed to the Holiday Inn Downtown Miami. (If you have a lot of luggage, be prepared to wait for a minivan, which were in short supply and high demand.) The taxi ride cost $27. We were able to check into the hotel and were given a port view room on the 9th floor. We've stayed at this Holiday Inn before and it's clean and convenient, but not quiet as the street noises can be heard clearly through the windows. Having a port view was terrific, though, as we could watch the ships sail out of port at 5:15 p.m. The main reason we stay at the Holiday Inn is its location directly across from the Bayside Marketplace, which contains several chain restaurants and many shops. It is also located directly across the street from the bridge to the port, making it a quick ride to get to our ship. After unloading our luggage in the room and getting settled in, we headed across the street to Bubba Gump's for a late lunch/early dinner and then walked about four blocks to Walgreen's to pick up some water to take onboard. (I later learned there is a supermarket in the vicinity that offers a wider selection of water.) We stopped in a liquor store to check out the offerings, since our cruise documents indicated we could bring two bottles of wine onboard for consumption in our stateroom (if we brought it to a dining room there would be a $25 corkage fee), but we didn't find anything of interest. After an hour or so spent wandering around Bayside looking in the shops and stands and listening to a local band, we hit the sack to make sure we were well prepared for embarkation day. Saturday, Nov. 24: At 7 a.m., we looked out the window to see Liberty of the Seas docked at the port. Already docked were two Carnival ships (with a third coming in). To the left of Liberty, where the ships turn around before docking, was Azamara Quest! It was lovely to see her, although we were a little concerned about her arrival time. She was, of course, dwarfed by Liberty and we spent some time considering the fact that the passenger capacity of Liberty is about seven times that of Quest. After breakfast at Bayside, we called for a porter and hailed a minivan taxi over to the port. We got stuck in a huge traffic jam, which our taxi driver told us was caused by seven ships unloading passengers simultaneously. He advised that we should wait until noon next time, and after our continued experience, I would agree. Be prepared when traveling to the port: NO ONE KNOWS AZAMARA. The taxi driver asked me twice for the name of the ship and I finally told him just to look for the small one tucked in between Carnival and NCL. He asked a security guard at the port, who sent us to the wrong terminal (Azamara was using terminal C). Once we arrived at terminal C, it was chaos. Quest was still offloading passengers at 10:30 and they were mixed in with the NCL passengers. There was no place to put the luggage and we stood around guarding it for 15 minutes until a porter who knew the ship came along and started stacking the arriving luggage in one area and assigned another porter to keep an eye on it. We headed into the terminal to wait as the ship was not yet ready. At 11:30 we headed through security. The check in process was quick, but the dinner assignment was a bit screwy. Our rep sent us over to see the maitre d' to get our dinner assignment (for the first night only), but the maitre d' asked me if I had received a card with our assignment on it from the rep. After a bit of back and forth, we received a card for a 6 p.m. seating. We headed up the escalator, had our photos taken for our Sea Pass cards and boarded the ship. We were handed a glass of champagne containing a sliced strawberry and someone offered to take our carry ons. One of the butlers informed us that the cabins wouldn't be ready until 1 p.m., but we could leave our bags inside, which we did. After looking around the cabin, we headed up to the Windows Cafe for a bite. We sat out on the back of the cafe and eventually ran into two other Cruise Critic couples. DH checked out the buffet and was disappointed in the lack of variety, but the pork chop and chicken were good (the other entrEe offerings were beef and salmon). After a glass of wine (for me) and a lemonade (for him), we decided to tour the ship and shoot our video of it before it became too crowded. The ship itself is lovely. We haven't sailed a ship decorated with so much dark wood before, and it gives it an elegant look. The fabrics are beautiful and the small touches, like the fresh flowers in the public rooms, is an elegant touch. We stopped by at Aqualina to make a reservation for dinner and ran into Dominique, who we knew from his days on Infinity. He convinced us to try the restaurant that night, so we made a 6:30 reservation. When we arrived that evening, we were seated in what I would call the hallway section, which is located between the larger main area and the aft section of the restaurant. After ordering a bottle of wine, DH had white bean soup, brie in phyllo, osso bucco, and crème brulee for dessert. I had an arugula, bacon and gorgonzola salad, the brie, rack of lamb, and a Gran Marnier souffle. The food was good, but if you go expecting the type of food or service found at the M-class specialty restaurants, you may be disappointed. If you prefer a more relaxed, less elegant dining experience, it's worth a try. We listened to the talented orchestra for a little while in the Cabaret lounge and then headed to bed. Sunday, Nov. 25: This morning we had breakfast in Discoveries and enjoyed a relaxing breakfast at a table for two. DH had the ham and cheese omelet and I had oatmeal (boring, I know, but I need to save my