Athens to Singapore 24 nights
November 22, 2008
by Alan Fox
Going Cruising ...
At 12.30 we arrived at the ship in Piraeus. We checked our bags curbside and boarded straight away. There was a convenient hand
luggage check-in, to avoid the need to drag bags everywhere, and
lunch was being served in the buffet. So far so good!
Cabins were ready by 2pm and we headed off to 7116 .. complete with
Sunset Veranda where our view for 24 days was the wake .. and it was
Our next door neighbors were Sandy & George, who we ‘met’
through the Cruise Critic boards prior to sailing. In fact there
were 30+ members of CC on the ship at the get-together—a great way
to start a cruise, knowing so many people!
The Ship ...
Azamara Quest comes from the famous former-Renaissance Cruises
fleet of R-ships. The Quest sailed as the R7 Delphin Renaissance and later the
Blue Moon, when she sailed for Pulmanter (Spanish cruise company
that RCCL purchased).
We previously cruised on the Pacific Princess (former R3), which was
berthed in Alexandria with us (small world), so we had a good
understanding of the layout. Of course this never stopped Robyn
turning left instead of right—but hey, she was never going to get
lost, so no problem!
· The Quest was in very good condition and you could routinely see
crew keeping her that way. I like that in a ship.
· Cabins were about the same size as normal (at least for us).
Storage could be better.
· Bathroom was a little small but functional.
· The Sunset Veranda was about 3 times bigger than the standard veranda,
but unfortunately was a magnet for 'soot' whenever we were in port
(we had a bath mat at our sliding door to stop the dirt tracking
into the cabin); however, it was still quite magnificent to go out and
watch the wake.
· Sun loungers around the pool were teak, not plastic. I like that
in a ship too.
The ‘smoking policy’ on board provides 2 areas where a smoker can
light up. One corner of the pool deck and one corner of the Looking
Glass lounge. Staterooms are supposed to be non-smoking; however, I
think this has mixed compliance, given the smell of smoke that can
be encountered around the accommodation decks. Personally I have no
idea why a smoker would want to cruise on Azamara.
The Staff ...
Staff members were excellent and I routinely heard about them swapping
between the Journey and the Quest, which I think is a terrific
methodology for maintaining similar standards on the ships.
The Butler position was a bit of a 'furphy', I tested him out on a
few things and overall it was handled well however he was pretty
much the same as any room steward. I suspect that the suites and
penthouses get more value from these roles than the regular state
The Service ...
Service was very good in every area!
I did question the 18% gratuity on the wine bill; I had no issues
with the charge on the other bar and drinks services. My rationale
was that the sommelier took the order and served and then
disappeared, never to return again. The table steward served for the
remainder of the meal and similarly if you had (say) a half bottle
and wanted another of the same you never saw a sommelier at all and
still paid the 18%.
I saw this as smoke and mirrors because you already had a daily
gratuity that covered the dining room service and I subsequently
discussed it with the Director of Guest Services. No point going
home without saying something.
Note: There was a mid cruise survey that I responded to and I was
suitably impressed to see some immediate changes in line with
comments that I had made. Who knows this may also be addressed.
We spent $400 in the shops (mostly on perfumes) and received a
$150 credit, what a deal.
The Food ...
Food in the restaurants was excellent and I never had a meal I
thought was average!
The specialty restaurants, Prime C and Aquilina, were wonderful and
we particularly enjoyed Prime C. The Director of Guest Services
mentioned that Azamara likes to see 80-120 persons per night dine in
the specialty restaurants to ensure that the main restaurant can
flow smoothly. Accordingly, Azamara does not charge an extra fee to
dine in the specialty restaurants, but they do ask for an additional
$5 tip, which from our perspective worked really well.
I think we dined in Prime C on 4 or 5 occasions and twice in
One of the features of Prime C is a marble high table that seats 12
persons. I thought that this was a great table and that to host a
dinner there would be a lot of fun. So, on December 8th I booked the
table and invited some folks to come and dine & wine with us.
