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Azamara Quest

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Editor's Note: A March 2019 dry dock saw the ship's casino converted into a lounge that will play live music at night. Other updates include the addition of six new ocean-view staterooms, a redesign of Azamara Quest's gift shop, and new furniture in the ship's top 10 suites and two speciality restaurants.

Azamara Quest will win you over in two ways. The first is the down-to-earth friendliness of its passengers and crew. From the fist-bumping officers and chatty shipmates at the bar to the sheer exuberance of the White Party as passengers schmooze and dance for hours on the pool deck, this upscale ship knows how to have fun in a grown-up, non-cheesy way. Service might not be as obsequious as on classic luxury cruise lines, but it's attentive and warm with few glitches because the crew seem to genuinely care.

The second is the ship's -- really the entire cruise line's -- focus on destinations. From longer stays and overnights in ports to an emphasis on local foods, unique shore excursions and a lack of sea days, Azamara Club Cruises targets passengers for whom the destination -- not the ship -- is the real focus of their vacation.

Quest carries its own touring bikes for cycling tours and hosts a free evening shoreside event, called an AzAmazing Evening, on nearly every cruise, to make sure all passengers get a glimpse into the local culture. Azamara wants you to explore the destination, whether it's on your own or on one of its tours, and is constantly finding new ways to make that happen.

As for Quest itself, the 30,277-ton, 690-passenger ship is intimate and easy to get around. Most of the public spaces are found on Deck 5 (theatre, bars, shops, main dining room) and the upper decks (pool, speciality dining, library, observation lounge, spa). You won't be overwhelmed by places to dine or hang out, but there's enough choice given how little you might find yourself onboard. With hundreds -- rather than thousands -- of passengers onboard, you'll rarely experience crowding or queuing.

Food onboard is wonderful, with diverse menus that can accommodate a range of tastes and special needs and have some international flair. The Windows Cafe buffet venue is one of the best at sea, with themed dinners, stations for local foods, a smoothie bar, daily sushi and a changing selection of multiple flavours of gelato. The steakhouse and Italian venues are worth the extra charge, and the ship also puts on unique dinner events, such as an Indonesian rice table, chocolate buffet or sea-day dim sum. You're not going to find a ton of caviar and foie gras, but you will feel pleased and sated after meals.

However, Azamara Quest is old -- it debuted in 2000 -- and that means some aspects of the ship, namely accommodations, are not up to modern standards. Regular (non-suite) cabins are tiny. Most people don't spend much time in them (unless they've booked a suite, which are more livable sizes), so size is not a big problem, but can be a shock at first. A 2016 refurb modernized the decor and added extra outlets and USB ports, but storage space is still tight.

And the bathrooms might be the smallest you've ever experienced (including on the big ships), and the showers are so tight you don't have to be very tall or very wide before they're uncomfortable. It's the biggest obstacle to booking a cruise on this ship because you're paying a lot of money for this experience. And sometimes, equivalent itineraries on more inclusive lines can be a similar price.

Another quirk about Azamara is that its fares are semi-inclusive, meaning more items are included than on mainstream lines, but fewer than on true luxury lines. This can be a bonus or drawback, depending on your perspective. Gratuities, fitness classes, self-serve laundry, shuttle buses and some drinks (a short list of house wine and beer, select liquors and cocktails, most nonalcoholic beverages) are all covered by the cruise fare. It's a relief not to be constantly nickel and dimed. Yet some passengers might grumble about paying extra for speciality restaurants (suite passengers get these comped) and having to navigate the confusing bar menu to figure out which cocktails are included and which are not.

Ultimately, Azamara Quest is a ship that transcends its hardware limitations with friendly crew, great food, modern decor and a sociable onboard vibe. The cruise line's destination focus gives travellers plenty of choice in how they want to experience their vacation -- spend all day and many evenings in port and use the ship as merely a place to sleep and eat, or split time between exploring ashore and enjoying the intimate ship's public areas. It's a ship geared for grown-ups on a quest for destination immersion and onboard entertainment that's fun but not cheesy. On both counts, Azamara Quest delivers.

Azamara Quest's evening dress code is always resort casual, which makes packing easy. Men wear slacks and nice, collared shirts; women don dresses or cute tops with dressy slacks, capris or skirts. Mainly passengers dressed nicely but not necessarily fancily. Distressed or torn jeans, tank tops, shorts, swimming attire and baseball caps are not permitted in the main dining room or speciality restaurants.

At Windows Cafe, the pool deck buffet, passengers must wear footwear and a cover-up or shirt over their swimwear.

Daywear is casual, with passenger dress running the spectrum from shorts and T-shirts to sundresses and stylish resortwear.