calories for desserts!). After we spent some time relaxing, we headed to our informal CC get together, which we held in the Looking Glass Lounge on deck 10 forward. We had a good turnout (32 out of the 40 who "RSVP'd"), and Matt Roberts, the very personable cruise director, stopped by to let us know he would arrange a more formal get together for us on Dec. 1. The laundry room exists and works! We met a couple coming out of the laundry room carrying freshly washed and pressed clothing, despite the fact that is only the second day of the cruise. Remember to bring quarters as the machines are $2 each and only accept quarters. Warning: It rained around noon and the floor in the buffet area became wet. Some rugs were put down, but the tiles are EXTREMELY slippery. I don't know whether it's just from the water or from some cleaning solution, but be very careful when walking through this area. When we went in to check out the desserts, a man slipped and fell. This area definitely needs attention ASAP. After a lunch at the buffet (where we sat at the bar outside and ate because every table was taken), we headed to eConnections to sign up for our internet package and took a quick look through the shops. At 2:45, I attended the wine seminar. This seemed like the same seminar I've attended on Royal Caribbean and Celebrity, and I would have thought they would have used this opportunity to introduce us to more interesting wines than the usual chardonnays and merlots, but the presentation was well done. DH likes the gym but says playing ping pong is a challenge since the table is located out by the pool! Dinner at Prime C involved excellent wait staff once again, this time in the form of David, and we did well with the exception of one appetizer and our rib eye steaks. The shrimp in the shrimp cocktail was overcooked and tough. While we had ordered one steak to be medium rare and one medium, one came out medium well and one medium. We split the medium while another steak was prepared. It came out quickly, but it hadn't been seasoned as the others had, so it was completely flavorless. The rest of the meal was delicious though: the appetizer du jour was a salmon fritter with sweet and sour sauce), lobster bisque, crab cakes, bananarama cheesecake and chocolate fondue. We tried to see the show, which featured singers, but the Cabaret lounge was packed so we left after a few minutes. Monday, Nov. 26 The seas were rough last night, and it was the first time I was actually nervous to be at sea. The swells combined with the strong winds hitting the side of the ship caused quite a bit of rolling. However, since we are completely aft and our bed runs starboard to port rather than bow to stern, we were shaken up and down in the bed rather than rocked side to side. Consequently, every time there was a big shudder and roll, I would wake up. Not a good night's sleep. This morning we enjoyed another good breakfast in Discoveries. The service in the dining room at breakfast is the best of any cruise. The coffee is very good - strong, just the way I like it, and served hot. (Because of passenger complaints, the coffee was very much weakened by the end of the cruise.) Our Cruise Critic group was having its cabin crawl this morning. More than 30 of us visited six cabin categories (inside, oceanview, 1A, sunset veranda, sky suite and penthouse) and were able to peek in members' bathrooms and out on their balconies. Following a delicious lunch in Discoveries (an arugula salad, steak quesadilla, crab and shrimp gratin, penne pasta with shrimp and two orders of chocolate bread pudding), we attended the napkin folding class with the restaurant manager. Having met several restaurant managers on past cruises, I must admit that I could picture few of them teaching this class and enjoying it as much as this manager did. Tonight we had our first dinner in Discoveries and we watched the waiters as they worked. I haven't figured out the arrangements yet, but it doesn't seem that every waiter has an assistant. Our waiter, Aldwin, spent most of the first hour on his own, serving wine, filling water glasses, taking orders, picking up the food from the kitchen and serving, clearing plates and returning them to the kitchen, etc. Occasionally, another waiter would stop by to refill water glasses or take the tray back to the kitchen, but he seemed to be responsible for everything most of the time. At one point, almost every seat in his station was full and he was serving 15 guests at various stages of their meals. Potentially, he could have 18 guests to serve simultaneously. I'm not certain this set up is fair to either the diners or the crew, but we'll watch to see how things shake out over the course of the next 11 nights. We ended the evening by watching the comedy/magic show in the Cabaret Lounge. The performer (Bob) was funny and we enjoyed watching one of our CC members participate. Tuesday, Nov. 27 We are so happy to see land and to no longer be moving (although we are still floating around since we are at anchor). Virgin Gorda looks green and lovely, and we can't wait to get off the ship and onto the beach. We had our first in-stateroom breakfast this morning, and everything we ordered arrived on time and at the proper temperature. That's a rare occurrence in our experience. Kudos to the room service staff for getting that right. It was so peaceful sitting on the veranda. We had forgotten how quiet it is when the ship is at anchor, especially after all the noise of the ship hitting the waves and rocking and rolling for the past 48 hours. We debarked at 9:15. By that time, it was open tendering and we hopped directly onto a tender. In 