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38 Mexican Riviera Luxury Cruise Reviews

This was our first cruise while we are world travelers. This cruise was beyond our expectation in every way you could imagine. An amazing organization from the start to the end with impeccable staff & all you need to enjoy in 10 ... Read More
This was our first cruise while we are world travelers. This cruise was beyond our expectation in every way you could imagine. An amazing organization from the start to the end with impeccable staff & all you need to enjoy in 10 days. From the entertainment including great shows, comedy, singers and dancers, then the fitness center with spa, hair & nail salon, relaxation, tanning on the deck, watching top movies, for food, several dining rooms & buffet with variation in taste & freshly prepared meals, & many more to keep every one happy on the cruise. The 4 Mexican ports the ship stopped were really worth visiting. Anything you needed was at your disposal with great services & front desk as your guide. The Captain was always anouncing the big events & keeping us informed of the weather & sailing condition. Thanks to the entire crew. We highly recommend the Grand Princess. Read Less
Sail Date December 2019
The 10 nights Symphony cruise from Caldera to San Diego was our 15th cruise and our first cruise on Crystal. We sailed on Oceania and Azamara and the rest were mainstream lines like Celebrity, Princess Cunard etc. Oceania was our best ... Read More
The 10 nights Symphony cruise from Caldera to San Diego was our 15th cruise and our first cruise on Crystal. We sailed on Oceania and Azamara and the rest were mainstream lines like Celebrity, Princess Cunard etc. Oceania was our best cruise experience so far and I was curious how it will compare to Crystal. Embarkation took literally 15 minutes till we were in our cabin. 30 seconds later our cabin attendant knocked and introduced herself. 5 minutes later our luggage arrived. So far so good. We always book the lowest category cabin since we don’t use it much other than sleep and shower. We were in E2 cabin on deck 8. It is described as fully obstructed view but it is not really fully obstructed. The lifeboat blocks about half of the view, so you can still see the upper part of the view. The cabin is not big but it worked just fine for us. There is a lot of storage, and it’s nice to have a bathtub shower combo. It is also very nice to have a free self laundry. One odd thing about the cabin is that they still have those old thermostats. Not sure why they don’t replace them with the digital ones. Took as a while to set the temperature to a comfortable level. The ship is very elegant, and is in an excellent condition considering its age. You could never tell it is 25 years old. For some reason there is no art on the ship. Not sure why. There are about 5-6 dining venues (including 3 specialty restaurants), a lounge for main evening shows, 4-5 other smaller lounges, a movie theater, a very nice library etc. Service was exceptional across the ship, very efficient and friendly at the same time. Very friendly staff. Our cabin attendant Marina was great. The cabin was always in perfect condition, our favorite drinks and ice always re filled on time. Evening entertainment and daily activities were excellent. We attended six guest lectures, by Joe Wolff and Louis Rene Beres, all of them were fascinating. Definitely a step up compared to Oceania. Food was outstanding and comparable to Oceania. The breakfast buffet very good, the dinner in the dining room is excellent, lunch buffet not very consistent. It is probably heaven for Asian food lovers, but for someone like me who doesn’t like Asian food, the selection was a bit limited some days. We had 3 visits to the Brazilian steakhouse and loved it. There is an option to pre order basically anything you want, as long as they have the ingredients, which is very nice. The Italian specialty restaurant, Prego, was excellent, similar quality to Oceania's Tuscana. Amazing experience, both food and service. Between the mushroom soup, the filet steak and the desert, I still have to decide which dish was the best. They all were so good. Loved the Bistro for quick snacks. Did not visit the Asian venues since I don't like Asian food, but overall feedback from those venues is excellent. Internet was very good. Not the best we have experienced on sea, but among the best. Disembarkation was super quick, took us literally 20 minutes from the moment we left the ship till we arrived to San Diego airport. We paid $12 for the 7 minutes taxi ride (Crystal wanted $42 per person for transfer to the airport - I still have no idea where they are getting those prices and who is willing to pay them). Some things that we didn't like (or liked less): 1. Shore excursions while well organized overall, I was surprised to see buses almost full on most excursions (around 40 people, sometimes more). If this is typical, this is significantly worse than we experienced on Oceania. Even on Celebrity some excursions had only 20-25 people. Also the excursion staff provided incorrect information on couple occasions. We tried to cancel one of the excursions 26 hours in advance and got a negative answer. Yes, it was after the deadline (which is 7pm two days before the cruise), but they could be more flexible. Especially considering the fact that this tour is a trolley to old town San Diego, which you can do for $2.5 each direction with public trolley - Crystal cost was $79!! On Oceania, we had no issues to change or cancel excursions even after the deadline. 2. Pool experience has been good overall, no issues to find chairs. But there are very few chairs in shade, and I was surprised to see that Crystal still allows to smoke in the pool area. 3. Lunch buffet closes at 1:30 and Waterside at 1:00. If you come back from excursion after 1:30, the lunch options are fairly limited (Silk if you like Asian food, Trident Grill with some burgers, hot dogs and salads, and Bistro). Of course there is always an options for room service, which works 24/7 and is free. Still not ideal in my opinion, and they could extend it when there are large groups of guests returning from shore excursions around 1-1:30. 4. For some reason, most computer based classes focus on Apple products (iPhone/iPad/Mac). We are Android users, so most classes were useless to us. Which is unfortunate, and I find it odd considering that 70%+ of smart phone users today use Android. Despite some imperfections, we had a wonderful time, and Crystal is really very special. It exceeded our expectations in most areas, except the shore excursions. The ship combines a small ship experience (excellent service, no lines etc.) with outstanding entertainment and enrichment program. A truly 6 star experience, and definitely a step up compared to Oceania. We loved Crystal and already booked three more cruises on Symphony and Serenity. Read Less
Sail Date December 2019
We've been on well over 50 cruises, but this was our first one on Crystal. We wanted to experience the 'top of the line' feeling and we were not disappointed. When we cruise, our most important aspect is the on-board life, ... Read More
We've been on well over 50 cruises, but this was our first one on Crystal. We wanted to experience the 'top of the line' feeling and we were not disappointed. When we cruise, our most important aspect is the on-board life, especially the food and service. On this ship the food was outstanding. Quality, quality and quality!! Of course the service was just as fine. You can tell the impact a high employee to passenger ratio really has. We were also very happy with the refined clientelle on this ship. Most everybody was happy and friendly. Oh, and the pool deck was just great: lots of chairs and lounges. No fighting for a chair at any time! Our cabin was the 'picture window' variety. It was very spacious, had ample of room for storage and even sported a bath tub. Noteworthy was the shower which had great water pressure and none of the temperature flucctuations experienced on most other ships. Would we go again? Certainly!!! Read Less
Sail Date December 2019
The service on the cruise was outstanding. My waiter Ciprian or chip was amazing always made sure we had everything we needed. Everyone on the cruise was very welcoming handbags helpfu. Getting on and off the ship went very smoothly. There ... Read More
The service on the cruise was outstanding. My waiter Ciprian or chip was amazing always made sure we had everything we needed. Everyone on the cruise was very welcoming handbags helpfu. Getting on and off the ship went very smoothly. There was 8 of us that cruises on the splendor, they always made sure to give us all the space we needed. The cruise gave us options once you got off the ship such as excursions and restaurants to go eat at or see. Entertainment on the ship was amazing. The shows on the ship they would do we’re so much fun and you could even talk to the cast afterwards. They were so sweet and fun to be around. The comedy shows we’re hilarious and they had family shows too so everyone can watch them. Certain nights they would hold deck parties and play music and just dance all night. On other nights they would hold movies out on the deck where everyone could lay out and watch them it was awesome. Read Less
Sail Date July 2018
We are loyal Celebrity cruisers and wanted to try something more upscale and on a smaller ship. The Azamara Quest was truly a wonderful experience. The cabins were a bit smaller but had very efficient storage space and decorated with ... Read More
We are loyal Celebrity cruisers and wanted to try something more upscale and on a smaller ship. The Azamara Quest was truly a wonderful experience. The cabins were a bit smaller but had very efficient storage space and decorated with lovely cool gray colors. The closets light up when the door is opened. The food was wonderful in the Main dining room. We enjoyed breakfast, some lunches and some dinners there. We also ate in the specialty restaurants which were a cut above the main dining room in service and ambiance. Overall possibly the best food we have had on any of our many cruises. There were two wonderful evenings you can read about on the web site “White Night” and the “Azamazing Evening”. Both events are so well organized and enjoyable. A must not miss for sure. The entertainment is more subdued than on a ship like Celebtrity but still several beautifully appointed spaces to relax and enjoy a drink before or after dinner. Overall, it was a more sophisticated atmosphere. The decor and ambiance was relaxing and classic. There were no photographers hounding us for photos. There was no pressure to keep spending more money on extra things. The fare is all-inclusive for basic spirits and wines etc. This was wonderful and no need to upgrade unless you are very picky. Highly recommend this ship! Read Less
Sail Date February 2018
We have made multiple cruises with Azamara and have never been disappointed. The friendly crew and officers keep bringing us back for more. We have always been treated as welcome and important guests. Incredible experience. We have ... Read More
We have made multiple cruises with Azamara and have never been disappointed. The friendly crew and officers keep bringing us back for more. We have always been treated as welcome and important guests. Incredible experience. We have repeatedly cruised on the Journey and this was our first time on the Quest. Never once did we feel out of place. The atmosphere on board was identical to what we would have expected on the Journey. We even met 5 or 6 crew members who recognized us from our previous cruises on the Journey. How wonderful is that?. The only negative we experienced was their decision to change the entertainment offered. They have dropped the production shows and substituted a formula combining comedy theater and vocalists which needs considerable work. Hopefully the company will recognize the error that they have made and correct it quickly. We have every faith that they will bring their entertainment offerings back to the previous levels. Read Less
Sail Date February 2018
Went on this cruise because it was out of San Diego and had 2 new ports for me. I lived near Loreto so it was like going back in time. Loved how you felt like family on board. Would have liked to have singers and dancers. The ... Read More
Went on this cruise because it was out of San Diego and had 2 new ports for me. I lived near Loreto so it was like going back in time. Loved how you felt like family on board. Would have liked to have singers and dancers. The "short Plays" would have been fine in between other entertainment but not for an hour. Not the right venue. The actors that did the readings were very personable and I liked the idea that they were at some of the parties and got audience participation. Had a great time with them. Hotel director Phillip stood out to me as he worked on the line serving food when needed and was always smiling and friendly. Embarkation went smoothly, usually does in San Diego....don't know why there aren't more cruises leaving from San Diego. It is one of the most convenient cruise ports as far as getting from the airport and things to do and hotels in the areas. Read Less
Sail Date February 2018
i chose this sailing because of a special promotion which made the price reasonable compared to most other azamera cruises and it had an interesting intinerary.. i had always wanted to sail on azamera due to its excellent reputation for ... Read More
