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Azamara Quest
Enter 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.

Azamara Quest, The Ship
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.

Dining
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 offered.

Discoveries, 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.

Aqualina

Prime C, an upscale steakhouse with premium wine cellar (menu, requires Adobe Reader). Try the Lobster Bisque and Crab Cakes to start.

Aqualina, 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.

Window Cafe, 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.

Pool Grill, as the name suggests is where 'burgers, hot dogs, fries, and items from a small salad bar are available.

Room Service is always available from a set menu; however, during regular dining room hours you can order from the Discoveries menu.

More: Azamara Quest, part two

Azamara Quest's Maiden Sailing... check out this amazing 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.


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