Azamara Quest Inclusions

Azamara is a semi-inclusive cruise line. Fares cover gratuities, self-service laundry, shuttle service (when the downtown is a hike from the port), basic fitness classes like yoga and Pilates, and an AzAmazing Evening shore excursion on most itineraries. Some drinks are included: bottled water, soda, coffee (including speciality drinks like cappuccinos or lattes), tea and select beer, wine and liquor. However, the included liquor list is much smaller than you'd find on a true all-inclusive cruise line, and figuring out which drinks are free and which aren't can be tricky.

The main things not included are speciality dining (unless you're in a suite), shore excursions and spa treatments. Tips are automatically added onto the price of your spa treatment; they are not added or expected for extra-fee drinks. Tipping is also not expected in the speciality restaurants, but there is a line for a gratuity on the chit you have to sign, which is confusing. The onboard currency is the U.S. dollar.

Shore Excursions

"Like a Local" is the catchphrase of Azamara's shore excursions, which are classified "Bike Local," "Taste Local," "Meet Local," and so on. The aim is to offer unique tours that showcase the local culture, attractions or history, but the reality is that the majority of the tours are standard cruise excursions, with a few standouts thrown into the mix, especially in the larger destinations.

For example, in Livorno, you'll find the typical Florence and Pisa tours and a walk through Lucca, but there was also a cheesemaking tour that takes you to a family farm, where you'll meet the owner, get a tour and learn about how cheese is made. On another, an Azamara chef takes you through Livorno's main produce market and to a local brewery prior to an exclusive dinner onboard of local specialities, made with the ingredients purchased at the market. However, these more immersive excursions had limited spaces available and sold out before we could book them. You will have the best luck if you book the most special tours as soon as you're allowed pre-cruise.

The line is also committed to no more than 25 passengers per guide/bus on most tours (sometimes fewer), which can make certain tours hard to get into, if the line can't add a second group.

Azamara also boasts evening tours, but they only really existed in the one port (Barcelona) where we overnighted -- in addition to the AzAmazing Evening. Every Azamara cruise, except for transatlantic voyages and the rare less-than-a-weeklong sailing, includes a complimentary AzAmazing Evening that showcases the best of local culture in fabulous settings and famous landmarks. Examples include a concert inside St. Michael's Cave in Gibraltar; a polo match in Saint-Tropez on the French Riveria; and, in the Ancient City outside of Bangkok, a personal tour of replicas of different kingdoms, with samples of Thai beer and cuisine.

Azamara also carries touring bikes (the upright kind with bells and baskets) aboard Quest, with a dedicated cycle guide, and offers biking excursions in several ports. The bike tour we tried in Valencia had a local guide leading the way and giving commentary, while Quest's guide was on hand to provide support to the passengers and fix any bike issues, should the need arise. While our tour involved some rather dicey street biking, we're told the line is working on finessing its bike tours to involve only rides on dedicated bike paths.

One other nice touch about Quest's excursions is that most of our tours included local snacks, even on excursions that are not otherwise food-oriented. On a boat ride, we stopped for local cookies and wine; a historic walking tour concluded with local cheese and cured ham; and even the bike tour included a pit stop for a refreshing local drink.

Prices for tours run the gamut, with some under $100 for a half-day tour and others priced at $350 per person. We did hear some grumbling about the more expensive tours, and for some, you might be able to find an independent tour for less. A concierge is available to help passengers arrange for private excursions or tours that are run independently of the ship. The ship also provides complimentary shuttles to and from port communities, when it's not so easy to walk off the ship and into town. 

Daytime and Evening Entertainment

Azamara Quest's cruises are so port intensive, there are hardly any sea days and a minimal need for daytime activities. On our sailing, everyday activities were limited to fitness classes and spa seminars, themed trivia, and unhosted shuffleboard or Ping-Pong play.

If you are on a longer cruise, you will find that Azamara Quest packs its sea days with plenty of daytime activities. You'll find bridge, bingo, culinary demonstrations, afternoon movies in the show lounge with popcorn and extra-fee wine or caviar tastings. Ocean crossings feature a watercolourist to lead art classes.

Deck 5 is the entertainment hub for the ship. All the way forward is the Cabaret Lounge, which offers two seatings of a different show most nights. Azamara has an in-house troupe of four singers (no dancers currently, though the hotel director indicated that was changing), who perform themed musical revues, which are entertaining but nothing special. The cruise director and assistant cruise director each perform their own solo acts. (On our cruise, both were recruited from sister line Royal Caribbean -- including one who'd been in the onboard cast for the Broadway musical "Chicago" -- and both were more talented than the in-house troupe.)

Certain guest acts are labelled 54 Below at Sea and are a result of Azamara's partnership with the New York club, 54 Below, which selects the visiting performers. (On our cruise, we had a vivacious woman who sang Whitney Houston covers; she was excellent but somewhat lost on the older crowd.)

Continuing aft, the Casino features slot machines and gaming tables, and was quite happening on our Mediterranean cruise. Next door is Spirits, where a singer-pianist performs in the evening and social travellers gather at the bar and surrounding lounge seating. (In March 2019, the casino will be removed and the entire area turned into a lounge called The Den; because the casino can't run while the ship is in port, it's under-utilized on Quest's port-intensive itineraries, and will be changed into a more usable space.)

