Our Croatian Voyage- the review

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#1
Alesund, Norway
619 Posts
Joined Jun 2011
Posting this as recommended by Deirdre
The review:

We have only sailed on Azamara Journey before and were looking forward to this voyage with it's sibling. We choose this cruise mainly because of the itinerary, but it was also a nice opportunity to get to know the other ship in the Azamara fleet.
Last year Azamara only docked at the San Basillio terminal in Venice and we were anticipating that for this sailing as well. We tried at an early stage to get information about which terminal to be used but this information was not available until we got our travel documents, - i.e we got confirmed San Basillio.
Four days before the cruise we had an email from Azamara changing the terminal to Marittima. This information was late and we learned that the port authorities had assigned Azamara the Marittima terminal several months before.
The embarkation: Getting on the ship was not as swift as we are used to. Maybe because of the change of terminal. The database failed several times and we were left in the queue for 45 minutes with only a couple of people ahead of us. We finally got to the gangway and was welcomed aboard with the usual glass of champagne. The Quest is basically identical to the Journey and we felt at home immediately. Noticed that there were no senior officers at the gangway, but this could have been coincidental.
Sail-off from Venice was beautiful and with the warm silky air we decided to have dinner in the Windows Café if we could get a table outside. So we did. We watched the skyline of Venice sink into the golden wake of the ship as the sun set behind us. Food was fantastic and we loved every minute of it. On the Journey we have actually never had dinner in the Windows Café, but preferred to eat in the main restaurant Discoveries or one of the two specialty restaurants Aqualina and Prime C. The food in Windows were beyond our expectations. They had an Italian Buffet that evening and it was amazing. A wide selections of pastas, steaks and a station making Risottos and Ravioli by the order plus some spectacular antipasti. We were in heaven.
So to make a long story short: We actually had lunches and dinners in Windows for the rest of the cruise. Not only for the convenience but mainly because the evenings were so beautiful and that we considered ourselves to be lucky to dine under the stars watching the sunsets from the open deck in Windows. The food was fantastic in the buffet and we said to ourselves that this must be much better than having the conventional meals in the MDR. Our choice,- this time.
We have had so many beautiful dinners in the restaurants on previous cruises and can highly recommend them all. We just never got to any of them this cruise.:-) Mind you: we tried to get a table in Aqualina and Prime C but never got further than the waiting list. Since we cruised with Journey last year they have introduced some "Dining Packages" where you can pre-book between 3 and 5 nights in the specialty restaurants and this has obviously made an impact on availability for the ad hoc reservations. You have to buy these packages when boarding and for us it meant that we never got a chance to go. We deliberately decided to NOT buy a package, since we only want one or maybe two nights in these restaurants. We got on the waiting list, but never got in. Sad to say we don't think this enhances the Azamara experience. It has always been possible to book a table in the specialty restaurants when on board on a first come first serve basis. Now the only people who can get in are the ones who decide on the first day, and they have to take three nights minimum. A move to the worse IMHO.
Well, for us it didn't matter that much, and for this cruise we were much better off in the Windows Café.
Ports:
It was a bit port intensive this year. Normally Azamara take you to a port in the morning and then you stay until late night. This time it was a bit different. We got into Zadar on the first morning with just a daytime walkabout before we moved on to Split. Zadar was a beautiful city and the old town was fantastically picturesque. The daytime sailing southwards to Split was delightful and we enjoyed it by the pool and later on from the Windows Café where we, once again had the sunset table for dinner.
Arriving Split at 9 pm there was not much to be done in the city other than have a short walk along the Riva. We had a longer sightseeing the day after and once again a fantastic city to explore by foot. We were impressed by it's beauty and history.
Later that afternoon we sailed on to Hvar where we having the Azamazing Evening. Hvar is the "rich and beautiful"-people's paradise in Croatia, -kind of like a tiny Saint Tropez. Prices are slightly higher but it is a beautiful port. We had a hike up to the fortress above Hvar and then had lunch in the port. Another beautiful place and where we definitively like to return some day. The Azamazing Evening with a cello concert by the Croatian star cellist Ana Rucner was fabulous. Even more than we anticipated. What a firework she put out. What a lady. All honours to Azamara and it's shore team for being able to give us such a performance. High class. Brava
