Sail Date: February 2012
My husband and have just returned from a wonderful, hastily organised 14th night cruise on the fabulous Azamara Quest, which sailed from Hong Kong to Singapore via Vietnam and Thailand. As veterans of a number of cruises, it has been our ... Read More
My husband and have just returned from a wonderful, hastily organised 14th night cruise on the fabulous Azamara Quest, which sailed from Hong Kong to Singapore via Vietnam and Thailand. As veterans of a number of cruises, it has been our best cruising experience to date. From the beginning of our experience with Azamara, we were amazed at the difference in this cruise to others we have experienced. Whilst the ship appears to be a smaller replica of others that we have sailed on previously we felt that we had never been "short changed" on all the things that matter to us. With a smaller number of guests onboard and very attentive officers and staff it meant that even by the first morning at sea we had new found friends amongst the cruisers. Staff remember our names and what particular coffee we liked! We felt that the staff we encountered were genuinely happy and this feeling remained though out the entire cruise. This cruise being hastily organised only 2 week prior to departure saw us seek an upgrade (at a minimal cost) on embarkation. Guest relations happily showed us our options and the necessary arrangements were made to upgrade without any problems. After a short discussion on our first day at sea, our previous cruising history with Celebrity was taken into account and we received many benefits of being prior Celebrity guests. The food was the best we have found on any cruise ship and was consistently excellent, so much so, we never ventured to Prime C or Aqualina. We were content with the atmosphere, service; food and company in Discoveries so that was were we spent much of our time. We enjoyed the entire dining experience, our seating requests were continually met and we feel that the staff was most professional and good natured in service delivery. The included free boutique wines with lunch and dinner were consistently good. Our cabin was comfortable and was in an excellent position on the ship. It never seemed too far to get to anything. Whilst the weather in the first week was questionable, the Captain was accurate in his weather reporting and kept us informed often. The Captain and Senior Officers were highly visible around the ship and would happily stop to chat or answer any questions guests might have. Entertainment was varied; we tend not to pick our cruises because of the entertainment so any type presented was okay for us. Mostly we enjoyed these experiences. Land tours were organised and executed very efficiently and included free water of leaving the ship, juices, towels (and even hot rum!) on the return to the ship. We enjoyed all the land tours we took and appreciated the 50% sale on land tours (this is something that no other cruise line has ever offered). Departures for shore excursions were done very efficiently (and entertainingly), coffee and pastries were available in the theatre while getting ready for tours or just being late for breakfast! There were the usual nice water on leaving for a tour, juices and towels to refresh on return. Always on our return we received a warm warm welcome from all the staff from the Security Team, Kitchen staff, Guest Relations (even cabin attendants that weren't on our deck). We were constantly amazed at how many staff knew our names. (and no we hadn't complained about anything, but were just Mr and Mrs Smith!) Azamara, you have our number 1 vote for getting it right. We shall return and encourage our cruising friends to do so as well. Captain Leith, you should be, without a doubt, extremely proud of your ship and the service your team delivers. How they manage to tick all the boxes is of a mystery to us. For our Azamara Quest Cruising experience you are as close to having the ultimate cruising experience as you could get. Would we recommend Azamara to anyone else? Absolutely. Would we cruise with them again? In a heartbeat. Read Less
Sail Date: January 2012
Our first cruise on Seabourn we chose it because of the "Best small cruise line in the world" rating, and we paid a price that was considerably higher than other cruise lines to get top quality. The ship was old, shabby, and ... Read More
Our first cruise on Seabourn we chose it because of the "Best small cruise line in the world" rating, and we paid a price that was considerably higher than other cruise lines to get top quality. The ship was old, shabby, and sorely lacking in amenities. The rooms were nice, linens on the bed fine, but towels, thin and small. Shabby again. We did not get bathrobes until we asked three times, and we were promise fruit and juice daily, we got juice, but the fruit was not replaced after the first day, and the utensils disappeared and there were no plates or napkins, just bad service. The room service is very quick - probably the best food on the ship, but a very limited menu. They advertise that you can choose where to eat, but the Cafe and outdoor areas had to be reserved, and they were reserved 100% by one group of 20 ppl who called daily on the dot. I finally pitched a fit because we were told each and every day we could not eat in either space and we did get ONE meal in the gourmet restaurant. ONE out of 12 days. It was unacceptable all around and there were other guests who were told no the entire trip while some guests ate there every day. Bad service and bad form for the cruise line. I will not book with them again, and told them, did not even get a reply from the cruise line. We will be going back to Crystal where the service is what we expect Read Less
Sail Date: February 2011
She is sleek, stylish and sophisticated; as you would expect of one of the newest vessels afloat, and clearly well worth the $300 million spent on her. However if you were looking for just one word to sum up Seabourn Sojourn it has got to ... Read More
She is sleek, stylish and sophisticated; as you would expect of one of the newest vessels afloat, and clearly well worth the $300 million spent on her. However if you were looking for just one word to sum up Seabourn Sojourn it has got to be "space". She has (so it seems) endless acres of space. If the measure of success with any customer is exceeding expectations then this is where Seabourn Sojourn exceeded ours. Never once did we feel crowded, never once did we have to "stand in line" to get on or off, to find a deck chair, to get a seat in either "The Restaurant" or "The Colonnade"; and if on occasions we had to wait to get a coffee at the fabulous "Seabourn Square" in the morning, it was never for more than a few minutes as "Jo and Ferry" worked their Barista magic for all who needed a morning (or afternoon) fix. Sojourn is 32500 Gross Tons, she carries (when full) 462 passengers and 338 crew, almost one to one. In comparison, and it's probably an unfair comparison as times (certainly over 45 years) change, the first ocean liner that I ever travelled on; P&O Iberia was 30000 Gross Tons and carried 1406 passengers and around 400 crew, that's more than a bit of a difference in both available space and crew to guest ratio. With four restaurants, the two mentioned above plus the Patio Grill (poolside) and the very stylish Restaurant 2 (reservations required but no extra charge) as well as six bars/lounges and an open bar policy there are plenty of options to both eat and drink exceedingly well. The cabins are spacious, light and airy; 197 (out of 225) have balconies and all have ocean views, they have walk in wardrobes, full sized baths and your fridge is well stocked with your personal beverage choices prior to embarkation. The cabin spaces are well utilised, the furnishings modern and stylish and the TV has a good range of channels and a very full list of movies, for those stopping in. The corridors are wide, the decks clean and neat, the pools areas well presented and the highlight; well our highlight anyway Seabourn Square is just sensational. Incorporating the guest services area (open plan style) in the centre and a more formal reception desk to one side the Square is a well stocked library, a great coffee shop, a quiet reading room, the computer centre, a centralised meeting place and a great spot to just sit (inside or out) and watch the world go by. It is unique in my ocean going experience. We travelled on Seabourn Sojourn from Hong Kong to Singapore, which was just one leg of her inaugural Round World voyage after being urged for a while by colleagues to experience the "Seabourn difference". I have to say that we both thoroughly enjoyed the experience from start to finish. The crew were exceptional and the level of service was very high, the passenger mix was interesting, dominated on this trip by Americans (about 50%); there were 61 Australians on board which is reflective of the increased Australian presence on all cruise lines. I particularly enjoyed the Vietnamese ports Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City) and Cai Lan (Ha Long Bay); less so the Cambodian (Sihanoukville) and Thai (Laem Chabang) ports, but that's just a personal thing; the shore excursions that we went on were "OK" - they were well organised and not outrageously expensive but lacked something I thought. The information/enrichment lecture programme was first class with a special mention to Dr Jean Pierre Isbouts who both entertained and informed at every lecture and was the stand out performer. Are there things that I could criticise, yes; some parts of the ship I felt were very cold, there are only four laundrettes for 400+ guests (and laundry is expensive), the internet is slow - make that very slow and the choice of toiletries was (in my opinion) limited. I simply do not understand the slowness of the internet, on one of the most modern ships afloat the speed is almost third world, in fact speed and capacity ashore in Thailand left the ships services for dead. BUT, these truly are minor irritations and they did not detract from the overall experience, which was exceptional. I experienced and enjoyed the Seabourn difference; I consider Seabourn Sojourn to be a truly fine lady of the seas; and I will be back to sail on her (or one of her two sisters Seabourn Odyssey or Seabourn Quest) again, hopefully in the not too distant future. Read Less