Musical entertainment can also be found at night in Deck 10's Living Room, alternating among unhosted ballroom music before dinner; Smooth Sensations, who play easy listening and dance music; and a late-night DJ.

Every evening there's an outdoor movie screening on the pool deck. There are also a variety of get-togethers for like-minded groups (LGBT, singles and solos, even a pizza social for the under-17s).

Azamara is known for its once-per-cruise White Night. Passengers are encouraged to dress in white (most did) and enjoy an alfresco buffet dinner that morphs into a lively deck party, with all the ship's singers (theatrical troupe, cruise director and lounge singer) taking turns on the mic and many passengers up and dancing. What impressed us was unlike deck parties on other high-end lines, this one drew a huge crowd that stayed well into the evening hours. The vibe was incredible, and even folks who didn't dance enjoyed lingering at their tables and watching the fun on the pool deck.

Enrichment

Enrichment programming has never been a hallmark of Azamara, mainly because the line expects you to get your enrichment on tour in port. A guest lecturer gave a few talks on our cruise, but there was no robust lecture series -- and it wasn't missed. We're told that longer cruises, or ones with more sea days, will host two lecturers, one who talks about the destination and its culture or history, and another who talks about general interest subjects (astronomy, marine wildlife, etc.). Otherwise, you'll find some spa seminars.

Azamara Quest Bars and Lounges

Since there are not a ton of entertainment options onboard, the bars and lounges are a main attraction. Head to Spirits if you want to drink and socialize; choose the Living Room for a pre-dinner chat with your travel companions or a dance party late at night.

Azamara's semi-inclusive alcohol policy can be confusing. A selection of wine, beer and liquor are complimentary but the list of included brands is not comprehensive. For example, you'll find select brands of rum, vodka, gin, whiskey, bourbon and tequila -- and flavoured spirits like peach schnapps, triple sec and creme de menthe. But you won't find amaretto, Baileys or Kahlua.

The bar menus are mainly lists of the extra-fee cocktails and liquors; the last page has an abbreviated list of complimentary options, without cocktail descriptions. (See Cruise Critic's A to Z for the full cocktail rundown.) If you're passionate about not paying for booze, request the full list of complimentary beverage items from Guest Relations.

Cabaret Lounge and Bar (Deck 5): The Cabaret show lounge is an intimate performance space with a bar in the back (only open during show times). Instead of a Broadway-style theatre with a big stage and stadium seating, it feels more like the secondary show lounge you usually find on larger ships with a small stage, dance floor and rows of free-standing chairs that are arranged in semicircles around the dance floor. The bar here serves drinks around show times. Note that if you sit in the chairs set out on the dance floor area, you will be sung to, flirted with, sat on or kissed by the performers in practically every show.

Lectures, sea day movies, the muster drill and shore tour assembling also take place here.

Spirits (Deck 5): One of the two main evening destinations, Spirits opens at 6 p.m. and stays open until midnight or 1 p.m. -- and you'll still find people there when the bartenders come around for last call. The bar sits between the casino and a small lounge area, where a piano singer performs at night. The bartenders are engaging (and hard working) and will help you come up with the right cocktail or explain the complimentary options. Passengers who hang out in Spirits are generally a social lot; we never left without having made a new friend.

Mosaic Café (Deck 5): Located by the shops, the Mosaic Cafe is in an open, atrium-style space with scattered seating. It's where you pause to grab a morning coffee or midday snack, hang out on a sea day with a deck of cards or a good book, or watch the world go by with an after-dinner drink.

Discoveries Bar (Deck 5): Outside Discoveries is the Discoveries Bar, which is the perfect spot to sip a before-dinner drink or meet your dinner companions. It's only open from 5:30 to 9:30 p.m., and is a good meeting spot if you're dining with a group.

Pool Bar (Deck 9): Weather permitting, the pool deck bar is open from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m., serving the sun worshippers and The Patio diners.

Sunset Bar (Deck 9): It's easy to overlook this bar as a destination, since it's stationed among the alfresco seating area for the Windows Cafe. It's open from late morning until 10 p.m., so it's worth nabbing a barstool once the dinner crowd thins to watch the summer sun set or enjoy a starlit evening and sea breezes.

Living Room (Deck 10): On Deck 10, the elegant Living Room has it all: a dance floor, DJ booth, bar, card tables and board games, and computer stations. There's also a small buffet for tapas (5 to 8 p.m.) and a long table with an ice bar, for displaying empty caviar jars and sealed Champagne bottles, in case someone is inspired to make a purchase. We were told you could get tea and scones here in the afternoon, but while we sipped tea, we never saw nor were alerted to the presence of tea snacks. We loved the comfortable seating and funky chairs (including a birdcage-style hanging seat and purple canopy chairs).