Needless to say it was a wonderful evening.
The buffet on this design of ship is a bow tie design (narrow in the
middle), which causes some congestion and the hot food was invariably
not quite as hot as you'd like (but is any buffet?); however, the
pizzas were very good and the pool grill served excellent burgers
and pea soup. Ergo, the upside significantly outweighed the
The Entertainment ...
Entertainment is the only real area that we had any kind of
issue with, and in saying this I know that others will not
· They had all the normal stuff: heaps of trivia, line dancing,
cooking demonstrations, bridge, gambling, etc.
· They had an orchestra that played predominantly in the Cabaret
Lounge, when something was on, and in odd places and configurations
from time to time.
· They had an excellent troupe (5 persons) that performed on
average once a week, I saw them on the deck and in the bar more than
on the stage, which I couldn’t comprehend.
· They had a Pianist and a Harpist that played mostly on Deck 5
(outside the shop) and who had their own followings.
· They had a 3-piece band that played around the place, but mostly in
the Looking Glass on Deck 10 and they were strong on jazz, which
unfortunately we don’t enjoy.
In my view they should have been more of a cover band playing to the
mass market, whereas I think they saw themselves as more of a
· They had about 6 Artists on board at various times—some were
really good, some were not to our taste.
BUT they didn't meet the basic requirements as we see them, i.e.:
A bit of music to dance to before dinner.
An evening show of some kind.
And some music to take you into the night.
Unfortunately, there were 'gaps' where you'd go for a drink and
there would be nothing happening except canned music, or you'd seek
out a show only to find that there wasn't one scheduled.
To conclude, unfortunately we don’t feel that Azamara have this
aspect worked out as well as they need to and cannot decide if they
want to adopt small ship standards or big ship style entertainment.
Note: Here’s a tip, take a look at WindStar, they do small ship
really well and Celebrity certainly knows how to do big ship well.
The Passengers ...
Passengers on board were overwhelmingly a well traveled bunch,
with lots of cruises under their belts. I sensed that most had
picked the itinerary for the journey—as we had really—and loved
the sea days.
They were from all over the world—there
were announcements in English
and German every day and when it was a special announcement we also
had French and Spanish versions.
The Cruise Critic Boards gave us a head start on meeting people and
we shared quality time with a number of them throughout the cruise.
It felt as if most passengers were tea-totalers because the bars
were invariably as quiet as the proverbial grave and we routinely
found ourselves with a barman, a waiter, and a DJ, and no one else.
Whilst at dinner we were often the only ones drinking wine, except
the night we ordered the same as a second couple and it took a while
to decide which bottle belonged to whom. Feast or famine?
On the positive side there was never a problem getting served.
The Ports ...
Ports were largely interesting however not necessarily the
places we would re-visit. Then again, we cruise primarily for the
ships and the sea and ports are secondary for us.
· We managed to visit Athens before the riots. We saw our hotel
under siege on the CNN coverage.
· The Pyramids and Sphinx were incredible, while the litter and
rubbish was a disgrace. 80 million people live there; you'd think
someone could tidy up. If you do visit Egypt, get used to having
armed guards wherever you go.
· The Suez Canal was fascinating and so different from the Panama Canal
process. Ships head North and South in convoy and pass each other in
a lake in the middle.
· The Quest avoided the Somalian pirates in the Gulf of Aden by
accelerating out of any problems. The Nautica was attacked and she
was in convoy behind us. Interestingly, the hose pipe is the weapon
· Mumbai was in the news when terrorists took over the Taj Hotel so,
in the interest of safety, Azamara rescheduled the itinerary and
went to Muscat and Goa. That was a pity because we had a great tour
organized, a trip to the spice market followed by a cooking class.
In Conclusion ...
We thoroughly enjoyed the cruise. Azamara does most things really well
and what we weren’t 100% happy with did not spoil anything for us.
I read a definition of ‘luxury’ that went along the lines of,
is being treated the way you want to be treated, and I think that
this cruise meets this definition.
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