Sail Date: January 2011
These are the highlights of our recent cruise (January 2011) in Asia with Azamara Quest. My wife and I are experienced cruisers, but this is the first time we have sailed on a smaller vessel, and I suspect that our experiences reflect ... Read More
These are the highlights of our recent cruise (January 2011) in Asia with Azamara Quest. My wife and I are experienced cruisers, but this is the first time we have sailed on a smaller vessel, and I suspect that our experiences reflect this, at least to a certain degree. Embarkation: We met the ship in Hong Kong. Seeing as we arrived at 9:30PM local time, we just took a car to the shopping mall where the pier is located. Three minutes after arriving at the pier we were checking in at Guest Relations, and three minutes later were in our cabin. Ordered room service, which was very prompt and very good. Note - because of the visa paperwork in the countries this tour visits, Azamara retains your passport until the last sea day. This didn't bother us, as this used to be a common practice in Europe, but it might make some travelers uncomfortable. You needn't be - it's painless, and you don't need your passport for anything until you are actually set to leave the ship for good. Cabin: Our stateroom, 7044 was had a balcony and, while quite small was comfortable. Located on deck 7, the location was perfect - two floors down to dining, two floor up to Windows cafe. (Note: Avoid Cabin 7076 and threafbouts - it's right across from the self-service laundry!) The bathroom is absolutely tiny, and requires a certain amount of agility in order to not whack youself against things while using it. The shower is absolutely miniscule - I'm 5'8, 165 lbs and found I could just turn around in it. Takes some getting used to, but it's fine. The rest of the cabin - desk, sofa, table and bed are standars and very comfortable. The in-room TV is a waste of space, since programming is abysmal - Fox, CNN, MSNBC, ESPN and a 'movie' channel which shows movies that even the straight-to-DVD people spurmed. Unlike all the other cruises we've been on, there are no movies showed on the ship itself. Closet space is adequate, particularly since Azamara has no formal nights. You needn't pack suits or long dresses, etc., freeing up a lot of closet space. Dining: As in most cruises, there are several options: The main dining room (Discoveries), cafeteria (Windows), and 2 speciality ($30 per peson extra) restaurants, Cc and Aqualina. We didn't try Cc, which is a steakhouse experience, although we heard it qas quite good. Aqualina was fine, the dEcor underwhelming and the service a little pretentious. The food was also good, but probably not worth the additional $30. Discoveries main dining room was very good. It has open seating, which we liked a lot. After a couple of tries we found a waiter we really liked and arranged to sit at one of his tables for the rest of the cruise. The wait staff in general was quite stiff, overly formal without much friendliness (one of the reasons we stayed with one we liked). The food choices were overall quite good and in a couple of instances exceptional. The house wine, free with lunch and dinner was fine with us, although we're certainly not wine experts. Windows cafe was, in a word, bad. In general the choices were limited, insipid, unappealing and unattractive. We took to having breakfast through Room Service which worked out much better except on shore excursion days. Lunch offerings at Windows were odd combinations of things that often seemed to have appeared the night before at dinner, and many dishes (even those where you would never expect it) were highly seasoned with hot spices. Everything always seemed to look better than it tasted. The wait staff is totally disorganized and it can take forever to get your beverage served. There are no trays, and waiters don't help passengers who are struggling with a couple of plates when the ship is moving. In fact the only efficiency from the wait staff we saw was in removing used plates - guard your plate with your life if you're close to finishing because if not, a waiter will swoop down out of nowhere and whisk it away before you know what's happening. Must be some kind of management fixation. Ships personnel: We found the personnel in Guest Services to be the friendliest and most efficient of any cruise line we've used. Our cabin staff were totally unobtrusive, efficient and always had the room made up when requested. Waiters (as previously mentioned) are somewhat aloof but generally efficient. Ships officers, to the small degree we had contact with them seemed very eager to make a good impression for Azamara. Shore Excursions: Azamara shone in this department. I can say without hesitation that the ships tours offered by Azamara, at least on this cruise were by far and away the best of those offered by any line we've cruised on, including HAL, Celebrity, Princess and Cunard, both in terms of cost and in terms of completeness. We saw and did virtually everything that there was to see and do in the ports of call (with the exception of Singapore where, due to a scheduling error/unavailability of berth we only arrived at 5:00 PM with our flight out the next day at 8:00 AM. We can't say enough about the shore excursions Azamara put together. Hopefully, this will give those of you considering this trip a little taste of Quest. We're confident you will have a wonderful cruise. Read Less
Sail Date: January 2011
We boarded our cruise in Hong Kong after a wonderful 3 night stay at the MetroPark Hotel, Kowloon. We visited Victoria Peak, rode the famous Star Ferry and dined at the floating Jumbo Restaurant among many other interesting adventures. I ... Read More
We boarded our cruise in Hong Kong after a wonderful 3 night stay at the MetroPark Hotel, Kowloon. We visited Victoria Peak, rode the famous Star Ferry and dined at the floating Jumbo Restaurant among many other interesting adventures. I had not been in Hong Kong since 1968 and like everywhere it had changed significantly. However, it is still a beautiful and interesting city. We arrived at the pier about 11:30 am and boarded after about a 30 minutes wait in line. We were greeted with smiles, champagne and directions to the lunch buffet. Rooms would not be ready until 1:30. After lunch our room was ready and we left the dinning room to explore our new home for the next two weeks. We had a balcony room that was not the largest we have experienced but certainly adequate for the two of us. The bathroom was small but functional. First let me comment on the service. The entire staff was the most friendly and accommodating of any ship we have been own. All requests were met immediately and with a smile. We had more officers stop and have lengthy conversations with us than all our other cruises combined. Shoes were even shined on request. We loved the free water, soft drinks, and fruit restocked daily. We felt all the dinning options were a step above our previous cruises with the NCL Jewel being the worst and probably Princess or RCL being best. However, Carnival, for the money, is quite good. We enjoyed the two speciality restaurants ($15 per person)that were a bargain at that price. The Cowboy rib eye (bone-in) at Prime C was superb. The Aqualina had great Foie Gras as an appetizer. This dish alone would cost more than the $15 surcharge. The lobster and Sea Bass were also enjoyed as entrees. Make your reservations when you first get on ship to ensure your preferences for time and date. We thought lunch at Windows offered a good variety and was tasty. My wife loves to try foods different than those we normally eat at home and she was never disappointed. Service was generally prompt and cheerful. However,the service when Windows first opened was somewhat slow at lunch and dinner. Breakfast could also be a little slow at peak times. We learned to postpone our dinner visit until about 30 minutes after they opened. We enjoyed dinning outside for lunch on most days with a rail table. The main dinning room menu was generally interesting. However, after two weeks it started looking the same. I have this problem on all long cruises. The food was very good. Service was attentive and the wine flowed freely. Wine being included for lunch and dinner is a nice touch that seemed to be greatly enjoyed by most. Room service was good and promptly delivered. Being able to order a full breakfast was appreciated. The Vietnamese entertainment that was brought on ship for the evening deck buffet while in Saigon was wonderful. They were truly talented. Several members of the crew "fell in love" with the local beauties that put on the show! We regretted missing the performance of the Thai entertainers in Bangkok because we were getting our custon suits refitted! This was a dissapointment, and another story. This was truly a wonderful cruise and we will be sailing Azamara in the near future. Now back to the real world. Yes, dear. Read Less
Sail Date: January 2011
Upon my return home I had received an email from a writer at Conde Nast magazine asking for my opinion on Azamara cruises for a story she was writing in the Cruise edition this summer. Her timing was impeccable since I had just returned ... Read More
