Our background is over 20 cruises on a wide variety of lines including NCL, Royal Caribbean, Costa, Celebrity, Commodore, Windstar, Sea Dream and Regent.
We cruised with Azamara a total of 5 weeks previous to this trip, all on the sister ship the Journey. With our wide variety of lines and price levels, we feel can be very objective in our review.
Our trip started with 3 pre days in Hong Kong at the Harbour Grand Kowloon.
The hotel is a 5 star a bit out of the way but perfect for getting adjusted to the dreaded major time change.
We boarded the Quest at the Ocean Terminal which is a combo shopping mall and cruise terminal. A bit unusual going thru the mall to check in.
Our embarkation proceedure was not up to what we experienced with Azamara previously. I blame it on the shoreside staff that were inept at best.
Azamara staff had to frequently help them with the most basic check in proceedure. The whole check in took way too long, even in the Le Club Voyage line which was shorter than the regular check in line. Once onboard, a glass of champagne in hand, lots of smiling welcoming faces made us feel right at home again. We even ran into quite a few crewmembers we remembered from the Journey.
We checked our carry-ons and off to lunch at Windows Cafe. Windows was very busy, hard to find a place to sit. The lunch was un inspiring, a lot of cafeteria type dishes. I had the carved beef, tough and without flavor.
About 1 pm or so the announcement we were all waiting for, "Staterooms are ready" We ventured to deck 7 and found our carry ons waiting for us, our 3 big bags arrived a short bit later. We were starting to unpack when our cabin steward Caitano knocked on the door to introduce himself. We were so fortunate to have him and his assistant for the 2 weeks. Caitano was by far the best steward we have had on any cruise. He figured out our routine in a day, kept my buckets of beer iced for me, and re stocked the minibar daily with our requests.
Caitano was a prime example of the entire crew. Azamara has done a fine job in staffing their ships. It would be hard to find a cruiseline that has equal staff. From the senior officers to the young cleaning crews in the public restrooms, all were more than excellent.
We are Explorer members of Le Club Voyage and really appreciated the perks that came with this. We had 2 x 150 minute internet packages, 2 bags of laundry, a free mini massage, coctail parties, happy hours and a bottle of champage in our stateroom.
I have to mention a couple names of staff that made our 2 weeks enjoyable.
Julie in the casino bar, Ernesto the bar waiter who it seemed was everywhere and of course Hotel Director Phillip Hebert. All that has been said about him is true and then some. What a class act he is. We were honored to dine with him, his wife and a group of 8 other passengers. We thought this would be a "stuffy" affair, but what a great time all of us had at dinner.
We used ships shore excursions a couple times and were very satisfied with them. One thing Azamara does that you just don't see on other lines is they bring onboard local tourism staff to recommend things to people that do not use the organized ships excursions. We also used the ships free shuttle busses that took us to the "heart" of the cities we visited.
Evenings were an improvement over our previous trips on Azamara,
Entertainment was far better, the DJ in the looking glass "spun" some great tunes and even though we donated to the casino the staff was a lot of fun.
Unfortuantely we had issues with the food on this trip. I realize food critics abound, all we like is fresh food with good taste and preparation.
First Windows cafe, while breakfast was good, the coffee and crowds were not. This sailing was sold out and the numbers of people trying to eat in windows seemed way more than thier capacity. Lunches in Windows were crowded, but even worse was the food. Much of the hot food looked like warmed over cafeteriea food and tasted much the same. We did have a good porkloin at the carvery one day but that was about it. I found myself eating egg salad sandwiche at the bar since tables were at a premium. Windows in the evening while less crowded, food was not great, no sushi on a number of nights, the pasta was typically mushy and overcooked and no shrimp for the stir fry's. Where oh where did the shrimp go?? (I think the budget does not allow this any longer).
Discoveries dining was pretty hit and miss as well. We typically had good appetizers and soups, but most main entrees were either dried out or tasteless, sometimes both. We did find the NY strip steak was pretty good and the T-bone was decent as well. The fish dishes were poorly prepared and had strong "fishy" taste.
We dined in Aqualina 2 times, both were good,(you can't beat the fois grais).
The meat quality in Prime C seemed lower that we remembered, the filet was tough and stringy and the veal chop pretty tasteless.
Its too bad about our dining experiences because overall we really enjoy Azamara. With upcoming drydocks for both the Journey and Quest, mabye its time to reduce their capacity slighty? I really think a full ship stresses the food service department. I also think RCI has cut their food budget.
It only shows to those who have sailed Azamara previously.
Bottom line, Azamara has so much going for them but with the higher prices they now demand they now have even higher expectations to live up to.
We certainly will be back, hoping they can maintain their service levels and work on bringing the food back to whay we have come to expect from them.