Azamara Quest

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They've created a new category in cruising which has been dubbed "luxury lite" and Azamara Club Cruises has reinvented itself in cruise travel and created a loyal following with a product that's ideal for romantic getaways.

It is late on New Year’s Eve, and we’re standing on the deck of Azamara Quest with the neon lights of downtown Saigon flickering all around us. As the minutes tick by, the expressway near the pier quickly becomes packed with thousands of people on motorbikes, as they gather for the celebrations.

Around us, Quest’s hard working crew ignore the heat and humidity, handing out glasses of sparkling wine and party hats. As the clock strikes midnight, the sky comes alive with the colour and sound of fireworks, the band strikes up, and both guests and crew start dancing.

It is a memorable night, and as it turns out, just one of many on our first cruise with Azamara Club Cruises on this romantic vacation. We’d joined Quest in Singapore just over a week earlier for an 18-night cruise to Hong Kong, with high expectations of a newcomer in the industry claiming to have carved a new niche for itself. Dubbed “luxury lite”, it’s a hybrid product which sits between premium and five star, but as we discovered, has plenty to offer cruisers who enjoy luxury with an eye for a bargain.

Like sister ship, Azamara Journey, Quest once belonged to the now defunct Renaissance fleet, cruising under the name of R Seven for five years. She was snapped up by Azamara in 2007, and boutique in size - she accommodates just 694 guests - she has many unusual features.

Her decor is one; more contemporary traditional than modern with the feel of a French country mansion, Quest is elegantly styled. Public areas have dark wood paneled walls, rich blue carpeting and drapes, contemporary artwork, marble fireplaces, and comfortable lounge chairs.

For a mid-sized ship Quest also has four quality dining options. The primary venue,  Discoveries, is an open seating affair, while Windows Café is a casual, part alfresco buffet, and there are two specialty restaurants located forward on deck 10, boasting views while attracting a surcharge of US $15 a head. Prime C is a classic steakhouse from its decor to menu, while Aqualina offers American cuisine with a Mediterranean flair, and both include top quality wines in the price.

When it comes to accommodation, Quest has four basic types to choose from: interior staterooms, ocean view staterooms, veranda staterooms, and suites. All feature a similar plush decor and boast a sitting area, refrigerator with mini bar, flat screen TV, and Wi-Fi accessibility. Our deck seven veranda stateroom was elegantly appointed and just spacious enough for a long range cruise. The only drawback was the size of the bathroom, which was pokey, had a toilet situated at an odd angle, and was short of refinement.

Another point of difference on an Azamara cruise is the itinerary, which is heavy on unusual ports of call, and features longer days in port including more overnight stays. The latter, in particular, overturns a major criticism of cruising; you get to visit many places, but don’t have enough time to really see them. On our cruise for example, we had overnight stays at both ends of the itinerary as well as Halong Bay and Saigon, and a two night/three day stint in Bangkok to celebrate Christmas.

As onboard facilities go, Quest isn’t anything out of the ordinary when compared with other small-to-mid-sized ships today. She has a spacious sun deck with a pool and two jacuzzi spas, a decent fitness centre, a small but full-service spa, an internet centre, an elegant European-style café, and plenty of nooks and crannies for escaping the crowds.

The “luxury lite” tag, however, really comes into play when examining what’s included in the cruise fare - a major part of the line’s 2010 overhaul. Falling just short of the all inclusive experience of lines such as Regent and Seabourn, Azamara doesn’t charge extra for bottled water, sodas and fresh juices, house wines at lunch and dinner, and specialty coffees. Shuttles are also free in ports where transport is necessary, and gratuities are also included.

Overall, the Azamara experience well exceeded our expectations, scoring highly on a number of fronts especially as a romantic getaway on the high seas. The food was top quality, the ship was nicely appointed, and the crew almost impossible to fault. And for cruisers who want a romantic vacation or just a vacation getaway, this is a brand which won’t disappoint.

For more information, call 1800 754 500, or visit

Did You Know?

  • Club Suite guests have additional perks including English butler service, priority check-in and departure, complimentary garment pressing, daily hors d’oeurves, and complimentary seating in specialty restaurants.
  • Azamara offers guests a complimentary unpacking and packing service.
  • There are daily alcohol specials, including 2-for-1 prices on certain beers, and two different sampler cocktails priced at US $5 each.
  • Azamara has “borrowed” a few ideas from sister brand, Celebrity Cruises, including a nightly sushi bar in Windows Café, and the exclusive Michael’s Club for loyalty program members.
  • The dress code on Azamara is always resort casual; there are no formal nights, but you are free to dress up if you choose!
Joanna Hall