i chose this sailing because of a special promotion which made the price reasonable compared to most other azamera cruises and it had an interesting intinerary.. i had always wanted to sail on azamera due to its excellent reputation for food quality, its small size, the free liquor and free gratuities. it lived up to my expectations, the staff is very friendly, the captain down to the housekeeping, food was excellent, white nights is a terrific event, get there early and grab a table with a very high end buffet. tendering was orderly and had minimal waits. the only 2 reasons it is not rated 5 stars was that we had a botched excursion where the vendor swisstours did not do all elements of the excursion in papagayo, azamera did refund us 50 per cent but we really wanted the complete refund. the second issue was the best entertainment on the ship was the singers and dancers and russ the cruise director who is also an excellent singer. azamera for some reason is letting go of all their singers and dancers as of feb 8th for some type of new format. this cruise had 3 nights of a violinist and a piano player/magician. do i really need 3 nights for classical music and no comedians. the inside cabin we had seemed smaller than other ships the same room size. overall though the cruise was excellent and i would definitely go on this cruise line. Read Less
Sail Date January 2018
Azamara Quest Review Costa Rica 15-25 Jan 2018 This was our sixth cruise with Azamara and it was every bit as good as the last five. We stayed in Hotel Bougainvillea in Santo Domingo, outside San Jose, for 4 days before embarkation. ... Read More
Azamara Quest Review Costa Rica 15-25 Jan 2018 This was our sixth cruise with Azamara and it was every bit as good as the last five. We stayed in Hotel Bougainvillea in Santo Domingo, outside San Jose, for 4 days before embarkation. The hotel was set in 10 acres of botanical gardens and had a swimming pool. It was great for bird watching. We took a tour from there to La Paz Waterfall Gardens, which was excellent, and went into San Jose by taxi to see the National Theatre (amazing building). The hotel arranged transport for us and another couple to the port. The evening before embarkation we got an email from Azamara saying that due to high winds the port of embarkation had changed from Puerto Caldera to Puntarenas. The hotel was able to rearrange the transport for us, and it ended up costing us $70 a couple in a very comfortable mini-bus. When we got to Puntarenas we found embarkation a little different than usual. We were directed into a terminal building to be given a medical form, then took the shuttle bus along the pier to the ship. Check-in was completed in the Cabaret Lounge. This was all done with very little fuss and little queuing - given the short notice, we felt this was handled very well and efficiently. Our verandah stateroom was very comfortable. Our two attendants did a good job, bringing me lots of extra hangers and making sure our fridge had plenty of tonic waters as we requested. We are most nights in Discoveries (MDR) and found the food to be excellent, with some dishes being outstanding. We like to share tables, but found it quite difficult to do this because we like to dine fairly late and by the time we got there all the large tables had filled up. However we found that even when we had a table for two, we could chat to the couple at the next table. Service was generally very good, although on a couple of occasions we had quite a gap between courses. The included wines were OK and if we didn’t like the day’s offerings, it was usually possible to get some of a previous day’s wine. We booked dinner in Prime C (speciality restaurant - $30 a head extra) one night and, as always, the food and service was superb. We ate breakfast in Windows (buffet), where again the tea & coffee service was excellent. We mostly had lunch in the Patio, though I often went into Windows to get a slice of the roast meat of the day to have with salad. The cruise only had 2 sea-days and we spent these in our favourite spot -deck 11 sun-deck. The Azamazing evening was due to be held in the old part of Panama City, but as the weather was unsettled, the Captain decided to bring it onboard. It was a folk-dancing show and was quite good, but inevitably it lost atmosphere being held in the cabaret lounge. The White Night was excellent. The buffet included lobster, steak, lamb, Frito Misto, Paella and, of course, crepes suzettes served by the Hotel Manager. It was quite an emotional occasion, as it was Captain Carl Smith’s last voyage on the Quest before taking over the new Azamara ship, the Pursuit. The ports we went to were: Panama City - (two days). On the first day we took the Hop On Hop Off bus from Fuerte Amador where the boat docked and got off at the Miraflores lock. We didn’t see any ships going through the lock, but thoroughly enjoyed the exhibition about the canal and how it was built. On the second day we got a taxi into the old town and had a wander around it and around the fish market close by. Golfito - a small town right next to the dock. We had booked a private tour along with others on our Roll call. The tour was a boat trip in the Golfe Dulce to see dolphins, which we did -a pod of 340! We were then taken to an animal sanctuary where we saw monkeys, an ocelot, macaws, sloths and a tayra. Lastly we had the opportunity to snorkel over a small reef. Quepos - tendered port - there seemed to be quite a nice little town next to the tender port. Again we had booked a private tour to Manual Antonio National Park. The tour company met us just outside the tender port and took us to the park, where we walked through the park with a guide who had a monocular and who was able to point out various animals, birds and frogs along the way. The path led to the beach where we had time for a swim before setting off back again. Then we were taken for lunch in a local restaurant. Unfortunately it was a Sunday when we were there so the Park was very busy as the trail to the beach was used by them. We had to queue to get into the park, and then queue along the way to be able to see reptiles, birds, animals & frogs along the way. San Juan Del Tour, Nicaragua,- tendered port. This was a nice little town with a nice beach and lots of beach bars and restaurants, all close to the tender port. We had booked a private half day tour of the town, a visit to the statue of Christ Misericordia perched on the cliff over the town( half the size of Christ the Redeemer in Rio), then to an adventure park where we had a bone rattling ride in 4x4s, to a viewpoint where we could see Lake Nicaragua and it’s 2 volcanoes. From there we could do an included short walk or visit an Iguana Sanctuary, or do Zip-lining for an extra $30. I opted for the zip-lining, which was a first for me - I loved it! We ended up at a seaside restaurant for an included drink and to watch an excellent display of folk-dancing. Puntarenas -the ship was docked at the pier of this small seaside town. This time we took the ship’s tour to the Cloud Forest which was fascinating and included butterfly and humming bird gardens. The tour included lunch and the inevitable stop at a souvenir shop. Disembarkation was, as usual, very easy. Read Less
Sail Date January 2018
It was LA to LA, so very little flying from Las Vegas. The ship is small, but big enough, so as not to feel cramped. Our suite is always the correct size. The food is so much better than other cruise lines. We never seem to be rushed like ... Read More
It was LA to LA, so very little flying from Las Vegas. The ship is small, but big enough, so as not to feel cramped. Our suite is always the correct size. The food is so much better than other cruise lines. We never seem to be rushed like other cruises on bigger ships with 2 dinning seating. This time the enrichment lectures were not as good as we have had before, they were only average. The service has always been excellent and this time was no different everyone is so helpful. Always smiling and asking if they can get you anything, so pleasant. We were at sea a good share of the time. The ports in Mexico are for the most part very nice. Shore excursions were varied and there was something for everyone. Sometimes it was nice to just stay on board and read a book, they had a nice selection in the library. We are already booked on the Navigator in 2019 for a northern Atlantic cruise. Read Less
Sail Date December 2017
This was out third Crystal cruise and probably our last for a while . While the service and food were top notch , the average age of our fellow cruisers had to be well in the 80's . I'm not young by any stretch , 59 . But ... Read More
This was out third Crystal cruise and probably our last for a while . While the service and food were top notch , the average age of our fellow cruisers had to be well in the 80's . I'm not young by any stretch , 59 . But anywhere we went walkers , canes , rascals, wheelchairs . I'm sorry but I want to be with someone closer to my demographic. Perhaps Crystal can have themed cruises catering to younger people , eg: classic rocker or jazz performers. Maybe a yoga theme . They are going to need to attract younger people , because soon their client base wont be able to travel or just wont be here any longer . Sorry if this seems cruel and I realize and hope that one day I will be this old man that everyone complains about . Its hard to give up all the great things crystal has to offer , but until I get older I just may have to . Read Less
Sail Date May 2017
We love the Sea of Cortez itinerary and this was a great trip. The other people on this cruise were great and we meet lots of other interesting people. We had lots of stimulating conversations. The crew is a happy one and do all they can ... Read More
We love the Sea of Cortez itinerary and this was a great trip. The other people on this cruise were great and we meet lots of other interesting people. We had lots of stimulating conversations. The crew is a happy one and do all they can to take care of any problem you may have. The food was good with just a few exceptions. The complimentary wine selections have improved enormously since sailing with them 8 months ago. That really made the meals even better Wish that Coors Light was on the list of complimentary - had to pay 2.75 for it. Bud Light is complimentary. But that sure is a small complaint. Captain Jose was amazing keeping us closer to shore to avoid swells after one of the California storms. He even told us that we would be near St Ignacio lagoon at sunset - this is a Grey whale sanctuary where there are lots of whales and dolphins - unfortunately we did not see much from the ship but I sincerely appreciated the try for it. When was the last time you had a cruise ship even look for wildlife much less tell you to watch for it! Read Less
Sail Date February 2017
Cruising out of San Diego, CA has the benefits of a clean well run cruise terminal, a beautiful city and every tourist accommodation. Still, the first and last two days on board are spent reaching the Sea of Cortez, and the times we have ... Read More
Cruising out of San Diego, CA has the benefits of a clean well run cruise terminal, a beautiful city and every tourist accommodation. Still, the first and last two days on board are spent reaching the Sea of Cortez, and the times we have done it, the weather has been mild but not tropical. Our stateroom was nicely appointed, although on the small side for verandah rooms on high end ships today. Concierge service (in fact, all service) was very pleasant and helpful. Room was kept moore neat than clean. "Extra charges" and sales promotions are held to a pleasant minimum, as are PA system announcements. Food was quite good and quite varied too. Long lines and crowds were usually well controlled, with some exceptions. Boarding the vessel in San Diego involved standing in a long long line, wishing we had signed for a suite. Oddly, debarking was a model of quick and painless re-uniting with luggage, passport control and customs. Four elevators (two forward, two aft) usually worked efficiently but not when events opened or ended. Reservations at specialty restaurants (there are just two) seemed to fill up quite fast, almost before we left San Diego. Flexible dining meant a line at the dining room early on, with no line an hour later but by then, sometimes having to miss the entertainment. Azamazing - the evening party and piece de resistance - was in fact as amazing as anything I might have conjured up. If you go, do not miss it. Read Less
Sail Date February 2017
The itenerary for this cruise was the main deciding point for us. Plus being able to drive to and from San Diego was great. Our trip to Copper Canyon, though long, was terrific! The guide was very informative about the canyon, its people ... Read More
The itenerary for this cruise was the main deciding point for us. Plus being able to drive to and from San Diego was great. Our trip to Copper Canyon, though long, was terrific! The guide was very informative about the canyon, its people and their history. He also told us about the construction of the train track. Azamara reserved a special train that held just cruise passengers so it wasn't at all crowded. The crew on the Quest were as friendly and helpful as always. It is so nice to be remembered and appreciated. We also loved the chance to see small towns in Mexico that we have not visited. It was particularly nice to be in little towns that don't typically have cruise ships visit. I will continue to travel with Azamara whenever possible. We always feel as if we are part of a big family when we board either of their two ships. Read Less
