We just returned from a great trip on Azamara Quest.
Usually when we post a trip review we will do a day by day recount so you can get the feel of the trip. However, we were in travel agent classes for much of the time plus the itinerary was radically changed due to the hurricanes. So we really didn’t have the typical experience. Instead of the day by day, we’ll touch on some themes instead. This is the first of two posts.
Azamara is a part of the Royal Caribbean family (Royal Caribbean, Celebrity and Azamara). It’s been a two ship fleet for most of its 10 year existence, but will be expanding to a third ship in 2018. All three ships are identical 690 passenger vessels. The ships were recently refurbished but are not the most modern fleet and don’t have many of the bells and whistles of newer ships. But that’s OK. Instead, the line focuses on destinations rather than the ships. Approximately 80% of the days on all their cruises are in port (very few days at sea) and 42% of the time in port is either a late night departure or an overnight stay.
The smaller ship size means that they visit ports less traveled. Since Azamara only has a few ships, they are scheduled to be in ports only at the best times of the year for each port. The small ship also means that there are less ship bound things to do. You won’t find a go cart track, ice skating rink, surf rider or water slides. Instead of the ship being the destination, the focus is on immersing passengers in the actual destinations. This is an important niche and therefore attracts a different kind of passenger. And it works great!
The Azamara Quest
This ship has modern and tasteful decorations. The 2016 renovations look fresh and certainly not flamboyant or gaudy. The aesthetics fit in with modern luxury nicely, in our opinion. Staterooms have plenty of storage space and include a desk, couch, a nice sized veranda and a very comfortable bed. While the shower is small, it was very functional (excellent water flow and temperature control).
The small ship size means you’re never far from any location on the ship. Are you up on the top deck sunning yourself and you need to get more suntan lotion from your room? No problem, your room is no more than a 5 minute walk away. Looking for the gym located in the front of the ship but you’re having a snack on the rear deck? Easy – it’s a quick walk across the ship on any deck. The ship never feels crowded. There’s plenty of venues, bars and rooms so that you can always find a quiet place for yourself if you want.
This takes some time to explain. Azamara is not all inclusive but what it does include is noteworthy.
- There’s no extra gratuity charge! Gratuities are probably worth in the neighborhood of $16 per day per person. So on a 10 day cruise for two that’s $320!
- There’s a self service laundry that’s available – no charge for detergent or the use of the machines. This is especially nice on either a longer cruise or if you’ve been on vacation before the cruise starts.
- Some drinks are included and some are not. Bottled water, soft drinks, basic wines, spirits and a small selection of beers are all included. (This is great!) But if you want name brand vodka, a wider selection of beers and wines or Nespresso coffees, you’ll need to pay between $16 and $21/day per person depending on the package. (Individuals within a cabin can make different drink selections). While confusing at first, it’s refreshing that non drinkers don’t have to pay for those that drink a lot. But one word of caution – even if you get the highest level drink package (the ultimate package), you’ll still need to pay for certain drinks like after dinner port wine and liqueurs. Before you purchase a drink package, make sure you understand what it excludes.
- There’s a couple of specialty restaurants that will cost $30 cover charge if you are not in a suite. But the rest of the food is fully included.
- Azamazing evenings. On most cruises, Azamara offers a special evening event while in a port late at night. These special events are fully included.
- This is not a foodie type cruise. We found most of the food really good but we only a few really great meals.
The buffet was mostly fine. Food quality and selection were really good but sometimes the execution wasn’t quite there. The best meals we had were at Prime C and Aquafina – the two specialty restaurants. We purchased a dining package for $70 that gave us three meals in the specialty restaurants (would be $90 if purchased separately). For the best food experience, we recommend a dining package.
- We were impressed with the way they handled food allergies. You order the night before like most other lines. But the impressive part was that they knew who we were as soon as we sat down. My gluten-free bread was offered without asking and my order came without the spring of rosemary (to which I’m allergic) that everyone else at the table had. No fuss and no problem.
- Food and beverage service ranged from between OK to very good. At times we had a long wait for water for example. Other times the waiter misunderstood several of our orders and we food was sent back. But for the most part, they did a very nice job.
So what’s Azamara all about?
It’s about small ship ocean cruising in a tasteful, modern environment focused on destinations.
In the next blog we’ll discuss some of our destinations and provide guidance on when we would recommend Azamara.
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