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Although my wife and I have taken many cruises, our May 2016 Mediterranean cruise was our first on Royal Caribbean’s upscale Azamara line and for us it was a most enjoyable one. We rate it a solid B+. Getting things off to a good start, our boarding process in Pireaus, Greece, was quick, easy and painless. Azamara’s shoreside crew was well-organized and well-managed, and we breezed through boarding in about 15 minutes, no doubt helped by arriving a few minutes ahead of the advertised start time for boarding. We were welcomed aboard with a glass of chilled Champagne, a nice touch. Once aboard a most pleasant crewmember offered to tag our carry-on bag and have it delivered to our cabin, a thoughtful service we took advantage of before going off to the buffet lunch. Our bags arrived at our cabin door within a couple of hours, just after an optional 15-minute tour of the ship’s principal public spaces. On the day we arrived Amamara Quest’s master, Captain Carl Smith, was just back from two months of shore leave, and his enthusiasm for being back onboard shined through in everything he did. Whenever there was anything of interest to his passengers, he was quick to pick up the microphone and tell us about it—book, chapter and verse. As a retired career U.S. Navy officer, I was impressed with his approach and his commentary. During our tour of the bridge (offered only if you ask at guest relations, BTW) and throughout the cruise he came across as a serious and focused seagoing officer who loves his job and takes pride in being very good at what he does. I’d go to sea with him any time, any place! The rest of his officers kept a lower profile, but those I met came across as professional and well-trained. Size matters. Based on comments from others on CruiseCritic.com we opted for a small suite, in this case a “sky suite” (room 8061), which was approximately 323 sq. ft. with a balcony (small table and 3 chairs) of 57 sq. ft. The sky suite is about 50% larger than the standard Azamara “deluxe ocean-view cabin with balcony.” We felt the extra premium was well worth the money, especially considering the suite amenities: free dining at the two premium restaurants, nearly four hours of (slow but adequate) satellite Internet connection time per person, one bag of free laundry per person, and a few other small perks such as fresh flowers, fresh fruit, and a chilled bottle of bubbly in our room on arrival. Our “suite” didn’t meet the usual definition (a set of rooms); instead it was a single large room, no surprise based on Azamara’s online information. It was nonetheless very attractive and comfortable, offering ample room to stretch out, space beneath the king-sized bed for luggage, plenty of closet and drawer space, a small safe, deluxe bed linens and duvet, and a restful beige color scheme with earth-colored accents. Closed the blackout curtains kept out nearly all the light, and with the blackout curtains opened sheer curtains still provided nice a measure of privacy from those outside. The room had three chairs, two of them a bit too large and less than comfortable. The balcony chairs were more comfortable. The makeup table/desk (with lighted mirror above) was nearly eight feet long and more than ample to accommodate our laptop, iPad, cell phones, chargers, ship’s telephone and more. The room also boasted a small mini-bar fridge, jam-packed with “private bar” beer, wine, and sodas at slightly less than hotel mini-bar prices. We removed ‘em all and used the fridge for our own goodies, some bought from home, some brought back from onboard restaurants, and some bought along the way. Very convenient. We replaced the original contents before departure. We experienced one rough water passage and had to tape the dresser drawers to keep them closed. As with most cruise ships, cabin electrical outlets were sparse: two 110 volt and one 230 volt outlets at the desk, another 110V outlet above the fridge, plus one 110V and one 230V outlet in the bathroom, the bathroom outlets conspicuously labeled “shavers only,” meaning the Azamara-provided hair dryer had to be used outside the bathroom, a bit inconvenient. We brought along an extension cord to help with our platoon of chargers and that worked just fine as an outlet multiplier. The bathroom was small but more than satisfactory. Clean, well-lighted, and amply furnished with medium quality towels and washcloths. Getting the shower up, running, and tuned to the right temperature provided a slight learning curve but after a day or two the process became intuitive. The bathroom offered no vent fan, so each day we were left with a post-shower soggy environment and foggy mirror; the cure for clearing the room of hot, steamy air is simply opening the door, sometimes less than convenient. Pet peeve: a cruise line of this class ought to provide something better than shower curtains, but shower curtains it is—even in the suites. Bad, Azamara! The vacuum-flush toilets are noisy and do a barely adequate job of evacuating waste, especially solid waste. Such toilets are not tolerant of anything not eaten first, other than the biodegradable toilet paper offered by Azamara. Caveat emptor. On this Azamara cruise we cruised in the western Mediterranean in mid-May 2016, and our air conditioning seemed always to be a little too cool for comfort. We discovered that the HVAC for each cabin can be controlled but cannot be shut down. Each morning we turned it to its warmest setting and left if there for the day. At night we turned it down for sleeping. A little more control would make life more pleasant. Being able to turn it OFF would be even nicer. The in-cabin television system was the best we’ve ever experienced aboard a cruise ship, making it easy to stay in touch with world news and sports. Satellite TV is available 24/7, with a choice of channels including MSNBC, CNBC, Fox News, ESPN, Movies@Sea, SeaTV (another movie channel), and Sky TV and BBC for the Brits. In addition, the there’s a fantastic interactive Azamara TV channel with many choices including guest services, a personal calendar, guest messaging, dining options (with menus and open hours for each onboard venue), room service (allowing quick and easy ordering), pay-per-view movies, account review, and much more. More often than not in our cabin we were tuned to the “Bridge Channel” which offered real time nautical charts showing the ship’s location, destinations and track, weather for current location and upcoming ports, a live picture from a bridge TV camera looking ahead over the foredeck, the ship’s course and speed, wind speed, water depth, latitude and longitude, total distance cruised, time of sunrise and sunset. We were mightily impressed with the ship’s TV. Azamara’s daily