This summer, I set sail aboard the Azamara Club Quest. I was invited to do a French Riviera cruise as part of a press trip. Azamara sponsored my travel and let me tell you, when you get this kind of invite, it’s not something you turn down. I have always been a fan of cruising as a way to see the world so you can imagine my excitement to be invited. And I must say, Azamara, which focuses on the destination immersion did not disappoint. So, here’s my review of our experience on the Azamara Quest.
For those of you who aren’t regular readers, let me preface this review by stating that I am spoiled. I have stayed at some of the best hotels in the world–and actually recently I stayed at the hotel ranked #1 in the world so I have come to expect the best. I say that not to impress you, but instead so that you can read my review with an eye to the type of traveler that you are. If you’re a very spoiled traveler as well and only stay at Five Star hotels then we are probably on the same page. When I review something I review it with an eye towards the highest standards. If you are happy with 3 or 4 star accommodations, my reviews will still be helpful to you, you’ll just know that maybe I’m a little nitpicky. But this is a luxury travel blog so I judge by the highest standards. That said, I was happy on Azamara’s Club Quest–so let’s dive in!
When you arrive on the ship, you have to check in, give them your passport (which they give back), take a photo for the ship records and fill out paperwork (also declare that you’re not sick). They take your baggage here and you enter the ship unencumbered by baggage. We were allowed to enter the ship at 12:00 PM and the ship did not sail until about 8:00 PM that night so you have plenty of time to either enjoy the city a little nearby the ship or just settle in and unpack.
Welcome Amenity? Bubbly!
To me, the ship felt like a boutique hotel. It’s not big and flashy nor does it feel like a floating amusement park. Instead it’s comfortable and traditional—a cruise for adults, if you will. Azamara is about seeing the world and relaxing–there are no gimmicks or over-the-top amenities–and I mean that in a good way. The Azamara Quest holds about 700 passengers and was launched in 2007 (though the ship was built some time before that). This is not a mega-ship and in comparison to some of the other ships out there it’s quite a small vessel. The ship was renovated in 2012 but if I’m speaking honestly, could use another refresher (which its actually undergoing very soon).The renovation in 2012 updated the main buffet restaurant, Windows, the pool deck and the fitness center so all of these are quite nice and sparkly new. While the public spaces are quite lovely, though not quite Five Star, they still feel luxurious. And the attentive service makes up for this to some extent.
It’s easy to find your way around the ship. There are public spaces on decks 5, 9, and 10. On 5, was my favorite spot—the coffee shop, which is a great meeting spot. I’ll tell you more about this in the Food section.
Fitness Center? New machines, very clean. Much more Equinox than New York Sports Club. If you’re a New Yorker, you know what a compliment that is. The gym also offers complimentary Pilates, spinning yoga and fitness classes.
Spa? I didn’t get a chance to visit the spa but I did take a look and it looked nice. You could do anything—from a traditional massage to acupuncture.
Pool? We didn’t have much time to relax by the pool—there were too many wonderful destinations. But it never appeared to have problems with overcrowding or seating. I think most cruisers on Azamara are hoping to explore the destinations.
We loved the ping pong table!
I loved bringing a book to this outside deck and just relaxing (even though we did have our own balcony, I liked this full reclining chair).
The entertainment is located for the most part in the Cabaret Lounge, which is large enough to seat about half of the passengers at once. In addition to nightly shows, there are also many classes held in here during the day for passengers—anything from photography to how to use your iPad. You can also catch a late night movie or a bingo game (you can practice your bingo skills here).You can also catch a late night movie or a bingo game here. There is also a casino complete with a large flatscreen that plays sports nonstop.
While the entertainment was good, I don’t think it quite is as outstanding as larger ships like Royal Caribbean where there are Broadway caliber shows–but of course, they’re for larger audiences, etc. However, I think it was perfect for the type of cruise this is. Oh and there was a white party one night and that was really super fun. Everyone went all out and it was really quite a party! There was a band on the pool deck, it was wild!