Sail Date February 2017
My wife and I just completed a two night ‘mini-cruise’ aboard Regent Seven Seas newest and most luxurious ship, the Explorer. We have sailed aboard Regent Mariner before and were looking forward to seeing how Explorer compared. ... Read More
My wife and I just completed a two night ‘mini-cruise’ aboard Regent Seven Seas newest and most luxurious ship, the Explorer. We have sailed aboard Regent Mariner before and were looking forward to seeing how Explorer compared. Regent claims that the Explorer is not just their most luxurious ship, but the most luxurious ship afloat. Although I have not been aboard every ship afloat, Regent’s claim is not overstated. How does one define luxury? For me, it is defined by the overall design; size of the suites; accommodations within the suites; the pristine, well thought out décor, trims, paintings, flooring, carpet---the general ambience; the food choices and quality; the selection of beverages and complete food service; the professional and warm crew and staff; but most of all, the attention to detail to all of the above. Regent is known for all of this on their other vessels, but Explorer is in a class by itself. I had seen pictures and videos of the ship and was impressed, but upon my first steps aboard, I realized that this ship cannot be appreciated in a two dimensional world, it must be seen and experienced in three dimensions. The grandeur and majesty of the Grand Salon area demands a real-time presence. It is spectacular while being both functional and welcoming. That’s hard to do. Something that looks majestic from a distance often cannot bear close scrutiny. This is not the case with Explorer. The details scream out, “Look at me!” and close up the workmanship is extraordinary. Our Concierge level suite was spacious, well decorated with a huge amount of closet and draw space. The bath area, with a double sink as well as both a stand-up shower (with great shower heads!) and a bath tub with a shower was larger than expected. It allowed for two people to prepare at the same time without stumbling into each other. The bed was super comfortable; the TV was large (never turned it on) and the welcome bottle of champagne was most welcome. The balcony was spacious and with beautiful wicker looking furniture. As far as the meals are concerned, only being on board for two nights, our evening meals were taken at Pacific Rim and Prime 7 restaurants, while we had breakfast at Compass Rose and lunch at La Veranda. The service we received at all of the restaurants we chose was professionally perfect and often punctuated with genuine warmth and concern for the enjoyment of our meal. The décor of both Pacific Rim and Prime 7 were up to par with the finest of land based restaurants. Pacific Rim offers Pan Asian dishes that are light on the palate and beautifully presented. The appetizer menu is challenging because you want to try everything. We had several starters and they met our expectations. For our main course, the Lobster Tempura was truly outstanding. I would also recommend the Mochi for dessert. Prime 7 holds a special place in our hearts as this was where my wife and I had our wedding dinner (on the Mariner) in 2010. Nothing has changed. It is still my favorite steak house on dry land or on the water. It is the attention we received from the caring staff of the Prime 7 who served us that made our evening special complemented the outstanding food choices. If there is a thread running through our all-inclusive Explorer experience it is the attention to detail. Whether it is the ship’s overall design or the softness of the carpets on the stairways or the mirrored view looking out of the mid-ship elevator which doubles the size of the area or the smiles of crew and staff each time they see you, it was the consistent attention to detail that made me feel that this ship and those who are part of the staff and crew, make it the most luxurious ship afloat. Were there any negatives? I’ll be picky. The light system in the suite is very complicated to figure out and after two days, I was still turning on and off the wrong lights in the room. The shower system in the walk-in shower comes without directions and it takes some experimenting to tame it. Once you’ve accomplished this, it adds to the luxury experience. To summarize, if you are looking for an all-inclusive luxury cruise experience, why not go with the most luxurious ship afloat—Regent Seven Seas Explorer. Read Less
Sail Date January 2017
This was our third Oceania Cruise, our previous two being on Regatta to Alaska. We chose Oceania this time due to an excellent experience on Regatta last July. I will be concise here as compared to my previous reviews. Overall I would ... Read More
This was our third Oceania Cruise, our previous two being on Regatta to Alaska. We chose Oceania this time due to an excellent experience on Regatta last July. I will be concise here as compared to my previous reviews. Overall I would rank this cruise a B+ on the school grading scale. 1) The Ship/Cabin: We never sailed the Sirena when she was a Princess ship, but the $50 million dollar upgrade looks well spent. Hard to believe it was a 17 year old ship. She is beautiful: New and better furniture, marble public Bathrooms. computer screens in the elevators. Nearly a carbon copy of Regatta, but quite a bit newer feeling. Beds and linens brand new. Still need to get used to the small cabins on R-ships, but the public areas are immaculate. 2) Dining: We may not be a good source for this. We ate exclusively @ the Terrace Cafe with a couple stops @ Waves Grill. I was told that the table service at the Grand Dining Room was quite long (slow). We typically eat dinner early (5-6 pm) so we decided not to wait. That being said, the Terrace was excellent with a great assortment of food cooked to perfection. The new Tapas selections were particularly wonderful. Waves was just okay; nothing spectacular. Reminded me of an upscale Dennys. Fries were great however. We unfortunately did not reserve any specialty restaurants, and were going to wing it on board. Very difficult to get a seating this way as both restaurants were fully booked by the 3rd day of a 10 day cruise. I am sure if we pressed, we could have gotten a seating, but my wife was satisfied with just eating at the Terrace. Frankly, I was just as happy. After 25 cruises on several lines, in our experience, nothing compares to the food quality on Oceania in terms of buffets. It is astoundingly good. Most of the dishes in the Dining Room were served here as well, but it was warm and ready to eat instantly @ 630pm when Terrace opens. Rarely a crowd here for dinner. 3) Service: As always, Oceania excels in this department. No problems whatsoever. As we do eat early, out room stewardess and steward were right on the ball making up our room spotlessly in record time. Excellent. Bar Service and Terrace service were equally excellent. 4) Ports: We have done the Mexican Riviera many times, so nothing new here, except for La Paz which was really nice. If you go, check out the Whale Museum in the heart of the Melancon. We also went to their local Anthropology Museum and had a nice guided tour. We did somewhat boring excursions in Cabo and Ensenada. Ensenada has great wines in case you did not know. 5) Entertainment: The Activities Staff did wonderful with a somewhat grouchy crowd. The String Quartet and House Band were great. We listened to the quartet extensively. They are amazing. Afternoon Tea was also excellent, with the Quartet being the centerpiece. We missed most shows as we are early crashers Casino staff were wonderful. My wife actually won. The Enrichment lecturer was quite good and very professional. Overall Expression: Sirena is not quite up to the par of Regatta, or perhaps the other O-ships. 90% excellent, but it was the little things. Something was lacking. The Cappuccino machines were sometimes malfunctioning or not being maintained. Towels were sometimes not available in the bathrooms. A public toilet or two was not flushable, as was ours once (they fixed it immediately). Water and soft drinks would be available for bingo, but no glasses (once). The bingo machine died halfway through the cruise. One of the early morning cleaning guys had significantly bad B.O. and he would clean the library while I was reading and leave a NASTY presence. I was not sure how to address that, but clearly the Hotel manager should do so or at least notice. Little things kept reminding me of a certain lack of attention to detail. Christmas cookies would be out along some displays, but the next morning empty plates and a disastrous spread of cookies was sitting there way too long. Little things like that. Even Dottie, the cruise director, wasn't as bubbly and nice as previously. Our fellow passengers consisted of a large number of whiners and complainers which sort of put a damper on our experience. The demographic on this particular cruise was a bit older than I expected. There was only one child on board. Don't get me wrong; we had a GREAT cruise, but not the best cruise. Still, we got what we wanted: a nice relaxing 10 days off to relax, to do nothing and to overeat some outstanding food. We were well pampered and well satisfied. Sirena is only 6 months into her life as an O ship. Still working out the bugs I suspect. Read Less
Sail Date December 2016
My mom and I were on the December 11, 10-day "Coast to Canyons" cruise on the Sirena. We traveled as part of a larger group. Other than a transatlantic cruise on the Queen Mary 2, Oceania is the highest-end cruise line either of ... Read More
My mom and I were on the December 11, 10-day "Coast to Canyons" cruise on the Sirena. We traveled as part of a larger group. Other than a transatlantic cruise on the Queen Mary 2, Oceania is the highest-end cruise line either of us had been on. I was a bit nervous coming into the cruise, having read some negative reviews of the ship. However, overall it was one of the best cruises I've been on, especially for the food. Embarkation and Debarkation: The Sirena was by far the smallest cruise ship I've ever been on—Holland America's Maasdam was the smallest until now. With only 599 passengers to board, and no other ship at the Port of Los Angeles on our first or last day, getting on and off the ship was incredibly easy. It took barely 20 minutes from the time our group was called on the last morning to having our luggage and waiting for the bus home. The Ship: Sirena was incredibly easy to get around. You could walk from one end of the ship to the other in just a few minutes. One night we had dinner at Tuscan Steak on the 10th deck and didn't finish until 9:20, and we were down the elevator and across to the Sirena Lounge on the 5th deck just after 9:30 and in time for the show. Our cabin, Stateroom 6017, was right above the Sirena Lounge but we never heard any noise from there, even during one of the production shows. I also didn't notice any signs of wear and tear with the furnishings. All the chairs were very comfortable, though I would suggest having chairs that are slightly less heavy in the Sirena Lounge to make it easier to arrange them for trivia. The boutiques were small but we made good use of all our shipboard credit. I was surprised that they don't sell bottles of liquor in the boutiques to take home. The Cabin: Ok, this is the one big issue I had. The cabins were just too small. I knew going in the bathroom would be tiny, and it was. And I know that Oceania couldn't do anything about the cabin size. However, it was still a huge shock to open the door and see how little room there was to move about. I lost count of how many times I walked into the beds or makeup table. We did have enough space for all our belongings, by using every drawer and hanger available to us. We also used the laundry facilities once, and they would be a must on a longer cruise. But the beds were incredibly comfortable, and our cabin attendant Zin and her assistant were fantastic. We also appreciated having a minibar. The Passengers: Befitting the higher cost compared to most ships that sail out of Southern California, the passengers on the Sirena were largely older. I'm 43 and was probably in the bottom 10 percent in terms of age. There was one little girl traveling with her grandparents, but no other children. We had a good mix of different cruising experiences, from Carnival through Seabourn. People were by and large very friendly and dressed nicely for dinner. I still can't figure out what country club casual is, though. The Food and Drink: The food on the Sirena was easily the best part of the cruise. There were a few items we didn't like as much—my mom was disappointed by her monkfish in the GDR one night, as was I with the roast chicken, and our entrees at Tuscan Steak were overdone—but those were rare missteps. It's too hard to list all the highlights, but some of the best meals and dishes we had were the miso seabass at Red Ginger, all the breakfast pastries in the GDR and Terrace Café, the ice cream at lunch and dinner, the veal Bolognese in the GDR, and