Kotor was next and this time we were urged to get up early to watch the sailing into the fjord-like landscape leading into Kotor. This day in Kotor we were competing with 4 other ships and the port load was more than 8000 people. We had booked an excursion with Azamara and managed to get out of the city fairly easy. We had a beautiful trip to a small farm where we were treated to beautiful cured ham and cheese, all locally produced. We had entertainment and both wine and local grappa tasting. A great guide told us all about Montenegro and it's history and was a very informative and humorous element in the tour. When we got back to Kotor the tiny city was still packed with people, but we did a sightseeing with our guide and ended up with a cold beer in one of the many restaurants in the old city. Evening in Kotor seemed like it was going to rain, but as it slowly cleared up everything was set for the White Night on the pool deck.
A great White Night as always, and Cruise Director Russ Grieve brought in local dancers before he let the Azamara band play up the dance.
Dubrovnik was our next stop. This is a port where you are better off tendering into port than being docked in the cruise harbor which is more than 7 km outside of town. Azamara ran buses every half hour, so really no big deal, but if you get on the bus at the "wrong time" it will take you 45 minutes to get there. Next time we would prefer tendering. The stop in Dubrovnik was also a short one. Sail-off was at 15:00 and little time to do anything else than just see the old city and rush back to the ship.
Last stop Venice. We arrived in the morning and had another wonderful day in Venice. We have done the major sights before and just walked around in areas where there are fewer tourists,- had a lovely lunch and walked some more. Off course our preferred table at the back of Windows Café was available and we had a fantastic last night in the best spot in Venice, - high above the city with magnificent view and a quiet restaurant.
Crew:
Well what can I say. We are used to the very best crew on the seven seas aboard the Journey. Russ, the Cruise Director, told us that we probably would think the same after a week on the Quest. "Your first love will always be your true love", he said smiling. And he was right. We did find some differences in the crews, but almost same quality on the Quest as on the Journey. First of all we had a fantastic captain in Jose Vilarinho. He is a smiling and open personality and easy to like. Russ is the very best of all CDs we have had. Just half an inch above the rest , -he he he.
Entertainement was great. We enjoyed all of the shows and the fantastic ensemble. We have seen most of them before with other castings, but that is OK.
Piano player: Honestly, we are not enjoying the location and the way they do it nowadays. I am sure the piano players, both on Journey and Quest, are good players, but when they bring all the music in a tiny laptop and put the vocals on with a sharp echo it is too much. Our player got a request from a fellow passenger, but couldn't play it as he didn't have it in his computer. I miss Jim Badger.
We missed the "welcome home" on the gangway( security crew was not as friendly as we are used to) and the presence of senior officers when getting off the ship. Just minor things. The crew in the pool bar can also learn a thing or two from their colleagues on the Journey about customer satisfaction. We had some mishaps there.
The drinks, - the so called all-inclusive, are difficult to administer. There are some drink packages that works for some but are a waste of money for most people.
The drinks package we had on our first cruise, before the so-called all-inclusive was introduced was much easier to relate to. We did buy it then and would do it again if Azamara changed back to the old drinks packages.
Product in total: Azamara has done some changes since we sailed with them the first time in 2011.
They have gotten rid of the harpist playing in the Discoveries lounge, the band that used to play on the deck at sail offs and during some afternoons, - the guitar player that replaced the band is gone, -they have occupied the Mosaic café with art auctions, - the dinner venues are more difficult to get in to, - in short all are , in one way or the other are in the "cost-cutting" segment.
Next year Azamara is chartering their ships, or mostly the Quest, to other agents and many of the weeks are unavailable. This is clearly also a way for Azamara to make money. We love Azamara and the experience on board both ships. It will be interesting to see how they will develop their product in the future. If they continue the cost-cutting on board we will soon have no band and no entertainement, just a couple of DJs and maybe a singer. The crews are still Azamaras greatest assets. We still love to come on board and we will still book new voyages, but we are worried for the future........
#2
Raleigh NC
25,280 Posts
Joined Oct 2007
Thanks for the report!
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Kirk

