the World of Deluxe Cruising
by Linda Coffman
In an industry where such things
count, cruise lines generally fall within three loosely defined
categories. There's mainstream, premium, and luxury--each with some
basic attributes, which we define in relationship to lifestyle
choices. When a cruise line sets a course to break out of these
stereotypes, it's an exciting concept.
Experienced travelers aren't always
adverse to the idea of cruising, but they often want more than a
traditional cruise delivers. They are more interested in the travel
aspect than the cruise, yet they want the comfort and convenience
that only cruise travel can deliver. Azamara Cruises has recognized
this previously underserved group of travelers and intends to give
them what they want--a cruise experience that's a bit different.
Azamara Cruises is all about
visiting far-flung destinations that you've only dreamt about and
will get you to them on exclusive ships where you'll enjoy superior
cuisine in a pampering atmosphere. Not quite luxury, but more than
premium, Azamara offers a deluxe cruise with amenities that you'd
pay extra for by upgrading to a suite on other cruise lines.
Formerly christened R7 for the
now-defunct Renaissance Cruises, Azamara Quest is the ideal size for
her new role. At 30,277 tons she's a medium-sized vessel that
carries only 694 passengers. While the size affords a high level of
intimacy and makes Azamara Quest easy to get around, there is no
skimping on features normally abundant on larger ships, such as
private balconies and alternative dining.
Azamara spent nearly $20 million on
Azamara Quest's makeover and it shows. My initial impression was that the
ship looked like it should have when it first sailed in 2000. Where
it once appeared stuffy, it's now welcoming. Forward and high atop the
ship, the observation lounge is more open and airy; the casino has
been expanded without totally diminishing the appeal of the adjacent
lounge with its faux fireplace; Mosaic Cafe is a natural fit for the upper lobby; and the
Sunset Bar aft of the buffet restaurant fills a previously
underutilized space with a congenial gathering spot.
Elizabeth Blau, a major
player in the Las Vegas food revolution, is at the helm of Azamara
Cruises' dining program. She brings with her a fresh approach in
contemporary and lighter cuisine--a reflection of what's happening
all over the United States. Even though the menus list some trendier
items, she assured us that there will always be classic dishes
available. Prime rib and other favorites will continue to be
the main dining room serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner in open
seatings. With distinctive menus for fourteen days, passengers on
lengthier cruises will have more options, and less repeated dishes.
an upscale steakhouse with premium wine cellar (menu,
requires Adobe Reader). Try the Lobster Bisque and Crab Cakes to
serves American food with a Mediterranean flair (menu,
requires Adobe Reader).
Specialty restaurants Prime C and
Aqualina are now complimentary, yet they still require reservations,
either made with through butlers, or at the desk in either
restaurant or Discoveries, the main restaurant. Guests accommodated in staterooms
are invited to reserve two evenings' dining and suite guests are
entitled to three reservations. Additional reservations are
available on a space-available basis. The "Tastings" option
in Aqualina is a set
menu of six courses that pairs wine with each course. The
surcharge is $50 per person, which does not include gratuity but
covers the wines that are served. It is recommended that a $5 per
person gratuity be extended when dining in the specialty
restaurants. (A surcharge, including gratuity, that was initially
assessed for the specialty restaurants has been dropped.)
Mosaic Cafe offers
specialty coffee and tea, a selection of pastries and savory items
by day, and tapas by night. Certain items are complimentary; others
incur a modest charge.
Breeza, the buffet
options--including pizza and sushi--are numerous and seating is
either indoors or outside. Don't pass up the cheeses and desserts.
as the name suggests is where 'burgers, hot dogs, fries, and items
from a small salad bar are available.
is always available from a set menu; however, during regular dining
room hours you can order from the Discoveries menu.
Azamara Quest, part
Maiden Sailing... check out
sight from the ship and browse through Cruise Diva's Photo
Tour with more than 50 images. Read the Azamara
Cruises Cruise Line Profile and get the ships' Fun Facts.