Upon my return home I had received an email from a writer at Conde Nast magazine asking for my opinion on Azamara cruises for a story she was writing in the Cruise edition this summer. Her timing was impeccable since I had just returned from my Southeast Asia adventure. I have been so busy, that I have not had time to write my review but I am going to attach the response I sent to Conde Nast - killing two birds with ONE stone convenient! :-) I travelled with a group of friends that I met through Cruise Critic. 4 I had met on previous cruises and 4 just before this cruise on the boards. They are from all over the world. I think that you will find that all of us really loved our experience on board. Just to provide some details on me - I am a very experienced traveler. This was my 80th cruise. I used to be in the travel business for 15 years in many capacities. I planned and escorted the first commercial tour group from North America to China in 1976 for Thomas Cook and all subsequent trips for 2 years. I was also Director of Quality Control for a large Canadian tour operator so I am very realistic in my expectations when I travel. I usually travel solo. I understand that things don't always go perfectly and I do not harp on minutiae. I don't wear white gloves, but I expect a certain level of cleanliness. If there is an issue that needs fixing, I report it - I understand that how well a company handles "issues" clearly shows their mettle. I appreciate how they respond and once the issue is fixed, it is forgotten. I am a very positive, upbeat person and I so love my vacation adventures that I refuse to spend a moment of them being miserable. No point in that, right? On this trip I took and "around the world" air ticket in first class and it was phenomenal! I had a blast everywhere....tried all the lounges and drank pretty much most of their champagne... :-) hic! I also stayed at Hullett House in Hong Kong...a converted police station by the Star Ferry cool!!! So now you know who I am - I will provide the answers to your questions below: 1. The food. How were the selection and dining areas? If they were outstanding, what made it so? If they were mediocre, why? [CM] Discoveries: The food was very good. I was particularly impressed with the fact that on the first night(which was an in port night in Hong Kong), the main dining room served a truly excellent meal to all 9 of us. Service was excellent, food was hot and very fresh. Very generous portions. We also arrived late and had no issues whatsoever. Great selection .... lots of vegetarian selections too. One complaint - the pasta was not good all three times I tried it. The first time - they tried twice to make it right and fell short. I tried a couple of dishes as an appetizer but they were never good. I did comment on it. I avoided them after that - plenty of other great things to try. Breads were good. Food was on the salty side - it surprises me to say that because I used to be a salt monster but I have been cutting out salt over the past few months. I think I am just a little overly sensitive now. I am not a dessert person but the few I tried were fabulous. Breakfast in Windows was great. Omelet's were well done and had plenty of choices. I usually eat oatmeal and there were fresh berries and cinnamon and dried fruit along with flax seed to bulk it up. It was great. There was a nice variety of other items and a lovely area that served a selection of several smoked fishes....very nice. The waffles and pancakes and French toast station was great and quick. Fresh juice was no being served from the juicer - I think it was diluted with was good but not what I had last time. They did make fresh smoothies on request. The service in Windows was good .... Captain ate there quite often but the staff did not carry your plates to your table like they have done on Celebrity and in the past on Azamara .... I don't really mind dragging my own food around though! The tables were full outside all the time. It was a little more crowded since the ship was full. Breakfast in Discoveries was terrific...ate there only once but it was fine. Lots of choice. I had eggs Benedict (big treat) and the first order was overcooked. I sent it back and they got it perfect on the second try! Nice service. I am not fancy breakfast kind of gal. Breakfast in my cabin: I had a suite so I could order from the menu in the dining room. My butler always prepared my table with a formal setting on my balcony - very decadent. The food was always hot and very generous portions. Lunch - When it was a sea day we ate at the pool. Always. The grill was fine - great French fries (unfortunately). The burgers were apparently overdone but I don't eat beef so I had the turkey or veggie ones. They were great. Chicken wings were wonderful! I also had the salad inside at Windows...chicken, tuna, salmon, egg without the breads were fine. Lot's of fresh veggies. The ice cream was always a big hit but I don't eat it so I don't know for sure. My friends ate it everyday. High Tea...heard it was lovely. The Brits had some complaints but - well - you know! ;-) LOL Specialty Restaurants. I loved them both - I could eat there every night but my friends were not in suites so I only ate twice in Prime C and once in Aqualina. The Hotel Director, Philip Herbert (amazing, truly amazing manager) had hosted a party there for me and my friends on the last night which was my birthday! I had the lamb chops both times and the mushroom soup and the lava cake!!! YUM YUM YUM Aqualina had great service but not as good as Prime C. Food fabulous too....seafood platter and lobster tail dinner for me....Crème Brule for dessert! Love the addition of free wines with dinner and lunch. Great perk. Kept the bar bill down for sure!! 2. What was your cabin like? Upon seeing, what was your reaction? [CM] I had the Club Continent Suite but I had it before on the Journey. Very spacious for myself. Tons of closet space. I love the bathroom in the suite. I have had much larger cabins on other cruise lines. This ship has smaller ones but I still love them. Large tv. Could have used an iPod connection. Bedding great. Amenities in bathroom terrific. Balcony is fine but extremely small in comparison to other ships. The regular balcony staterooms are very small. The bathrooms are miniscule. The furnishings are fine, getting a little dated. The bathroom was not spic and span but I did not complain about it so I shouldn't say anything bad. There was mould in the tiles. I am sure if I did say anything it would have been taken care of but I was FAR too busy enjoying my cruise to remember to say anything. 3. How was the crew/service? Did you have a specific issue that they fixed for you? [CM] The staff and crew are the best of the best in my opinion. Nobody beats Azamara for their service. I had no real issues. I asked for priority tenders for my little group and was always accommodated TOTALLY! Always had an escort. Amazing. One night one of the couples ate in Prime C and it was not up to snuff. They did not want to say anything as they are shy. I mentioned it to Philip and they invited them back for a "re-do" --- ALL the members of the table!!! IMMEDIATELY Such is the way they operate. Don't have to ask twice. The guys loved to play shuffleboard and darts, the dart board was broken and when we were next in port VOILA - there was a new dart board. 4. The itinerary. Did you enjoy the destinations on the trip? Was it a good combination of sea days and ports? [CM] I took this itinerary because of the combination. Staying overnight in many ports was fabulous. We needed the sea days and they were fun too. 5. What was the design of the ship like? Was it hard to get around? Was it modern-looking? [CM] Beautiful small lovely ship. Not modern but timeless. So easy to get around. I never got lost. Everything was great. Windows in the dining rooms. Casual elegance. Ship needs a dry-dock though. Saw her sister ship - the Nautica - and she looked more "spruced up". Needs a good full coat of white paint. 6. Were there many activities/facilities? If it was available, did you/your family make use of the children's club? [CM] NO KIDS! :-) Ship is not meant for them. We played shuffleboard ....that's it. Pool adequate. Thalassotherapy pool was disappointing. Nothing special like the Galaxy's! There were many lectures and we took part in NONE of them. My friends that did go said they were great. Some concerts were excellent. I used the gym a lot and took all the classes. They were really good. 7. Did you take part in any shore excursions? How were they? [CM] Always plan my own excursions and sign folks up on Cruise Critic. We had a group in every port of between 8 and 25. We had a blast as we did what we wanted and were not herded around like cattle! The people that went on the ships tours seemed happy. 8. Overall, what was your impression of the cruise line? Strongest/weakest points? [CM] They are so strong on customer focus. Everyone on board is attentive and they aim to exceed expectations. It's hard not to have a wonderful time when there is that kind of attention to detail. It feels like they want you there. Like you are family. Corporate is really good to their people and it shows. Everyone is respectful and kind. Happy too. Always willing to go the extra mile to ensure your pleasure. Customer service is the most important aspect of any organization. I have been customer facing for most of my career and I have experienced great successes by providing exceptional service that delights customers. Azamara does that. Yeah, the pasta sucked but, like, who cares? My needs were more than met. Someone brought me all my meals, someone made my bed, someone paid me attention and brought me drinks while I lazed around like a beached whale. My bill at the end of a 2 week cruise was $180.... :-) and I was treated like a Queen. Reality sucks. I WANT BACK ON AZAMARA!!! Now, where's my crown and my suitcase? LOL ;-) PS - SPECIAL SHOUT OUT TO PHILIP HERBERT - WORLD'S BEST HOTEL DIRECTOR, RUSS AND HIS STAFF OF CRUISE DIRECTORS - WAY TOO MUCH FUN WAS HAD BY ALL, STEPHANIA - RESTAURANT MANAGER FORMER SOMMELIER - YOU ROCK! NIKOLAI (AKA...ALEC BALDWIN)- DINING ROOM LEADER EXTRODINAIRE - THANKS FOR ALL YOUR HELP IN ARRANGING THE BEST DINNER PARTIES AND FOR MAKING US LAUGH! EYUD AND HIS EXCELLENCE IN SAILAWAY PARTY DECORATIONS AND BIRTHDAY ARRANGEMENTS! AND TO LALANI IN THE DINING ROOM ....YOUR SERVICE AND SWEETNESS AND THE BIRTHDAY SERENADE WAS SO PERFECT .... MMMMWWWAAAHHH! EVERYONE WHO MADE THIS TRIP SO MEMORABLE. AS YOU READ THIS - PLEASE REMEMBER THAT LIFE EXPERIENCES ARE WHAT YOU MAKE THEM. SPENDING TIME LOOKING FOR NEGATIVES ALMOST ASSUREDLY GUARANTEES THAT YOU WILL FIND THEM. LOOK FOR JOY INSTEAD!!! HAPPY SAILINGS.....ALWAYS!!!! :-) Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: November 2010