the omelettes. And I must give a specific shout out to the holiday cookies they started putting out midway through the cruise. The cocktails and wine by the glass selection were also very good, though we weren't able to get Moscow Mules in the Horizons Lounge one night because they had already run out of ginger beer. My favorite drink wound up being a sparkling wine cocktail, the Hugo. The Activities and Entertainment: I do wish there had been more activities on port days, especially because these are ports that the heavily West Coast crowd had likely visited numerous times. Morning trivia would be nice, or perhaps other choices beyond putting, shuffleboard, bean bag toss, and spa seminars. I did enjoy the lectures we attended on sea days. The bright side was I got a lot of reading done on the port days where we didn't take excursions. The nighttime entertainment was very good and high quality. My mom enjoyed being able to understand the production show singers, and Dale Kristien was excellent. After a two-hour dinner and show, we were too tired to go up to the Horizon Lounge, so I can't speak to that. The Excursions: We took three excursions, one each in La Paz, Mazatlan, and Puerto Vallarta. I liked the La Paz tour, which mostly took us around the city, and the Puerto Vallarta excursion, which included a tour and tasting of a tequila factory. However, the Mazatlan excursion was disappointing. It was an hour shorter than scheduled, and the guide did not make it clear when we were in the Gold Zone. Also, both the Mazatlan and PV tours included long stops in jewelry stores. I would expect a little better from Oceania. The Service: Next to the food, this was the best part of the cruise. It helped to have 400 crew members to 599 passengers. The staff was always very helpful without ever being obtrusive. I loved not being asked over and over again if I'd like something to drink. The staff at the Terrace Café was always on top of things. I thought being served at the buffet might be inefficient but it worked great. A special nod to Valentina, who was always really kind and helpful, and very generous with desserts. The Value: I have never been on a cruise before, excluding a riverboat, where so much was included. No charge for coffee drinks, or for lobster, or for ice cream. It's hard to judge how much we saved compared to sailing on Princess or Carnival or Celebrity, because I wouldn't have indulged like this on those ships. However, given the level of service and all that's included, I think Oceania is a much better value than I anticipated. I don't know when the opportunity to sail with them again might arise but I would certainly consider it. Overall, I would give the Oceania Sirena very high marks but perhaps wouldn't mind trying an Oceania ship with larger cabins next time. Read Less
Sail Date December 2016
Oceania Sirena Baja California – Mexico Cruise December 11-21 2016 Why this cruise? We are experienced cruisers with 34 ocean and 3 river cruises over the past 17 years, enjoying ... Read More
Oceania Sirena Baja California – Mexico Cruise December 11-21 2016 Why this cruise? We are experienced cruisers with 34 ocean and 3 river cruises over the past 17 years, enjoying Crystal, Oceania, Celebrity, Carnival, Norwegian, Royal Caribbean, Commodore, Azamara, Princess and Holland America ships, as well as Viking, Avalon and Ama Waterways river boats. We have always enjoyed the “small ship” cruises we have done on Azamara Quest as well as Oceania’s Insignia and Nautilus. We do not particularly enjoy the pre-Christmas commercial rush and noise, so this seemed like a good opportunity for a relaxing time. Getting there and Embarkation. We considered driving from our home in Phoenix to a Long Beach CA hotel and leaving our car there until our return. We did this on our first cruise with Carnival in 1999, but finally decided that since we could avoid the crowds and confusion of LAX by flying directly into the Long Beach Airport on Sunday morning, we would do that. This airport is quite small and easy to navigate, and had only one other flight on the ground; so this proved to be a good way to go. The timing was virtually perfect and we went through the embarkation process at the Los Angeles Cruise Terminal in a few minutes. While waiting for the elevator upon boarding, we were pleased to hear that our deck’s staterooms were ready and available so we dropped our carry on belongings off, went to the buffet for lunch and then proceeded to the beautiful library on deck 10 to pick up some reading material. Since Sirena has only been sailing since the spring, the book selection was very up to date. Our Stateroom. The eight identical Renaissance ships; named without much imagination as Renaissance I through Renaissance VIII; were built between 1998 and 2001. So they all suffer from the somewhat dated design ideas of 20 years ago. This means that the “standard” verandah cabin is rather small, 204 square feet including 34 square feet of verandah. The Penthouse suite has 332 square feet which includes 66 square feet of verandah. We had chosen this suite for our initial cruise from Manaus out the Amazon to Barbados on Insignia, and been upgraded by Oceania to this class on a Mediterranean cruise. Our third Oceania trip was in a standard Verandah class, but since this seemed cramped we opted for the larger suite on Azamara Quest, (an identical Renaissance ship), in 2015, and chose it again for this trip. Our stateroom was 8010. The prime motif was dark wood, with light grey textured walls, a large mirror on one wall, and a nice, modern painting above the sofa. The desk arrangement was convenient, and next to it was the decent sized sofa. There were two arm chairs and a small table, probably adequate for room service (which we never use on any cruise). The verandah was good sized with two adjustable cane arm chairs that could be fitted with a padded seat and back cushion. There was a small table and a faux teak deck. The bed had two gooseneck directed focused reading lamps as well as normal wall lamps. These focused lamps made reading in bed very easy. The desk held a good sized laptop with internet service, which due to our suite status and prior sailing record, was free. I normally used the available computers in the Oceania @Sea computer room on Deck 9, since I like a mouse. We also enjoyed the full glass wall with the door leading out to the verandah, as it provided nice light all day. The bathroom had a full sized, obviously new shower, with both a rain shower head, a hand held spray head and a towel rack holding huge bath towels in addition to the normal sized bath towels and other towels on racks in the bathroom. There was a single sink, but cabinets and drawers on both sides providing all the room needed for toiletries. The closet was good sized with an easily sufficient number of nice quality clothes hangers provided. As usual on board ship, there was more than enough drawer space for all we brought aboard. The additional room provided in a suite meant that the stateroom was easy to navigate and well designed for relaxation. We liked Oceania’s layout better than the jazzy new design for these suites that we experienced on Azamara Quest on our cruise to Norway in July 2015. We had the prototype of this suite, and this meant that it was visited by the company CEO to show to a group of travel agents on our full day in port in Edinburgh prior to sailing. But the Azamara version has an open space between the closet and the desk, which is located all the way over to the verandah wall. This means that there is no sofa. In addition, the Azamara cabin chairs were less comfortable. In short, we think Oceania’s Penthouse suite on the ships is a good idea for a more comfortable journey with some nice amenities. However, if one really wants a great ship’s cabin experience the penthouse suites on Oceania’s Marina and Riviera, with more than 400 square feet, are a most delightful way to sail away. The ship itself. Sirena was launched as Renaissance IV in 1999, purchased by Princess Cruises and sailed as Ocean Princess for that line until bought by Oceania in 2015. Its “maiden sailing” for this line was in April 2017. The refurbishing done in connection with this acquisition shows up in many ways. Virtually all the furniture is new, as are some of the bathrooms, such as ours. The carpeting is new and the art work along the corridors and stairwells also, reflecting a very nice taste in non-objective art (if you like this art, as we do). Apparently the poolside decking was replaced also, as it looked very new and attractive. There were one or two blemishes or “dings” in two of the elevator doors, but we don’t know if these occurred before or after refurbishment. The essential layout of the ship remained the same, of course with its handy concept of “eat aft” and “enjoy forward”. The one exception to this rule was that the daily tea was served in the delightful Horizon Room, forward on Deck 10. This site offers excellent views, forward, port and starboard from comfortable seats, with a small dance floor in the center. It is used for some daytime activities and ship sponsored gatherings, as well as late night music and dancing. The center section of Deck 10 is open to the pool below, with a walking deck leading aft. This is where you find the two specialty restaurants, Tuscan Steak and Red Ginger, as well as the most attractive small library at sea. Deck 9 has the buffet aft, the pool area and the Spa and Gym forward. Decks 8, 7 and 6 are all cabins, with the bridge, forward of course, on Deck 8. Deck 5 has the show lounge forward, the casino, shops, the main bar, “Martinis” an “Upper Hall” seating area and the main dining room aft. Deck 4 has cabins and the Reception Desk, Destination Services and the Concierge, as well as the Medical Center. There are a few cabins on Deck 3 as well as the tender exits. Generally speaking the ship was well taken care of, with crew members frequently in evidence maintaining furnishings and ensuring cleanliness. All in all, Sirena is a compact, nicely designed, easily navigated and attractive vessel. Dining and such. Oceania has a well deserved reputation for providing a quality dining experience. Our personal favorite remains Crystal, and to be fair, we have not sailed on Regent Seven Seas, Seabourn or Silverseas ships. But Oceania comes in as our second favorite dining cruise line. It should be noted that Marina and Riviera, with four rather than two specialty restaurants, are a cut above the other four Oceania Renaissance class dining venues. Oceania does not have any added charges for its specialty restaurants and I believe that this is true for the other three high end cruise lines referenced above. All of the other major cruise lines have a range of extra charges for food venues beyond the main dining rooms and buffets. Sirena offers 5 dining options in four locations. This arises from the creation of “Jacques’ Bistro” as a separate lunch option in the main dining room. We tried it once and it was quite nice with an orientation to French food as might be expected in a restaurant named after Oceania’s cuisine supervisor, Jacques Pepin. The buffet offered a pleasant dinner option having the tables set up with linen table cloths and nice tableware. I have mentioned the specialty restaurants on Deck 10; Tuscan Steak and Red Ginger. The menu for the latter is Asian fusion, while the former, as one might expect from the name, features beef and Italian dishes. Without going into detail about our meals, it is enough to say that we were very satisfied. If Crystal scores 97 out of 100, and Marina 95, Sirena would reach 93. The range of ships in the Celebrity line would make it a little more difficult to reach an exact rating, but we think the probable score would be around 90. Azamara would come in about the same level, although, like Celebrity, it has additional charges for its specialty restaurants. We especially loved Red Ginger, dining there three times. We did not visit Tuscan Steak since we are not into that style of food. We did hear that the service there was not that great, that they tried to sell ordinary lobster tails as “Maine Lobster” but that the small filet mignon was great according to one diner. The main dining room has one level, and is a trifle noisy. The staff worked hard and was very pleasant, with no glitches in delivery. Open seating is the rule everywhere, and we used both the option to dine by ourselves or with others with no problem. Since the dining rooms open at 6:30 each night, there were lines at that time, but the maître d’ handled the rush very well. The menu selection was good with very little duplication of choices over 10 days. As noted, we ate at Red Ginger three nights. We loved this venue on our two Marina cruises, and were not disappointed here. The hostess; Alina, I believe, was charming and efficient, and the overall service level very high. The décor is very attractive and the venue quieter than the main dining room, with just enough bustle and activity to make it a charming experience. We ate one luncheon at Jacques’ Bistro, where the menu is fashioned after a Paris bistro, and thought that this was a great idea with a small but excellent menu and equally fine service. It was not too crowded, but probably draws enough patronage to justify its continued place in the dining firmament. We ate every breakfast and most lunches at the buffet. The “small