Each night, the DJ plays a themed set ('80s, Latin, etc.) and one night, the Living Room hosted karaoke, which started slow but picked up steam. A live band performs here in the earlier hours of the evening.

Azamara Quest Outside Recreation

The Deck 9 pool deck is a buzzy spot on summer or warm-weather sailings, even with Azamara's destination focus. The main pool is flanked by two whirlpools and surrounded by loungers with cloth-covered padding and headrests. There's a stage on one end, but we never saw it used with the exception of the White Party.

Tables and chairs are set up for alfresco dining by The Patio; on the opposite side, a covered area offers comfy couches for reading or hanging out in a shadier spot, but could really use some ceiling fans -- it never seemed inviting. The forward, portside corner of the pool deck is the only place smoking is permitted onboard.

One deck up, an oval track circles the pool area for walking or jogging; 13 laps equals 1 nautical mile. A Ping-Pong table and darts game are tucked into one corner. A half-deck on Deck 11 forward provides additional space for sunbathing; the shuffleboard court is found here as well. 

Azamara Quest Services

The guest relations, shore excursions, concierge and future cruise sales desks are all located in the main atrium area of Deck 4, flanked by a few comfy chairs and couches for those waiting. It doesn't have the impressive, high-ceilinged look of many cruise ship atriums. There's one grander than normal staircase with an odd sculpture of stacked heads, surrounded by metal birds and plants, but there's no wow factor. Not that anyone minds. The staircase splits in two at the sculpture, one side leads to the Mosaic Cafe, the other to the art gallery and art desk. The Quest Shop just across sells everything from logowear and stuffed animals to clothing, bags and sundries, while Indulgences offers more upscale purchases, such as designer sunglasses, fancy watches and jewellery. 

Also on Deck 5, the Photo Gallery is located behind the Spirits Bar; there you can browse and purchase photos taken by the ship's photography staff and arrange photography sessions. It's unassuming, as befits a high-end cruise line. The beautiful library, called the Drawing Room, is up on Deck 10 by Prime C and Aqualina. It has an extensive collection of books and a ceiling fresco of birds, giving the impression of a greenhouse (one of the few frescoes left from the ship's Renaissance days after its 2016 refurb). The room can be divided with a curtain to host private events, religious services and special dinners.

A few computer terminals are set up in the Deck 10 Living Room for passenger use. (This is also where card tables and board games are found.) You must purchase a package to go online. You'll pay $19.95 for one hour or $29.95 for 24 hours; otherwise you can buy a full voyage unlimited package. Rates vary by length of cruise; for example, a 10-night package costs $199.95. Members of Azamara's loyalty program receive free internet minutes (30 minutes for Adventurer level up to 150 minutes for Discoverer Platinum), but can trade their free time for credit against an unlimited package to reduce the fee. There's a complimentary self-service laundry with six washers and six dryers, detergent pods and ironing boards on Deck 7. The facility can get packed, and you are wise to return promptly to pick up your washing before an impatient shipmate unceremoniously removes it.

A medical facility is on Deck 4.

The Sanctum Spa on Deck 9 is rather unassuming, with beige walls and carpeting paired with darker doors and furnishings. It features Elemis products and treatments, which are on the pricy side but not outrageous. Choose from massage, facials, body treatments and reflexology. An acupuncturist is onboard to offer holistic treatments and sell herbal supplements. Look for the spa's in-port specials for treatments at reduced rates; they're a good deal.

A salon offers hairstyling, manicure and pedicure services, and men's grooming, as well as waxing. It's tucked away within the spa confines, so you don't see it on your way to spa reception.

Passes to the Sanctum Spa Terrace, with its thalassotherapy pool and quiet sun deck, are complimentary for suite passengers but can also be purchased by others. Book cruise-long individual or couple's passes. A one-day pass is $30.

The fitness centre is a good size for the ship's passenger count. Elliptical trainers, treadmills and stationary bikes all have high-tech displays with TV capabilities and face floor-to-ceiling windows if you'd rather take in the view while you sweat. Behind them, a selection of free weights and a few weight machines and benches are available for pumping iron. An aerobics area is kitted out with spinning bikes and yoga mats.

Fitness classes -- including yoga, Pilates, spinning (Tour de Cycle) and stretching -- are all free of charge. The classes are short (30 minutes) and nothing special, especially if you've gone to dedicated studios at home. Personal training and a four-session body sculpting boot camp are available for additional fees. Be aware that the fitness instructor will push footprint analysis sessions, which are complementary but aimed at selling you insoles.

The best-kept secrets on the ship are the spa locker rooms. Use of the steam rooms is free (just swap your cruise card for a locker key), and so are the spa showers, each with multiple jets for a massaging wash. When you're tired of fighting with the curtain or banging your elbows in the tiny cabin showers, head on up to the spa for a more enjoyable cleansing.

The anteroom between spa reception and the locker rooms also serves up fruit-infused waters for free, which are quite refreshing whether you've been to the spa, worked out or have simply been lounging in the sun.