My parents did this trip along with me and my partner. We booked the 5-day Wonders of China pre-cruise tour via Silversea, so we flew to Beijing and spent 3 days there then a day in Xian and then on to Hong Kong, where we sailed ... Read More
My parents did this trip along with me and my partner. We booked the 5-day Wonders of China pre-cruise tour via Silversea, so we flew to Beijing and spent 3 days there then a day in Xian and then on to Hong Kong, where we sailed round-trip. The pre-tour was amazing. Silversea put us up in good hotels and the guides hired cared for us well. Embarkation: We transferred from the Intercontinental Hotel in Hong Kong to the ship, where we boarded, registered, and were eating lunch on the pool deck, all in about 12 minutes. In this regard, very much like what we have encountered on Regent. Suite: We opted for the Vista Suite, and it was lovely. It felt very similar to the balcony suites on Regent (esp. Navigator) minus the balcony. We often are up on deck, so we didn't miss the balcony at all. Beds were extraordinarily comfortable, and the linens were great. Suite attendant and butler were wonderful and provided excellent service. Public Rooms: We liked the Shadow quite a bit, and at times it seemed we were on Regent's Navigator because they are very similar in size. We did miss the Coffee Connection area that Regent's Mariner has. But there were the usual lounges, bars, computer room, library, etc. The carpets are worn, but the ship is going into dry dock in the Spring of 2011 and these will be swapped out. Overall, the ship remains elegant. Service: This is where Silversea actually trumped Regent. Service on Regent is never awful, but in 2 cruises we have done it hasn't been great either. On the Shadow, people all over the ship called us by name by the first evening. They remembered the drinks we liked, where we like to sit, etc. I never once saw a scowl on unhappy face on the crew members. The service was simply extraordinary. I don't think I have ever had service like this on any cruise I have taken. Food: Of course, very subjective, but meals were quite good. We wish they had more dining venues/options, but the size of the ship limits that. The main dining room was great. We did Dinner Under the Stars one night and it was good. We also tried out La Terrazza, the Italian restaurant one night and it was good. Service, again, was remarkable. Smoking: I know a lot of people who sail Regent who refuse to try Silversea because of the smoking. Well, I smoke, and I never smoke in my cabin. And I have to say Regent actually had more places to smoke on their ships. Ironic. The smokers congregated in the set places, but this didn't seem to be a bother to the nonsmokers. In fact, I have gotten more awful looks from nonsmokers on Regent. So, I would say if the smoking this scares you away from Silversea, you are missing out. Excursions: We did the Acrobat Show and Dinner in Shanghai. The other ports we did on our own. The acrobat show was quite good. The dinner, not so good. Alas. But we certainly weren't hungry. General: We loved this cruise because we got to see Beijing, Xian, Hong Kong (all prior to sailing) and Okinawa, Shanghai, and Keelung and Kaioshung in Taiwan. We found the passengers to be a bit more standoffish on Silversea in comparison to Regent, but it didn't bother us. I had quite a number of passengers who, even after 4 days on board, believe me to be a member of the crew (thanks to my age and my dark skin). One woman actually demanded I get her a new napkin! I politely told her to ask someone who worked on the ship!! Another passenger asked me how at my age I could afford such a trip. I was somewhat stunned. I have sailed Regent twice and never had such things happen to me. That said, the fellow passengers did not ruin my trip. I will definitely sail Silversea again. I do think my favorite ship is Regent's Seven Seas Mariner. It is just enough bigger to offer more public spaces. And it has real Bingo for money and not just for stupid points! Read Less
Sail Date: March 2010
I've cruised with several different companies along with Cunard once before on the QE2 which is now sadly in dry dock in Dubai.This cruise was the inaugural world cruise which I only did part of it due to the fact I went with my ... Read More
I've cruised with several different companies along with Cunard once before on the QE2 which is now sadly in dry dock in Dubai.This cruise was the inaugural world cruise which I only did part of it due to the fact I went with my daughter and she was only able to get a month off work..........the Queen Elizabeth liner is wonderful and the decor very grand ............we chose the late sitting for dinner as it gave us more time for the "sail aways" which were always very nice,and gave us plenty of time to get ready for dinner.........I do have to say I wasn't very impressed with the theatre entertainment,which by now I would hope has been improved by now.........we met a lot of very nice couples which I am still in contact joy on the ship was the fact that you were able to get a sun lounger at anytime without it being covered by the crack of dawn by a towel,which I have had to put up with on other ships,there was plenty of space also without being crammed together like sardines.The whole cruise was just fabulous and visited many destinations that I wouldn't have visited had they'd been done independently......the staff were wonderful and nothing was too much trouble.......there is a world cruise on the Queen Elizabeth coming up in Jan 2015.which I would love to go on,but being a solo traveller would not be able to afford the single supplement which is almost the same fare again.This is my first review so I'm hopeing I've put it in the right forum,as not sure where to put in request for anyone fancying the world cruise. Read Less
Sail Date: January 2010
The Quest is a beautifully maintained ship with many luxurious notes and finishes. It's quite easy to learn your way around given the compact size. However, it was the constant contact with the ship's officers and the incredible ... Read More
The Quest is a beautifully maintained ship with many luxurious notes and finishes. It's quite easy to learn your way around given the compact size. However, it was the constant contact with the ship's officers and the incredible stateroom service that made this cruise stand out...along with the ability to get into smaller ports with very difficult navigational challenges that preclude larger ships with less adventuresome bridge crews. The passengers on this journey included a majority of non-US residents, with a heavy representation from the UK and Australia. We also met folks from Russia, Greece, and Chile. The Cruise Critic social was a nice mid-morning coffee/champagne social with the ship's officers and department heads (including Captain Smith) on the first sea day. We were in a forward facing Royal Suite (being rebranded as Club Ocean Suites in April 2010), with a double-sized verandah where we could look up and say hi to the crew on the starboard wing bridge. As Royal Suite guests we received many extras, including 1L complimentary bottles of Absolut and Dewar's with mixers, and a bottle of Mumm Cordon Rough Champagne on sailing. Our suite was extremly spacious with enough closet space for the ridiculous 6 suitcases we brought along. The marble baths were ample-sized (the master has a whirlpool tub), and equipped with an array of Elemis bath products. Our Head Butler was responsible for all room service, including breakfast and afternoon tea or savories, and handled all restuarant reservations and other special requests. Our Butler saw to the overall housekeeping and handled garment pressing and shoe shines, and offered to pack and/or unpack our bags. Finally, a stateroom attendant saw to cleaning the baths and refreshing towels, etc. Many in-stateroom special services (such as romantic turn down) are offered upon request, some for a small fee. A huge surprise was that our Head Butler decorated our suite with hand-cut hearts and balloons while we were at dinner on our 16th anniversary, and two days later, put roses on our pillows at turn-down for Valentine's day. Wow! Aqualina and Prime C were both excellent specialty venues. The lobster duo (prepared one of four ways, plus a pot pie) in Aqualina is superb. The Cellar Master, Stephanie, held several wine tastings during the cruise for a small fee, and capped off the cruise with a fantastic 8 course wine dinner. If you're into wine appreciation, these are not to be missed. Captain Smith is a young, 38 year old from Isle of Man. His daily noon briefings were a highlight of the cruise. As suite guests, we got a small group tour of the bridge, led by Officer Cadet Carlos. It was a very detailed briefing, with the opportunity to step out on the wing bridge while making 17 kts. A real treat! Also, as suite guests, we were invited to a special dinner in the drawing room with the ship's senior officers. This was a very elegant dinner prepared by the executive chef, with each course designed