Croatia, Montenegro & Venice cruise on Azamara Quest - the cruise

Sarah Bolton on 23 July 2014
I travelled on my own on this holiday – Azamara is great for solo travellers due to the following reasons:

Single supplements as low as 25% on selected cruises Small ships so more opportunity to get to know other guests and crew Officers and crew go out of their way to look after people on their own Special events for solo travellers e.g. hosted lunches and dinners. The lunch I attended was hosted by Alex and Alina – the professional ballroom dancers on-board – a lovely couple from Eastern Ukraine, and the dinner by Russ the Cruise Director.

Cabin: I booked a grade 5 outside cabin on deck 4 – a great location on the ship with a good size picture window. This was my 3rd time on Azamara Quest and I always choose these cabins. As the cruise was 2 cruises back to back with the 2nd sailing full I had to change cabin after the first week – but this was all taken care of by the cabin stewards. I just had to put the contents of the drawers and loose items into my case, and they moved the case and all the contents of the wardrobe on the hangers to my new cabin. All it took was an hour – while I was having breakfast and a coffee on deck.

Entertainment: As Azamara Cruises are small ships they do not have large theatres for full Broadway musicals. Instead they have a cabaret lounge, and Looking Glass lounge with a dance floor. The Azamara entertainment team are talented professional performers doing cabaret / revue style shows, as well as solo performances. There are also guest entertainers – the guest for my cruise was Mel Mellers, a wonderfully funny comic magician. On every cruise Azamara has a tradition of hosting a “White Night” – a great evening out on deck under the stars (subject to weather) while in port. This allows them to bring on board a local entertainment company – e.g. traditional singers/dancers. Everyone dresses in white, and a tremendous buffet feast is laid on, followed by dancing to live music, and then the DJ takes over until late.

One of Azamara’s unique events is their “AzAmazing Evening” – every cruise has a dedicated evening ashore which is put on completely free of charge to the guests (for example last year our evening in St Petersburg was a trip to the ballet – the whole theatre had been taken over by Azamara, and we watched a full professional ballet – unbelievable). This year the first week was a Cretan music and dancing evening with drinks and snacks, set up on the harbourfront – and performed as if we were guests at a typical Greek wedding, and the second week’s evening was a performance by the reknowned Croatian cellist Ana Rucna at a beautiful outdoor venue in Hvar.

Dining: Dining is very important on Azamara, with food of an exceptionally high standard. There are no set dining times or seating arrangements in the main restaurant, therefore guests can turn up when they please and either choose to dine alone (there are plenty of tables for 2) or with others. If you arrive at a busy time you may have to wait, but there is a bar at the entrance to the dining room, so no problem! There are 2 speciality restaurants – Aqualina (Mediterranean dining with emphasis on seafood) and Prime C (Steakhouse). My personal favourite is Prime C, and on this trip I ate in there twice. My favourite choices in there are: Beef carpaccio (starter), Wild mushroom veloute (soup), Filet Mignon with steak chips, onion rings, sautéed spinach and béarnaise sauce (main), and the most decadent rich Warm Chocolate Lava Cake with praline icecream for dessert. In addition to the main dining options there is also a pool grill, and Windows Cafe buffet restaurant (open for breakfast, lunch & dinner – with dinners being themed eg Asian night, seafood night etc). And finally there is the premium option of “Chef’s Table” – on each of my cruises there were 3 options for this: French, Italian & Californian. These are food & wine pairing evenings on a private table with a maximum of 14 guests, located in Prime C. There is a cover surcharge of $95pp for this, but it is well worth it for the standard of food and the quality/quantity of wines – as it was my birthday I treated myself to both the French and Californian options, which were out of this world.

More inclusive: Azamara is “more inclusive” meaning that on board select spirits, cocktails, beers and wines are included in the price, as well as bottled water, soft drinks, speciality coffees, gratuities, free shuttle service in ports where needed and free self-service laundry (which I made the most of by doing a load of washing part the way through the cruise, and also the day before embarkation so I came home with clean clothes!) Having drinks included is a great bonus as it means you don’t have to watch your spending and can just enjoy a drink whenever you fancy it.

Spa/gym: I must admit I didn’t make use of either of these, but the spa is lovely with a wide range of treatments from simple waxing, manicures, hair styling, all manner of massages to facial peels, botox and acupuncture. And the gym offers various classes, a bootcamp, private training sessions as well as the standard gym equipment (NB spa treatments and some gym classes have a charge).

Feedback form midway: Azamara is the only cruiseline that I’ve experienced this. A few days into your cruise they leave a form in your cabin asking how your cruise is going, any feedback and if anything could be done to improve things – this is so much better than waiting until the end when they can’t do anything. And they do act on it immediately - in the 2nd week I’d put a note that the Eggs Benedict hadn’t been up to expectation and explained why - first thing the next morning I had Fabio, the executive chef, call me to discuss my suggestions and told me exactly what had happened and how they were going to rectify it – and asked me to let me know if I found an improvement. Very impressive.

Officers/crew – having cruised on many cruise lines I have not come across any that have more of a “presence” and personal contact between the officers and senior crew and the guests – you will often find them around the ship talking with guests and always greeting you as a friend. Captain Jose was particularly noticeable and always chatting – and even leading walks in some of the ports of call (for example climbing the city walls up the cliffs of Kotor). Often he was to be found at the bottom of the gangway in ports of call as guests were disembarking wishing them a nice day, and on the last day of the cruise he was down there, along with the Cruise Director, saying goodbye to everyone (this is outstanding – and I overheard several guests commenting on it, leaving a lasting impression).