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#3
Nova Scotia Canada
4,867 Posts
Joined Feb 2009
I agree that all the changes you note are worrying.

I especially agree with your comments on the specialty dining packages.
#4
Phoenix, Arizona
4,155 Posts
Joined Dec 2008
Thanks so much for your review. We look forward to our B2B in August aboard the Quest. We miss Russ and Captain Jose, and look forward to hearing "welcome home" when we board.
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#5
London
2,090 Posts
Joined Sep 2008
Thank you for your comprehensive review. It is interesting to note the changes you mentioned between Quest and Journey.

I noticed them too but the other way round. I sailed on Journey for the first time earlier this year after many times on Quest.

Guess Russ (who I agree is one of the very best CD's around) is right that the Azamara ship you sail on first will always be your favourite.

Agree that some of the changes are not for the better but IMO, an Azamara cruise is still a lovely experience.
#6
Harpenden, UK
14,794 Posts
Joined Nov 2002
Thanks for your review. It sounds like you had a wonderful time. I'd have to disagree with you about the cost cutting as a general thing. Perhaps you were unlucky on your sailing, but I certainly saw no evidence of it in the entertainment on Journey. In fact I started another thread praising it and others seemed to concur.

Phil
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#7
Alesund, Norway
619 Posts
Joined Jun 2011
Originally posted by excitedofharpenden
Thanks for your review. It sounds like you had a wonderful time. I'd have to disagree with you about the cost cutting as a general thing. Perhaps you were unlucky on your sailing, but I certainly saw no evidence of it in the entertainment on Journey. In fact I started another thread praising it and others seemed to concur.

Phil
All the entertainment, apart from the pianist, was first class. Just pointing out that some live acts have been taken off. If it is a trend it might cause some worry.
And yes, we had a great cruise. Still no point in looking elsewhere.
#8
Edinburgh
11,412 Posts
Joined Aug 2004
I agree with many of the things said in this review having been on the same cruise. There were certainly some service glitches and we had a cabin steward who did not match the performance of the most recent ones on Journey. He had his routine, he never got it when we went to breakfast or dinner and we would be chasing him at noon when we had been out for three hours to get the room done - his response - I have other rooms to do I do them in order!

Food I agree was really great but yes there were signs of something just not firing on all cylinders, I am not sure if it was cost cutting, a less engaged crew or a belief that they are better than the others which is leading to a little bit of complacency creeping in.

Interestingly Quest was our first ship - we had three trips on Quest before a spell of Journey trips - and yet I would not say it did enough on that cruise to be our favourite. That said, we are not really into the favourites game or the rivalry that seems to exist between the two ships.

Funny you pick up on the pianist, I think you are referring to Max in the casino who is a favourite of many. We did not see him for long enough to judge but like you I am a signed up member of the bring back Jim Badger camp.

But thanks for a good review
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#10
Harpenden, UK
14,794 Posts
Joined Nov 2002
Originally posted by oddjob16
All the entertainment, apart from the pianist, was first class. Just pointing out that some live acts have been taken off. If it is a trend it might cause some worry.
And yes, we had a great cruise. Still no point in looking elsewhere.
I spent 34 nights on Journey in April/May and another 26 in June/July and there was a full complement of entertainers on all including a guitarist and pianist so hopefully it's not at trend. Entertainment from what I've seen over the past few years does seem to be taken seriously. Hopefully just a blip.

Phil
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"It's hard to make a comeback when you haven't been anywhere......."
#11
Alesund, Norway
619 Posts
Joined Jun 2011
Originally posted by excitedofharpenden
I spent 34 nights on Journey in April/May and another 26 in June/July and there was a full complement of entertainers on all including a guitarist and pianist so hopefully it's not at trend. Entertainment from what I've seen over the past few years does seem to be taken seriously. Hopefully just a blip.

Phil
I am glad to hear that the excellent guitar player is still on the Journey. Might be that there was supposed to be one on the Quest as well then.
Other news from Quest: Musical Director Ross Johnson is leaving for Quantum of the Seas and has a new assignment as MD for Mama Mia the Musical. I am sure he will be a great loss for Azamara, but equally sure they have found a good replacement.
#12
UK
2,588 Posts
Joined Mar 2011
Strange how we all have our preferences isn't it?

I am very much in the "please do NOT bring back Jim Badger" camp. His routine was entertaining the first and second time round, but it never changed from year to year. After my second Quest Voyage I was word perfect on his whole routine! He also never played on White Night....his preference I gather. Max will play live music for hours on White Night.