ship” limitations was evident here in that the size of the service area was limited and that limits the extent of the menu. Despite this, the food was generally extremely good, and the selection broad enough for most tastes. The selection of fruit for breakfast was as large and good as on any ship. The service here was occasionally spotty. Edith liked to order cappuccino for her breakfast coffee, and sometimes delivery was slow. It should be noted that the tableware in all venues was first class. The dining room featured Rosenthal Versace dishes, and all other venues used well designed ware from Schoenwald. This is “hotel” china, and not porcelain of course, but I used to sell fine china in a school job long ago at a classy Georgetown D.C. store, and have kept my love of good tableware ever since. The glass ware and utensils were of equal quality. One other change from our prior Oceania experiences was the switching of the small bar next to the main dining room to a Barista serving cappuccinos, lattes etc. all day long without charge. Since this location is on Deck 5, fairly close to the main bar, Martinis, it made sense to skip the duplication and provide a new and pleasant choice. Entertainment. There were four forms of entertainment aboard. A pleasant lady offered some good lectures on sea days, all connected with Mexico and our ports. Martinis has a pianist “in residence” providing appropriate cocktail lounge music. There was a string quartet from Eastern Europe playing largely classical music in the evening in the Upper Hall near the boutiques on Deck 5, and every day at 4:00 in the Horizon Lounge for afternoon tea. They were enjoyable. Then there were the main shows every evening in the Sirena Lounge on Deck 5. The problem affecting these shows is that the lounge has two levels of flat floor, so most of the seats are directly behind other seats, limiting the view somewhat. This did not make a lot of difference for the solo singer, nor I would guess, the comedian whose shows we skipped. But it did limit views of the “production shows” and I would think, the magician, who we also chose not to see. The other issue we had was the schedule. There was only on show each night, and that was at 9:30. This was simply very late for us, and we were often tired, especially after shore visits. We thought that the production shows, with three singers and three dancers were entertaining in a simplistic way; about par for the cruise ship course. The solo singer, Dale Kristien, had been the lead female singer in the Broadway production of Phantom of the Opera as well as the original Los Angeles production; and performed it over 1700 times. She was very good, and had a nice selection of songs. We don’t enjoy comedians, and as noted, were simply too tired at 9:30 for the magician, despite that fact that I enjoy these acts. Overall we found the entertainment about what you expect on a small ship. Only Crystal seems to have its act entirely together as far as entertainment and enrichment go, even though their ships are not exactly huge, Crystal Symphony carrying slightly less and Crystal Serenity slightly more than 1000 passengers. The crew. By and large their performance was exemplary. Our cabin attendant, Carolina and her assistant had our cabin made up every morning by the time we returned from breakfast. Our butler, Dorian, was efficient and helpful, although we did not use him very much and could have done without the $14.00 daily gratuity. We really did not need the 5:00 P.M. daily serving of peanuts, and could have managed the reservation at Red Ginger ourselves. All the rest of the staff was usually smiling and friendly. We were told by the Captain that while there were 14 different nations represented by the 599 person passenger complement, the 400 crew members came from 46 different countries. There were a few minor language difficulties, but all needed communications were accomplished. The Itinerary. This was not the most adventuresome trip we have done, but had enough places of interest to be enjoyable. Our initial sailing was “26 Miles Across the Bay” to Santa Catalina Island, where we had never been before. We took a local bus ride with a somewhat strange driver, but still enjoyed this unique place and the cozy little town of Avalon with its plethora of four passenger golf carts. Cabo San Lucas was a partial tour failure. This was not a ships tour, and we did reach Todos Santos up the Pacific Coast for an abbreviated excursion. We received partial reimbursement. La Paz on the Sea of Cortez side was about 11 miles from where we docked, but again a free shuttle was provided. We spent an hour or so there, and the waterfront with its Malecon is attractive. Our private tour into the hills outside Matzalan was very worthwhile. This city has grown a lot, and the north waterfront area has a wide range of newer hotels, condos and apartments. The interior was more typical of rural Mexico, and we enjoyed walking in on a three baby baptismal ceremony in a local church. Since many of the relatives were using their cell phone cameras, we felt comfortable in using ours. Another church in our final destination, Copala, was built in 1565, and still dramatic. There was another tour mix-up in Puerto Vallarta. But we did arrange a short tour downtown, with a full refund of our pre-paid charge. Since it was a Sunday, many stores were closed, but once again, the stunning growth of this area in the 16 years since our first visit was remarkable. Summary. This was largely an enjoyable trip. One very pleasing facet of the small ship experience is the higher degree of contact with your fellow passengers. If you are cruising on a 5000 passenger Royal Caribbean monster, and have dinner with a nice couple, the odds that you will ever run into them again are miniscule. On a 600 passenger ship you will probably see them at the buffet, a show, or tea or in a boutique some other day. This makes for a friendly and cheerful atmosphere. We also noted that almost all our fellow passengers were very experienced cruisers. While most were from the United States, there was a contingent, as always, from Canada, and some from Australia, as well as Europe. We were mostly senior citizens, and while Oceania does not have a children’s program, there were two young – about 10-12 years old – persons aboard, and they seemed to be doing fine. We would recommend Sirena for any cruise up to 21 days. Beyond that its size limitations might make the sailing grow a little tiring and boring. But it is a first class ship and rates very highly among our cruising favorites. Read Less
Sail Date December 2016
I chose this cruise because I can drive to the port. Princes have the best dinning services and the best food choices but the desserts I have ever eaten are the best. The crew is always friendly. When I cruise I always choose Princess ... Read More
I chose this cruise because I can drive to the port. Princes have the best dinning services and the best food choices but the desserts I have ever eaten are the best. The crew is always friendly. When I cruise I always choose Princess because I know I won't be disappointed. I like to cruise just for the luxury. I don't go to shore anymore . Been there and done that. Just like to read and relax and do nothing. My favorite part is the motion of the ship it helps me sleep better. I try to cruise at least twice a year. It's good for change and relaxation for your well being. "Just get on the ship and forget it" that's what is so great about cruising. You also meet a lot of wonderful people from all over the world. I'm always surprised that people fly all the way to Los Angeles for a cruise to Mexico. Read Less
Sail Date December 2016
As Journey was newly out of dry dock, there were some minor snagging issues with unfinished work but nothing to spoil the cruise. In the stateroom these were quickly rectified once pointed out. Caldera is not really geared for ... Read More
As Journey was newly out of dry dock, there were some minor snagging issues with unfinished work but nothing to spoil the cruise. In the stateroom these were quickly rectified once pointed out. Caldera is not really geared for passengers on cruise ships so initially it looked a bit disorganised at the port, but in fact we were on board in 40 minutes with nothing lost. As this was a first time on Azamara (normally sail Celebrity) I cannot say how much improvement has been done to the ship but she looked splendid and the crew are helpful and friendly from the Master down. Dining is excellent, all open seating and no formal nights. Tried the extra cost Chefs table - superb, Aqualina - Italian (ish) very good and Prime C - Steakhouse also very good. Actually the food is so good in the Discovery that on another occasion probably would not bother with the Speciality restaurants, although Chefs table could tempt me again! Aramara is inclusive of drinks and tips which was great and it in no way affected the service. Bar staff were great, attentive and generous with the measures. Serving staff and stateroom attendants excellent. As a small ship the entertainment team is limited but the Cruise Director, Eric was a great host and performer, he's always happy to chat to guests (as is Capt. Magnus and Staff Capt. Dario) the 6 singers and dancers were good and worked very hard. 7 piece orchestra were fantastic, their 2 special jazz gigs were outstanding. Solo guitarist Simon is terrific and cabaret pianist Ed also very good. Guest entertainers - all 4 very enjoyable. As the ship has no theatre only a cabaret lounge it must be quite difficult to perform so close to your audience but all seemed to make the most of it. The Azamazing evening up in the hills in Mexico was an adventure! 600 people transported by mini vans up unmade roads is quite an achievement. We loved the evening with traditional dance and music served up with canapés and Teqilla cocktails but seeing the stage was a challenge. As seating was all on the level those nor in the front 4 to 5 rows probably didn't see much not helped by people getting up and standing to take photos. I can understand why but under the circumstances rather selfish. White night, an on deck bbq evening was huge fun culminating in a huge conga around the ship. (Wish we'd know about it in advance so we could have taken approximate clothing, most guests made the effort to dress all in white). Aramara make a lot about the destinations and whilst all ports were fine we were disappointed by a couple tours. Poor inaccurate information resulted in one being unsuited to us and other guests, much more strenuous and we cancelled another. Overall a great cruise, probably spoils us for other lines. Read Less
Sail Date February 2016
This was our first time cruising with NCL having sailed only with Princess on prior cruises. We went with no expectations and tried "not" to compare the Sun to the three Princess ships we had sailed but did find ourselves ... Read More
This was our first time cruising with NCL having sailed only with Princess on prior cruises. We went with no expectations and tried "not" to compare the Sun to the three Princess ships we had sailed but did find ourselves comparing a few times. Overall though we were very happy with the experience on board. A much more laid back crowd but then I guess that is what Freestyle cruising is all about. The ship, although a little smaller than the Grand, Golden and Ruby is still a large ship with plenty to keep you busy while at sea. Pool areas were often full during sea days with the good weather but generally were able to find a couple of seats within a short amount of time. Thought the entertainment was good with variety, They changed it up once or twice during the 11 days and brought new entertainers aboard. Food in the dining rooms was excellent IMO, and lunch and dinner in the Garden Cafe was generally quite good as well. The exact same breakfast options everyday get's to be a little boring, but, Princess was no different. We also had the free Ultimate Beverage Package which unlike Princess does not include bottled water, sparkling water or specialty coffees but considering they were throwing it in free with the room I'm not about to complain. We booked a guaranteed inside cabin but they dropped the price dramatically after booking so we called and were upgraded to a picture window ocean view ob deck 9 which was very nice. Enjoyed all ports of call. Acapulco, Manazanillo, Puerto Vallarta, Mazatlan and Cabo San Lucas. Really not much to see in Manzanillo and all the newest development and resorts are to the North of the Port, although the old downtown is right in Port. All the staff for the most part were friendly. Jonas, Keiran. Elizabeth, Lucas at the bars were our favorite. Dining staff was good. And my wife really loved Encep our room steward who had a different Towel Animal each night we returned to our room. Overall we thoroughly enjoyed our experience aboard NCL and I would sail with them again, especially if the price is right. Read Less
Sail Date October 2015
My husband and I had been planning this trip for months and after such a positive experience on the Pride of America we could wait to be on another Norwegian cruise. The ship is very old and small. We couldn't get over how small ... Read More