Dining is a highlight on Azamara Quest. Menus are varied, with lots of choices, and the buffet is one of the best we've experienced at sea. We never felt like we were missing out when eating in the complimentary versus extra-fee venues -- though travellers used to luxury cruise lines might grumble at having to pay for speciality venues, Aqualina and Prime C. (They're free for suite guests.) Keep an eye out for local dishes and ingredients in Discoveries and Windows Cafe, as well as one-off special meals, such as an Indonesian rijsttafel (rice table) or dim sum on itineraries with more plentiful sea days. Dining packages are available at reduced rates for passengers who want to visit speciality restaurants more than once or attend the Chef's Table, possibly more than once. Rates range from $70 for three meals in Aqualina and Prime C to $250 to attend the Chef's Table three times.

Discoveries Restaurant (Deck 5): Discoveries is the main dining room, which serves breakfast and dinner every day and lunch on sea days. (On cruises with a higher-than-usual number of sea days, the ship will swap out breakfast and lunch in the dining room for a late-morning brunch buffet, or turn lunch into a dim sum feast.) It's always open seating, and passengers can choose to dine alone or join others at larger tables. There are plenty of two-tops; however, there's hardly any space between adjacent tables. Some people consider this a bad thing because you have little privacy from the adjacent tables; others view this as a positive and strike up conversations with their neighbours at dinner. Discoveries is decorated in multiple hues of brown with a striking circular carpet pattern. Wall sconces are interspersed with the large windows, and a modern chandelier, set in a pewter-coloured recess, sits above the central round table. Red flowers on the table add pops of colour in the otherwise neutral space. Most cruise ship main dining rooms feature a standard breakfast menu -- pancakes, eggs Benedict, a variety of omelettes. Azamara Quest offers all the classics but takes the breakfast menu one step further with more unusual international options, such as a Japanese zucchini noodle breakfast bowl, Asian chicken and rice congee and Arabic shakshuka (eggs poached in tomatoes, chilli peppers and onions). The expanded menu gives passengers a reason to give Discoveries a second look for the morning meal, rather than sticking to the buffet and room service.

Discoveries is most popular at dinner, and window tables are hard to come by if you don't show up right at 6 p.m. The menu features a choice of appetizers, soups and salads to start. There's an extensive selection of main courses each evening, including meat, fish and vegetarian dishes. Each night, there's a Chef's Favorite Dish (either something new, local or a favourite no longer in the main menu rotation) and a World Cuisine Selection (inspired by a destination Azamara visits).

Always-available dishes include escargot, shrimp cocktail, French onion soup, Caesar salad, salmon, grilled chicken breast and New York strip steak. The menu is marked for vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free and healthy choice items.

Waiters offer a selection of two red and two white wines each evening but seem to have limited knowledge of the wines. Ask for the sommelier if you have questions. If you don't like the day's house wines, you can order a different wine from the complimentary list, if available -- or choose an extra-fee vintage. Selections are an international mix with options from California, Chile, South Africa, New Zealand and Europe.

The dessert menu features four options that change daily (including a sugar-free treat), gelato/sorbet/frozen yoghurt and always-available favourites, such as creme brulee and cheesecake.

One nice touch is that each night the bread basket it present along with hummus and a pesto sauce, as well as butter.

Depending on your table, Discoveries can feel crowded at dinner, with tables set close to each other. Service was generally good but not outstanding and seemed to improve as the cruise went on. On our first night, the waiters were too attentive, constantly asking us how we were doing and if we needed anything; other cruisers reported the opposite, with dinner lasting hours with slow service.

Windows Cafe (Deck 9): For casual dining, Windows Cafe is one of the best buffets at sea. It's open for breakfast, lunch and dinner but not in between. Coffee, tea and juice are available around the clock. Although the buffet is technically self-service (except for the first 24 hours of each cruise, for health reasons), dining staff are always around to help serve you, and waiter service is available for juice, tea, water and other beverages. Most of the seating is indoors, but you can also choose to dine alfresco on the aft deck by the Sunset Bar. Items are marked as vegetarian or gluten-free.

In the morning, Windows offers a selection of hot breakfast items, cold and hot cereals (including a mueslis bar), pastries, fruit and yoghurt. Orange juice is freshly squeezed, and you can order smoothies at the smoothie bar by the port-side entrance. Request eggs made to order at the omelette station, and they'll be delivered to your table so you don't have to wait. Oddly enough, at peak times, the station that backed up was the bread toaster.

Lunchtime features a salad bar, as well as premade salads, sandwich meats and cheeses, hot entrees, soup, a carving station, Indian food station (often vegetarian), sushi bar and several kinds of pizza and calzones. There's often a regional speciality tied in with the day's port of call.

Every night is a themed dinner -- French, Asian, Indian/British, Spanish, Greek, seafood -- with plenty of options for all palates. An early dinner buffet is put on for the AzAmazing Evening. 

