Wonderful First Time to Italy: Azamara Quest Cruise Review by macpam

Azamara Quest 5
Member Since 2007
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Wonderful First Time to Italy

Sail Date: October 2010
Destination: Europe - Western Mediterranean
Embarkation: Rome (Civitavecchia)
My husband and I booked our cruise online and booked the airfare independently on US Air. We had a smooth overnight flight to Rome, took Leonardo Express train to Termini station. We intended to drop our bags at a hotel we booked for the end of the trip, and do some sightseeing. Unfortunately there was a misunderstanding and the hotel did not have our reservation. We felt lucky to discover it ahead of time and booked a room with a different hotel nearby. Due to the snafu we just had time to get lunch (pizza and some pastry) and get the train to Civitavecchia. We didn't have too much trouble negotiating the ticket machine or boarding with our luggage.

At this point I'd like to say that we used Rick Steves' Italy book and much online research for advice, time- and money-saving tips. For a trip of a lifetime like this, you need to do some homework in order to maximize your time and pleasure. We planned and did all our excursions on our own, at our own pace. We did book a guided More tour at the Vatican museums. We were able to see most everything we wanted to and did it fairly economically. We met other cruise passengers who did not even know what there was to see in some of the scheduled ports. Okay, 'nuff said.


The boarding process was quick and went smoothly. We found we had been upgraded to a veranda cabin, which made us happy. Azamara gives many little perks and the champagne offered on sailaway was very nice.

We dined in just about every venue except Aqualina. All were wonderful, the house wine was generously poured, service friendly and food was very good. We dined in Prime C as we departed Florence (Livorno) at sunset. The view, the atmosphere, and the dinner were all beautiful.

The pool area was very nice and we never had trouble finding a lounge chair. The first part of the cruise was warm and sunny; our day at sea on Oct. 6 was a delightful day of lounging. No plastic lounge furniture on this ship-everything was teak wood.

The crew was top-notch, very visible and personable. We had two meetings of our Cruise Critic group and they were very interested in hearing what we liked and disliked.

One hilight was getting to see an eruption of Mt. Stromboli on the way back to Rome. The Captain was able to get us 1/2 mile from the volcano due to favorable wind conditions. Very exciting! One morning we had 2 rainbows and a pod of dolphins swam alongside the ship.

The ship provides a free self-serve laundry area, which got quite crowded. We used it at off-times and did fairly well. The Cruise Critic members asked whether this area could be enlarged but the Captain explained that there are many safety precautions involved and that it would be difficult to provide more machines. There is a TV to watch if you wait, and there are 2 irons and ironing boards to use. Laundry soap is provided at no charge.


Ravenna-The ship provided a shuttle bus to Viale Farini. We went to see the mosaics in the churches and Mausoleum of Galla Placidia. Per Rick Steves' advice we borrowed bikes for free from the tourist office and rode to another church included in our ticket, and also went to Dante's tomb (free). Yet another lunch at a sidewalk type cafe!

Trieste-It was very windy here and I was afraid it would be cold but it was not. A major sailing regatta was getting ready to start in a day or so and many sailing-related vendors had tents set up. We went to the small Roman theater and Castello di San Giusto in the town. The restaurants here did not look exceptional but were pricier than in other ports. We went to the ship to eat and change shoes, then went to Caffe degli Specchi which dates back to 1839 for coffee, Sacher torte, and some people-watching.

Sea Days-We took dance lessons, tai chi, Italian conversation lessons (refresher for us), relaxed and read. We are not much for gambling but played the slots a little.

Entertainment-we really enjoyed pianist Brooks Aehron, comedian/magician Chris Blackmore, and singer Jack Walker and his lovely lady Laurie. One evening there was an operatic singer, not our cup of tea. Guitarist German Vilchez and duo "Looking Glass" performed at different spots on the ship and we thoroughly enjoyed them. Jim Badger played piano, Katherine Fitch, harpist played, and DJ Marcio entertained late at night. One evening we had karaoke which was fun. Tuesday evening Oct. 5, Cruise Director Tony Markey sang-very well too! Tony was a fun and personable presence throughout the cruise. His wardrobe choices were sometimes entertaining too!

Two times we had parties out on the deck, with fish and steaks grilled out in the open, and beautifully presented food buffets.

Safety/Currency/Logistics-We used PacSafe bags and felt that we were not easy pickings for thieves. In Termini station on first day, we saw a large group of 20-ish gypsy women who seemed to be trying to create a diversion but the police came by and they made a speedy exit. In many of the areas where tourist scams were reported to be commonplace, we saw a good police presence. We found most people to be pleasant and helpful. Don't believe people who tell you that you don't need to learn any Italian. We took some lessons and they came in handy a few times. Plus it's fun to make the effort (even though the guys at the gelato place in Rome, Effigi Uno, made fun of me!! They were a riot, and I now know the proper Italian pronunciation of "pistachio".

We took money out of the ATM's ("Bancomats") and our bank charged a transaction fee but nothing horrendous. In Croatia they have their own currency so we just took out what we needed. We used an internet cafe there to check on our e-mails, that was the only time we checked it until we got back to Rome.

Restaurants-We had few problems ordering, most of the restaurant personnel knew enough English to assist us when necessary. If you go a block or two away from the tourist areas, we found that we were rewarded with good food at lower prices. At the Caffe degli Specchi the lady at the counter did not speak English but we were able to understand what she was saying, thanks to the lessons we took. At some places we were able to point at what we wanted-they have counters with sandwiches and pizzas displayed. You can tell them "caldo" and they will heat them up for you. You usually will pay more to sit at a table and eat vs. eating while standing at the counter or taking the food with you. In Rome when we were in a hurry the guy ingeniously wrapped our pizza for eating on the run.

