This was our first cruise with Azamara and we chose it because smaller ships can dock right in Saigon (two days) and Bangkok (three days) and because of Azamara's reputation as a destination immersion cruise line. We had never been to Asia before (well some consider Israel to be in Asia, but more "middle east"). We have cruised on my mass market lines including Celebrity, Royal Caribbean, and Carnival. Lately, Celebrity had been our cruise line of choice.
My overall rating of the cruise reflects this outstanding itinerary, but also our experience on Azamara. We spent three great nights at the Hotel Icon in TST in Kowloon before the cruise and even took the ferry to Macau for a day and night. At the time, the protests in Hong Kong were mainly selective and on weekends. We are thankful to be able to enjoy Hong Kong, while it is still Hong Kong. It's beautiful and a great place to begin our cruise.
Embarkation was very easy and that relates to having only 700 passengers on the ship.
Originally, we booked a veranda, but were invited to bid on an upgrade. At about $80 per night for the cabin, our winning bid of $1,220 was secured and we were upgraded to a Club Continent Suite. We were assigned Cabin 8057. Everything about the cabin was great, including the balcony, where we had a great presentation of table served breakfast by the butler just about every morning. The cabin was spacious and the only issue was noise from the chairs moving on the pool deck in the morning. It was only an issue on sea days as we were out of the cabin most mornings before the noise. The location itself was great though and the service outstanding.
There was plenty to do on the ship. The boot camp in the gym had one other participant, which meant basically a private class. The guy who runs the gym on the Quest is one of the unsung heros. I did some personal training with him as well. The main port lecturer was another star. I believe it was Professor Robert Aalberts of Penn State who provided great information on both Vietnam and Thailand from both historical and cultural standpoints. It added much to the enjoyment of our experience. The house band, usually playing in the Living Room, Smooth Sensations was also really good and they did music from every decade from easy listening to rock to pop. I don't know how often they are on Azamara ships and are Phillipines based. There were also classes in the day including photography on smart phones, etc. In a grueling itinerary, the down time is always appreciated. I used the thalassotherapy pool in the sanctum terrace and that space is hardly used by other passengers. It's a quiet a nice respite.
Here are some Plus and Minus Areas for Azamara:
Prime C is the best steakhouse I have been to at sea and the atmosphere equals the food. It's a great dining experience.
Italian Chef's Table was a really nice event. Other cruise lines give you more time with the chef, but the meal, wind pairings and company were outstanding.
Special Brunches in the main dining room on sea days were true events for us.
The gym - for a small ship, the gym and spa are both first rate.
Windows Buffet - Surprisingly good service for a buffet and seating was always available.
Friendliness of ship and that includes your fellow passengers and all levels of service.
Aqualina is major MINUS for Azamara. It's priced the same as Prime C, but the quality just isn't there. Some people love it, but you could always get a table there, but not for Prime C. It's an Italian restaurant and it lacks good red sauce pastas and you can't even get a cannoli and not sure if I even saw limoncello on the menu. More than that, overall, the food and dining experience is uninspired.
The Indonesian Rice Table is another upcharge experience, but it wasn't very good compared to authentic rijsttafel restaurants (we've been to nice ones in both Amsterdam and Curacao). The taste of the food was overpowered by the spice levels.
Service on WIFI. Too many Azamara passengers simply do not understand how to use their minutes and how to logon and logoff and spend too much time backing up lines in customer service. The WIFI itself is fine.
We had so many problems getting a special visa for Vietnam. We stayed overnight on a Bhaya Premium Classic boat in Ha Long Bay and let Azamara know before the cruise and also at our embarkation and they failed to provide us with the correct visa. This was so frustrating. We spent an hour trying to fix this, but this was incredibly frustrating.
All in all, my minuses are first world problems. We loved the cruise and the Azamara Quest. We have another booked in Japan for 2021.
We do our own shore excursions and we believe Azamara, like every other cruise line charges too much for excursions and has too many people on them.
Here is our list:
Ha Long Bay: Overnight on Bhaya Premium Cruises was a highlight of our cruise.
Danang: Urban Adventures in Hoi An for walking Tour and cooking class. Excellent. We used Andy's Transfers and had use of a car the entire day at a great price.
Saigon: Water Buffalo Tours to Mekong Delta was an incredible experience
Saigon Day 2 - Jeep Tours in Saigon for city of Saigon was a great tour in an open air Jeep.
Bangkok: BKK Tours for two tours (1) Day in City of Bangkok, and (2) Railway and Floating Markets. Our guide was awful and, for reasons I won't get into, disinterested. The proprietor refunded about 30% of our purchase price after long discussions about his less than professional guide. Since our review, BKK no longer even does tours for cruise passengers.
Bangkok at night: Expique Night Lights Tuk Tuk Tour - Okay, this was unbelievable, fun, entertaining, and educational. It made up for our not so good experience with BKK.
Ko Samui - On or own, we went to Nikki Beach Resort where there were 5-6 other couples from the cruise. It was great and probably 1/2 as much as the Azmara overpriced excursion to the W.
Singapore - We had a great day with a guide from City Unscripted. First we went to old city and Chinatown, a hawker joint for a michelin star lunch, went to the top of the Marina Bay Sands, and Gardens by the Bay.
We flew from Singapore to Siem Reap, Cambodia with another couple from our cruise and saw Angkor Wat and the other amazing sights there, another highlight of our vacation. If you go to Southeast Asia, you should find a way to include Angkor Wat and Siem Reap.
Upgraded for $1,220 ($81 per night) and it was well worth it. Cabin was spacious and so was balcony and, of course, shower stalls in suites are much larger than the tiny ones in veranda and ocean view cabins.