Lunch and dinner always seemed to have an inordinate number of desserts on offer, like multiple flavours of gelato (including sorbets and sugar-free flavours), mini cheesecakes and tarts, cookies and a hot dessert (such as bread pudding). A rotating selection of cheese and crackers is always on offer, as well.

Look for special stations with locally sourced foods. For example, on seafood night in Monaco, one station comprised fresh local mussels and clams. Another day, there was a selection of French cheeses, picked up in that day's port.

The Patio (Deck 9): Just outside Windows is the poolside grill dubbed The Patio. It's open from lunch through dinner, so it's a great option when your tour returns after Windows has closed or you need a midafternoon nacho fix. The menu features an array of burgers (hamburger, cheeseburger, salmon, turkey, veggie or lamb) with a selection of toppings, as well as brochettes of meat and sandwiches (like seared tuna spinach wraps or grilled pork loin).

Sides and snacks include nachos, Buffalo wings and vegetarian spring rolls, chilli con carne, French fries and onion rings. You order everything from your waiter (rather than queuing at the grill) but there is a self-serve salad bar with lots of toppings, so you can add something healthy to your greasy lunch.

Once or twice per cruise, Azamara Quest hosts an Indonesian rijsttafel (rice table) at The Patio (or at the covered resting area just opposite) for $25 per person. The event needs a minimum of 12 people and can take up to 25 people. The 2.5-hour dining event starts at 7 p.m. and involves lots of Indonesian food, served family-style (some a bit spicy), served by waiters decked out in traditional Indonesian dress. It's a casual event and like many of Azamara's dining experiences, it's fun and social with couples getting to know each over the course of the meal. Reservations are required.

Swirl and Top (Deck 9): Adjacent to The Patio's grill are two self-serve frozen yogurt stations with four flavours (banana, chocolate, vanilla and strawberry) and a toppings bar with fruit, candy and sauces.

White Night (Deck 9): Once per cruise, Azamara Quest throws a massive White Night event that takes over the entire pool deck, with extra seating on Deck 10 above. The ship's officers don aprons and serve barbecue (everything from grilled steak to turkey skewers and lobster tails) plus an enormous buffet with whole fish, made-to-order stir-fry, a Caprese salad station, huge salad area and more. Everyone will find something -- possibly too many somethings -- to enjoy. An array of sweets rounds out the night, with the hotel director and other officers dishing out crepes suzette. It's probably the only time you'll wait in a long line all cruise.

After dinner, there's live musical entertainment and passengers while away the hours dancing or enjoying a chat and the evening air. Our only complaint was that the bar staff was too busy hawking after-dinner liquors for a fee, and it was hard to get a complimentary glass of wine or water.

Prime C (Deck 10); $30 per person: Prime C is the ship's classic steakhouse and is decorated, like so many onboard steakhouses, with dark woods, sedate colours and black-and-white photos of old-time celebrities like Elvis, Judy Garland and Humphrey Bogart. Tables are spaced well enough apart, and nearly everyone has a sea view.

The four-part menu is divided into soups/salads, appetizers, entrees and desserts. The entrees -- including the tender filet mignon and the 14-ounce chateaubriand for two -- were fabulous. Desserts include mini doughnuts and a molten chocolate cake. Be sure to ask about the daily specials.

Service at Prime C is absolutely outstanding. Our waiter was sociable, knowledgeable about menu items and confident with suggestions as to which dishes were better to order on that particular day, due to available specials or meat sourcing. He had the uncanny availability of appearing just when we needed him without hovering uncomfortably.

Reservations are required for this dinner-only venue. Because suite passengers can eat for free and get early and priority reservations, Prime C (and Aqualina) can book up quickly. By embarkation day, when many passengers try to make in-person reservations, many of the best seatings are already filled for the cruise. Don't despair. There are often cancellations, so if you can't get a reservation, inquire the day before or on the day you wish to dine if any tables have opened up. Passengers on our cruise had good luck getting last-minute tables that way.

Aqualina (Deck 10); $30 per person: Aqualina is now an Italian restaurant (despite stints as a Mediterranean or French seafood venue in the past). Where Prime C is dark, Aqualina is light, airy and elegant with taupe-coloured walls, blue chairs, white tablecloths and wispy, sheer curtains surrounding the maitre d' stand. Most tables have good views out the floor-to-ceiling windows.

The menu is divided into antipasti (beef carpaccio, buffalo mozzarella with tomatoes), soups and salad (minestrone, watermelon salad) and mains (mushroom risotto, lobster tail with pasta, veal scaloppini). The chef is happy to mix and match, within reason; we ordered our eggplant roulade with the pesto gnocchi from the appetizer list rather than its listed linguini pomodoro. For dessert, don't miss the limoncello souffle or the chocolate tart. Everything we ate was delicious.

Service was the right mix of attentive without being intrusive, and our waiter was friendly and funny. He heeded our request to finish dinner within an hour and a half so we could see the show, but we never felt rushed or that we were putting anyone out with our request.