In summary, a wonderful cruise experience, we would whole-heartedly recommend Azamara Club Cruises. Italy was everything we hoped it would be, and we hope to be blessed enough to return someday and see more of it. Less

Published 11/09/10

Cabin review: 06 Club Oceanview Stateroom

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Port and Shore Excursions

The ship provided a bus into town area. We toured the city walls, lots of steps and up and down! It is a charming town. It was overcast and after we came down and went to lunch it began to rain, fine but steady. We had planned to hang out at one of the cafes overlooking the sea but decided to go back to the ship. We went into the pavilion near the ship and bought some herbal brandy in an interesting decanter for a friend at home.

Florence (Livorno)-The ship provided a bus into town, then we used local bus to get to train station and get passage into Florence. We had reserved tickets for the Accademia and the Uffizi-I strongly recommend that you do the same if you take this trip. It was phenomonal to see the David statue "in person", Botticelli's "Birth of Venus" etc. We had a rushed lunch in between. The procedure for getting into the museums could be more efficient-you have to take the printout and exchange it for a ticket, then get in line (a shorter line than the non-reserved people). The second day we went back to stroll around more, viewed the Duomo, the leather market, and the Ponte Vecchio. The train on the way back stopped in Pisa so we did the world's fastest trip to see the Leaning Tower. (Had to make the train so as not to miss the ship). The Tower and Field of Miracles buildings are very pretty.

You are able to get off the ship very early in the morning,we had breakfast and left around 8:30. There was a rather long wait for a shuttle bus to take us to the port entrance. We took the train to Termini station and dropped our bags at our hotel nearby. We had reserved an English speaking tour at the Vatican, letting us bypass the very long line waiting to get in. I thought the tour was too long, it was about 3 and one half hours-the guide spent 45 minutes outside giving us background on the Sistene Chapel. The museums were extremely crowded, I could not imagine being here in the summer time. We had 10 minutes on our own to wander in the Chapel. They keep it rather dim inside to protect the art and pictures are not allowed. I recommend having a pair of binoculars in order to get a closer look at the artwork. The guide took us through the special door that takes you directly into St. Peter's. We saw the Pieta and then she was spending more time but at that point we were tired and made our way out. The Vatican museums were now closed but we were able to find a gift shop still open to purchase some items requested by folks back home. At this point it was too late to get into some of the other sites we wanted to see. We took the Metro to the Colosseum and saw it lit up at night, also walked around the ruins. We ran into a Communist rally going on, lots of people there. We went to the Trevi fountain. Bella! Lots of tourists and we were all taking pics of each other and tossed our coins in, hoping to come back again. We had a late dinner at a cafe and later had some gelato. It was a long day.

The ship provided a bus up from the port into Piazza Tasso. We had Brit friends meet up with us here and we used local train to visit Pompeii, which was fantastic. We used the map and booklet provided with entry and did a self-guided tour. We ate a quick lunch in the onsite cafeteria which was fine and reasonably priced. We spent about 5 hours there. Upon return to Sorrento we visited Giardini di Cataldo, a lemon grove right in the town, where you can have free limoncello samples. Yum! In the evening we ate dinner at an outdoor cafe then walked through the shops trying more limoncello (yes we bought some) and then had gelato before saying "Buonanotte" to our friends and heading back to the ship. The next day we met up again and went to Capri. We didn't have too much time as they had to take a boat back to Naples for their flight home. We walked around the town and up some of the alley ways. We ate at a delightful restaurant, La Cisterna. After our friends left we sat at a cafe for a bit then went back to Sorrento for a little more shopping. We missed the duo, "Yalba" because we were out with our friends. We did see them perform later in the cruise, they play many different instruments.

We were tendered in and the ship provided a shuttle into town area. We went to the Greco-Roman Theater, walked the streets & checked out the shops. We ate lunch at an outdoor cafe, Gambero Rosso, and were serenaded by musicians who came around afterward with a jug for tips.

Venice-Sailed in at 7 a.m. to the accompaniment of the church bells of St. Mark's. We got off the ship and purchased a vaporetti pass at a little shop next to where we exited the port area. Used Rick Steves' advice to check a bag and get a ticket which enabled us to bypass the line at St. Mark's. They herd you through the church. It's free but you can pay a few Euros to see other areas, we sprung for the Treasury which was not very interesting to me. We then went to the Correr museum to buy a pass for it and the Doges Palace. Many people do not realize that you cannot buy a ticket for just the Doges Palace. We spent quite a bit of time in the Correr and when we came out, St. Mark's Square was starting to flood. We went out the back and wandered through side streets, to Rialto Bridge area where we came upon a flea market, which we browsed through. We then got the vaporetto to Murano, which we thought was a bust. If you've seen glassblowing back home I would recommend skipping the trip over. The shops in Venice have the same items for about the same price. Beware of some items made in China such as the wine stoppers. You will pay more for real Murano glass. We took express vaporetto to St. Mark's and then went to Doge's Palace. It was just overwhelming with the amount and size of the artwork and gilt. The next day we went back in town, had a pastry and espresso in a little cafe, and bought a few more glass items to take home. We sailed at noon and Azamara put on a beautiful narrated sailaway with complimentary champagne. First class! Well done, Azamara!

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