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3 Istanbul to Europe - Western Mediterranean Azamara Quest Cruise Reviews

We are a professional couple, ages 52 and 61, and well traveled internationally. We have been 1000% anti-cruising, thinking that cruise boats were floating nursing homes, or floating buffets for drunken rednecks.We have been converted! ... Read More
We are a professional couple, ages 52 and 61, and well traveled internationally. We have been 1000% anti-cruising, thinking that cruise boats were floating nursing homes, or floating buffets for drunken rednecks.We have been converted! The same week we returned home, I booked the Paul Gauguin Society Islands for February, and The Baltics on Oceania for next July.We agreed to this cruise on impulse, because a professional friend asked us to join him. His wife is a travel agent and booked the cruise. I would guess that the Black Sea would not be a first cruiser's preferred destination, but the dates worked out for us.Embarkation:We flew into Istanbul a few days early to enjoy that fabulous city. Being terrified of Istanbul's dishonest cabbies, we were pleased that the Intercontinental Ceylan had a cadre of honest cab drivers at their disposal. The cruise port was very close to the hotel, and it cost less than $10 to get us to the terminal. We arrived at 3pm, and there was no line. We were serviced immediately, and quickly sent up the gang plank to the reception lobby, where our pictures were taken and we were given a glass of champagne.Room:We were in 8047, S1 Sky Suite with butler service. The room was attractively decorated in red and beige. There was a large bottle of vodka and scotch (which we don't drink and gave away), a bottle of champagne (which we also gave away) and a bowl of fruit. We were later given a bottle of wine, which suffered a similar fate. The mini bar was stocked with a variety of beer and soft drinks and water. We had the butler replace everything with Diet Coke. I booked this category because my husband is 6'3", and I wanted him to not feel claustrophobic. The only problem he had was in the shower. He had to step in the bathtub, and his head hit the ceiling, so he had to shower with his head to one side. The amenities were large size Elemis. Our cabin steward kept the room in immaculate condition, but annoyed us by knocking on our door several mornings to see if we had left the room. We promised to put the 'make up room now' card on the door when we were ready for him!Food:I thought the food was wonderful! We ate in Prime C three times, in Aqualina once, and in the main dining room twice. One night we just had a club sandwich in the room because we were stuffed! We never tried the buffet. We had room service breakfast once, then skipped breakfast the other days (again, because there was too much food!). The delivery person set up by bringing the table in from the veranda, but the coffee table could just as easily have been used.My favorite meal was.....the lunch time hamburger and french fries I had on the pool deck! That cook made the best french fries I have ever had in my entire life! Hot, light, thick and crispy; the perfect fry!Of the fancier places, Prime C was leagues above the other venues, at least to our taste. The little donuts with dipping fondues were to die for. I always had fish, and was very happy with the sea bass and salmon. It was all delicious. The best appetizer, however, was Aqualina's lobster salad with citrus. Perfect blend of citrus with light, non chewy lobster chunks. I could not taste the Cointreau in Aqualina's souffle.If you love to eat, there are plenty of opportunities: breakfast, lunch, afternoon tea with sweets, afternoon savories, dinner, and evening savories! One night we asked our butler if it was possible to order from the specialty restaurants for room service, as we were not able to get (another) reservation for Prime C and loved the little donuts. He said, no, but we later found a tray with the little donuts in our room! That's service that leaves one feeling pampered.Entertainment:We didn't go to any shows. We did play bingo once, to use up some of our on board ship credit from AMEX.Enrichment:We both are intellectually curious, and thoroughly enjoyed Dr. Richard Farkus's lectures on the area. He was an excellent speaker. His lectures were replayed on the TV system, and we listened to each at least twice.Ports:We did not do any of the ship's tours, rather hired a private guide with two other couples for Ukraine.Nessebar Bulgaria is a quaint town with souvenir vendor lined streets. Constanta Romania should be eliminated as a port. It is desolate and depressing. There is no economic activity, and skinny stray dogs roam the streets. Many buildings are rubble. When we were exploring, we ran into a group of Brits.I asked if it got any better where they had been, and he answered "no, in fact we have seen four suicides since we started our walk." So much for British humor, but he accurately described the area.Perhaps we should have gone on the bus trip to Budapest, but we didn't want to travel 3 hours each way to tour for 3 hours. The boat had to delay leaving for the next port because these buses were late.Ukraine- Odessa, Sevastopol, and Yalta was absolutely fascinating. Our private guide was well connected and we got into areas normal tourists aren't allowed, like the private areas of the Livadia Palace, where Stalin, Roosevelt, and Churchill divided up Europe in 1945. Bribe money is left under telephones.SummaryWe came to realize that cruising is an efficient way of seeing locations we would not want to spend a significant amount of time. No risk of encountering dreadful accommodations and even worse food.If Azamara had an itinerary we liked, we would not hesitate to travel with them again. Read Less
Sail Date August 2011
First off this is a beautiful ship. The wow factor is on offer in spades. The ship is beautifully furnished. The cabins, we had a balcony on level 7, were just fine. Even the tiny bathroom was adequate. We chose the cruise initially ... Read More
