Let me say at the outset, I had a great time on this trip -- saw some amazing things and enjoyed many of the passengers and staff, but would I sail with Azamara again? Not sure.
First, the good things.
As many have noted, the people working on this ship seem really to like their jobs. There is a strong emphasis on guest engagement, much like on Celebrity, with most all the staff striking a nice balance between service and engagement. I liked most every staff person I encountered. The officers were visible and the captains (we had a change mid cruise) were engaging -- looked forward to their daily announcements. I had a travel snafu of my own making at time of disembarkation and the concierge and help desk were great in helping me sort it out.
The AzaAmazing Evening program is a very cool innovation, taking all the passengers off the ship at an overnight port and treating them to something local, in this case, a stunning performance of Balinese dance and music. It ended with what was clearly a story being told by three characters, two monkeys and a regal, but somewhat scary looking figure, but we had no clue what was being portrayed. To have found out the background of this and shared it with the passengers ahead of time would seem to have been easily done, but wasn't. Still, a very enjoyable event. The logistics of this obviously are complicated, but it went off pretty well -- long lines getting back on the ship, but that's to be expected.
The White Party also is a nice tradition, with the officers serving grilled food buffet style around the elaborately decorated pool area. Azamara regulars are mad for this event and I liked it too.
There is tremendous brand loyalty to this line. Many of the people I met had sailed with Azamara numerous times and were planning the next one while on board. I also encountered some other first timers like me and their reactions by the end of the cruise varied widely from feeling like the ship was a great fit for them to, 'never again.' Why is that?
This is for sure not a typical cruise line. While the price point is well above the mainstream lines, Holland America, Celebrity, Princess, etc., it's not exactly a luxury line either. This is not Seabourne, not Crystal, There are endless sales pitches, for one thing, the daily brochure being mostly ads. More importantly, the food and beverage services are not in that category and the cabins are very small.
On food, the offerings in the main dining room are okay, but not memorable and the service is harried. This was not a sold out cruise and what that dining room would be like when the ship is full would be something to witness. The wait staff are really good, but they were running like mad things, sweating brows all around. I ate once in the specialty steak restaurant at $30 and it was fine -- nice service and very good food. I also thought the buffet offerings were generally good and comparable to what you see on Celebrity, though maybe less diverse. Finally, on food, a dim sum brunch happened one day and was outstanding in every way -- probably the best meal I had on Quest.
On the beverages, I upgraded to the mid-level for $16/day, which, for example, got me Woodford Reserve bourbon, a considerable step up for the provided Jim Beam. (Interestingly, the next step up gets you Bulleit and Makers Mark -- Bulleit above Woodford Reserve? Curious.) These beverage packages have no effect on the wine, though. If you don't want what's provided, you have to buy a separate wine package, of which there are two. Needless to say, there is endless confusion at dinner about who gets to drink what wine at a table for six. I was fine with what was provided, but many people were not happy with it.
So, I think the first timers who fell in the, 'never again,' category were expecting to eat and drink like they would on Crystal, given what they'd paid. Likewise, they for sure did not want to be hearing about what was for sale every day.
Cabins. They are small and the bathrooms, particularly the showers, very small indeed. Storage, though, is quite adequate. Azamara is advertised as a small ship company, small being relative to, say, Princess or Celebrity with 2000+ passengers, and thus able to visit ports the big ships cannot. Well the ship is sort of small, but it has over 700 passengers, about what Crystal carries in a much bigger ship. Where to put them? In small cabins, of course. It's the price you pay and, as a single traveler, I liked the cabin fine, though I'd happily have traded a foot of sleeping quarters for a shower more than 20 inches wide. As before, the, 'never again,' reaction probably also reflected disappointment with the accommodations. At the price point, people expect something a little grander.
On the excursions, since I was traveling alone, I relied pretty much completely on those offered and was very happy with all of them.
So, would I do Azamara again? Well, Azamara offers a different kind of experience with some big pluses and some minuses as well, but if the itinerary were right and the single supplement low enough, I might. On the other hand, share that cabin? Only with Solomon, my cat, and I don't think that's allowed.
As noted above, the cabins are very small and the bathroom, minuscule. I've been on expedition vessels with more generous cabins. Attendants, however, were first rate and the location on the ship, ideal -- two flights up to the buffet, two down to the lobby and main dining room.
Wonderful city/country. Was shown around by a friend and loved the place. Don't miss the long bar at Raffles.
Took two excursions in Bali and enjoyed them both. One was a self-guided half day in Ubud, the other to a temple on the coast. Fantastic.
Hot as blazes, but saw the dragons. Quite amazing.
Did an excursion to the canyon and saw the pink lakes. Terrific.
Beautiful place to see on your own.