by Toffler



Azamara Quest Cruise: The Ship, Staff, and Activities

January 6, 2008, by TofflerN, category Knowledge and Experiences, Tourism, Traveling, Uncategorized

A side note:  My apologies for being absent from blogging for so long, I had very limited access on the cruise as internet was $.65/minute(!!) from a satellite feed and very slow.  Also, I may still write another blog about Buenos Aires because I loved it so much and I have more to say, but then my posts will be out of order, ahh well.  On to Azamara…
While in the taxi to the ship terminal, the taxi driver asked me in Spanish, ‘is it a big ship?’  Good question…well it depends on your point of reference I guess.  I said to him ‘medium-big.’  Suffice it to say its a lot larger than the Antarctic vessel, 10times that by passenger capacity.  In reality, though, its a lot smaller than the cruise ships we normally go on, which have at least twice as many passengers.  Most of the cruises I’ve been on (about 10 spanning Carnival, Princess, Celebrity, and now Azamara lines) have passenger capacities upwards of 1500-2100; therefore, given that this has 700, it is significantly smaller.  This makes for a very different dynamic.

Noticeable differences include the size of the ship, activities, passenger-crew interaction, ports of call, other passengers, etc.  The Azamara Quest only has 2 stairwell & elevator banks (compared to 3 or 4) indicating a shorter vessel, which means getting from one location to another is much quicker (if you’re willing to take the stairs).  As a result of a smaller ship, there are a lot fewer public areas, not as many lounges and bars, fewer/smaller shops, smaller buffet area, much smaller main theater, etc, all of which make for a more intimate environment.  At first I was a bit worried that there would be huge lines at the buffet and not enough seats in the theater but neither has really been a problem.  If anything, the opposite has been the case, as the theater was frequently near empty for evening shows and other activities.

Activities was another interesting dynamic on this ship compared to larger ships.  Each day numerous organized activities were offered; however none seemed to boast much attendance.  Then, when given the opportunity, people complained there were not enough activities.  Perhaps the activities were not to passenger’s liking but I was thinking, why should they schedule more activities when there’s not enough attendance as it is.  As far as I’m concerned, I went to very few of the activities and also fewer of the evening shows than I normally go to, however I wasn’t complaining about the options.

One aspect of the smaller ship that I’ve really enjoyed is getting to know and interact with the same members of the staff frequently.  I know far more of their names (and they mine) than I ever have on a ship before.  Everyone from the senior managers (Cruise Director, F&B Manager, Hotel Director) to activities, restaurant, and security staff to Daniel, the Romanian waiter who makes my fabulous smoothies every morning, are known to me by name and recognition.  While I’ve found this to be a plus, the crew has pointed out that on a smaller ship they’re required to work much harder in a greater variety of jobs than they have to on bigger ships and many have found this less than ideal.  Despite everything, we found this crew to be the most cheery, friendly, and willing-to-help of any ship we’ve been on.

One of the selling points Azamara uses for these smaller ships is unique ports-of-call that are unreachable for larger ships.  Well, it seems that bigger ships go hand-in-hand with accessible, interesting ports-of-call.  At least on this itinerary, I’ve been relatively disappointed with the ports.  There has been a high proportion of tendered ports (as opposed to docking).  Frequently, the port has been very far from anything of interest such that a make-shift entertainment center has been created at the dock to amuse the passengers or passengers must take transportation a long way.  Perhaps being able to go to unique ports of call is more beneficial in other parts of the world, but I was not impressed with the ports on this Panama Canal cruise.

According to the crew, thus far Azamara has attracted a more premium senior crowd of passengers.  However, since this is over Christmas, there are a lot of families traveling with children of all ages.  While the children’s programs are not as developed on this ship as on other larger ships (no devoted area), they do offer a few and kids who are committed can meet other kids of the same age.  It seems as I’ve gotten older its been harder and harder to meet people of the same/similar age on cruises. On this cruise, though, we have managed to collect a group of about 10people that daily keep the ‘disco’ open past midnight, though.  As is typical of cruises, its primarily Americans and this one had surprisingly many Mexicans.  There was also a family of 30+ Dutch people, that along with a smattering of other Europeans gives the EU a fair representation on board as well.

Young people on Azamara Quest

The staterooms are fairly spacious and well-appointed.  The ‘Butler’ assigned to each cabin is, in the words of my cousin, ‘over-glorified and overworked.’  The balconies are nice but they refuse to open the dividing doors between them.  A visit to one of the larger staterooms/suites left me unimpressed except for the wrap around balcony.  A self-service laundry room has been a plus.  At $2 per wash including soap and an additional $2 (all in quarters) per dry, its a huge savings over shipboard service and as such, I did laundry twice.

7th Floor Stateroom

The alcohol and age limit policies (including entrance to the ‘disco’ after 11pm) have been ridiculously restrictive and frequently caused many cruisers (parents, underage children, and sympathizers) more stress and frustration than enjoyment.  I managed to get 2 bottles of wine on board the ship on embarkation day, partly because they didn’t find them and partly because wine, unlike hard alcohol or beer, may be brought on board on embarkation day.  The next day my mom bought a bottle of wine in port and had it confiscated as she reboarded the ship.

Perhaps one of my favorite things about this cruise is being able to custom order meals (one day in advance).  Besides of course my morning made-to-order smoothie, I’ve started requesting Indian food every night.  A CruiseCritic meeting with the senior officers introduced me to Dejan, the F&B Manager whence I proposed we have Indian food day.  While he didn’t think all the passengers would find that as appealing as I did, he told me, you can request Indian food for dinner any night you’d like.  Therefore, almost every night for the final week, I pre-ordered an Indian chicken dish and due to the (supposedly) Indian chef, they’ve been excellent.  This system is particularly useful for people like my cousin who only eats chicken and would get incredibly bored of having the same chicken dish every night since there is rarely chicken on the changing menu.

The newness of Azamara as a cruise line is certainly apparent to a seasoned cruiser.  While Azamara has some advantages over sister company Celebrity, it will be even better when it has finally created its own efficient systems and unique style.  I thoroughly enjoyed myself and had a wonderful time and I attribute that to good, quality time with family, the wonderful staff, particularly Cruise Director Becky Fields, and the passengers I met on board.

So, what do you think ?