to highlight an aspect of the journey. Of course, Cellar Master Stephanie was there to match wines to each course, and our own Head Butler was lead server. What a treat! At dinner we asked Hotel Director Winkler if it would be possible to take a galley tour or engine control room tour - the next day we received private invitations for these remarkable behind the scenes opportunities. I'd also like to highlight the bar staff...we quickly got to know these fun, service-oriented folks and they made us feel like the only guests on the ship. Pool Bartender Wayan, and the staff including Maria, Jimson, Ernesto, and Angkana were particular stand-outs! We did have one complaint during the cruise regarding some ad lib humor between CD John Howell and cabaret performer Jim Badger that went awry. Our concerns, as one of about 6 same-sex couples on board, had to do with some fairly stereotypical and offensive "banter" that caused us to walk out of the show. In response to our concerns, CD Howell sat down with us over drinks and more than made amends, taking our feedback to heart. Again, this was in keeping with the exemplary response we received to the slightest request from the crew. Overall, we found Azamara to be an exhilarating experience given the luxury, the ability of the ship to get into smaller ports, and the high level of customer service. We will look for future itineraries from Azamara. The crew hinted that 2011 will hold more 7-10 day journies and more small, lesser visited ports. Read Less
Sail Date: January 2009
Just a few reflections on our recent cruise on Azamara Quest from HK to Singapore. Having previously cruised with somewhat larger Celebrity and other ships, we were agreeably surprised by the wide range of facilities and services available ... Read More
Just a few reflections on our recent cruise on Azamara Quest from HK to Singapore. Having previously cruised with somewhat larger Celebrity and other ships, we were agreeably surprised by the wide range of facilities and services available on the Quest. Rather than comment on every aspect of the cruise, I will list just some of the major features that either impressed (most) or disappointed (few) us. * a word, "magnificent", with the range of dishes available in The Discoveries Dining Room varied and of a high quality, slightly better (if that was possible) in Prime C and Aqualina, and consistently varied and tasty in the Windows and Breeza buffets. Service by waiters and Assistant Maitre-D's at all venues was consistently courteous and helpful; we found the 'dine-when-you-like' approach to dining very convenient, although it must be said that we have found dining at set times and locations, which is common on some other ships, enables passengers to establish stronger (and in many cases lasting) friendships than is encouraged by open dining. * Staterooms (ours was Category 1A with balcony)...maintained in immaculate condition by our Butler and Stateroom Attendant, who kept us supplied with a regular supply of fresh fruit and daily news sheets, and helped with other things such as Specialty Restaurant bookings; the size of our stateroom was about what we had expected, and similar to that we had found on other ships, although one had to be something of a contortionist to maneuver around the bathroom without experiencing some minor physical indignities. * Entertainment...having read some of the negative comments posted by correspondents from other cruises, we were very impressed with the overall quality of the entertainment...the pianist who appeared early in the cruise was superb, as was the pianist who performed towards the end; vocalist Helen Jane was very good, although some of her numbers were not of the style that we particularly enjoy; the English comedian who performed on two occasions was generally good, with a more subtle approach than is often the case with some of the entertainers employed on cruise ships; the young singers were energetic and talented, although some of their music was not exactly of the genre that we would normally listen to; Jim Badger in the Mosaic Cafe was an entertaining pianist, singer and raconteur; the harpist was very easy to listen to, although we found the guitarist who appeared at various venues around the ship rather uninspiring; the Cruise Director was very energetic, and a fairly good singer, although his approach when making public announcements and introductions to guest entertainers seemed unnecessarily 'forced;' enrichment lectures relating to the history and culture of the countries visited were excellent, and much appreciated by all who attended. * Crew and staff...we found the entire crew and staff, from Captain Carl Smith down, to be unfailingly polite, approachable and helpful, with much greater contact between these people and passengers than we had experienced on other cruise ships. * Shipboard activities...we made use of a surprisingly good range of books in the Drawing Room library, the daily supply of Sudoko and other puzzles, the well-equipped gymnasium and an e-connections facility that provided a reasonably fast internet service (were we just lucky this time, as the speed on every previous cruise we had taken ranged from abysmal to hopeless). * Shore excursions...we took only excursions that had been arranged through Azamara, and found them to be generally good, with tour guides who were well-informed and spoke very good English; for us, the visits in HK, Danang, Ho Chi Minh City, Bangkok,Sihanoukville and Singapore were enjoyable, although the 12-14 hour visit from Halong Bay to Hanoi was very tiring and one that we would not repeat again; the sail-out through Halong Bay after the Hanoi trip was scenically magnificent, as was the special 'Symphony of Lights' sailout from Victoria Harbour in HK arranged by Captain Carl. In summary, we found this cruise to be most enjoyable, with the overall attitude of staff, quality of food and personal service, and ease of embarkation and disembarkation to be slightly superior to that we had experienced on larger ships. We would have no hesitation in cruising again with Azamara, providing the itinerary and cost were to our liking. Nevernever Read Less
Sail Date: January 2009
OVERVIEW: Over the past decade my written ship reviews have become more positive and I had to ponder the cause before completing the present review. I mean if anything with age I have become more discerning, more likely to know what is ... Read More
OVERVIEW: Over the past decade my written ship reviews have become more positive and I had to ponder the cause before completing the present review. I mean if anything with age I have become more discerning, more likely to know what is good or bad about services or products. And therein lies the answer, I am, in short, more discerning about myself, knowing my own needs and preferences and this has allowed me to do a much better job of matching myself to the appropriate ship or cruise line. So as you read this review, you must ask yourself questions about yourself to determine if my remarks are relevant for you. Furthermore, the primary purpose of my cruise determines what items are most important. If I am booking a cruise mostly to do sightseeing, as was the case here, then I know I want a small ship experience with a port intensive itinerary. Cruises with different purposes, such as a crossing or spa/leisure vacation might yield a different choice of ship or cruise line. With respect to my recent trip to Southeast Asia, which was heavily oriented to for sightseeing, Azamara Quest was the perfect ship for a sightseeing intensive journey and furthermore it was, bar none, the best value for the money among any of the other luxury and upper end deluxe lines cruising Southeast Asia this year. THE PERFECT SHIP FOR EXPLORING THE WORLD: Azamara's Quest's itinerary was port intensive and the cruise line worked hard and succeeded in most ports to arrange to dock at a convenient in town location, made possible by its small size (700 passengers). Also disembarking and embarking during the trip without long lines or ever the use of tenders that larger ships often require made the journey hassle free. And after a busy day of sightseeing, it was always wonderful to return to smiling officers (some senior officer seemed always be on hand upon returning). Once again on board there was: • Excellent service provided in every venue that was both efficient and personal • Fine contemporary western cuisine or Asian food for westerners, which balanced the more exotic cuisine we sample on shore • Flexible open seating which so well accommodated ever changing ending times of our private shore excursions. • In depth relevant enrichment lectures about the places we will be visiting. Azamara provided an excellent program of lectures. • And on those precious few sea days between touring, the ship was both wonderfully relaxing and quiet yet succeeded in providing many scheduled activities to fill one's time. In sum total, Azamara performed admirably well and it would be hard to imagine another line that does it as well as Azamara, providing an upscale atmosphere with deluxe service (details below) at such a very reasonable price. SERVICE: The most important thing to me, above all else, on a cruise of any type, is service and that service needs to be genuine, attentive, flexible, friendly and personal. I found all of the Quest officers and crew as well as the hotel management personnel and staff, from the Captain Smith to the most junior deckhand, and from Hotel Director to cleaning staff to be extraordinarily attentive, kind, helpful, friendly and flexible, meaning willing to bend over backward in order to please. My Butler (Emmanuel) and Cabin Steward (Abdul, who should be promoted to a butler immediately) did an extraordinary job, every special request (mostly at the start of the cruise) was fulfilled with a smile, and my cabin was always