six-page Pursuits was delivered to cabins just before bedtime each evening, and it did a fine job of covering upcoming port information, onboard events, tours, and other daily events. Likewise, the New York Times Digest which offered an eight-page summary of the day’s international and U.S. national news. A U.K. edition, Britain Today, from KVH Media Group was also available. We found public areas spacious and attractive. With elevators well placed throughout the ship Azamara Quest was easy to learn and easy to get around. Those using walkers or wheelchairs will find the ship easily accessible. The ship’s level of cleanliness is not quite white-glove but for the most part it’s more than satisfactory. Our biggest complaint was the windows. With premium pricing, a ship like this should sparkle. Everywhere! We found all the windows in the public spaces were view-obstructingly dirty (ugh!), something we noted especially while dining in the two premium restaurants, billed as having “amazing” views. Not through the dirty windows! Finally, on the fifth day or our eight-day cruise, the crew gave the ship’s windows a clean-washdown-and-squeegee-dry—not nearly soon enough. We also found the overall level of cleanliness of the outside areas of the ship slightly below par. Exterior cleanliness and dirty windows needed to be dealt with much sooner and that simply was not a priority for Azamara Quest’s team. Attention to this kind of detail counts, and Azamara was missing in action when it came to making the outside of the ship sparkle. My wife and I count ourselves as foodies, and we were more than satisfied with the quality of the cuisine and the broad range of dining options available onboard. The two premium restaurants, Prime C, billed as a “classic steakhouse,” and Aqualina, which Azamara describes as “classic Italian, modern touch,” are the place to go for upscale food. For suite dwellers there’s no extra charge for these restaurant, but those in other cabins pay $25 per person per meal. Dirty windows notwithstanding, we enjoyed both restaurants and rate both a B+. We and friends we traveled with on this cruise couldn’t agree which of the two was better, so call it a tossup. For more casual dining other venues are also very good: the giant Windows Café with its buffet-style breakfast, lunch and dinner service, The Patio aft of the swimming pool offering burgers, other grilled specialities, and salad bar, and lighter fare in several other dining venues. We also found dinner in Discoveries Restaurant on Deck Five, the main dining room, to be excellent—almost equal to that served in the upscale premium restaurants. Azamra includes “standard” wine in the price of your ticket, but it may not be exactly what you were expecting. Each day we were offered a choice of exactly one standard white and one standard red, a different red and a different white each day. By and large, we found the selections very good but one day we were served a nearly undrinkable 2014 Italian Chardonnary. 2014 was not a good year wine in Italy! A line like Azamara should offer more than a single daily white and a single daily red as standard selections. Premium wines prices are available at premium prices, and there’s a sommelier to assist oenophiles with advanced palates who find value and pleasure in fine wine. Standard liquor is also included. Azamara offers a number of premium wine and liquor packages at extra cost. On an upscale cruise line one expects good service, and Azamara provides it. For the most part this is not a line where your servers learn your name and call you by name, but it is a line that places high value on good service, motivates its servers well, and seems to reward happy, upbeat servers. We saw not a single example of surly service or servers in our time onboard. Service in the premium restaurants is a slight cut above that in the standard venues, but across the board we found the service more than acceptable. We rate the service in the standard venues at B and in Prime C and Aqualina at B+. Each suite has three attendants: a “butler,” a stateroom attendant and an assistant. Ours were all experienced, personable and professional, but one has the feeling that the well-attired butler is little more than a stateroom attendant with a fancy title. Nonetheless, all were cheerful, helpful, and upbeat. We rate stateroom service at B+ based on the service we had, and we had zero complaints about how we were served and how our suite was cared for. All three went out of their way to assure that we were well taken care of. Gratuities are included in the cruise fare, but we provided extra gratuities to all three to recognize their fine service. Cruisers in the planning stage are well advised to pay attention to when their Azamara ship will be anchored out (and use tenders to get passengers ashore) and when the ship will be alongside a dock, pier or quay. Alongside is preferable but not always possible. Using tenders always adds roughly an hour to each shore excursion, about 30 minutes to get ashore and 30 minutes to get back to the ship, while simply walking off and on the ship at the pier eliminates that. Our recommendation: all things being equal, look for cruises where you can walk on and off the ship in port. Shore excursions and tours were well handled on our cruise. All tours we booked through Azamara were handled professionally A-to-Z and we felt they represented fair value for their costs. That said, we found that there’s a lot of unproductive travel time involved. Example: the port city for Rome was about 90 minutes away, meaning the nine-hour Rome tour is really six hours of tour and three hours of travel. Likewise, our tour to Florence which was about 90 minutes away from the port city. Add in tender travel in many ports, and what you can see in the allotted time is not always what you’re expecting. Having cruised on other upscale lines we were a bit surprised at the how casual the dress was aboard Azamara Quest during our cruise. As travelers in our 70s, we found that life aboard Azamara was indeed more casual than we expected, especially during the daytime: shorts, jeans, T-shirts, flip-flops, sandals and other casual gear was the order of the day with dressy clothing rare, though passengers tended to dress up a bit more in the evening. The casino requires “smart attire,” including a jacket for men in the evening. Next time we’d pack more casual clothing! Bottom line: Based on our experience, Azamara delivers a first class cruise experience. It may not be in the top tier along with Silversea, Seaborne and SeaDream, but Azamara is handling more passengers per crewmember and the price is generally less than the top tier lines. Our Azamara experience was terrific and we’ll no doubt choose to cruise with Azamara again.