My husband and I had been planning this trip for months and after such a positive experience on the Pride of America we could wait to be on another Norwegian cruise. The ship is very old and small. We couldn't get over how small the buffet area was. it was especially bad on the first day when everyone was trying to eat lunch at the same time. Once we set sail only the main buffet was open for lunch and the outside buffet would open at 3:00 PM. When the main buffet was closing and resetting for lunch. We couldn't understand why both buffets weren't opened with staggered closing times to be reset for dinner since the space was so small. The ship did offer pizza and pasta, but it was not in the same location as the buffet and was very difficult to find. They did offer a barbecue on the pool deck that helped with the lunch traffic on sea days. The ship is very chopped up and difficult to navigate through. All in all the ship is in major need of an overhaul in dry dock! I have never seen a cruise ship that had so few poolside activities. There were a lot of activities on the ship, but the ones I wanted to try were are during the day when I wanted to be at the pool in the sun. I would have liked more entertainment options in the evening starting around 6:00 PM, the dancing never starts on cruise ships until 9:45 or 10:00 PM. That's just to late for those of us that get up early. My favorite was Deal or No Deal game. I actually won $50.00 playing that game. The only good service I received on this ship was from my room steward and in the Casino. All of the other service I received was way below standard especially in the dinning rooms. Getting seating in the dining room was a chore. We were always the first or second couple to get to the dining room. After our table was assigned the server walking us to our table didn't know where the table was located. They were actually carrying maps of the dining room around, but still couldn't find our table. The service was very poor and slow in the main dining rooms you were left at your table for long periods of time before your order was taken and many times we had to request for items such as drinks, coffee, butter, cream and artificial sweetener multiple times. There was never enough staff at the pool bar for service and rarely were there employees walking around the pool deck asking if you needed anything from the bar. Acapulco - we did the city bus tour, shopping, and fort. This was a good tour and very informative. The shopping places they took us to were very expensive, Don't spend your money here, you can do better price wise in other ports. Manzanillo - we did the all inclusive beach getaway. This was a great excursion once we got there. The bus didn't have working air condition. Is is very hot in Mexico this time of year and we couldn't go on a bus without air conditioning. We were late getting away for our excursion and the bus still didn't have great working air conditioning. We were told to be back on the bus at 4:55 PM only to lean that the tour operator changed his mind and told half of the people on this excursion to be back at 4:30 and had an attitude with the ones that returned at the original time of 4:55 PM. No one ever told my husband and I that the return time had changed. There is not a true beach at this resort it is more like a cove. The pools, drinks and food are very good and it was worth the money. The time change of our trip messed up our entire evening and kept us from seeing the only show I really wanted to see. We did speak with the shore excursions manager and expressed out displeasure with the trip and the attitude of the tour operator. I did request a refund since my entire evening was messed up and I had spent almost $800.00 on shore excursions. He refused my refund and gave me a bottle of wine and chocolate covered strawberries instead. Much to our surprise, when we requested a printout of our ship account it had been credited with the cost of the excursion. Puerto Vallarta - We didn't do a planned excursion at this port and I'm really glad we didn't. This a a great port to walk around and shop. There is a market just outside of the port and you can get some great deals there. If you can't find what you are looking for you can take a cab downtown for $10.00 to the mega shopping center. Also, there is a great restaurant right where the market is that has great drinks, chips, salsa and cheese dip with high speed WiFi connection, so you can catch up with your family back home. Mazatlin - We did another beach break with a buffet lunch and two drinks included. The beach was beautiful! However, it was crawling with locals selling stuff all over it. Once you bought something they wouldn't leave you alone. After a couple of hours of this we got tired of it and when to one of the three pools for the remainder of the day. They take you by cab to the resort, so you are not locked into staying for the entire day. You can go back to the ship anytime you want. The tour operator was very nice and worked hard to make everyone happy. She was always smiling and very happy to help with anything you needed. Cabo San Lucas - My favorite port by far! It is just beautiful! Norwegian tried there best to ruin it with the awful tender experience, but we didn't let that bother us. Getting off the ship in the mornings was fine because we had planned excursions and were taken as a group to the tenders. It was getting back off the ship and on after dinner that proved to be challenging. We were in port overnight. The first day we tour the boat tour out to the Arch and went to the glass blowing plant. The Arch is beautiful and the glass blowing plant is amazing. The shop at the glass blowing plant is a great place to by inexpensive gifts. I couldn't get over the great prices there. If you have a lot of shopping to do skip the demonstration and go straight to the shop. You only get 30 minutes to shop and I could have stayed for hours. When we finished out tour we shopped around the amazing marina, after spending some disappointing time a Senior Frogs, where they said they had WiFi, but it wouldn't work. The marina is huge and you can spend an entire day just shopping and looking around. After a long day in the heat we decided to go back to the ship, freshen up, eat dinner and return to the marina to find a go WiFi connection. A lot of the stores close early in the Marina, and we didn't know that. We found a place to get some drinks and WiFi. We wanted to be sure to be back on the ship prior to 10:00 PM, because after 10:00 they only have one tender per hour running. I don't understand the thought process on this when you are docked in port from 8:00 Am until 2:00 PM the following afternoon. We were back at the port ready to catch the tender at 8:30 PM. We had to wait forever for the tender to arrive and once it did we were told that we couldn't get on the tender because it was rocking too much. Everyone trying to get back on the ship was not happy and expressing their displeasure with the process. They finally let us on the tender that was rocking too much and we arrived back on the ship at 10:00 PM. That is a very long time to wait for a tender. We later learned that they only had two tenders running. This is unacceptable to me in the service area as we only have limited time at ports and on the ship before we have to return home to the real world. The second day we went horse back riding on the beach in beautiful Cabo. You get some great views of the water and your picture taken on you on your horse with the beach in the background. This is a great excursion to do on your second day in port. You get back to port in time to shop a little more before you get back on the ship for the last time. Our inside cabin room was plenty for us as we are not in the room much at all. The shower is very small and makes it difficult to shave your legs, but other than that there was plenty of room for two during our 11 day cruise. The bed on the other hand were awful! They were so hard and lumpy that my husband and I had to take Advil PM in order to be able to sleep. 11 days is a long time to sleep on a lumpy, hard bed! Our needs were met by our room steward everyday. We always received prompt service when requested and we had fresh ice in our ice bucket each time we returned to our room. He kept it very clean and was the only employee that we felt deserved additional tip money from us. I've had better food on other cruise lines and a menu that changed every night. They had a standard menu that never changed and the other side of the menu did change each night. I had two good pasta dishes, but other than that my taste buds were left lacking. The best meal of the day was breakfast at the buffet and I didn't get my baked Alaska that I so look forward to each time I cruise. Do yourself a favor and purchase the specialty dining package when you book this cruise. We ate at the steak house one night and the service is what we have grown to expect from the main dining room on the cruise ship and the food was excellent! I feel like I must mention as stated earlier in this review how poor the service was in both of the main dining rooms. Also, there was supposed to be a dress code in the Seven Seas dining room. However, it was not being enforced. Why do cruise lines force us to shove all of those nice clothes in a suitcase along with our casual clothes while trying to keep our luggage under 50 pounds since we have to fly to the port only to find it was totally unnecessary to begin with? Either make the entire ship cruise casual or enforce the dress code. This is very frustrating for us rule followers! The entertainment was decent. We missed the O What A Night Performance, because of the problem with our shore excursion. Most of the entertainment seemed geared for an older crowd and I have to admit that I felt like one of the youngest adults on the ship at the age of 44. The disembarkation process needs serious help! That process was the biggest mess I have ever seen. If you are going to do easy walk off at anytime and handle your own luggage you have to go down to deck 3, deck 5 is too steep for luggage. All of the no US Citizens have to go through immigration. They are told to be in the observation lounge at 6:00 AM. Yes, you guessed it people didn't follow the rules. The ship docked an hour early and we were scheduled be able to walk off the ship at 8:30 AM. They were still looking for all of the non US Citizens at 8:30. They tried many times during the 1 1/2 hours we waited from the time we docked to locate these people, but had a very hard time. We could have exited the ship early had it not been for these people. Once again the rule followers were punished for the actions of a few rule breaking people. We were able to get off the ship a little after 8:30 AM, getting a cab and over to the airport was very easy. This was our fourth cruise and we have never experienced such and unorganized lengthy disembarkation process. I'm not sure if the cruise line, port terminal, or immigration is to blame for this one. All in all we enjoined each port and I would love to return and spend more time in these lovely places. However, if I could find the same itinerary using a different cruise line I would definitely take them instead of Norwegian in hopes that the cruise line would provide a more updated ship, better customer service, better meals and more accommodating entertainment times and a comfortable bed to sleep in. Read Less
Sail Date October 2015
This cruise combined the best...departing from our home port (no airports!) and being once again on the Quest. Embarkation was easy...hardly any wait time before we received our seapass card and were welcomed on board by staff handing out ... Read More
