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4 Azamara Southern Caribbean Cruise Reviews

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
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
This was the Journey's first proper cruise after spending the summer in ferry and floating hotel mode on the Bermuda run. The itinerary was the major attraction, Bermuda followed by repositioning to the Caribbean and ending in Miami. ... Read More
This was the Journey's first proper cruise after spending the summer in ferry and floating hotel mode on the Bermuda run. The itinerary was the major attraction, Bermuda followed by repositioning to the Caribbean and ending in Miami. Having sailed six times before with Celebrity we felt very comfortable with the booking. This cruise was booked as the Celebrity Journey but we were later advised that it had become Azamara. The major change was that it was now open seating with no set evening dress code and the cruise experience was to be at a much higher level than Celebrity. A week before sailing we received notice that we would no longer visit the Turks and Caicos, this was a complete loss because all that changed was departing Bermuda at 8:30am rather that 4:30pm the previous day. No kind of compensation was offered. Boarding was trouble free and very fast. The initial impression on boarding was that the ship had a gentleman's club atmosphere, it didn't last. Once a couple of days had been spent on board the rough edges became very apparent in most ship areas, including the staterooms. If Azamara spent $17.5 million on this ship they must have fitted gold propellers because there is not too much sign of it above the water line. During the cruise the window catches round the pool area were faulty so they riveted them permanently closed allowing no air to circulate, very uncomfortable when the temperature rises. Maintenance crews were still on board doing renovation work after several months on the Bermuda run. There is still a great amount of work that should be done and it is not acceptable while passengers are on board. We went to our cabin, reasonable condition but too small to be the foundation of a luxury cruise experience. Because we travel with friends and have never seen a balcony that seats more than two we only book an outside cabin. The lack of attention to detail was apparent with badly finished carpeting and some wood trim missing. We met our 'butler', if this farce is to continue they could at least get them tuxedos that fit. This addition has replaced the standard cabin attendant and an assistant to a butler and cabin attendant, absolutely no gain but a doubling of gratuities. Our cabin staff had been given cabins spread over both sides of the ship, this meant we could never find him. Why not give him a continuous block of cabins so he could be a more visible presence. Get rid of the butlers, we failed to find a single passenger who found any value whatsoever in this, so called, luxury feature. When the first drink was served it was seen that, from the first day of this cruise, they increased the service charge from 15% to 18%. No notice had been given of this and many drinks price lists still showed the 15%. With the already very high drinks prices this did nothing to encourage bar and wine sales. We had arranged to dine late each night with the same waiting staff, we always like to see the same waiters during a cruise. The main problem we found with the open seating was that service was slow, trying to serve all courses at the same time throughout the dining room, especially on port days when the early diners tended to go later. Our personal preference is for fixed sittings. We missed the evening dress code, it's rare to have an opportunity to dress up at home and it makes a cruise special. Even the more relaxed dress code was not enforced with jeans, tee-shirts and shorts being seen in the dining room in the evening, another failure if trying to create the 'luxury' image. Dinner during the first week at Discoveries was very good and well presented. The first seven menus had been well tried and tested during the seven day Bermuda run. Once day eight came things changed. The menus were overcomplicated with some rather strange combinations being presented. We were approached each night by our assistant head waiter for comments, this passenger input must have done some good because the last two nights were back to the first week standard. These new menus should have been fully tested before being presented to guests. Windows buffet was good quality with adequate choices but became very congested and great difficulty finding a table. The buffet layout could be modified to gain a more structured flow and help stop people wandering around aimlessly and making it difficult to move through the serving area. A couple of times we gave up and went to Discoveries for breakfast or lunch. During the first week we went to Aqualina and had the first poorer quality meal of the cruise. It was very quiet and service slow. I ordered Osso Bucco, it bore no resemblance to what was expected with an over-rich collection of chopped vegetables in a very thick, sticky sauce and no rice. If you use a classic dish name it should use a classic recipe. Coincidentally, the next evening it was on the main dining menu, I had it again and it was very good. The experience of Aqualina meant that we did not try Prime C which we had intended to do before sailing. The speciality restaurants were very underused, their waiting staff showed up in Discoveries each night helping out because it was so busy. These venues must be filled every night to reduce the pressure on the Discoveries main dining, which does not have enough capacity, if the open seating policy is to continue. Very few passengers could see any value in paying a surcharge when the main dining is good, a no cost alternate restaurant may be the only way it can work. These restaurants should also be used to cut down the numbers in Windows at lunch time. In all dining locations the staff were excellent. There is a severe lack of activities on board and only one lounge where there could be any dancing. This ship is destined for distant waters and long days at sea, this will be a problem. Because there are no set time dining room sittings, if two shows were planned in the theatre it was common for both times to be unsuitable. The theatre is not tiered and therefor if you are not in the front row of seats your view will be obscured. The few organized late evening events seemed to have been designed more for the entertainment of cruise staff than the passengers. In common with all previous Celebrity cruises the weakest link was guest relations. The job applicants who fail to make the grade in all other positions must be given guest relations. No attempt was made to give guests any port information. On Celebrity cruises a port information sheet was always provided with maps and details about taxis, buses, beach and shopping recommendations etc. On this cruise - nothing, maybe trying to encourage bookings on their own very expensive trips. There is a lot of work needing to be done to bring Azamara up to Celebrity standards and I do not think it is possible to aim any higher with this ship. When we were in Santa Marta, Colombia we were berthed next to the Quest and were able to visit. This ship is identical to the Journey and, after talking to a few passengers, looking at similar problems. If Azamara was a passenger's first experience of Celebrity and they have been told, by Celebrity, this was the luxury end of the brand I doubt if they would risk the 'lower' standards of a Celebrity ship. Would we cruise Azamara again, the right itinerary at a give-away price, maybe. Would we recommend them to anyone, definitely not, friends are hard to find! Read Less
Sail Date October 2007
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