First off this is a beautiful ship. The wow factor is on offer in spades. The ship is beautifully furnished. The cabins, we had a balcony on level 7, were just fine. Even the tiny bathroom was adequate. We chose the cruise initially because of the ports of call in the Black sea and we were not disappointed. We benefited from a very knowledgeable guest lecturer who would stand on deck, with a mike, from time to time but especially in Gallipoli, telling the story of the area. However it was not all good!! First off the food. We tend to prefer to eat in the self service areas on ships. We find the food tends to be better than in the main restaurants, fresher and the choices are more obvious Having said that we decided to give the restaurant a go on the first night. I ordered turkey parmesan. This dish may or may not have ever seen a grain of parmesan but it was dry and inedible. I complained. They attempted to restore the dish, by adding cheese, with limited success. The following night as recompense, they made me, as a special, rack of lamb. It was great; they can do it right when they want. I did not feel I could ask for this special treatment every night so we went to the Windows cafe for the rest of the cruise. A lovely place to be with wonderful staff. The kitchen staff, however, had not been trained in how to preserve food once it had left the kitchen and before serving. This meant that high quality food was invariably cold or dry. I pointed this out and they improved but why didn't they know? So food quality was patchy. To say the least. The other disaster occurred around the pool. The pool area is adequate. I decided to give it a try. There must have been some kind of chemical imbalance in the water. My eyes started to stream, became painful and red. They are still a tad sore now, one week later, as with many large organisations they went into denial when told of a problem but others were also seen to be suffering. THIS WAS ABSOLUTELY UNFORGIVABLE. Special mention must be made of Richard, the food and beverage manager, and the Hotel Director. Two really nice guys who took personal ownership of problems and aimed to sort things out. Now Azamara, as many will know, have just completed a rebranding. Wines are now "free", gratuities are built into the price etc. etc. We were fortunate; we paid the price prior to the new rates being announced. The cruise may well have been worth the old price. I doubt that it was worth the new money. Read Less
Sail Date June 2010
Azamura Club Cruises sell themselves as a Luxury Club Cruising option offering an interesting and slightly different itinerary, excellent food, luxury accommodation and a tip top crew offering a discreet and friendly service. Azamura get ... Read More
Azamura Club Cruises sell themselves as a Luxury Club Cruising option offering an interesting and slightly different itinerary, excellent food, luxury accommodation and a tip top crew offering a discreet and friendly service. Azamura get 2.5 out of 5 for this and 5 stars for selling an expectation!. Itinerary - The Black Sea itinerary is very worthwhile, the low points being the two V's Varna and Volos, but Odessa, Sevastopol and Yalta make up for those, as does the overnight in Istanbul - a superb starting point. Do try to get to the opera house in Odessa for a performance, the atmosphere and ambience is not to be missed. Excellent food - Sorry, not even 3 star overall and therefore very disappointing. Why, well they certainly try, but they concentrate more on quantity than quality. The food presentation is unimaginative, bordering on poor, the crockery very plain, and the whole dining experience lacks finesse. We dined in all the restaurant choices: Aqualina was by far the best - a lighter, more stylish option with better quality food and much better in presentation. Prime C, as the name suggests, concentrates on prime cuts of meat, and although the meat was good, it was unimaginative in preparation and there was far too much on the plate and therefore off putting. The daily buffet, we used for lunch and it was okay, limited in choice, with very little daily variation. We also had two on-shore evening buffets by the pool and they were okay, but I have to say limited. Breakfast in the stateroom on the verandah was a very good daily experience, all delivered on time and accurately, with high quality personal service. We did comment on the quality of food at the cruise critic reception and we were given very special treatment - treated like royalty actually for a couple of days and we could have taken this further, but who needs to be a moaning Minnie on holiday! Luxury accommodation - Well the towels, bathrobes and bedlinen are excellent. The stateroom furniture is tired, but adequate and the artwork around the ship is very basic. Some nice touches, at the pool - iced towels and cooling cucumber and the sun beds are very comfortable - although need re-varnishing. The ship is in need of refurbishment and I believe this is programmed. Perhaps they should have done this before selling as a luxury club cruise though? Service Levels - on board are without exception 5 star. All the crew are well trained and offer a friendly service. The Captain was the most approachable we have ever experienced and made a real and genuine effort to make sure his crew and guests were happy. Little touches like his personal farewell as we left the ship, and his invitation to the bridge and to join the staff captain for dinner were very special and we cannot fault the service at all. Top Likes: Including high quality house wine at lunch and dinner. Fantastic Itinerary. Friendly and well trained crew. Excellent dis/embarkation and port organisation. Top Dislikes: Quality of food, tired ship, overpriced for current service levels Would we travel with Azamura again: Not until they deliver on their aspirations, or unless the price reflects the real service levels currently on offer Read Less
Sail Date June 2010
Azamara Quest Ratings
Category Editor Member
Cabins 3.5 4.2
Dining 4.5 4.4
Entertainment 4.0 3.7
Public Rooms 4.5 4.5
Fitness Recreation 3.5 4.1
Family N/A 4.1
Shore Excursion 4.0 3.7
Enrichment 3.0 3.8
Service 5.0 4.6
Value For Money 3.5 4.2
Rates N/A 4.3

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