Just back from this cruise, having left early for family reasons. We've done multiple Azamara cruises and this was our third on this itinerary, so we obviously love the line and this itinerary. Halong Bay is a justifiably world heritage area; Marble Mountain and Hoi An (from Danang) are wonderful places to visit; Ho Chi Minh City is a unique experience, if only for crossing the roads; and Bangkok always has something new to show us. With the exception of a boat tour of Halong bay, all the other places can be explored privately, aided by taxis, foot and sky train.
We cruised Quest in April 16, just after the refit, and now have cruised Journey post re-fit. Several improvements are of note. The Pool Grill is a wonderful night dining addition. The Sunset Bar deck is very popular at night (often difficult to get a seat for a drink or meal) - thanks for listening Azamara.
The Living Room (ex Looking Glass) is now a wonderful space, with people gathering together for pre-dinner drinks and chats, with quiet music accompaniment in the background and attentive service staff. Several years ago we enjoyed a cruise in which Eric organised several of the singers to perform solo shows pre-dinner. Didn't happen this time but the cast were on their first cruise. I hope this initiative returns. We did get a Glenn Miller Show from the band one sea afternoon and it was very enjoyable - good band; great drummer. The current DJ, Eddie, is great fun, both in the disco and for various quizzes - he has an effusive personality (other cast members would do well to observe and learn; they unfortunately inject no personality in to the quizzes - I know, they're young and inexperienced but could do better than "the next question is..."). With Eddie and Mario, Azamara have two absolute gems.
The food quality, service, ambience were as good as always and we met some delightful, happy people, as we always do on Azamara - it really does have its own atmosphere doesn't it. Not to be overlooked, tenders are easy - no queuing for tickets - just go down when it suits; free shuttle buses of quite short distances - none of this 2 hours from the city in Bangkok and HCM); exceptional docking location in Hong Kong harbour.
Although we had to leave the day of White Night, I have no doubt this was again the highlight of the cruise.
We didn't do Azamazing to the Ancient City, as we've been twice previously and while it's a very good Azamazing night, we thought we'd pass up the 1hr plus bus trip this time. I'm not suggesting they change it - it really is one of the best Azamazing nights we've attended, given that it is in a delightful setting and gives a good cross-section of Thai cultural activities. However, I was surprised to hear there were no fireworks this time. We stayed on board; were 2 of 4 having dinner in Prime C and were amongst the 7 guests who had a few laughs from "Bridget Jones' Baby" on the pool deck. All in all, a reasonably pleasant but weird night, being aboard with so few people.
Now for the areas that IMHO need some improvement.
We love Voices and the other production shows. For a small cruise ship they are of excellent standard. From LCV cocktail parties in recent years, it is apparent that the number of returning guests continues to grow. It is well past time to commission Voices 2 and one or more other production shows. Return guests would appreciate a change.
We were lucky enough to be offered a LCV upgrade from veranda to suite, which we of course accepted. The shower cubicle is great. However, they've removed the DVD players, leaving suite guests to cope with the measly 2 free movies per day, on a 7 day rotation. Given that there are always very few children aboard and the average age must be somewhere between 55 - 68, I feel just insulted by the deplorable movies they show. It was a succession of movies designed for very young children - e.g. Dory, Jungle Book, BFG, etc. The program was absolutely dominated by these ridiculous movies. I don't have a nanna nap in the afternoon but I often sleep badly on a ship and would appreciate only adult oriented movies. Given the money we pay for an Azamara cruise (which has undoubtedly increased since the re-fit; which no longer includes discounted pre-booked shore excursions; which has also seen 14n cruises scaled back to 13n at a higher cost - yes Azamara, we've all noticed), I would have thought they could at least put on a couple of decent free movies.
We attend most of the quizzes/trivia sessions put on. There is far too much repetition. We get new cast members and I don't mind that we break them in but we too often get the same old quizzes. Is it really that difficult to find new quizzes - otherwise the more difficult / obscure questions get swallowed up by those returning guests who have heard the answers so many times they are imprinted to their memory cells.
Given our need to leave the cruise early, we found the staff we interacted with very understanding and helpful - still we've always experienced a high level of service on Azamara, so we weren't surprised.
For the benefit of future cruisers, we experienced quite a swell for a few days out of Hong Kong, so I think this isn't the best time of the year to cruise this region - maybe look at November if that's feasible. It wasn't too bad but we were in jeans until after we left Danang and to that point had reasonably rolling seas. On the other hand, if you prefer cooler weather, then this is your cruise. We had overnight rain but very little during daytime and none while ashore - just the occasional short shower while aboard
Toward the back of ship on port side. For port, we didn't have the preferred docking view very often. No noise from above. Good space and balcony. Shower pressure and temperature very good. Storage (general and bathroom) very good. felt the ship roll (but surely everyone else did too)
Great city. Use a map and walk, take the star ferry, the pedestrian travellator, train to/from the peak
Previously did Azamara excursion on Halong bay - wonderful. This time, visited their museum - very interesting and about 15 minute walk, along the foreshore, from shuttle drop-off - easy
So many highlights. Take the ship shuttle to Central World shopping centre, walk 10 minutes to Siam Sky Train; catch water taxi to Grand Palace, then walk or tuk tuk to reclining Buddah. Alternatively, haggle taxi price at port to go direct to Grand Palace. Whatever the time, it will be crowded. If you've already done this, there are plenty of good museums and other tourist spots. Azamara excursion to floating market is an excellent option for the last half-day in Bangkok.