10 minutes or so we were onshore and it felt wonderful to be back on terra firma after two days and nights of bouncing on the seas. We jumped into an open air jeep and $12 later ($6 for the ride, $6 for entrance) we were at The Baths. The water is fairly rough and while I did some snorkeling, DH didn't even go in the water. We relaxed on the beach and chatted with other Quest passengers for a few hours and then headed back to the ship for lunch. Lunch today was cheeseburgers and fries from the Pool Grill. The burgers were boring but the fries were terrific - hot and crunchy. After some ice cream to cool us off, we headed for the pool and despite a quickly passing rain shower, it was a pleasure to sit on those cushy chairs and enjoy the sun. Dinner in Discoveries was good once again. We both had the gnocchi appetizer, the spinach salad, and the veal palliard, and our service was excellent. We watched the variety show, which consisted of two of the ship singers and a return of the comic/magician, and the show room was packed. Not too many passengers seem to be purchasing drinks, however, so I'm not certain how the bar revenue will be this cruise. Wednesday, Nov. 28 We ate breakfast at Windows Cafe this morning and had waffles, which were very good. We spent the morning doing laundry. After lunch in the buffet, we hung out by the pool for the rest of the day. Those of you looking for Caribbean music from the band will be disappointed, as it seems "relaxing" music is what they have been told to play. We tried Prime C again and had much better luck with our filet mignons than we did with the rib eye. The Caesar salad was okay, the caprese salad was good once again and the beef carpaccio was delicious. Thursday, Nov. 29 This morning we had breakfast in the Windows Cafe. The waffles were wonderful, as were the fresh berries. St. Vincent is a beautiful island and we had a fabulous day with Captain Wayne. There were 24 CC members onboard his tri-powered speed boat, and we stopped at a lava bed, at the "Pirates of the Caribbean" movie set for lunch, and a black sand beach for snorkeling. While many of us were in the water or on the boat, a 7.4 earthquake hit around Dominica and Captain Wayne could feel it while he was sitting on land. One member who was laying on the beach could actually feel the earth rolling underneath her. Thankfully, no one was hurt and we finished our day by searching for dolphins and whales. After several attempts, we finally spotted two dolphins and then, about five minutes later, some pilot whales. It was a terrific ending to a terrific day. After a quick, refreshing shower, we met CC friends for a drink and then went to Discoveries for dinner. While the chicken and the shrimp and pasta dishes were delicious, the cajun ribeye was apparently terrible. That dish was sent back through the restaurant manager, who brought a new one out, but no one was willing to try it. We have sworn off ribeyes for the duration of this trip. Friday, Nov. 30 After another delicious breakfast in Windows Cafe, we headed off to meet the group sailing Island Girl for the day. We were bussed to another part the island and then were sent out via dinghy to the catamaran. The group of about 16 CC members were joined by some other Azamara guests as well as four locals, and we all had a great time. We stopped in a beautiful area for snorkeling and swimming while the crew fixed lunch, and then, after petting a local stingray, we headed to the next the snorkeling spot, which was fabulous. We returned to the ship around 4 p.m., hot, tired, and very pleased with our day. The outdoor section of Windows Cafe becomes Breeza at night and tonight we tried it for the first time. The food was terrific and the stir fry and pasta is cooked to order. I feel like I've been eating way too much food, so I had sushi and a salad while DH had a huge plate of stir fry. We both left room for dessert, of course. Afterward, we sat for an hour or so with some folks from the Island Girl excursion and relaxed. Activities for Nov. 30 - Tobago: General Knowledge Trivia, Card Players Meet, Shuffleboard, Tri-Bond Trivia, Ping Pong, Bridge Players Meet, Matinee Movie, Name That Tune, Geographical Trivia, Darts, Charades, Spanish class, Art, Wine and Cheese Party, Friends of Bill W., Friends of Dorothy, Texas Hold 'Em Tournament, Showtime, Bingo. Saturday, Dec. 1 I'm very surprised by how much the senior staff mingle with the guests. They seem to be interested in getting feedback and improving this vacation experience. Even though there's work yet to be done, we give them kudos for their efforts. After breakfast on the back deck of Windows Cafe this morning, watching the Pitons of St. Lucia as we sailed by, we headed up to the "official" Cruise Critic party. Matt, the cruise director, was kind enough to arrange this for us. We gathered in the Drawing Room and had a terrific turnout. Matt arrived first to "open" the gathering, and eventually the food and beverage manager, the front office manager, the restaurant manager, the hotel director, and even the captain stopped by to speak with us. We are very appreciative of all of their time and interest in our Azamara experience. After lunch, we headed out to the pool. We must note that the chairs by the pool with their thick pads and towels are wonderful and it was very easy to find chairs in the sun in the early afternoon despite the number of passengers out on deck. We missed the band, who only played from 12:30 to 2:00. Tonight we are headed back to Breeza for dinner and then we may finally visit the "disco" for 50s and 60s dance night. Activities - at sea: Excel Spreadsheets class, shore