This cruise combined the best...departing from our home port (no airports!) and being once again on the Quest. Embarkation was easy...hardly any wait time before we received our seapass card and were welcomed on board by staff handing out glasses of bubbly. Since we arrived a bit early, we headed straight to Windows for lunch. Unfortunately, lots of people had the same idea and they ran out of tables! We were prepared to eat on the loungers by the pool, but the ever efficient staff realized the problem and began bring out more tables and chairs, so we were quite happy. Our first (included) glass of wine with lunch made it perfect. By 1:30 the announcement was made that cabins were available, so we headed to Deck 7. We like this deck, sandwiched between two cabin floors and thus very quiet. Our veranda cabin was in good condition. Yes, it's small and the bathroom very very tiny, but there is plenty of well organized storage space and the beds are very comfy. We immediately met our attendants, Alvin and Osvy...they were excellent and Osvy especially always had a smile and a pleasant comment or two whenever he saw us. Before we knew it, we were called for muster drill (very easy) and then we got ready for the Meet and Mingle and dinner. There were lots of Cruise Critic members on this cruise and unfortunately, we had to leave the meeting early to meet our dinner companions. I really don't like having the Meet and Mingle on sailaway day....it's just too inconvenient, IMO. We took this cruise not for the sightseeing but to relax...and right off the bat we had two sea days! Perfect. When we arrived at Mazatlan (our first port) we were ready to go. We took a ship excursion...Concordia and Copola. It was quite good and we enjoyed a nice lunch in Concordia. The highlight was visiting a local artist in Copola (of course we had to buy something...very unique and we saw nothing like it in any other port.) La Paz was disappointing...on our ship excursion we just drove past the malecon (would have liked to walk along) and spent most of our time in the natural history museum and in a small weaving shop (didn't buy a thing) and then drove through what appeared to be the seediest part of town. Not an excursion I'd recommend. Next Topolobampo. Many of those on board took the very very long trip out to Copper Canyon. We didn't. Instead we went on a small boat to the mangroves and met the resident dolphin Pechocho...a wild dolphin who lives in a solitary state in the mangroves but who over the years has become quite tame and loves to swim up to the small boats for a belly and fin scratch. Then to a sandy beach where a tent with refreshments was set up for us. A very nice excursion. Next port Guaymas where we went ashore and walked the tiny town by ourselves. Not much to see but the townspeople had set up a little market and entertainment along the waterfront and we had fun watching and browsing the merchandise. The next stop, our favorite by far, was Loreto. We overnighted there (more on that later) and the first day went on an excursion to Coronados Island. On the way, our small panga (which held three couples and the operator) diverted to see hundreds of dolphins just a few feet from our boat. Then, just a few yards away an enormous Blue Whale surfaced. Wow! Absolutely awe inspiring and a bit scary, given the difference in size between the whale and our tiny boat! After that we went to the island itself and had a nature walk and snack and those brave souls (the water was still pretty cold at this time of year) who wanted to snorkeled. I waded into the water by some rocks and looked down and saw plenty of fish! The water was crystalline. We thoroughly enjoyed this excursion. On the second day in Loreto we met some friends who have retired there and they showed us around town and we ate at a local restaurant. Loreto is a delightful place and one I'd love to visit again. Our last port was Cabo San Lucas. Very pretty but very very commercialized and street vendors stop you every few feet hawking souvenirs and excursions. After the hustle and bustle of Cabo, we were glad to have two more sea days on the way home to Los Angeles. Disembarkation was just as easy as embarkation, but not as much fun! Now a few things about the Quest. The new captain, Jose, is incredible. So personable and seemed to be everywhere at once! His noon time comments were fun and he even rescued one of the passengers on a snorkeling excursion. We heard that the water was cold and there was a strong current and the gentleman was having some difficulty swimming back to the boat...so Capt. Jose, who had gone on the excursion, swam over and helped the passenger back. We very much hope to cruise with this captain again...he was the best! All the rest of the staff were wonderful, as usual. Russ was his usual exuberant self and Phillip, the hotel director, as always friendly and helpful. Max Difaz, the pianist, was in great form and we enjoyed getting to know him a little better on this cruise. We were very lucky to find the perfect waiters in Discoveries on our first night and we made sure we ate with them every night after that (except for the White Night and one night in Aqualina)...kudos to Robert and Newman...charming, fun, and very attentive. On our night in Aqualina (the food was every bit as good as we remembered) we asked to be seated in John's station...we had met him on our first Quest cruise and he is terrific. My only "complaint" was that he kept bring us extra food...he wanted us to try everything...we were completely over stuffed by the time the dinner was finished. Food across the venues, Discoveries, Windows, the Pool Grill, and Aqualina (we didn't eat in Prime C this time) was very very good. The chef has a wonderful way with fish and I had the "healthy choice" almost every evening. My husband loves pasta and these too were excellent. Usually at the pool grill, we'll eat burgers, but this cruise I decided to try the blackened fish Panini....sooooo good. We had a couple of special nights on this cruise. Super Bowl Sunday was celebrated in the Cabaret. Staff had decorated with team color balloons (Seattle on one side and Denver on the other)...there were themed ice and watermelon carvings, and so much food. Sliders, hot dogs, bbq ribs, chicken fingers, side salads, and a huge bowl of popcorn. Russ was making ice cream sundaes too! We ate so much we didn't need to go to dinner that night. (And did I mention drinks? Beer, wine, cocktails, etc.) The only downside was that we were getting ESPN feed and so we didn't see the commercials...also, the satellite went out right at half time so we didn't get to see most of the halftime show! The second special night was the White Night which was held on our overnight in Loreto. Local dancers came on board and performed...there was an excellent pool side bbq (Phillip was making crepes suzette...soooo yummy)...lots of cocktails and wine...and then dancing! Lots of fun. The third special night was the Azamazing evening held in Cabo. Unfortunately, not so amazing. The original venue (Wirikuta Gardens) was changed at the last minute which was disappointing. The logistics of getting us all off the ship and to the venue was handled efficiently but felt like a cattle drive! The show itself was, IMO, very mediocre and cheesy. However the fireworks at the end were spectacular. Food consisted of sweets and cookies which, while nice, weren't the "local delicacies" promised. A few vendors had set up tables to one side but a quick look and we were done...the prices were astronomical compared to what we'd seen in town. As soon as the show was over, we were herded back to the ship. Azamara really needs to reconsider the entire Azamazing Evening promotion. In some ports and with some entertainment it could be lovely but some ports just don't lend themselves to this and it's especially disappointing when it is hyped so much and then doesn't live up to folks' expectations. Now to on board entertainment. I have to say this cruise was the worst of the ones we've done on Azamara. The quality of singers and dancers was not as good as on past cruises. We had a violin duo one night and after listening for a few minutes, I walked out. There was a pianist/magician (strange combo) who was just okay...Max was much better! They did bring on a comedian our last night on board who was very funny...the best show. But that was it for entertainment. Disappointing. On the other hand, there were two enrichment lecturers who were outstanding. One, Jay Christofferson, was a professor in marine biology. He gave four lectures which were absolutely terrific. Another lecturer was a cultural anthropologist...we made it to one of his lectures and it was very well done. Now, a note about the new "more inclusive" policy on beverages. We had been quite happy on past cruises with the included wine at lunch and dinner. But we did take advantage of the new policy and had cocktails out by the pool and before dinner. Very enjoyable. The wines were uniformly good and our waiters were quick to find a special favorite we'd had the previous night and bring it out to us again. On this cruise we used the jogging track every morning and it was nice to be up early and walking. Nice touch having orange and grapefruit ice water available (and towels too) A couple of mornings, though, we were diverted by whales spouting and breeching...easy to see from Deck 10. I also went for a spa treatment (they were running specials all the time) and had a very relaxing massage and facial. A bit of a sales pitch for the products but not too bad and the spa itself was very nice and Chloe, the therapist, excellent. In summary, another wonderful cruise on Azamara. Can't wait to be back on board again.   Read Less
Sail Date January 2014
We wanted to try Azamara Club Cruises. Which is interesting in itself, because until not that long ago, we had never *heard* of Azamara. We thought it would be something approaching the level of Crystal (whom we have sailed in the past and ... Read More
We wanted to try Azamara Club Cruises. Which is interesting in itself, because until not that long ago, we had never *heard* of Azamara. We thought it would be something approaching the level of Crystal (whom we have sailed in the past and greatly enjoyed, pre-all inclusive). We love the small ship format, we were specifically interested in this particular itinerary (which included Mexico's Copper Canyon)...and, as Celebrity loyalists, we wanted to see what our status would bring us on Azamara. The Canyon was the big draw for us in the beginning. We have done the Mexican Riviera to death, but this itinerary offered the lovely small ports of the Sea of Cortez - and the Copper Canyon. Party-hearty survivors of Puerto Vallarta need not have signed up for this cruise. Embarkation in San Pedro was a breeze. The Azamara Quest was the only ship in port that day. We had forgotten the convenience of a smaller ship; the check-in lines were minimal, to say the least. Our key cards identified us as "Discoverer" - top-of-the-line status on this line, but that was to change (more below). One of the first crew members to greet us on the way up the gangway was Jose, the Captain. This would not be our first encounter with him. We were greeted on the main deck with sparkling wine and cranberry juice, and a bit of a wait - the cabins were not quite ready. Fortunately we were given a running commentary about the room status and after a while, coupled with more trips to the champagne tray, the stampede began to the rooms. For us, the National Affairs Suite turned out to be Cabin 6030, one of the last available rooms. It was off the forward elevators and stairs. It is one of the tender cabins, meaning the size of the cabin has been compressed to accommodate the ship's tenders in their davits, and views are obstructed. The bright side of our room was that it overlooked the smaller crew launch boat and we actually had a decent view out the window. The other side of the room? Thunk. Thunk. Slam. This room is directly above the doorway leading out to the boat deck on level 5. When the doors shut on a calm day, a "thunk" is definitely noticeable. When they shut on a sea day and the winds are up, the "slam" is much more pronounced. The noise was especially pronounced upon entering and leaving port as guests go to the rails, and when the crew puts out the deck chair cushions and towels at sunrise and collects them at sunset. We tried not to notice the noise after a while. It is a very narrow room; just enough space for the bed, closets, and a desk and cabinet. The only chair in the room is a stool, which made our decision to skip room service a lot easier. In the room was a missive welcoming us as Discoverer members in Le Club Voyage, containing special events planned "exclusively" for us as top-tier members (thank you, Celebrity). The perks included the LCV cocktail party, a champagne brunch hosted by staff, and - 235 free Internet minutes per guest. Whee! There was also a coupon good for a free bag of laundry. We usually tour a vessel prior to the boat drill. With the Quest, we saw everything in 20 minutes. I was always intrigued by the old Renaissance Cruises ships. This ship, and its sister the Journey, aren't getting any younger. They do have a dated look to them. But they are kept in very good condition. Dining: we ate in all venues. The Discoveries dining room is LOUD. If I could change the font to make "LOUD" bigger, I would. It is especially noisy toward the center. The least noisy part of the restaurant was near the entrance, where the hostess did her very best to maintain her cool against some terribly snobby customers: "we've been waiting for *two* minutes!" "what do you mean, we can't get our *regular* table?!" People, you're on VACATION - take a chill pill! Or enjoy a free martini from the nearby Discoveries Lounge bar. About those free martinis: Azamara is sort of semi-inclusive in offering a selection of free wines with lunch and dinner, and free beer and cocktails from the bars. As long as you're happy with Bud and Becks instead of Corona and a well vodka instead of Ciroc or Grey Goose, you'll do perfectly fine on Azamara. The bar menus detail what costs what...and what doesn't cost anything. We passed on the "specialty" alcohol packages that ranged between $16-19 bucks daily. The food in Discoveries was much better than anticipated - a varied selection every night, prepared well. The bread and desserts were the only weak parts. I thought the complimentary wines were mostly so-so - but I couldn't argue about the price, right? We ate in Aqualina, the Mediterranean specialty restaurant and in Prime C, the specialty steakhouse, once during our cruise. Aqualina was an exceptional dining experience for the $25 per person fee. I really liked my osso bucco. The Missus enjoyed the seafood platter. The experience in Prime C was a bit more mixed. The seafood appetizer was excellent, as was the filet. I should have ordered the NY strip a bit rarer than my usual "medium". The service in C felt slightly off. The pool grill offered a wide variety of specialties, more than most poolside eateries on other ships. The coffee bar on board, Mosaic Cafe, features the not-so-fee-friendly Nespresso system. But you could go up to the counter and order your standard non-Nespresso coffee