Azamara Quest in the Med: very good overall but a few nits to pick.

Azamara Quest Cruise Review by Milt Baker

52 people found this helpful
Trip Details
Although my wife and I have taken many cruises, our May 2016 Mediterranean cruise was our first on Royal Caribbean’s upscale Azamara line and for us it was a most enjoyable one. We rate it a solid B+.

Getting things off to a good start, our boarding process in Pireaus, Greece, was quick, easy and painless. Azamara’s shoreside crew was well-organized and well-managed, and we breezed through boarding in about 15 minutes, no doubt helped by arriving a few minutes ahead of the advertised start time for boarding. We were welcomed aboard with a glass of chilled Champagne, a nice touch. Once aboard a most pleasant crewmember offered to tag our carry-on bag and have it delivered to our cabin, a thoughtful service we took advantage of before going off to the buffet lunch. Our bags arrived at our cabin door within a couple of hours, just after an optional 15-minute tour of the ship’s principal public spaces.

On the day we arrived Amamara Quest’s master, Captain Carl Smith, was just back from two months of shore leave, and his enthusiasm for being back onboard shined through in everything he did. Whenever there was anything of interest to his passengers, he was quick to pick up the microphone and tell us about it—book, chapter and verse. As a retired career U.S. Navy officer, I was impressed with his approach and his commentary. During our tour of the bridge (offered only if you ask at guest relations, BTW) and throughout the cruise he came across as a serious and focused seagoing officer who loves his job and takes pride in being very good at what he does. I’d go to sea with him any time, any place! The rest of his officers kept a lower profile, but those I met came across as professional and well-trained.

Size matters. Based on comments from others on CruiseCritic.com we opted for a small suite, in this case a “sky suite” (room 8061), which was approximately 323 sq. ft. with a balcony (small table and 3 chairs) of 57 sq. ft. The sky suite is about 50% larger than the standard Azamara “deluxe ocean-view cabin with balcony.” We felt the extra premium was well worth the money, especially considering the suite amenities: free dining at the two premium restaurants, nearly four hours of (slow but adequate) satellite Internet connection time per person, one bag of free laundry per person, and a few other small perks such as fresh flowers, fresh fruit, and a chilled bottle of bubbly in our room on arrival.