spotless, with fresh towels, flowers, and fresh fruit supplied in abundance. Somehow between the hours of 8 am and noon and again from 5 to 9 they always seemed to be at hand, even if it were just to open my stateroom door because I was carrying a book or a beverage or to ask if I needed anything for the cabin. Even on the occasion I was running late for a dinner engagement and would leave my day clothes on the bed, I always returned to find them folded and sitting on the sofa. The Hotel Director (Henke), Guest Relations Manager, Deniece Seow, and the Maitre d' in each dining room took extraordinary care of not only me, but people traveling in my tour group and others each with their own special story. In fact other passengers confided in me that they were receiving VIP service for reasons they failed to fathom and some even wondered if they were being confused for someone important. Now when a cruise line can provide that level of service and friendliness onboard, they are "working magic", a level that is hard to achieve and certainly was not as present on my first cruise on Azamara in October 2007. If pressed and you asked me "come on, there must be some fault somewhere with service, I would have to say that the only fault I could find is that at peak times, the buffet restaurant on the pool deck was a bit understaffed when it came to clearing tables. DINING: Beyond service, I expect that dining on a cruise be a consistent positive experience which is significantly above average from ones general day to day life. I don't ever anticipate it to be haute gourmet, for true gourmet cooking is hard to prepare for a crowd that is larger than 75 people. But I do expect the dining service to be of good quality, varied, somewhat creative and with good attentive service. Azamara in this respect more than met my expectations. Also, because I never like dining rooms or restaurants that seat more than 100-125 at a time, I am not a big fan of the main dining room on any ship and I try to maneuver away from that choice when possible. On this cruise I succeeded and only ate two dinners in Discoveries (the main dining room on Quest). While the food was fine, the menu tried to be too many things for too many people. The unwieldy and overly fussy preparations made it almost impossible for the kitchen to be well-paced allowing for entrEes to arrive simultaneously about 5-10 minutes after the starter courses were over. The larger the table the more unwieldy it became. When I sat at a table for 2 we dined in 90 minutes. That is quite acceptable. When I dined at a table of 8 where almost everyone chose a different appetizer and different entrEe dinner took 2hr and 45 min and I skipped coffee after dessert. The main dining room does however have something to very much recommend its use. On sea days it is open for lunch, and the menu is very creative yet simple, innovative without being weird with choices being adequate but not unwieldy. The service was excellent and the room far quieter and cooler than at night. In fact, I found it absolutely delightful to avoid the crowd and cafeteria like atmosphere up on the pool deck for lunch on sea days, and grab a friend or a good book and dine below. I really only have one true complaint about the main dining room and it has nothing to do with either the food or the service but rather I have a big issue with the Discovery dining room chairs. The chairs have long outlived their useful life and the support in 70-80% of the seat cushions have failed and one literally sinks into a hole at the table. For me it meant feeling uncomfortable after sitting more than an hour but for people shorter than me (I am 5'11") it made for an uncomfortable dining experience from the first appetizer onward. There is no excuse for such deferred maintenance on an otherwise immaculate ship. The two specialty restaurants (which I dined in frequently as my group of 6-8 took turns making reservations with their 2 reservation allowance) were both wonderful although I ended up favoring Prime C just a tad more and this was a surprise to me because I am not a big steak eater. But the menu was wonderfully varied so choices were many and redundancy rare. The service in both specialty venues was 5 stars. In fact the last time I had such good service in a dining room at sea was the last time I traveled in Grill Class aboard the QE2 on the first segments of her 2004 world cruise. The buffet venue on the pool deck was great both for breakfast and lunch, with a great deal of variety, nicely presented and lunch offerings were constantly changed. And sometimes for dinner, after a long day of touring, eating casually and simply out on the open deck in the warm winter air of Southeast Asia was a great alternative which I took advantage of for 3 or 4 times. I also used room service for two breakfasts and one dinner. The service was very prompt and the quality above average. THE SHIP AND ITS STATEROOMS: Quest is very logically laid out and easy to navigate. Yet there are enough venues and public rooms to meet one's fellow passengers or to squirrel away with a good book. Prime C, Aqualina and the main dining room are very attractive as is the reception area as are the ships and I would say that the informal dining venue on Deck 9 (pool deck) while well maintained needs to be freshened as the wall treatments and carpets are looking somewhat tired. The lounges, cabaret, spa, shop area, pool deck and reception areas are all very attractive and beautifully maintained. All public rooms are crisp, attractive and well lit without being too brightly lit. They are comfortable and well furnished like a University or Country Club, they are conservative not showy, somewhat old world and that's fine as I came to see the sites on land not be overwhelmed by innovative at sea architecture. If there is to be any complaint, I would say I have some issues with the staterooms. Yes the bathrooms are small, it's been said many times before, but they are attractive and manageable. And a Veranda cabin is an average but adequate size. The bedding is wonderful and there are new drapes and new furniture on the balcony. The towels are plush and the room temperature is easily customizable to one's preference. But to me it looks like the cabins were not fully refurbished when the ship was acquired and this made for tired looking carpets, an unattractive sofa, bed lamp shades that were cracking and long overdue for replacement and a lack of good reading light either in bed or at the desk. I don't consider providing glaring high hat down lighting from the ceiling an adequate alternative. Also the bed lamps were fixed to the nightstands and so they sat smack in the middle of the table making impossible to put a book or anything bigger than a water glass next to one's bed. Some small changes could however make the cabins quite wonderful rather than nice and bland and I have shared those ideas with. I have detailed those suggested changes in a letter to Azamara Management. BUT DESPITE THIS CRITICISM, the "bones" of the ship are very good, and she is a pleasure to sail on. SHORE EXCURSIONS: As I mentioned I pretty much had my own small group and made all our arrangements privately. However I took one tour with the ship on our second day in Hong Kong and found it to be as advertised and satisfactory. I just don't like herding in groups larger than 10 and ideally no more than 8. I will add that I asked both members of our small group how they found the ship tours as well as a great many other passengers who I chatted with (it is a very friendly atmosphere), and I heard comments range from OK to wonderful and I did not hear any negative complaints or rants so Azamara must be doing a good job. ON & OFF: Both embarkation and disembarkation are handled better than ANY ship of I have sailed on. It is so smooth and so fast that I hardly remember these events at all. PRE & POST: I booked directly all pre and post cruise arrangements, including my air so these had nothing to do with Azamara. But I will say that my air arrangements on Singapore Air were done with miles and were extremely easy to both use the miles and book flights in First Class. I transferred points from my American Express Account into their Kris Flyer awards program. Then I went on line and book my flights and by doing so without assistance received substantial discounts on the miles required. Getting upgraded into First Class was so easy compared to American carriers where you are not at one of their elite levels. The flights were outstanding. It's the first time in my life when I went to wash-up and change into sweat pants to sleep that the cabin attendant said "those won't be necessary" and while I looked on incredulously she handed me a pair of Givenchy pajamas to wear (and keep!). In Hong Kong and Singapore I stayed at the Intercontinental Hotel and the rooms were large, luxurious and beautifully furnished and the service impeccable. In Hong Kong I must add that the concierge desk was fabulous in arranging for some of my requests, such as a place to buy eyeglasses on New Year's Day. Three pair only set me back $220 US and the glasses were ready in four hours! In Singapore, I did not have occasion to need the service of the concierge but I will tell you that at $185 a night, it was a bargain given the level of services and amenities. The Hong Kong Intercontinental was almost 3 times the price. THE FINAL WORD, "VALUE"—IT IS IN THIS AREA THAT I GIVE AZAMARA THE HIGHEST MARKS. Yes there are more luxurious ships with bigger cabins, fancier furnishings and more haute cuisine, BUT to get to that level one needs to pay 2 to 3 times as much on a per diem basis. In short an Azamara cruise is not only a great value for the money it is a great cruise experience!! It's the best line on which to luxe it up without spending a fortune. I suppose the only place I would take issue as to value is that I think standard cocktails at $11 or $12 dollars plus 18% gratuity a shade over priced as is the cost of Internet service is high. On the other hand when you save 30-60% on the overall booking compared to any ultra-premium or deluxe line quibbling over the price of a cocktail a bit petty. WOULD I CRUISE AGAIN ON AZAMARA? The answer is definitely yes and I hope to do so before the year is out. Azamara was an excellent value that fully served to support my primary purpose of the current trip, to be exposed to as much as possible in SE Asia in a 2 week visit. I intend to book again when I am ready to explore Greece, Turkey and the eastern Mediterranean in depth [I have no comments about the ship's entertainment as I never went (and quite frankly rarely do because as a resident of Manhattan I attend theater, opera and ballet performances 6-8 times a month so I don't want to do that when traveling). Nor do I comment the casino, (because I never gamble unless you count bridge) nor children activities (I am not a child so I have no firsthand knowledge and always wonder how other adults do) nor the spa (every ship has bicycles and treadmills and masseurs and I can't rate "standard equipment" which are all indistinguishably the same but for quantity).] Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: October 2008