excursion presentation, Cook Off with Chef Frederick, bingo, Digital Camera and Underwater Camera presentation, art auction, swing dance class, birthstone seminar, afternoon tea, Powerpoint class, Name That Tune, ballroom dancing, Cabaret Lounge showtime, and the aforementioned 50s and 60s Dance Party. The quality of the entertainment is mixed. The piano player in the Mosaic Cafe and the guitar player in Breeza play well but neither can sing. The pianist last night was very good, but the entertainer the previous night was not well received. The pool band is good but all they play are blues, jazz and "relaxing" music. In my opinion, a pool band should play some peppier music in the Caribbean. Sunday, Dec. 2 Most of the shops are closed on St. Bart's on Sunday and since the currency is the euro, it's quite expensive, so we are staying onboard. After breakfast in Windows Cafe, I used up our internet minutes at a rapid (and expensive) rate while DH did a final load of laundry. The weather is lovely, although the Captain told us yesterday to expect partly cloudy skies. Many of the passengers we spoke with said St. Bart's is a beautiful island, but it is very expensive. Many of the shops were closed, although some opened just for the passengers. One couple enjoyed lunch at a French restaurant they considered delicious and reasonably priced, while another had a slice of lasagna served on a paper plate and a Coke and paid 30 euros. I suppose I would recommend at least going into town. We had dinner at Breeza once again and I had the pasta again. It's fun to meet up with our CC friends, push some tables together and enjoy a long, relaxing, laughter filled couple of hours outside in the warm Caribbean air each night. Activities - St. Bart's: general knowledge trivia, darts, tri-bond challenge, spelling bee, name that tune, movie, shuffleboard, sports trivia, ping pong, acupuncture seminar, bingo, Friends of Bill W and Friends of Dorothy, Rotary, Lions and other club members meeting, super trivia, Cabaret Showtime featuring the (outstanding) sax player, love and marriage game show. Monday, Dec. 3 This morning we jumped into an open air taxi and went to Trunk Bay, where we have not been before ($6/person each way). Admission to Trunk Bay is usually $4/person, but no one was there when we arrived so we entered for free. Our friends picked an out-of-the-way spot down the beach and we relaxed, chatted, laughed and snorkeled the day away. We ate at the snack bar ($30 for two chicken sandwiches, one cheeseburger, two fries and two Cokes) and picked up a t-shirt despite its high price. If you like to snorkel, I recommend following the self-guided underwater trail, but watch out for other snorkelers as you go along. I saw a lot of fish and coral and really enjoyed giving my new underwater camera housing a good workout. At 2:30 we took a cab back into town and went to the Texas Coast Bar and Grill near the ferry dock, where we were soon joined by other CC members and Matt, the cruise director. I highly recommend the kiwi coladas, and DH thought the margaritas were quite good. Five drinks were $30, much cheaper and much better than what's being served onboard. We've suggested to the bar manager that all the bottom shelf liquor be removed from this ship. After two terrible frozen drinks at the pool bar made with cheap rum, we've given up. I'd pay a little more if I knew I didn't have to tell the bartender exactly which rum to use (or not to use) in my drinks. After a long shower to get rid of all that sand, we headed back up to Breeza for dinner. It started pouring as we left St. John (80 minutes late) so seating was very tight out back, but we managed to get three tables together and enjoyed another fun filled dinner. The guitar player continues to play wonderful background music from 6:30 to 7:30, but once he starts singing in his second set at 8:30, we all usually leave. Unfortunately, every song he sings sounds like an Elvis impersonation, and he simply is not a talented singer. At 10 p.m., what was billed as Dancing Under the Stars morphed into Dancing in the Looking Glass Lounge. With the Captain and three CC members serving as judges, passengers were matched with staff and judged as they attempted four different dances. The staff members I remember were the food and beverage manager, the restaurant manager, the hotel director, the front office manager, two members of the shore excursions desk, one or two members of the cruise director staff, and three others whose functions escape me. Several CC members participated in this activity including yours truly, who was paired with the restaurant manager. In the end, the shore excursion director and a CC member's wife won, but I think we all had a blast. I must admit that I am no dancer, but that was one of the most memorable experiences of any cruise I've taken and certainly the funniest. Afterward there was more dancing and we watched as the Captain did the twist and danced to Greek music, while the restaurant manager did a Russian dance. The disco hasn't seen this much activity or attendance by the passengers this entire cruise! Activities - St. John: Veterans meet, general knowledge trivia (every day), card and bridge players meet (every day), secrets to skin perfection, ping pong, name that tune, darts, around the world trivia, movie, shuffleboard, country line dance class, pre-dinner Texas Hold 'Em tournament, and the aforementioned dancing followed by Dance Around the World Tuesday, Dec. 4 We docked in Ponce around 6 a.m. and once we arrived at Windows Cafe for breakfast around 7:30, passengers were out in full force. We stayed until 10 chatting