Our “suite” didn’t meet the usual definition (a set of rooms); instead it was a single large room, no surprise based on Azamara’s online information. It was nonetheless very attractive and comfortable, offering ample room to stretch out, space beneath the king-sized bed for luggage, plenty of closet and drawer space, a small safe, deluxe bed linens and duvet, and a restful beige color scheme with earth-colored accents. Closed the blackout curtains kept out nearly all the light, and with the blackout curtains opened sheer curtains still provided nice a measure of privacy from those outside. The room had three chairs, two of them a bit too large and less than comfortable. The balcony chairs were more comfortable. The makeup table/desk (with lighted mirror above) was nearly eight feet long and more than ample to accommodate our laptop, iPad, cell phones, chargers, ship’s telephone and more. The room also boasted a small mini-bar fridge, jam-packed with “private bar” beer, wine, and sodas at slightly less than hotel mini-bar prices. We removed ‘em all and used the fridge for our own goodies, some bought from home, some brought back from onboard restaurants, and some bought along the way. Very convenient. We replaced the original contents before departure. We experienced one rough water passage and had to tape the dresser drawers to keep them closed.

As with most cruise ships, cabin electrical outlets were sparse: two 110 volt and one 230 volt outlets at the desk, another 110V outlet above the fridge, plus one 110V and one 230V outlet in the bathroom, the bathroom outlets conspicuously labeled “shavers only,” meaning the Azamara-provided hair dryer had to be used outside the bathroom, a bit inconvenient. We brought along an extension cord to help with our platoon of chargers and that worked just fine as an outlet multiplier.

The bathroom was small but more than satisfactory. Clean, well-lighted, and amply furnished with medium quality towels and washcloths. Getting the shower up, running, and tuned to the right temperature provided a slight learning curve but after a day or two the process became intuitive. The bathroom offered no vent fan, so each day we were left with a post-shower soggy environment and foggy mirror; the cure for clearing the room of hot, steamy air is simply opening the door, sometimes less than convenient. Pet peeve: a cruise line of this class ought to provide something better than shower curtains, but shower curtains it is—even in the suites. Bad, Azamara! The vacuum-flush toilets are noisy and do a barely adequate job of evacuating waste, especially solid waste. Such toilets are not tolerant of anything not eaten first, other than the biodegradable toilet paper offered by Azamara. Caveat emptor.

On this Azamara cruise we cruised in the western Mediterranean in mid-May 2016, and our air conditioning seemed always to be a little too cool for comfort. We discovered that the HVAC for each cabin can be controlled but cannot be shut down. Each morning we turned it to its warmest setting and left if there for the day. At night we turned it down for sleeping. A little more control would make life more pleasant. Being able to turn it OFF would be even nicer.

The in-cabin television system was the best we’ve ever experienced aboard a cruise ship, making it easy to stay in touch with world news and sports. Satellite TV is available 24/7, with a choice of channels including MSNBC, CNBC, Fox News, ESPN, Movies@Sea, SeaTV (another movie channel), and Sky TV and BBC for the Brits. In addition, the there’s a fantastic interactive Azamara TV channel with many choices including guest services, a personal calendar, guest messaging, dining options (with menus and open hours for each onboard venue), room service (allowing quick and easy ordering), pay-per-view movies, account review, and much more. More often than not in our cabin we were tuned to the “Bridge Channel” which offered real time nautical charts showing the ship’s location, destinations and track, weather for current location and upcoming ports, a live picture from a bridge TV camera looking ahead over the foredeck, the ship’s course and speed, wind speed, water depth, latitude and longitude, total distance cruised, time of sunrise and sunset. We were mightily impressed with the ship’s TV.

Azamara’s daily six-page Pursuits was delivered to cabins just before bedtime each evening, and it did a fine job of covering upcoming port information, onboard events, tours, and other daily events. Likewise, the New York Times Digest which offered an eight-page summary of the day’s international and U.S. national news. A U.K. edition, Britain Today, from KVH Media Group was also available.

We found public areas spacious and attractive. With elevators well placed throughout the ship Azamara Quest was easy to learn and easy to get around. Those using walkers or wheelchairs will find the ship easily accessible. The ship’s level of cleanliness is not quite white-glove but for the most part it’s more than satisfactory. Our biggest complaint was the windows. With premium pricing, a ship like this should sparkle. Everywhere! We found all the windows in the public spaces were view-obstructingly dirty (ugh!), something we noted especially while dining in the two premium restaurants, billed as having “amazing” views. Not through the dirty windows! Finally, on the fifth day or our eight-day cruise, the crew gave the ship’s windows a clean-washdown-and-squeegee-dry—not nearly soon enough. We also found the overall level of cleanliness of the outside areas of the ship slightly below par. Exterior cleanliness and dirty windows needed to be dealt with much sooner and that simply was not a priority for Azamara Quest’s team. Attention to this kind of detail counts, and Azamara was missing in action when it came to making the outside of the ship sparkle.