Embarkation in Hong Kong took about 15 minutes and without incident. We were on the same ship in the Caribbean in March, so we knew what to expect. Our Luggage were delivered within 1/2 hour. We boarded the ship after spending 3 extra ... Read More
Embarkation in Hong Kong took about 15 minutes and without incident. We were on the same ship in the Caribbean in March, so we knew what to expect. Our Luggage were delivered within 1/2 hour. We boarded the ship after spending 3 extra days in HKG at the new W Hotel and it is high tech in everyway. In fact we had some problem figuring out how to operate room amenities. The view was partial harbor view, since there are couple of luxury condos in front. The hotel with the best view is the Intercontinental bar none. One unique feature of this cruise was that Mariner made 1 1/2 day ports of call at major destinations. HKG, Hong Gai Vietnam, Hue, Saigon, BKK and overnight in Singapore where we disembarked. This allowed us to participate more in depth excursions. Cruise provided one complimentary 4 hours cruise of Halong Bay onboard typical Junk which was very relaxing and beautiful. I arranged my Vietnam tours with local agency and it worked out fine, plus 50% saving compared to what was offered by the cruiseline. Our tours were private with driver and an English speaking guides. Transaction involving fees for the tours went without a hitch. Deposit and balance paid on arrival. What was most important was that dockside meet was arranged in advance by obtaining permit from the government which is included in the price. This was part of their Asia Golden Circle Cruise for the total of 102 days, but you can cruise on various segments you found interesting. The crew was very attentive as usual, good room service menu and best of all it is all inclusive. There is absolutely nothing to pay, unless you purchase premium beverages or make other onboard purchases(photos,boutique). Cabin is spacious and all have balcony, no inside cabins, free do it yourself laundry facility with ironing board, automatic detergent injection system. Our cabin was close to 400SQ, walk-in closet, mini bar provisioned with mixes, soft drinks and beer. You can also request 2 bottles of liquor for your room per cabin and bottle of champaign during embarkation. Tray of fruits always replenished daily, nightly turn-down service. I also would like to mention that under your bed has enough space to store 4-5 various size empty bags which really helps out. The ship departed HKG at 11PM on the second day and I must say the departure from HKG at night is spectacular. Most beautiful second to none, maybe Sydney? Our first ports of call was Hong Gai which is the closest port to Hanoi, very interesting city, if you can master navigating massive traffic congestion. It is most difficult to cross those street with hundreds of scooters and aiming right at you. The secret, our guide showed us, is stepping off the curb(not many traffic lights)maintaining steady pace(not slowing down or speeding up) which gives drivers to anticipate your movement which prevents surprises and prevents hitting you. Trick is to do it, but its hard stepping off the curb into on coming traffic. But it works and we did fine with no injuries(I'm 69 and my wife 59). Hue was very interesting, you have a choice of visiting Citadels and Temples in Hue or head out to HoiAn UNESCO Heritage Site. We went to HoiAn combined with Marble Mountain and Da Nang. Good choice, we thought. Onboard you have a choice of dinning venues, Signature, CompassRose, La Veranda and Latitude. We were not disappointed with any of them with few exceptions. Latitude menu was OK, but not thrilled with it(Indian, then Thai), I think many felt that way. We loved CompassRose, food was consistently good with variety, Signature over-rated, La Veranda(always casual)always had interesting menu selection. In defense of Latitude, they are replacing it with a Steak House, when the ship enters dry-dock at the end of this cruise cycle. We took breakfasts and one dinner in our cabin and both were on time, good presentation and full table cloth service. We ordered dinner with wine selection and two bottles were delivered with dinner. Breakfast was buffet, but you could request items at your table without serving yourself, same for Lunch. There were several poolside dinning with extravagant offering of lobsters, premium meats and numerous other premium seafoods, Mexican menu and even pizza. Absolutely no complaint with their foods and quality. Todays restaurant prices would command $50 per plate easily for what they were offering. The entertainment was fine, very quaint venue with variety of entertainment, nothing outstanding , since I'm very critical. But it is what is expected of cruiseship entertainment. Variety shows, singer, solo pianist accompanied by Regent's own band, small trio and solo instrumentalists at lounges. Done in good taste. We had 3 formal nights which I'm not too thrilled about, but ship of this class, you can always expect it. I prefer all country casual type of dress code for every functions, but the I feel that type of passengers this class of ship caters to demands it which is part in parcel of traveling on luxury liners. We participated on 2 nights, but decided on La Veranda instead on the last one which was fine. The ship enforces dress code for the evening very close. HCMC was very orderly compared to Hanoi, ship provided free shuttle service to Rex Hotel(one of the finest in Saigon with history). Because of our size we were able to navigate up the Saigon River for 4 hours to be much closer to city center. Mega cruise-ships on the other hand had to dock nearly 3 hours away, because of much deeper draft. This prevented excursions of any meaning, especially if they were scheduled for one day call at Saigon. Thailand was just as chaotic, but very interesting place to visit. Called on Ko Samui and BKK, spent one night BKK, because the drive into BKK was 2 1/2 hours again. Finally two days at see and arrived in Singapore on Nov 1 and disembarked on the morning of Nov 2. We stayed in Singapore for additional 2 days. Very clean and organized city, we can all learn from them. But the laws they enforce on their citizens can not be imposed in this country, because of ACLU and other organization. However, there are no homeless on the streets, no beggars, trash or graffiti and crimes are virtually none. If you are going to do some shopping get them done in Vietnam or Thailand, because Singapore is expensive and they don't bargain as much. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: March 2008
This was our first cruise with Crystal and our fourth different cruise line. We chose this leg of their world cruise in order to visit cities where we had lived and worked during our careers. The cruise was March 15 through 27, and its ... Read More
This was our first cruise with Crystal and our fourth different cruise line. We chose this leg of their world cruise in order to visit cities where we had lived and worked during our careers. The cruise was March 15 through 27, and its route was Hong Kong - Chan May (Hue) - Saigon (overnight) - Laem Chabang (Bangkok)(overnight) - Koh Samui - Singapore (overnight). Our travel to and from the cruise was independent; we spent several days in Hong Kong before the cruise, and we travelled further in the region after disembarking. Embarkation in Hong Kong: Boarding from the Marco Polo Hotel was painless. The bell boy just pulled our two suitcases from the hotel to the ship baggage area in Ocean Terminal. We were on board by 1230; our cabin would be available at 3. One piece of missing information for boarding for independent travellers is that you receive no instructions when and where to board. You also receive no contact instructions. My wife and I are well acquainted with Hong Kong, so we knew the ship would be at Ocean Terminal. We did not know the ship would be in port for two days; on its first day we just went to the ship security personnel at the gangplank and asked. They said that we could board any time after 12 noon the next day. Now, this information along with a contact phone number could easily have been added to the massive packet one receives from Crystal. Some statistics: The ship can carry 1,080 passengers; we are ca 900 on the leg Hong Kong - Singapore (remember this is a round the world cruise, Los Angeles - Southampton in 104 days). I don't know how many got off in HK, but ca 500 boarded; 380 got off in Singapore. There are only 167 Crystal first time passengers. Around 