with various CC members, and then we walked a mile around the jogging track, followed by a game of ping pong. I did take a peek in the Spa area. There are two decent sized tropical showers and a steam room in each of the locker rooms. I stuck my head out into the T-pool area and realized it was larger than I thought. I would estimate there is seating for about 16 in various chairs and loungers separated by the T-pool. There were approximately five passengers out there while I looked. After speaking with CC members who went into Ponce, apparently we missed a wonderful city. Several members visited the museum and walked the city, and said it was extremely clean and the people were the friendliest they had met on any island thus far. Ponce is apparently interested in drawing cruise ships, thus all the construction at the pier, and are very happy to see cruise passengers visit their side of the island. We also learned that there was a free rum tasting on the pier and a few passengers took full advantage. A CC couple told us there is a boardwalk about 10 minutes walking time from the pier that features many restaurants and outdoor bars. Look for the marina and follow that around to the boardwalk. We shared dinner once again with a CC couple and tonight I finally tried the stir fry. Delicious and made to order. I barely had room for dessert! Activities - Ponce: Combat Bloating seminar, darts, speed drawing, Gilligan's Island Trivia, Country Name That Tune, movie, ping pong, Tri-Bond Trivia, Shuffleboard, Spelling Bee, Super Trivia, Friends of Bill W. and Friends of Dorothy (every day), big band dancing, pianist performance (one show only), nightclub Wednesday, Dec. 5 After breakfast we headed on the tender to Cayo Levantado. Originally we were scheduled to tender to Samana, but a few weeks before our sailing the port was changed, and our morning was spent on this small island just off the coast of the Dominican Republic. Our favorite bar server from the Sunset Bar was out there early and brought us two delicious pina coladas ($6 each). After that we learned about the local bars offering pineapple pina coladas made with and in fresh pineapples with fresh coconut juice and with or without rum. We enjoyed one of those (with rum) for $5. The beer was inexpensive as well. If you go there, be sure to bring cash with you if you want to sample some of the local drinks. The ship provided sandwiches on the beach, but they severely underestimated the crowd. By 1 p.m., they had run out of sandwiches, water and juice (the latter two from urns, not bottled), and were waiting for more to be delivered from the ship. There were plenty of loungers, all of them in good shape as far as we could tell (not like the broken ones on the beach in Huatulco that we experienced on our last cruise), and local men would come over and move them to wherever you wanted them positioned and clean them off. DH tipped the man who helped us. The only thing that surprised me was how green the water was. As one CC member described it, it was like standing in limeade. I was quite happy to take my shower when I returned to the ship, since it was so hot I had to cool off a bit in the water. Activities - Cayo Levantado: Part 4 of the forensics lecture series by forensic dentist Dr. Norman Flaxman, spanish lesson 4, Irish music sing-along (there was no singing along), and all the other activities I've listed on other port days Thursday, Dec. 6 After a buffet breakfast, we gathered our items and grabbed a taxi to Bohio Dive Resort at Pillory Beach ($7/person each way). {The cab fares are divided into zones so you need not wonder what the fare will be. Just check the map located by the taxi stand outside the shopping area.) We checked in at the dive center and paid $10 each for two chairs and set up our stuff on the beach. When we arrived just after 9:00 a.m., there were four other Quest passengers there. Otherwise, the beach was empty. The waves were rolling in, which Ruben in the dive center said was very unusual. Apparently, Grand Turk is known for its calm seas. Unfortunately, the waves kicked up the sand and the seaweed and it was impossible to see anything while snorkeling. Instead, we walked the beach in both directions and found a few lovely shells, including a large conch shell (empty, thankfully) and a sand dollar. As we were walking along the beach we saw the Carnival Triumph sail by on its way to the pier. Matt had told us that a Carnival ship would be arriving a few hours after we docked, and by the time we finished our beach walk, Carnival passengers began to arrive at the resort. By the time we finished lunch and packed up to leave, there were at least 15 more people there. If we thought that beach was getting crowded, however, nothing prepared us for the scene at the pier. When we left the ship, there were about six people on the beach right next to the pier. By the time we returned, you could barely see the beach for all the people on it. The pier area also contains a Margaritaville and it was mobbed, along with a free pool with a swim up pool bar, which was also mobbed. There is also a large shopping area, but we found the prices to be high compared to the shopping areas we had visited on other islands, such as St. John. One of the shop workers told us the government charges a 33% duty on anything imported from the U.S., which resulted in higher prices. We went up to the pool to relax. Eventually the pool band arrived, and the strangest event occurred. This band, which had been playing jazz and blues (background music) or anything that could be turned into cha-cha music, started off by playing a Beatles medley. When they