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Suite Life at Sea on Azamara Quest - Coastal California
by Rusty Krause
Suite Life at Sea on Azamara Quest
Offering a seaside window to the world, Azamara Club Cruises combines the refinement of an elegant hotel with a moveable feast of land discoveries. The company’s identical boutique-style ships, Azamara Quest and Azamara Journey, offer unparalleled service, fine dining, onboard gratuities and all-inclusive wines and spirits.
My husband and I had the pleasure of sailing aboard the Azamara Quest on an eight-night coastal California cruise. We selected this voyage because it gave us the opportunity to visit the Golden State’s great winemakers in Santa Barbara, Monterey and Napa Valley, as well as the chance to enjoy three full days in San Francisco.
Exciting land tours are just one of many ways Azamara Club Cruises allows guests to personalize their travel experience. With extensive worldwide itineraries, the cruise line infuses its philosophy of “longer stays, more overnights and night touring” into all aspects of a memorable ocean voyage. Their mission is to facilitate a richer cultural experience worthy of a longer stay.
With only 694 passengers, the Azamara Quest’s intimate public spaces and hospitable staff made us feel like we were in our own private country club. With one of the highest cruise staff-to-guest ratios, no request was too great!
As first-time guests, we indulged in a Club Continent Suite that included a personal butler to serve and spoil us throughout our stay. He stocked our beverage cabinet daily with bottled water and soft drinks, and every afternoon a tray of canapés and scones magically appeared in our room. The butler also assisted with packing and unpacking, garment pressing and dinner reservations. Other suite amenities included Egyptian cotton bed lines and duvet, fresh-cut flowers and “About Rose” signature soaps and toiletries. Who needs the outside world when the living is this good at sea?
A unique advantage of cruising with Azamara is their internationally-inspired cuisine and wine menus. We loved the flexibility of Azamara Quest’s open seating policy in the main dining venue, Discoveries Restaurant. This allowed us to enjoy an intimate dinner for two or dine with fellow passengers. Either way, lunch and dinner were always splendid experiences, with complimentary wine flowing like water. It is a rare treat to experience such personal service and even more remarkable that no gratuity is expected.
When we entered the casual Windows Café, the headwaiter personally welcomed us, and wait staff always inquired if we needed assistance from the buffet. The attentive service and panoramic ocean views were the perfect complement to the wonderful display of culinary offerings presented for breakfast, lunch and dinner. On selected nights, Azamara’s chef takes pride in creating lavish regional buffet dinners from India, Asia, Spain and Italy. For more relaxed fare, we opted for a burger at the Pool Grill or a steaming latte within the warm ambiance of the Mosaic Café.
If it’s possible to improve upon perfection, Azamara’s two specialty restaurants create intimacy and elegance in dining. Reservations are complimentary for suite guests; a small surcharge is requested for others. Prime C offers an elegantly understated classic steakhouse décor. We were swept back in time by the black-and-white movie star photos on the wood-paneled walls. Our server introduced us to the menu, which featured a selection of starters, soups, salads, entrees and desserts. From the entrees, we ordered the 8-ounce filet mignon and the rack of lamb, paired with a California cabernet sauvignon. The service was so smooth and efficient that we made time to linger over coffee and a warm chocolate lava cake.
An entirely different ambiance prevails at Aqualina, where the tastes of the Mediterranean come alive. The room decor has an open, airy feeling with contrasting ocean-blue chairs and white tablecloths. Of the starters, we couldn’t resist the baked brie in crispy phyllo dough and the lobster bisque. Moving on, we opted for the Dover sole and lobster thermidor. This dining experience was memorable and the service exceptional, but they are not the only reasons for our rave review; the Grand Marnier soufflé left lasting memories as well!
The intimate Azamara Quest features all the daytime activities of a larger vessel, including fitness classes, bridge get-togethers and art auctions. Guest speakers explore culture, adventure, history and wellness topics. At enlightening wine talks, guests were invited to taste celebrated vintage blends from California wineries and cellars.