This is where Azamara really shines in my opinion. They make the focus of the experience the destinations rather than activities on the ship. Their brand pillar is “Destination immersion” and to me that’s key. The whole reason I go on cruises is simply to have an easy means to transport myself to different countries. As a luxury traveler, I really look at the luxury of Azamara as being the ease at which I am transported from one incredible destination to the next. We did several of the Land Discoveries and found that they were expertly prepared. Guides were informative and transportation from the ship to the port was always seamless. Another perk of Azamara is that not only do they pick fabulous destinations but they stay in each of them for longer–there are several overnight stays in cities (we were overnight in Marseille and Monte Carlo) and even where you do not stay overnight, you often don’t leave until 10P.M. so you have plenty of time to really explore as well as dine in the cities.
In addition to typical excursions, Azamara also offers what they call Insider Access. You’ll engage with locals and share experiences that will deepen your understanding and appreciation of local culture. In small groups, you’ll visit ancestral homes, historic estates, and other private venues. When we were in Spain we had the chance to experience an amazing lunch with a Michelin-starred chef. He educated us about local customs, recipes and traditions. We got to meet his family too! In these intimate settings, traditions are brought to life. It’s something cool to consider if you have been to a destination before and don’t need to see the main attractions and instead want to get in touch with local culture.
Every cruise includes one AzAmazing Evening, which offers guests an opportunity to experience the best of local culture in a unique way. Best of all, one is included with our compliments on all except transatlantic crossings and voyages that are less than 7 nights long.
This was a famous Opera singer at our Azamazing evening. She was truly incredible! We first had drinks at a gorgeous property and then were treated to a lovely performance.
They had these awesome performers after we saw the Opera singer just standing around as we made our way back to the buses to head back to the ship.
I also was impressed with all the amazing destinations that Azamara sails to. Here I am enjoying the day before we departed from Barcelona!
Although we barely spent any time in our room, you’re probably wondering what they’re like! Well, the majority of the rooms have ocean views or verandas. They’re not huge but you are on a cruise ship, right? But I do suppose, even by cruise ship standards, they are a wee bit on the smaller side of things. The rooms are nicely furnished with wood furniture and built-ins. There is a small flatscreen TV across from the bed, a small table and a writing desk (or what I’ll refer to as the makeup/hair area). The bathroom again is not large, but you are on a cruise ship—this is pretty standard across all lines.
I had a Club Veranda cabin and must say we really enjoyed our balcony, which had a table and two chairs. We enjoyed a few breakfasts and sunsets out here in our robes. This felt like the lap of luxury. I would definitely splurge for a balcony!
Closet/Dresser Details? There were a few nicks in the wood, definitely could use a bit of an update to make it more modern. There wasn’t a ton of storage space but I’m an over-packer. Our suitcases fit under the bed, which was nice because they were out of the way once we unpacked.
Here is a quick review and video tour of our room:
Turn-Down Service: Yes.
Linens: White and lovely. Definitely high end quality and very clean.
Bottled Water? Complimentary. They leave it when they clean the room but you can also get it anywhere on the ship. They keep extra by the exit so you can take as many as you would like for the day. Very nice touch.
White Glove Inspection: The beds had white linens and were quite clean.
Though small, it was mighty. They packed everything you might need into here and everything had its place. The mirror opened for extra storage. It was clean and the shower had decent pressure.
Makeup Mirror? Yes, though not in the bathroom. I used this on the desk in the living room by the window for good light.
Hairdryer? Yes, also not kept in the bathroom, it’s by the desk as well. There is a built-in dryer in the bathroom but it needs to go. It’s legit from 1982. This was probably my biggest complaint. (See photo below)
Designer Toiletries? Didn’t recognize the brand.
Towel quality? Good.
Robes? Yes. And Robes with the Azamara insignia. Very fun to wear on your balcony!
Amenities? Did not particularly love the shampoo/conditioner. Q tips, Shower cap.
Azamara has an older crowd for sure. While there were maybe a few families the large majority is older couples, many from the United States, the U.K. and Australia. It’s clear that this is Azamara’s demographic—couples looking to enjoy life and see the world. Music and movies clearly are geared toward a mid-fifties crowd (which is what they’re aiming for).