finished that first tune, the Carnival passengers who were out on their balconies clapped and whooped for the band, and unbelievably, the trio began playing lively music. There was a couple on the Carnival ship dancing along on their balcony, and each time the band finished a tune, the Carnival passengers would applaud. This went on for about six songs or so, and then the trio apparently ran out of all the lively tunes in their repertoire and went back to their usual cha-cha music. If I hadn't heard it myself, I wouldn't have believed they had it in them. Maybe that experience will encourage them to learn some more danceable music and liven up the pool experience for future Quest cruisers. Thursday was lobster night in Discoveries, but we chose Breeza once again. There's nothing like eating out under the stars with a warm breeze blowing, especially when you know you won't be doing that again for quite some time! Afterward we headed down to the Cabaret Lounge to see Don Bryan, the ventriloquist, and he was quite good. Activities - Grand Turk: in addition to the usual: Advanced Excel spreadsheet class, Who Am I?, Arts & Crafts: Jewelry Making, Engine Room presentation, Liars Club Starring You! Friday, Dec. 7 It's our final full day onboard and after breakfast I headed down to the Cabaret Lounge for the disembarkation presentation. Having been on more than 10 cruises now, I didn't think I would learn anything new, but since this is a new ship to us and a smaller one to boot, I thought it might be a good idea to attend. The only thing I learned was that we were going to be docked at the same terminal as the one we sailed out of - terminal C, right in the midst of all the large ships. We were hoping to be at Quest's usual terminal J, but as it turned out, the Crystal ship was back in that dock on Saturday. Since we are Elite members and Continental had changed our flight time from 1 p.m. to 10:55 a.m., we received white 1 luggage tags so we would be in the first group to depart the ship on Saturday. The final at sea day finally brought the chair hogs out. When I went by the pool on the way to eConnections at 7 a.m., there were already books and bags on chairs. When DH went out to find two chairs at 10:15, he saw at least 20 chairs with books and bags on them and no people (they were probably all at the presentation). The assistant bar manager saw DH watching chairs and called over two pool workers, who after 15 minutes began removing the books and making the chairs available. I guess that's as far as they went, however, since someone told me she watched two chairs on deck 11 with books on them sit unused for 3½ hours before anyone showed up to use them. We also learned that some people reserved one chair in the shade and one in the sun, even though you can only use one at a time. That's fine during port days when a lot of passengers are off the ship, but hardly fair on at sea days when many people are trying to sit out on deck. I think the crew need to practice a bit more vigilance on sea days. After lunch, we took a two hour nap and then started packing. After dinner with 10 other CC members in Breeza, we headed down to the show, which was a variety show featuring the saxophonist, the ventriloquist, and one of the singers. I lasted through the first two and then I needed to get back to finish packing and get to sleep. Activities - at sea: in addition to the usual Windows XP tips and tricks class, GoSmile Teeth Whitening seminar, Chinese Herb Medicine lecture, Detox for Health and Weight Loss, Mixology (daiquiris), line dance class, black jack tournament, jewelry making, Spanish class #5, That's Entertainment, Forensic lecture #5, martini tasting (suggested by a CC member, who also compiled the list of interested participants, and organized by the assistant bar manager) Saturday, Dec. 8 Despite being docked in Miami by 4 a.m., the ship didn't begin offloading passengers until 8:20. During breakfast, we watched in disbelief as the Carnival Freedom, which had docked around 6:15 a.m., began offloading passengers around 7:15 a.m. How could a ship with so many passengers offload its luggage, clear customs, and start the disembarkation process within an hour when Quest couldn't do it for 4 hours? Thankfully, and despite the fact that there was no system for checking tag colors so a huge number of passengers were getting off in the first group, we made it off the ship, through immigration, grabbed a porter, our luggage, and a cab, and made it to the airport by 9 a.m. I had printed our boarding passes so we checked in curbside, and there was about a 10 minute wait at security. While sitting in the waiting area, we started chatting with a couple who sailed Quest with us whom we hadn't met and compared notes. They confirmed that they had a reserved table every night in Discoveries and were told by the maitre d' not to tell anyone else about it. They felt as we did that it was a good cruise, but Quest is not yet offering a deluxe sailing experience. We had an uneventful flight home. A few general comments: 1. Matt is now back to being the Activities Director, despite the terrific job he did as cruise director. He has a wonderful personality and has been very good to Cruise Critic onboard. After we met him the first night to tell him about our unofficial get together, he was very enthusiastic about the group, came up to meet some of us that morning, and then offered to organize a meeting on December 1. He arranged for all the beverages and snacks and for the senior staff, as well as the Captain, to stop by. I think he deserves a huge pat on the back, and I know all the CC members join me in thanking him for