400 are doing the entire world cruise. The story is that around 125 book the world cruise every year (seems that Crystal alternates this cruise between its two ships). The staff of 650 is from 45 countries with no one nationality predominating. Our stewardess (not cabin boy) was from Croatia. Our head waiter was Austrian, senior from Turkey, and junior from India. Our cabin with verandah was smaller than Holland-America, but it still had lots of nooks and crannies for storage. Room under the bed for suitcases. Two sinks in the bathroom. The usual TV, safe, fridge, robes and slippers, and an impractical, too large, Crystal tote bag (however, useful for taking dirty clothes to the laundry). Fellow passengers: older and moneyed, and very international, although Americans were the majority. A guest list is published for each leg listing passenger and state or province (US or Canada), or country. I would categorize most of the men as either business or lawyers, with some medical persons. There were at least two retired generals. The passengers ranged from very pleasant and interesting to the very stupid and obnoxious, eg, Where is the capital of Viet Nam? Why do I have to use Baht in Thailand? On a large ship you don't necessarily have to be around the people you don't like. When you are only 900, the chances are better that you will meet them more than once. There were a few infants and children. While jewelry was not in short supply during the day, it really came out in the evenings. Formal nights also brought out elegant dresses and quite a variety of men's formal attire. The ship: As it's smaller, it was easier to negotiate. Decks 5 and 6 were the public areas. Decks 7 through 11 were cabins. Deck 7 was no verandahs, 8 and 9 were verandahs, and 10 and 11 were penthouses. There are no inside cabins. Deck 12 was the pool, Lido, and the like. There are only three shops - all upscale - on board: two jewelry and one clothing. The clothing shop has a couple shelves of sundries, and that is it. There is no liquor store; there are special order forms if you do want to buy liquor. Like other cruise lines, there is artwork on board for sale. No auctions; you see something you like, contact the sales person. Period. In fact, the best example of the sense of the Serenity is that there are no public announcements. No count down to bingo, no art auction, no t-shirt sale. The captain comes on once a day from the bridge, gives the ship's location, maybe a comment about the day's activity (his welcome party, for example), and a "thought for the day." And that is it. All you need to know is in the daily newsletter/activity page; if you have a question, go to the front desk or ask the concierge. Crystal Lines assumes the passenger is intelligent and literate; he does not need to be told what activities there are. The ship has a relaxed itinerary; it rarely moves at 18-20 knots. Sometimes it only does 12 knots. Dining: On this leg, dress was three formal, two informal, and the rest casual. Crystal Lines is no better than any other cruise line when it comes to handling your dinner request for table size and time; they will screw it up. We asked for a table for two, first sitting, and got no table, second sitting. We stood in line along with everyone else to talk to the maitre d' and got first sitting and a table for 8. Fortunately, our table mates were a most genial and friendly bunch, and we had a great time for the entire trip. The other three couples had also each asked for a table for two. With overnight tours and other dining choices, we were rarely the full complement at dinner. Two nights my wife and I were the only ones; I think at least four nights we were not present. The dining room dinners are excellent; just notch up whatever meals you know from your current cruise line. Service is, of course, what one expects. When you enter the dining room, the string quartet is playing, and the waiters are lined up to escort each lady to her table. Nice touch! Trouble is, most husbands don't know what to do when the waiter comes forward and offers his arm to the lady. The wine list is excellent and pricey (hey, this is Crystal), but you will have interesting choices. You definitely have to try a dinner at the Italian Prego restaurant and one at the Silk Road Chinese restaurant. No extra charge for the meal; just tip extra. Remember to make your reservations for these two restaurants on-line; do not wait until you board to make them. We did not try the sushi bar attached to the Chinese restaurant; it looked good, but we have enough sushi places at home. The Lido buffet compares roughly to that on any other line - the food is just better quality. And the service is better; a lady will have to fight to carry her own tray. And if a male looks even a bit wobbly or old, his tray will also be carried. An interesting touch that we at our dinner table all jumped on is the "Tastes" dining area at poolside. This is full-service dining with a menu almost the same as the dining room (limited because of the small kitchen). This is elegant casual dining every night with no time limits; and yes, there is a wine list and full bar. I think this became quite popular as people "discovered" it. There is also a respectable hamburger joint and ice cream stand at poolside. The Crystal touch: We celebrated my wife's birthday on board. I booked dinner in the Prego restaurant and requested some sort of chocolate dessert. My cruise agent said that Crystal acknowledged the request, but I should check with the Prego maitre d' after boarding. I did, and he said that they usually serve a chocolate cake for such an occasion. Fine. I also asked at the photo shop if a photographer could take some pictures. No problem. What happened at dinner was amazing: first there were a couple balloons at our table when we arrived. When it was time for dessert, the cake (with one candle) came simultaneously with the ship string quartet playing "Happy birthday." And the photographer was on hand for the whole show. Well done! Another touch was on our return to the ship from Bangkok. The timing was such that we could have missed lunch in Bangkok. We boarded the ship at 4PM. In our cabin were two large plates of sandwiches and other cold goodies with a sign, "welcome back from Bangkok." Activities on board are varied: lectures on a variety of subjects, music lessons, dance lessons, ikibana lessons, Spanish lessons (?), computer courses for college credit, etc, etc. The fitness center seemed to be active, the library, while small, was well stocked, the casino did not appear to be busy when we dropped in (possibly busier around midnight), and there were relatively current movies on in the theater. We only attended a couple shows, and they were quite good - a Broadway singer and a ventriloquist. We did not have the impression that there was a thundering herd heading for the theater after dinner as on other lines. The internet center seemed to be quite busy, probably because in part of all the people on board for the full 104 days. There are live cameras on board that broadcast on the internet. One fellow at our table coordinated with his son by cell phone when and where in the internet center he and his wife should stand so that the children could see them. Other people were also using the center to download photos from their cameras and send them on to friends and family. Shore excursions: We found, as with other lines, that it is better to book your shore excursions on-line long before you board. If you wait, you may not get what you want. For example, in Laem Chabang, Crystal offers an overnight in Bangkok at the famed Oriental Hotel. We booked and got the hotel. Others waited too long and while they got the trip to and from Bangkok, they had to overnight in other hotels, and not the Oriental. News is readily available. A small news compilation is delivered daily to your cabin. The cruise line version of the NY Times is available at the front desk. CNN and ESPN are on your cabin TV. A unique offer - at $6.50 a copy - is a daily copy of your complete hometown newspaper (minus ads). The selection of newspapers is amazingly large and international. The paper size is roughly tabloid size; the NY Times version was quite a thick package. Laundry: While there is the usual laundry service on board, there is also a free laundry room (four washers and dryers) on each deck. This facility is quite popular - at all hours - and some of the genteel civility onboard disappears once people enter the laundry room. Disembarkation: Given the location of Singapore, many flights leave at night. Thus, some people had to leave the ship at 3AM. Independent travellers were "invited" to leave by 10AM. The ship managed to make one final mess for us. When we boarded, the staff made the usual swipe of my credit card for the payment of the ship bill. Several days into the cruise I was notified to go to the front desk to make arrangements to settle my account. Many apologies, but apparently some of the card swiping at check-in did not get into the computer. They swiped my card again, had me sign a blank AMEXCO form, and all was done. At 8AM on debarkation day in Singapore, I was called by the audit staff to settle my account at the front office. I was not a happy camper, and the girl at the desk was scrambling to find my blank form, check my account in the computer, and in general try and figure out what happened. She finally did find my form and muttered something about my name having been misspelled in some entries. The account was settled, and we were on our way. It just showed that for all their highly touted efficiency and service, Crystal can - and does - screw up like any other line. Even with my grumbles, this was a fabulous cruise, and I would gladly sail with them again. Any questions, e-mail me at Fred Groth Read Less

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