My wife and I count ourselves as foodies, and we were more than satisfied with the quality of the cuisine and the broad range of dining options available onboard. The two premium restaurants, Prime C, billed as a “classic steakhouse,” and Aqualina, which Azamara describes as “classic Italian, modern touch,” are the place to go for upscale food. For suite dwellers there’s no extra charge for these restaurant, but those in other cabins pay $25 per person per meal. Dirty windows notwithstanding, we enjoyed both restaurants and rate both a B+. We and friends we traveled with on this cruise couldn’t agree which of the two was better, so call it a tossup. For more casual dining other venues are also very good: the giant Windows Café with its buffet-style breakfast, lunch and dinner service, The Patio aft of the swimming pool offering burgers, other grilled specialities, and salad bar, and lighter fare in several other dining venues. We also found dinner in Discoveries Restaurant on Deck Five, the main dining room, to be excellent—almost equal to that served in the upscale premium restaurants.

Azamra includes “standard” wine in the price of your ticket, but it may not be exactly what you were expecting. Each day we were offered a choice of exactly one standard white and one standard red, a different red and a different white each day. By and large, we found the selections very good but one day we were served a nearly undrinkable 2014 Italian Chardonnary. 2014 was not a good year wine in Italy! A line like Azamara should offer more than a single daily white and a single daily red as standard selections. Premium wines prices are available at premium prices, and there’s a sommelier to assist oenophiles with advanced palates who find value and pleasure in fine wine. Standard liquor is also included. Azamara offers a number of premium wine and liquor packages at extra cost.

On an upscale cruise line one expects good service, and Azamara provides it. For the most part this is not a line where your servers learn your name and call you by name, but it is a line that places high value on good service, motivates its servers well, and seems to reward happy, upbeat servers. We saw not a single example of surly service or servers in our time onboard. Service in the premium restaurants is a slight cut above that in the standard venues, but across the board we found the service more than acceptable. We rate the service in the standard venues at B and in Prime C and Aqualina at B+.

Each suite has three attendants: a “butler,” a stateroom attendant and an assistant. Ours were all experienced, personable and professional, but one has the feeling that the well-attired butler is little more than a stateroom attendant with a fancy title. Nonetheless, all were cheerful, helpful, and upbeat. We rate stateroom service at B+ based on the service we had, and we had zero complaints about how we were served and how our suite was cared for. All three went out of their way to assure that we were well taken care of. Gratuities are included in the cruise fare, but we provided extra gratuities to all three to recognize their fine service.

Cruisers in the planning stage are well advised to pay attention to when their Azamara ship will be anchored out (and use tenders to get passengers ashore) and when the ship will be alongside a dock, pier or quay. Alongside is preferable but not always possible. Using tenders always adds roughly an hour to each shore excursion, about 30 minutes to get ashore and 30 minutes to get back to the ship, while simply walking off and on the ship at the pier eliminates that. Our recommendation: all things being equal, look for cruises where you can walk on and off the ship in port.

Shore excursions and tours were well handled on our cruise. All tours we booked through Azamara were handled professionally A-to-Z and we felt they represented fair value for their costs. That said, we found that there’s a lot of unproductive travel time involved. Example: the port city for Rome was about 90 minutes away, meaning the nine-hour Rome tour is really six hours of tour and three hours of travel. Likewise, our tour to Florence which was about 90 minutes away from the port city. Add in tender travel in many ports, and what you can see in the allotted time is not always what you’re expecting.

Having cruised on other upscale lines we were a bit surprised at the how casual the dress was aboard Azamara Quest during our cruise. As travelers in our 70s, we found that life aboard Azamara was indeed more casual than we expected, especially during the daytime: shorts, jeans, T-shirts, flip-flops, sandals and other casual gear was the order of the day with dressy clothing rare, though passengers tended to dress up a bit more in the evening. The casino requires “smart attire,” including a jacket for men in the evening. Next time we’d pack more casual clothing!

Bottom line: Based on our experience, Azamara delivers a first class cruise experience. It may not be in the top tier along with Silversea, Seaborne and SeaDream, but Azamara is handling more passengers per crewmember and the price is generally less than the top tier lines. Our Azamara experience was terrific and we’ll no doubt choose to cruise with Azamara again.
Milt Baker’s Full Rating Summary
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Cabin Review

Club Continent Suite
Cabin N1 8061
See above
Deck 8 Inside Cabins, Balcony Cabins, Suite Cabins