all his hard work, kindness and generosity. I would be pleased to sail with him again one day. 2. The Captain is leaving on holiday following the end of this cruise. We heard he is not returning to Quest. We've seen him quite a bit around the ship, and even though he didn't vote for me to be in the top three in the dance competition, he does a fabulous job running the ship and sincerely wants our experience to be the best at sea. 3. None of the CC members I've spoken with believe open seating will work out without a major overhaul. The dining room crew and staff work very hard to make the dining experience in Discoveries enjoyable, but the kitchen cannot seem to get the food out in a timely fashion. As has been reported on previous sailing, dining times of almost three hours is not unheard of, especially at larger tables. The maitre d' and restaurant manager must stop the practice of "secret" reservations and make open seating truly open seating. 4. I believe this ship is understaffed in all areas - the kitchen, the servers, the bar attendants, and the butlers and cabin stewards. The shortage is most apparent in the kitchen, as mentioned above, but it seems silly to me that there is only one bar attendant servicing the entire Breeza area at dinner time. As that area has grown in popularity for dinner, she is running around constantly. Plus, she is helping to clear tables because there is not enough staff to keep up. 5. The entertainment is very inconsistent. The orchestra is terrific, the pool band is okay, the singers were good but I've heard better on Celebrity, the featured entertainers were generally good, but the guitar player and piano player need to be replaced or told not to sing. 6. Azamara has to stop nickle diming its passengers if it wants to be considered a deluxe line. The speciality restaurants are not worthy of the cover charges. An 18% gratuity added to every bar bill from a $2 can of soda to a $85 bottle of wine is an outrage (include the charge in the cost if you must cover your expenses). Four dollars for a small latte (plus the 18% gratuity), $24.95 for the embarkation photos (this was the first cruise on which we didn't purchase a single photo), and $0.38/minute as the lowest internet cost (and 260 minutes as the largest package you could purchase) add up to a continual annoyance to passengers. 7. And finally, please stop referring to the cabin steward as a butler. Every cabin, suite or not, only has two attendants, which means the butler not only has to help clean the cabin, but has to provide all the services of a butler as well, including serving in-cabin meals in suites, serving afternoon tea if desired, offering packing and unpacking services, etc. Our team was fabulous (thank you Antonio and Maria) but they are clearly overworked with about 18 cabins to take care of. Overall, we enjoyed our cruise, but that was mainly due to the people - the wonderful CC members we have met and spent every day with, and the dedicated and hard-working crew and staff onboard this ship. The ship is a good size with no crowds anywhere (except for the chair hogs on the last sea day), the food in the buffet has been good (although the food in the specialty restaurants and Discoveries is inconsistent both in quality and preparation), and the tipping process is a problem as many passengers did not think they were getting the service they deserved and were promised by Azamara. This is definitely not a deluxe cruising experience, although it might be six to 12 months down the line. The service and food on the three Celebrity sailings we've taken have far exceeded those found on this ship. But they are trying. Finally, I must mention the outstanding crew and staff from this sailing: Heiki, the hotel director; Matt, the cruise director; Antonio and Maria, our cabin attendants; bar servers Bernie and Sandy; waiter Aldwin, and assistant waiter Jorge. Lorenzo, the restaurant manager, has a heart of gold and is a very fun dance partner, but he needs to seize control of Discoveries before there is mutiny from the passengers and crew. Read Less
Sail Date November 2007
My partner and I cruised on the Quest from 10/31-11/12/2007. For reference, we are in our late 40s and have previously cruised on Celebrity (X) and Holland America (HAL). Embarkation: Ours experience is not the norm. We were scheduled to ... Read More
My partner and I cruised on the Quest from 10/31-11/12/2007. For reference, we are in our late 40s and have previously cruised on Celebrity (X) and Holland America (HAL). Embarkation: Ours experience is not the norm. We were scheduled to board in Miami, but because of Noel storm, the ship was diverted to Tampa for embarkation. The morning that we arrived at the Miami pier, in a pouring rain and swelling seas, we were told of the change, given a boxed lunch and bottled water and were board on a bus for the 4.5 drive to Tampa. The embarkation at Tampa was smooth and quick. I do not blame Azamara at all for the change in embarkation point. One negative, at 9:45 a.m. on the embarkation morning, I called Azamara customer service to see if the cruise was on schedule due to the Noel situation. The rep said everything was a go. Therefore, we waited until 11: 30 to go to the Miami pier. If Customer Service had told us of the trip to Tampa, we would have proceeded directly to the pier at 9:45. Smoking Policy: Positive-Only two smoking areas on the ship. Great to have cabins, balconies and public rooms, like the casino, to be smoke free. Wish other lines would adopt this policy. Dress Code: Positive-The resort casual attire was great, made the evening comfortable and packing much easier. Overall