The Food & Drink
First, let me start by explaining that standard spirits, international beers and wines are included in the cruise price throughout the trip as are bottled water, soft drinks, specialty teas and coffees. All meals, snacks and room service is included as well, other than specialty restaurants.
This is the main restaurant if you don’t want to pay any extra fees. It offers a casual environment, open seating and a large bar. The food was good here. We had a nice meal and very gorgeous views. Try and get a seat near the windows around sunset.
This is where the buffet is. It was pretty standard but definitely solid. I stopped in one night just to be able to write a comprehensive review. I must admit I didn’t have high hopes, I mean it’s a buffet—and it was Mexican night. Well, I ate my words—and then some. It was actually some of the best Mexican I’ve had. I swear. Now granted, it wasn’t gourmet. But I had a beef taco salad and it was delicious. The salad bar was extremely, EXTREMELY fresh and all of the taco bar accoutrements were fab. I actually tried to recreate the meal when I returned home. #TrueStory
Specialty Restaurants: Aqualina and Prime C
These are where it’s at in my opinion—and specifically Prime C, which I must admit was NYC restaurant quality. I know, I’m ethnocentric but I can’t help but judge every restaurant by this standard: “If it were in NYC, would I pay to eat here?” And the answer was, yes! While these restaurants are an additional cost—I believe it’s an extra $15/pp, I think it’s more than worth it. The food here is exceptionally good. They were also beautiful! These tasted really Five Star quality to me. You need to book reservations early, though. Like before you even get on the ship. We spoke to a few couples who didn’t do so and they weren’t able to get reservations the entire cruise.
My steak was perfectly cooked–medium rare.
The souffles were INCREDIBLE! Like we still talk about how delicious they were. See for yourself.
This little coffee shop is great! It’s like having an all-inclusive Starbucks. They made fab specialty coffees and even had soy milk. They also had a variety of great little pastries to take to go in the morning. They even had a vegan option!
We ordered breakfast from room service and it arrived on time everyday. It was presented very nicely and was pretty good. Not quite amazing but definitely very good! It’s very difficult to make eggs stay warm!
The Little Things
Did I feel truly welcome by the staff? Yes, I never met an unfriendly staffer on my journey.
Wi-Fi? Yes—though it costs quite a lot. It’s not easy to connect to the internet when you’re in the middle of the ocean so I guess it’s not terribly surprising that it’s pricey.
In Room Mini-Bar? Free soft drinks but alcoholic beverages and Perrier cost money.
Cocktail Quality? Cocktails on the ship were quite good. You could get specialty cocktails like mojitos an martinis too so fear not!
Laundry? While you could pay to have your laundry done, the ship also offers self-service laundry machines that are complimentary.
Special Treats: No cheesy towel animals. That was a treat!
Tips? Tips are included in fares but additional tipping is always welcome for outstanding service. Spa gratuities are not included though.
Room for Improvement
As I said in this review, while I thought that the destinations and tours exceeded my expectations, the ship could deal with a few updates, mostly to the rooms. That said though the rooms were still nice, I just think for a luxury cruise that it should be held to a little higher standards.
The Wow Factor(s):
My most memorable experiences were the excursions. This cruise is all about the destinations and getting to experience them to the fullest. While the ship is lovely, the draw of this cruise is that it’s a luxurious way to see the world! Here were some of my favorite locales:
The Bottom Line: Would I recommend it? Am I coming Back?
I would definitely take Azamara again if it was going to a fun new destination that I had not been before. As I said above, the strength of this line for me is their expertise and heavy focus on the destination. I wouldn’t necessarily just come on the cruise for the purpose of cruising as I think I would want a ship with more on-board activities (a mega-ship for instance). But if you’re looking to see the world—this is a fabulous way to do it.
Azamara Club Cruises Information
Website: Click HERE
*Disclaimer* As is common in the travel industry, writers are provided with complimentary services for review purposes. Although my visit was part of a press trip–meaning that I did not pay, all opinions herein are my own. You can’t buy the love here, people! Just ask my husband!
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