Sail Date: 22 December, 2015
Recently completed the 14 nights Christmas and New Year’s Eve cruise, on the Azamara Quest, from Bali to Cairns. Although my husband and I had a very enjoyable time, our experience of this second cruise was not the excellent experience we had had on our first cruise (Hong Kong to Singapore, Azamara Journey, January 2014.)
What was still excellent about the cruise: the crew! One cannot rate too highly the polite and friendly service and the attention to detail provided by the hospitality staff – the wait staff, cabin stewards, the cleaners etc. One also feels nothing but confidence in the Captain, ship’s Officers, and crew and, as the ship had to anchor rather than dock at many locations on our itinerary, the tender service was excellent.
The Azamara Quest – both Azamara ships are due for significant renovations in coming months – looked tired in some areas, but the ship was very clean and constantly cleaned.
Standards appear to have dropped in some areas, particularly with the dining. The Windows Café which provided a buffet style for all meals presented good variety and reasonable to very good quality in its dishes, particularly on the Themed dinner nights.
The main and formal dining room, the Discovery Restaurant, was disappointing. On our previous cruise, we enjoyed many really delicious meals, but, on this cruise, there were only a few “stand out” dishes with most mains being of reasonable quality. We bought a specialty dining package that provided 3 dinners at Prime C and Aqualina, the ship’s specialty restaurants, and the quality of the food was so much better than what was offered at the Discovery Restaurant that the main dining venue suffered in the comparison.
Azamara promotes their cruises with “enjoy a host of unmatched inclusive amenities” which includes complimentary wines. The quality of the wines, on offer, appear to be of a lower standard than what we experienced on our previous cruise. Sometimes, the wines were, to us, odd-tasting blends and some of these wines were repeated in the second week of the cruise. (It was disappointing that no Australian wines were on offer.)
Although we didn’t go on any of the ship’s excursions – as Australians, we had visited many of these places previously - we considered the excursion prices asked by Azamara to be too high. The worst example of this was the Komodo Island excursion where, in advance of the cruise, Australian passengers paid out A$180.50 for a 2 hour excursion. The cost of this excursion was more and in US dollars if you booked on the ship. In a private excursion, organised through the Cruise Critic Roll Call prior to the cruise, we ended up paying US$60 per person, directly to the Komodo Island rangers. (Another “Thank You” to Kerry for organizing this excursion.) We find Azamara’s costing unsatisfactory and their costing of excursions overall, a disincentive.
A comment on the “Azamazing Evening”, the complimentary excursion – an evening at Crocosaurus Cove, in Darwin, to see reptiles including crocodiles. Although the number of people at the excursion made it challenging to view various presentations, we consider that, as a first time excursion - Azamara was on its “maiden” cruise to Australia – Azamara and Crocosaurus Cove did very well to entertain guests. Our experience of the evening was quite positive even though we missed seeing a main event. We did enjoy very good live music, plenty of wine and other drinks, plenty of food, interactive opportunities with reptiles including baby crocodiles, educational videos etc. During the evening, I heard people complain that they should not have been told to have dinner prior to the excursion as there was so much food on offer…in this respect, Azamara just couldn’t “win”!
The entertainment offered at the Cabaret Lounge was another disappointing feature of the cruise. Although a small ship, we consider that there should be a consistently high standard of entertainment on offer, but this was not the case. Unless the Azamara “singers and dancers” are talentless, they were very much under-utilised throughout the cruise whilst “the talents” of the Entertainment Director were over-utilised! We did enjoy the one singing performance of Amanda Poulson and the one occasion that we were able to watch the formal dancing couple.
Fortunately, my husband and I tended to just enjoy the company of other passengers, after dinner, and therefore did not rely heavily on the Cabaret Lounge for entertainment. Azamara did put on a thoroughly entertaining New Year’s Eve party!
About the gym – On both Azamara cruises, I have found the persons in charge of the gym (who conduct the complimentary exercise classes e.g. yoga, pilates), to not appear to understand how to facilitate exercise for passengers of various ages, fitness levels etc. On both cruises, I have started but then stopped attending these classes, because of concern re injury.
In conclusion, the Azamara Quest cruise was a “mixed bag” of experiences. There are some real advantages in cruising on a smaller cruise ship, but, after our experience of this last cruise, we will not be rushing to book the next one! We are very disappointed that we can no longer wholeheartedly recommend the Azamara brand.