drink, and the friendly staff will whip them up in a flash for you. One of our favorite gathering places on the Quest. A number of specialty pool buffets were set up during the cruise. One of them was hosted by the ship's officers, who dished out the chow - including an entire roast pig. The Missus asked the officer in charge of the pig, "how did you keep this pig below decks?" The officer replied, "he had his own little house downstairs, and his own little garden. He was pretty happy - until this morning..." Azamara officers are not without a droll sense of humor. In fact, we liked how the crew interacted with the passengers, from the captain on down. Captain Jose issued, almost without fail, his "Voice from the Bridge" - a noontime soliloquy that usually ran between 8-10 minutes, detailing everything from the location of sister ship Journey, the distance to his home in Portugal, and literally everything in between - spoken with an extremely straight face. There was rarely a time when we didn't see him at some event on board the Quest, and even on shore. He brought a certain humanity to his job. We enjoyed how the singers, dancers and musicians engaged with passengers at events, especially the "White Night" event. Tours: We only took a couple of ship tours. But one was the Copper Canyon, and that would be enough for any cruise. The CC canyon was *long* - one of the longest ship's tours I've taken in my life. Off the boat and on the bus at 5 AM. Nearly two hours to the train. Six hours by train to the lookout and hotel for lunch. Six hours back on the train, during which time darkness fell and there was nothing to look at. Another hour and a half on the bus. We spent a little under two hours on site, some of which was taken up by lunch and a folk show by the local Indians, and the rest of that time spent wandering around the lookout trying not to fall over the canyon's edge while being besieged by Indian souvenir vendors. Were we to do this again, we'd spend the night at the canyon and make it a two-day trip. A single day just killed us. That night, we returned to the port where a huge party was in full swing. The people of Topolobampo put on a big fiesta right on the dock, with a live band and a dance floor. We learned that the crew joined the mix and encouraged passengers to come on down and support the town's efforts. We received a similar welcome the next day in Guaymas, where there was almost non-stop entertainment at dockside and young volunteers wore t-shirts saying, "may I help you?" The "Azamazing Evening" in Cabo was a little underwhelming. The show felt really hokey, though the fireworks at the end were awesome. I would imagine the "Evenings" in Europe probably have more material to work with to make them more interesting. But I give Azamara props for getting a great proportion of the guests off the ship onto the tenders and buses and bringing them back in one piece. The SWAG we received - little handicrafts and tequila miniatures - was a really neat treat. Overall: The Quest: an aging ship without the bells and whistles of more modern ships. A curse, but perhaps also a blessing. There are cruises where we mostly don't need a lot of visual / aural stimulation. Public passageways could be a little tight, especially when bad weather drove everyone indoors from the pool deck. The area around the photo kiosk and shops is often cramped due to the presence of sale tables, which restricted passenger flow. The crew: very engaging, for the most part. I experienced no special Azamara "moments" with them but thought many of them made a solid effort to ensure we felt at home on board. The facilities: only one small swimming pool. The Quest offers a thalassotherapy pool as part of its spa services, but we passed on purchasing a day pass. On Celebrity, that pool is free to all to use. The Quest's spa pool is no more than a glorified hot tub in size. The Cabaret Lounge is the ship's multi-purpose facility for shows, lectures, bingo - and the special Super Bowl party held during this cruise. As a Niners fan, I had no dog in this particular fight...but that didn't stop me from doing drive-by munching on the party's food tables. As a theater venue, the sight lines are really poor, especially in the back. The Casino wasn't exactly packed during this cruise. The usual slots and blackjack junkies. C-Prime was reminiscent of your upscale American steak house - lots of black/white photos of American pop culture. Aqualina had a vaguely European feel to it. The shows: We didn't think much of the special guests brought on board as nightly entertainment. A couple of the musical shows were really done well. I had not seen the "Voices" show on any other ship and thought this was the best of the cruise. Cruise Director: Russ Grieve is the Best. Cruise. Director. Ever. He sings! He dances! He makes great waffles (during his stint at a LCV officers brunch)! Extremely outgoing. Most cruise directors are rather standoffish but Russ really made an effort to reach out to the guests and made them feel welcome. FItness center: collection of treadmills, ellipticals, strength machines and free weights. It is relatively small compared to larger ships and you might have to wait for a treadmill during some sea day mornings. A full range of exercise classes is offered. Quite a few people use the jogging/walking track above the pool deck. 13 laps on that track equals a nautical mile. Children's facilities: none that I could see. No children's programs were listed in the daily newsletter and there weren't any kids on this cruise. The itinerary: A Mexican cruise, but not the usual Rivera Shuffle (Cabo-Vallarta-Mazatlan). We saw a lot of the lovely little port towns along the Sea of Cortez. Been to most of them before, but liked them all. The tours: Other than Copper Canyon and a Sierra Madre trip out of Mazatlan, we really weren't interested in seeing anything. We were happy to bum around the port towns, especially Loreto and Guaymas. A pity Cruise Critic doesn't list these ports on its drop-down menu. I would be happy to write about them. Le Club Voyage: a number of events for past passengers, including a brunch in Aqualina and the usual LCV passengers event in the Lounge. The Aqualina brunch was nice. The passengers event was nothing special - except when the LCV representative tried to explain the "new" expanded status levels. Discoverer was the top level. She explained this would be surpassed by two new "super" levels - but was at a loss to explain whether, at those new levels, your treatment would be anything different or better than Discoverer. The changes were apparently so new that even the LCV rep was still trying to figure it all out. Would we sail on Azamara again? Perhaps. The itineraries are really interesting and we like the small ship experience. But Azamara's bread-and-butter is its European and Mediterranean cruises - a little far to travel, for us. Azamara won't tear us away from Celebrity and Crystal. It does, however, give us another cruising option. This was one of the nicer cruising experiences I've ever had. Read Less
Sail Date January 2014
We are unseasoned at cruising, so consider these comments with that perspective. Our previous cruise experience was limited to a 50-passenger trip though the Greek isles on the Sea Cloud -- a wholly different experience than that offered ... Read More
We are unseasoned at cruising, so consider these comments with that perspective. Our previous cruise experience was limited to a 50-passenger trip though the Greek isles on the Sea Cloud -- a wholly different experience than that offered by a "traditional ocean liner." But we had been looking for the right opportunity to dip our toes in the water of large passenger ship cruising, and the Top Chef theme cruise -- only 4 nights 5 days on a highly regarded "luxury" line-- seemed an attractive introductory experience from which we might forecast our cruising future. Sadly our experience was very mixed. First, the Top Chef themed activities were simply wonderful. Cooking demonstrations, Quickfire "competitions," Q and A's with 10 years of fan favorites and winning "chef-testants," and Tom Collichio playing lead guitar and singing Creedence at the poolside stage-- we could not have enjoyed the themed events more. Bravo to Bravo and Top Chef for a well-planned and well-executed experience. And it bears saying that the Top Chef chefs and staff were all about the ship, interacting with the passengers, spending real time and making real connections. Every single Top Chef person -- and most notably Gail Simmons and Hubert Keller-- was as cordial, gracious, and engaging as one could imagine. A class act by a classy group in every respect. If only the ship and its staff had lived up to the standards of the reality TV folks. I don't want to nitpick, and we are seasoned travelers if not cruisers, so I have no problem rolling with the unexpected, but these seemed to us to be serious lapses in the cruise line's core functions: 1. Our "veranda suite." Oh, please. There is nothing "suite" or sweet about the suites. They are single rooms, with the tiniest bathroom you can imagine. The presence of a small upholstered love-seat in addition to the bed is evidently the defining feature of a "suite" on this line. For shame! We are not price-sensitive when it comes to accommodations and we booked the best available suite months in advance. Even so, one person must sit on the bed to allow the other to move anywhere in the room. The sound of the toilet flushing is enough to wake the dead. The shower delivers nothing warmer than room temperature water (but curiously, the water in the bathroom sink is hot). The veranda is a plastic-enclosed postage-stamp with 2 miserable plastic chairs. The TV cannot be viewed from the seating area, only the bed -- whose genius is behind that failure of space/function? The hallways are endless and narrow and laundry carts and food service carts are left parked permanently in key spots along the way. Suffice it to say that I have stayed in budget-priced Travel Lodges that were better designed and better appointed. The vaunted "Concierge Class" turns out to be three stems of Peruvian lillies (alstomeria) and three pieces of fruit. They were, all six of them, there when we moved in and they were there when we left. Requests for daily ice were hit and miss. 2. The food. Yikes! Awful in the Main Dining Room (San Marcos). The rib-eye was like pot roast; the duck was flabby and fatty and unrecognizable. Everything was unseasoned, overcooked, and bland. The onion soup was fine, and my husband had an appetizer of himachi one evening that was good. But even the vaunted Sunday brunch was cold bacon, toaster waffles served room temperature, and the same canteloupe, watermelon and honeydew that we had seen at every service for four days. Waiter service was fine, but entry and seating service was an ugly and unpleasant frenzy at every meal-- bossy and over-bearing staff, indifferent to guest sensibilities and preferences. The buffet was just dreary. Endless pans of curries and over-baked sludgy pasta casseroles. The rolls and pastries were stale every single day. The pizza was doughy, tough, flavorless, served room temperature. The sushi was unimaginative and unexceptional. The omelets were fine but took forever as that station was never adequately staffed. The hamburgers at the poolside grill were like frisbees in their lack of flavor or other recognizable meat-like qualities. We tried two of the specialty (extra price) food options, with good results. Bistro on Five had very nice panini, if an absurdly limited menu, and the bar across from Bistro on Five served a marvelous 7-item tapas platter for $19.00 that was a tasty and sufficient supper for two one night when the MDR menus was so dreary that we simply got up and left without ordering. The ship makes a big deal of its ice creams and gelatos, but both were sub-par, The ice cream, which I tried 3 different times, was full of ice crystals and inadequately flavored. The gelatos were no better. Pastries at the coffee bar were days past their sell by deadline. Drink service -- wine, cocktails, beer, sodas -- was very strong. No complaints at all although in retrospect the all-inclusive beverage package is over-priced but very convenient. 3. Ship entertainment. Way way way too much thumping pounding "music" -- everywhere, all the time. The passengers are mostly 45+ and even more. Why are we enduring hip hop and rap and disco music constantly? The comedian was unfunny and hostile to the (admittedly sparse) audience. The lectures and programs were almost all sales opportunities. The "art" auction was astonishingly huck-sterish and uninformed. Oh, I could say more, but what is the point? Truth be told by Day 3 we were looking forward to being done with this luxury vacation; by the 4th day we were avid to get off the damn boat; and by the time we docked, I was grateful to the point of tears that it was finally over. Embarkation and disembarkation are very well-organized and we were grateful for the ease of departing. I have tasked myself with the assignment due diligence and investigating whether our experience was typical, or was based on a bad choice of cruise line. If we need to spend more to have a good experience, I'll bite again. If what we had is what you get, then no -- never, never, never again. Read Less
Sail Date April 2013

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