Recommend recently had the opportunity to visit the intimate 686-passenger, Azamara Quest. Though the ship isn’t a huge vessel carrying thousands of people like other cruise lines, it doesn’t skimp on any of the details.
Once aboard, every room feels very luxurious and a bit Gatsby-esque. The dark wood paneling, fireplaces in the Drawing Room, and long chef tables in the dining hall, give it an old Hollywood feel on water, because the views in the Discover Lounge, Prime C, Windows Cafe— known as ‘prime realty’ seating—and even the fitness center and its pool deck are breathtaking.
The Discover Lounge offers guests open dining options where you can eat with your own group or mix with other guests. Brunch is served on sea days, and on port days breakfast and dinner are the only options.
On board the Quest, guests can create their own unique experiences. Deck 10 has a looking glass lounge, features live music, and has a “very loungey feel to it at night,” added our tour guide. There are also board games available for guests’ entertainment. Sunday mornings, non-denominational services also take place here.
The Drawing Room is like a small library that provides a quiet place, with a fireplace (that doesn’t have real fire), for guests to get away for some quiet time or reading.
The Prime C restaurant, a steakhouse, features many tables offering panoramic views; black and white photographs of old Hollywood adorning the walls; and a Chef’s Table dinner. Dining in Prime C is complimentary for suite guests, non-suite guests can dine for a $25 pp charge. The Chef’s Table dinner is $95 pp, with choices for a French, Italian, or Californian dining experience. The 5-course meal is paired with wines to accentuate each dish, hosted by a senior officer or guest speaker. The Windows Cafe offers a more casual dining setting and provides guests with breakfast, lunch and dinner. There are many options here including sushi and smoothies. The Pool Grill (open all day until right before dinner) offers guests choices like grilled food, nachos and sandwiches—all made cooked to order. The pool isn’t very large, but keep in mind this ship sails less than 1,000 guests per voyage.
Other amenities include a computer room for business or leisure use; a spa with an acupuncture room, medi spa, teeth whitening and a hair salon; a fitness center with a full gym, spinning, boot camp, weight detox programs, and various fitness class options. Guests receiving a spa service have access to the Thalassotheray pool for the day, which allows guests to soak in a bubbling saltwater bath with jets massaging them as they enjoy the views on the spa deck; other guests pay about $45 per day, or $199 for access for the week.
The casino is a bit small when compared to other cruise lines with just a handful of game tables and a few slot machines. But as our tour guide said, “it’s just icing on the cake for us, our guests are more focused on destination immersion.”
Speaking of destination immersion, Azamara offers guests late night stays at the port of calls, meaning they don’t sail out until 8 p.m., or at times even stay overnight. This allows guests to get a full experience of the city they’re visiting and not just see it during tourist times. For instance, in 2015 Azamara will be sailing to Rio and docking for two nights during Carnaval; the ship will also be in St. Andrews during the British Open’s 100th anniversary; and last year Azamara sailed to Sevilla during Holy Week. The smaller size vessel makes it easy to dock close to the city center and not in a marina, which also saves guests on travel time to city centers.
“The AzAmazing Evenings really differentiate us from our competition. When we visited Gibraltar, guests had the chance to take in a local band. We create unique and custom experiences for guests, like when we were in Nice, we had about 15 guests in a museum at night, no one else was there but our guests,” said Azamara’s sales manager, Nils Lindstad.
This allows guests to immerse themselves in the destinations, their customs, and have a unique experience.
Azamara’s focus on immersing the guests in the destinations continues with the launch of its Insider Access program. For example, while on board guests get to take part in a White Party—where the pool deck is covered in white linen, the lounge chairs are put away and the dining tables are brought out. Local entertainers come on board to perform for guests and when the ship sails the party continues with on board performances taking over. The AzAmazing Evenings can be anything from a night at the ballet to a waterfront party at Chania, Crete in Greece. Experiences are curated for sports lovers, music mavens, history buffs, theater goers and foodies.
The guestrooms we toured were very comfortable in size. The Club Continental Suite is a lower-level suite, with a bed, sofa, and small balcony. The Club World Owner Suite is the highest-level suite, featuring 1.5 bathrooms, a wrap-around balcony with lounge chairs, a small dining table for two, a seating area with a small couch, love seat, coffee table and a small fully-equipped bar. The room also features a king-sized bed with seascape views; and plenty of closet space with a full wall of dark paneled floor to ceiling closets.
Lindstad says he’s seeing a trend in cruisers looking for longer and overnight stays, as well as all-inclusives so they’re not nickled and dimed for everything while on board. Azamara’s rates include all beverage options, including alcohol and immersion experiences.
While some cruise lines are trying to figure out how to attract the new to cruise customer, Lindstad says Azamara has had a huge increase of first-time cruisers. “The no schedule has been a plus. The cruise industry offers guests a better experience versus a hotel because meals are included. We are reinforcing the value of a cruise.”
Azamara Quest sailed a 14-night Route of the Americas Voyage in January, which marked the first time an international cruise departed from Costa Rica. Lindstad says they’re always trying to find out different experiences and go to places that are unique. In 2016 Azamara has plans to sail the Panama Canal again.
For more information, visit azamaraclubcruises.com/plan-your-voyage/booking/explore-our-ships/azamara-quest/.
The Azamara Quest was the location for a Cruise Planners-American Express Travel charity event, for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, where Recommend had a chance to chat with Michelle Fee on the importance of travel agents.