Ship Observations: Positive-Every public room looked new and great. The ship had a classy atmosphere and limited public announcements. Negatives-People rave about 'smaller ships', but I did not get the benefit of the "smallness". The lunch and breakfast buffet area was crowded. The outside deck areas seemed crowded too. I think the space ratio on the Westerdam and Zuiderdam (HAL) and Millie and Summit (X) are much greater than the Quest, therefore, in my experience even though HAL and X ships have more passengers, the experience was much roomer and spacious. Cabin: Had Sky Suite 8068. Positives-Spacious for two persons, the windows /door to balcony is floor-to-ceiling and the entire width of the cabin (absolutely stunning view), a 32 inch wall mounted flat screen TV (web sites says 23 inch in the Sky Suite, but it was 32), and a DVD player. Negatives-Narrow four-foot balcony, mesh balcony chairs (HAL had more spacious balconies and teak chairs with cushions), the TV was configured so that one cannot hook up an I-Pod for viewing, the in-cabin DVD list was extensive but not available on this cruise (supposedly the DVD were on the dock in Miami), but Guest Relations did have abut 40 DVDs for free check-out, including recent hits like Knocked Up. Spa/Fitness Area: Positives-Three skier machines, three bikes and six treadmills and six weight machines meant little if any waiting for a machine due the number of passengers (694). The men's sauna and showers, including the 7-shower head tropical shower were always the right temperatures. The staff was friendly and helpful. Negatives-On the bow of ship is the Spa Deck attached to the fitness center. The deck contained very comfy cushioned chairs, recliners and ottomans. The centerpiece of the Spa Deck was a large, 8-person hot tub. We took a tour the first day, and were told that the area was ONLY for spa treatment clients and persons who purchased a pass to the Spa Deck. We bought cruise package for $116 each. Turns out that they do not systemically control access to the Spa Deck and no signage is posted saying it is a restricted area, so many non-paying cruisers were using the area. I felt ripped off paying $116 while others were using it for free. Also the hot tub is only heated by the sun, not mechanically heated. Therefore, it was chilly in the morning, and if in direct sun for many hours could be unbearable hot (but overall it was very comfortable). Casino: Positive-Non-smoking, friendly staff (they even gave us private blackjack lessons), and had plenty of slots and black table for the number of gamblers. Also had a computerized Texas hold-em table, very interesting to watch. Shore Excursions: Negative-This is one of the major faults of our cruise. Very limited excursion (for example going to Panama, but the only way to see the Canal was on a 10.5 hour tour of Panama City). X and HAL offer many more excursions in both Panama and other ports; I was very surprised and disappointed at the Quest selections. Unless you are comfortable going independent touring, I would not recommend this line for shore excursions. Also the pricing was very high. At one port, the ship offered a two hour island tour by taxi for $71 per person. We walked to the end of the pier, and got the exact same tour for $21 per person. Again, if you rely on the ship's shore excursion, you will have limited selections at high prices. Food: Negative- This is the second major fault of our cruise. The food, in general, was no better a cafeteria. No dishes in the dining room were memorable. The lunch buffet was bland and warmed over. The specialty restaurants were better, but still had the mass-produced effect. Oddly I found the food on the larger HAL and X ships to be far superior. For example, the pizzas on HAL were diverse, like blue cheese and BBQ chicken, and any type could be requested. On the Quest, everyday the offered pizza was room temperature and either pepperoni or veggie. The hamburger grill on X and HAL were cooked to order and (I think) fresh patties. On Quest, either the burgers were pulled already cooked from under foil or you got frozen patties. On X and HAL, the grill, pizza, ice cream, and pasta areas were open (if I remember right) from noon-6. On the Quest, everything but the hamburger area shut down around 2:30. Again, I was very disappointed in the food, and thought that X and HAL were much better in quality and selection. Drinks: Positive-Contrary to other reports, the wine pours seemed good. Negatives-Alcohol and wine prices are high, for example, $12 for a normal-sized martini. Also, beware of the advertised 'special drinks of the day'. We were informed that 'special' does not mean special prices; the martini for example was still $12 even though it was advertised as the special of the day. Other Passengers: Positives-Good spectrum of ages. All well behaved, no loud, drunken behavior. Zero children among the 694 passengers. Gay perspective: Positive-FOD gatherings listed everyday in the daily newsletter. Gay passengers were treated the same as straights by both crew and straight passengers. Would I go on the Quest again ? No, because of the limited shore excursions, the disappointing food and the lack of spaciousness I have experience on the other ships, I would prefer to sail on the HAL and X ships in the future. Read Less
Sail Date October 2007
Azamara Quest Ratings
Category Editor Member
Cabin 3.5 N/A
Dining 4.5 4.3
Entertainment 4.0 3.7
Public Rooms 4.5 4.5
Fitness & Recreation 3.5 N/A
Family N/A 4.1
Shore Excursions 4.0 N/A
Enrichment Activities 3.0 N/A
Service 5.0 4.6
Value for Money 3.5 N/A

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