Aqualina is open for dinner only. Reservations are required.

On sea days, Aqualina also hosts an elegant afternoon tea (complimentary). Waiters will bring out tiered stands with scones, finger sandwiches and pastries.

Chef's Table (Deck 10); $95 per person: The Chef's Table is an intimate dining experience, limited to 12 people, that's ideal for foodies and wine aficionados. The six-course set menus are themed (Cuban Fusion, French, Italian and "stateside"), feature fancier ingredients (suckling pig, lobster, squid) and are paired with premium wines. The event is held at the long high table by the entrance and wine display in Prime C.

Chef's Table is offered around four times per cruise, possibly more if there's interest. It's a long dinner, roughly three hours, and most people love the experience.

Mosaic Cafe (Deck 5): The Mosaic Cafe is open daily from 7 a.m. to 11:30 p.m. and wears many hats. In the mornings, you can grab a coffee and muffin or breakfast pastry; in the afternoon, you'll find finger sandwiches or tapas plus sweets; and at night, you can enjoy an after-dinner cappuccino or tea. Grab a snack to go, or take one of the seats in the open atrium area by the shops. It's one of the best places for people-watching as passengers pass by going from the restaurant to the show or casino.

Once per cruise, the entire area is pressed into service to host a decadent after-dinner chocolate buffet, complete with a chocolate fountain, multitiered cakes, doughnuts, truffles and an ice cream sundae station with no fewer than three flavours of chocolate-based ice cream. It's a fun event, but the space is too small to contain all the sweet-toothed passengers, and room to sit and eat is limited. Consider making a plate and then escaping to a seat in Spirits or the Cabaret Lounge.

Room Service: Room service is available is 24/7. The breakfast menu is more extensive than a simple continental repast. Aside from fruit, breads and pastries, cereal and breakfast meats, you can also order omelettes, pancakes, waffles, steak and eggs, and a "Healthy Choice" breakfast (egg white omelette, fruit, cottage cheese and granola), among other hot items.

An afternoon tea service of delivered savouries is not overly publicized; you'll find the order card in the information binder in your cabin. We tried the tea, and a room service attendant basically brought us a selection of Twinings tea, hot water, cookies and little cakes. It's nothing special -- or that you can't get on your own at Mosaic.

Beyond breakfast, in-room dining is available 24 hours a day and can be ordered by phone or through your TV. Options include soup, salad, platters (think chips and salsa or a Mediterranean platter with salami, prosciutto, cheese, olives and crostini), sandwiches (burger, club, curried chicken), mains (strip steak, salmon, chicken tenders), pizza and quesadillas. Desserts range from brownies and cookies to gelato and fruit crumble.

You can also order off the Discoveries Restaurant menu during the dining room's open hours.

Azamara Quest's cabins are the main place where the ship shows its age. The look of the rooms is modern -- following a major makeover and refurbishment in 2016 -- but the size of the standard cabins, especially the bathrooms, is small considering the overall price you're paying to be on the ship. The line did its best, but the rooms could use a bit more storage and showers will be an interesting experience for anyone who is neither short nor skinny.

On the plus side, Quest has a wide range of cabins from insides to large suites, so passengers have an array of layouts and price points to choose from when booking. Luxury travellers will want to book a suite to get the space they're used to and a more workable bathroom. All have a neutral palette with shades of grey, brown and beige, and textured wall coverings that make the rooms look less ship-like (but also mean your magnets don't stick as well).

Standard cabins (insides, outsides and balconies) are furnished with queen beds that can convert to twins, a desk/vanity with large mirror, semicircular love seat and oval dining-height table. The three-door closet offers hanging space and shallow drawers, plus shelves for the safe, mini-bar and ice bucket. Additional shelves and drawers are available in the desk and in nightstands. As two women travelling together on a nine-day cruise, we had to ask our room steward for additional hangers and store extra clothes in the desk. Suitcases fit underneath the beds.

Be careful about the mini-bar. Soda and generic bottled water are complimentary, but the wine, beer and Perrier cost extra.

Additional cabin amenities include the use of terrycloth bathrobes and slippers, umbrella and binoculars. You'll find a thermostat for climate control, hair dryer, telephone and a 40-inch flat-screen TV with interactive features (order room service, check your bill, watch movie on-demand for a steep $11.98 fee). There are 110 and 220V outlets (two each) by the desk, and reading lamps and USB ports by each side of the bed. Upon embarkation, passengers receive a welcome fruit basket, fresh flowers and a souvenir tote bag. Complimentary shoeshine service is available through your room steward.

Bathrooms are so small that toilets are angled in order to have space for passengers to sit. There are three small shelves above the toilet and shelves below the sink. The shower is an odd shape, not quite rectangular, with two small shelves and a soap dish, with an adjustable shower head/wand. It's the first time we've ever experienced the clingy shower curtain problem; even if you're short and skinny and flexible, it's hard to effectively shower without getting intimate with the curtain, knocking over the soap dish or doing contortions in order to shave your legs. Also be prepared for soft water pressure.