I find Max to be very talented on both the Piano and the Guitar and his one man shows in The Looking Glass or Cabaret are excellent. Whatever song I ask him to play for me, he always obliges. He is also a genuinely nice guy. Just my opinion of course. I totally understand others may not have the same views.

I am really looking forward to hearing Max entertain us on Quest in a few weeks time.

Forgot to say that IMHO Russ is "simply the best" CD too.....well, except for someone who doesn't work for Azamara and he knows who he is!
#13
Alesund, Norway
619 Posts
Joined Jun 2011
Originally posted by Lottie A
Strange how we all have our preferences isn't it?

I am very much in the "please do NOT bring back Jim Badger" camp. His routine was entertaining the first and second time round, but it never changed from year to year. After my second Quest Voyage I was word perfect on his whole routine! He also never played on White Night....his preference I gather. Max will play live music for hours on White Night.

I find Max to be very talented on both the Piano and the Guitar and his one man shows in The Looking Glass or Cabaret are excellent. Whatever song I ask him to play for me, he always obliges. He is also a genuinely nice guy. Just my opinion of course. I totally understand others may not have the same views.

I am really looking forward to hearing Max entertain us on Quest in a few weeks time.
Or should I just say: I would like the kind of entertainer that doesn't have to have it all computerized. Max is probably a very skilled player, but the sound is not for me. It is a fact that he could not, or would not, play any requests that was not in his computer. The only time I really enjoyed Max was when he played one day at the pool and jazzed it up a bit. As I said, it is a minor remark because all the other entertainment was top notch.
#14
Cincinnati, OH
5,780 Posts
Joined Jun 2008
Thanks for taking the time to post such a balanced and comprehensive review.

The chartering for the times I like to cruise also concern me but if that is what it takes to keep this jewel of a cruiseline in business, then I guess I have to accept it over the alternative.
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Pam

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Previous cruises: Marina Barcelona to Southampton (2017); Azamara Quest Norwegian Fjords RT Amsterdam (2016); Riviera Sands & Shores (2016); Riviera Mayan Mystique (2015); Riviera Istanbul to Barcelona (2014); Riviera Caribbean Hideaways (2014); Azamara Quest Adriatic Venice RT (2013); Azamara Quest Barcelona to Rome (2012), Marina Copenhagen to Stockholm (2011), Regatta Venice to Barcelona (2010), Nautica Athens to Rome (2009), Nautica Istanbul to Athens (2008)
#15
Naples, FL
4,810 Posts
Joined Feb 2011
Originally posted by oddjob16
Or should I just say: I would like the kind of entertainer that doesn't have to have it all computerized. Max is probably a very skilled player, but the sound is not for me. It is a fact that he could not, or would not, play any requests that was not in his computer. The only time I really enjoyed Max was when he played one day at the pool and jazzed it up a bit. As I said, it is a minor remark because all the other entertainment was top notch.
I would have liked to have heard a jazzy Max at the pool. One thing about him though. I really admire his interaction with his audience. He's really good at catching the your eye with a smile that says "I"m glad you're here, have fun!" Very personable performer.
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Deirdre
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#16
London
2,090 Posts
Joined Sep 2008
Originally posted by marinaro44
Strange. We just finished 37 days on Journey and there was a guitar player aboard all the time.
If it was Simon who was the guitar player on Journey in May he was excellent
#17
London
2,090 Posts
Joined Sep 2008
Originally posted by Lottie A
Strange how we all have our preferences isn't it?

I am very much in the "please do NOT bring back Jim Badger" camp. His routine was entertaining the first and second time round, but it never changed from year to year. After my second Quest Voyage I was word perfect on his whole routine! He also never played on White Night....his preference I gather. Max will play live music for hours on White Night.

I find Max to be very talented on both the Piano and the Guitar and his one man shows in The Looking Glass or Cabaret are excellent. Whatever song I ask him to play for me, he always obliges. He is also a genuinely nice guy. Just my opinion of course. I totally understand others may not have the same views.

I am really looking forward to hearing Max entertain us on Quest in a few weeks time.

Forgot to say that IMHO Russ is "simply the best" CD too.....well, except for someone who doesn't work for Azamara and he knows who he is!
As you know I am also a member of the Max fan club.

And as for the someone who doesn't work for Azamara I know who he is too! LOL
#18
Gettysburg, PA
2,210 Posts
Joined Dec 2000
Thank for the cruise detail...enjoyed it.
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