No vacation would be complete without some serious pampering at the Astral Spa. The spa menu offers a variety of massages, facials, body sculpting, acupuncture treatments, a fitness center and salon service. I indulged in a deep-tissue massage which used a special blend of aromatic oils to induce a sense of well-being. Afterwards, I opted for the private outdoor spa deck to soak up the ocean views from inside a warm, bubbling Thalassotherapy bath.
While our days were filled with relaxation and enrichment, our nights were filled with excitement. In the Cabaret Lounge, we were captivated by talented Cruise Director Russ Grieves’ tribute to the music of the ‘60s and ‘70s. Another dazzling musical performance featured the Quest singers’ and dancers’ Broadway production “Stage Door to Dreams.” When we weren’t listening to show tunes, we were dancing to DJ music in the Looking Glass Lounge, or having a nightcap in Club Luxe, the ship’s favorite gathering spot. If we felt lucky, the intimate Casino Luxe offers several game tables and slot machines.
Azamara doesn’t just strive to be the best in the cruise industry; it strives to be the leader
in destination discoveries. Throughout the cruise, Azamara Quest provided guests with excellent day excursions as well as complimentary shuttle buses from the pier to the town center. Always considerate of guests who have difficulties walking, the staff also arranged a leisure group of walkers who go at a slower pace.
Our wine lovers’ journey began in Santa Barbara, a beautiful town featuring elegant estates, fine vintages and art galleries. A guided bus tour into the Santa Ynez Valley allowed us to spend time in the Victorian village of Los Olivo and the charming Danish town of Slovang. The next day, our ship provided tenders into Monterey, famous for its wines, old Cannery Row, and the spectacular Monterey Bay Aquarium.
As we sailed into San Francisco Bay beneath the legendary Golden Gate Bridge, we looked forward to spending three full days and nights in this sparkling city of lights. A ticket on a Hop On, Hop Off bus proved a great way to see the city landmarks. The Azamara Quest also offered bus excursions to Alcatraz, Sausalito and Muir Woods. As wine and food enthusiasts, we welcomed the chance to visit Chinatown and have dinner in one of the city’s famous restaurants.
On every voyage, Azamara Club Cruises offers a one-of-a-kind destination immersion event. As part of this new initiative, Azamara Quest invited all guests onboard to participate in a complimentary “AzAmazing Evening Event” in Napa Valley. From San Francisco, we traveled by bus to Francis Ford Coppola’s beautiful estate and Inglenook Winery. Gracious staff members invited us to join a private wine tasting complemented by savory sandwiches, fusion items, international cheeses and desserts. As musical entertainment enhanced this truly “amazing” evening, we had the opportunity to explore the wine caves, barrel rooms and historic photos of this grand estate.
Our last destination was the old city of Ensenda, Mexico. Dressed in colorful costumes, a cast of Mexican Folkloric singers and dancers entertained us. Afterwards, we wandered through craft displays by local artisans before boarding the ship to return to Los Angeles.
Upon departure, we envied the passengers who had booked additional segments from Los Angeles to Costa Rica. Azamara’s spacious comfort makes it ideal for extended cruising. Travelers are quickly realizing that sailing onboard the Azamara Quest is not just about moving toward the destination; it’s about enjoying the journey at sea!
Photos : Azamara Club Cruises
For more information, contact Azamara Club Cruises at 1-877-999-9553 or visit www.azamaraclubcruises.com.
ABOUT RUSTY KRAUSE
Rusty Krause was the former publisher and editor of Travel Today magazine. For 20 years, Rusty found great pleasure sharing her worldwide experiences with a well-traveled audience of readers. In addition, Rusty introduced Travel Today Canada as a quarterly supplement magazine inserted within California, Chicago, and New York newspapers. In recent years, Rusty has limited her travels to world cruising – from Asia, Australia and Europe to South America and the Caribbean. Whether experiencing the cosmopolitan flare of a destination or the unparalleled amenities aboard a luxury cruise, travel continues to be high on Rusty’s priority list.
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