JENNY ROWLAND reports back on her time aboard Azamara Quest.
MY FLOATING home for the past week on the Azamara Quest was in equal parts (and in no order) fun, exhilarating, adventurous, educational, relaxing and very, very tasty.
Azamara Quest is a small ship with a big heart that’s punching way above its weight.
It has a lot of the amenities of a bigger ship – varied dining options, entertainment and activities, but in a much cosier, relaxed and intimate style.
Granted there is no speedway track, basketball court or West End shows, but what was on offer kept me very happy.
I was in a club veranda stateroom on deck seven. As staterooms go it wasn’t huge but perfectly adequate for two people (one with a lot of luggage!!).
There was plenty of storage, a 40-inch flat screen TV with a good selection of newish and classic movies, refrigerator, mini-bar, safe, hair dryer and a small writing desk for those that have work fantasies.
We had luxurious bath robes (very handy for sitting on the balcony and enjoying Azamara’s excellent room service brekky), slippers, posh soaps and toiletries.
There was also binoculars and an umbrella (thankfully not needed) and I loved the simple but lovely fresh flowers.
The bed was huge with the softest, dreamiest bed linen that enabled this part-time insomniac long restful nights.
First, don’t go on a cruise just after Christmas when you are already a few kilos heavier, especially when the food is so good!
Windows cafe is where my stomach and I hung out the most. Relaxed and casual with lovely outdoor seating to watch the sunset. Fantastic buffet and different themed nights (Indian, Greek, Mexican, etc.)
The fresh fish and salads were very good – that was when I was being…. very good! I am a breakfast girl and they were sensational. Great poached eggs and omelettes, bountiful fresh fruit and the service was impeccable.
There were 540 guests on board (688 is the capacity) and I didn’t have to queue anywhere for anything.
For casual dining there was also the Patio pool grill (fantastic burgers and kebabs) that transforms to a romantic candlelit al fresco restaurant at night.
As a self-confessed coffee snob, I spent a lot of time on deck five at The Mosaic bar that served great Aussie-style coffee and snacks all day. #notstarbucks
My snobbery also extends to wine and I was more than happy with the house wines (all inclusive) served on board…. and did I mention the cocktails??
Make sure you enjoy the Atlas bar experience in the Den. World class cocktails that are Azamazing.
If you want something more formal, the Discoveries restaurant (fully inclusive) is a sit down, lavish affair where I enjoyed a delectable filet mignon and where we met Jenny and Ray sitting next to us – a delightful Tasmanian couple who made our night.
Ray had had COVID on board and it was good to get a first-hand account of how the crew handled it. According to Ray, who tested positive with no symptoms, they did it magnificently.
While he had to isolate in his cabin for five days he had plenty to watch and read, an abundance of great food and was very happy with his treatment.
Jenny managed to dodge the virus and was allowed to continue enjoying the cruise.
# As a side note I believe there were around 20 cases on board, but it had no impact whatsoever on the rest of us healthy, happy cruisers who all remained COVID-free.
The two fancy restaurants are Aqualina (Italian) and Prime C (steaks, etc.) There is a $35 surcharge to go to these fine dining establishments and I would urge you to spend the money as both are world class and well worth the money.
For the ever-expanding vegan community, the Azamara Quest is for you!
The chef is a Liverpudlian vegan so the vegan menu is outstanding. The Sicilian-style grilled watermelon tuna steak was enough to convert this carnivore.
I cannot praise the Azamara Quest crew enough. They were the happiest, smiliest, most efficient bunch and really did make the AE (Azamara experience) something very special.
Azamara has a huge staff retention record, so they are clearly looking after the crew who in turn look after the passengers wonderfully.
The BIG event on board the Azamara Quest is the highly anticipated “white party”.
I was tempted to wear my white dressing gown and slippers but mighty glad I didn’t as this event is dressy and cruisers love to “out white” each other.
The white party takes place on the pool deck and I can only describe it as a glorious celebration of Azamara cruise-life.
The sprawling buffet is an extravaganza of seafood, roasted meats and sumptuous salads and the desert table a work of art.
Bopping to the wonderful sounds of the ship’s resident band – it’s a party that transforms cruisers into teenagers and is utterly joyful.
Naturally, there wasn’t the quantity of shows that you get on a big cruise ship. That said the quality of the shows was superb.
Nightly shows in the cabaret lounge included the Quest singers and dancers strutting their stuff. The Brit pop night was a highlight that had the whole audience singing along.
Ami Williamson, a classically trained opera singing multi-instrumentalist crossed with a comedienne, had the audience spellbound with her 1960’s folk show.
Added to this we had Jose on the keys every night in the Den (aka the cocktail lounge) – did I mention the unforgettable cocktails?
The resident ship band “music4soul” were on each night in the “living room” for the night owls and I am happy to report there were a few of us on board who enjoyed the late-night disco dancing to this excellent band.
As well as the nightly shows, daily activities included trivia challenges, shuffleboard, ping pong and my personal favourite, the dance fitness classes.
Of particular interest they had an ex-barrister on board doing daily talks about some of her interesting cases, which was quite riveting.
This is the ship’s spa, fitness centre and beauty salon. There was a full menu of wonderful beauty treatments as well as loungers and outdoor spa (free for suite guests) on the terrace.
I enjoyed a hot stone massage and pedicure which were particularly appreciated after our hike in the Abel-Tasman National Park the previous day.
In fact, my feet are giving the big toes up as the best pedicure I have ever had…and my feet are very fussy!
There were weights, bikes, treadmills and elliptical trainers, and most pleasingly they even have spin classes.
Unfortunately, no amount of time spent in the gym was any match for the glorious food on this voyage and I very soon abandoned any attempts at neutralising my over-indulgence. Deck walks each morning were brisk and a great way to start the cruise day.
DESTINATIONS & EXCURSIONS
See it, touch it, taste it, FEEL it!!!
Immersion travel is one of the hottest travel trends right now and Azamara are all over it: staying longer and later in ports and giving passengers the opportunity to “immerse” themselves in the attractions, cuisine, history, culture and local life of the port destination.
My cruise started in the vibrant coffee-loving city of Wellington and from there on to Nelson, Picton Napier, Tauranga and finally Auckland.
New Zealand’s natural beauty always shocks me (in a good way!) and each time I visit I vow to return for longer.
There were many highlights on the trip – the Abel Tasman hike, the geo-thermal wonders of Rotorua, the cultural haka night on board, kayaking on the Marlborough Sound and I absolutely loved our All Blacks tour in Auckland. I also got to see my first ever Kiwi at the Napier Aquarium.
Historically, quests are usually difficult and dangerous experiences that leave those that undertake them battered and bruised.
On Azamara Quest, you’ll come home wondering just how soon you can do it all again, knowing that good things do indeed come in small packages.
Check out my story on the Wellington “azamazing” evening
Azamara cruises are not entirely all-inclusive but your fare does cover key aspects. Things like gratuities, a selection of alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages, bottled water, shuttle services to city centres, fitness classes and self-laundry and all food outside Aqualina and Prime C. Yes, you pay extra for some of the excursions but they are worth it.