The ship has three Inside, two Oceanview and two Club Continent suites that are wheelchair accessible, plus 18 pairs of connecting cabins, and 41 cabins with a pull-out sofa to sleep three (including some, but not all suites). Many of the connecting cabins also have third berths, making them suitable for families. Passengers should realize that pulling out a sofa bed in a standard cabin takes away much of the available free space in the cabin; you don't really want three adults sharing a room on Quest at all. Club Ocean and Club World Owner's Suites can accommodate a rollaway bed. 

Inside: Club Interior cabins measure 158 square feet and are small, but not overly claustrophobic for two people who don't plan on spending much time hanging out in their room.

Oceanview: Club Oceanview cabins are actually smaller, measuring 143 square feet and offering a picture window. They are mainly found on Deck 6. Outside cabins designated category 08 have obstructed views and are generally priced less than regular cabins. The best Club Oceanview rooms are the four Category 04 cabins all the way forward on Decks 6 and 7. These spacious (215 square foot) rooms have a round porthole window and are the length of a balcony cabin plus its veranda, but all the space is inside.

Balcony: Club Veranda Staterooms measure 175 square feet with 40-square-foot balconies. The private verandas are accessed via sliding-glass doors and are furnished with two rattan-style cushioned chairs and a dining table. Beginning in 2020, some of these cabins will be designated Club Veranda Plus. While they will be the same cabins as regular veranda staterooms, they will cost more and come with extra perks, including 120 minutes of complimentary internet (or $130 toward an unlimited package), one free bag of laundry every seven days, priority embarkation and debarkation and complimentary alcohol in the mini-bar.

Suites: Azamara Quest has four suite categories. All receive the same perks as Club Veranda Plus rooms but with a different internet freebie (240 complimentary minutes of internet per person) and butler service, complimentary speciality restaurant dining and in-suite afternoon tea service. Club World Owner's, Ocean and Spa Suites also receive $300 onboard credit per person.

Club Continent Suite: These suites are what would be called mini-suites on other lines, with no separation between living and sleeping areas. Suites measure 266 square feet with 60-square-foot balconies. The colour scheme in these suites is more cream-based with a more modern-style desk and drawer unit. The living space trades the semicircular loveseat for a round table and two chairs, one high-backed and cushioned, the other round and metallic; the TV is larger at 55 inches. Balcony furnishings are the same as in veranda cabins. The notable difference is in the bathroom, which has been modernized and is much more spacious than a standard. Bathrooms have either a glass-enclosed rectangular shower with space to move or a tub with showerhead, a square bowl sink, a lighted mirror and wooden storage shelves.

Club Spa Suite: There are just two Club Spa Suites adjacent to the spa on Deck 9. Azamara found that passengers were booking them for their layout and location, not because they wanted a spa-focused vacation, so there are no longer any spa-specific perks associated with the suite. Spa suites measure 414 square feet, with a 60-square-foot veranda. The unique open-plan layout makes the room feel light and spacious. You enter into the main living/sleeping space, which is furnished with a tan sofa and oval glass coffee table, desk under the flat-screen TV and corner easy chair. On either side of the desk/TV area are open (no doors) entries into the spa-like bathroom, which has double bowl sinks, a mirrored vanity with stool and a toilet in a separate space with a door. But the piece de resistance is the enormous glass-enclosed shower, with windows to the sea and the balcony with a round tub and rain shower with various jet options.

Club Ocean and Club World Owner's Suites: The top two suite categories on the ship have similar layouts and both are corner suites, but have different locations and sizes. The Club Ocean Suites are located forward on Decks 6 and 7 and measure 478 square feet with 173-square-foot balconies, while the Club World Owner's Suites are stationed aft on Decks 6 through 8 and are 603 square feet with 233-square-foot balconies. In addition to size, the aft suites are more desirable as they feel the rock and roll of the ship less than the forward suites (though they do feel more engine vibration). We were told that suite 7114 is the most preferred suite onboard for its aft location and for being sandwiched between two residential decks (as opposed to public areas). These suite classes have a darker look with more dark woods in the furnishings and dark brown geometric patterns in the carpet. The living room is separate from the bedroom and contains a dining table for four, sofa with matching easy chair and 55-inch flat-screen TV. The bedroom has a second TV (44 inches) over a bureau, vanity with mirror, large closet unit and a king-sized bed with a wingback leather headboard. The master bath, done in marble with eye-catching wall tiling, can be entered via the living or sleeping area, with a toilet and sink in a separate space that can be closed off to become a powder room when entertaining. The rest of the bathroom features a large glassed-in shower with rain showerhead and wand, separate bathtub and a single sink. The balcony can be entered through sliding-glass doors from the living room or bedroom and has a dining table for four and two lounge chairs.

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