On board the first Azamara cruise ship to resume navigation
(4:20 PM EDT) As we boarded the Azamara Quest from Azamara Cruises in Piraeus, Greece, I was greeted by the crew with their usual “Welcome Home” speech. cruise ship since February 2020.
There are COVID-19 health and safety protocols in place that must be followed before I can board, but I was happy to comply so I can sail again. The downsides to health and safety protocols were minor compared to my dreams of sipping an Aperol Spritz as Azamara Quest sailed the Greek Islands at sunset.
A requirement for sailing with Azamara is that everyone must be fully vaccinated against COVD-19, including the crew. Passengers must also undergo a negative antigen test before boarding the ship, carried out at the cruise terminal, and provide the duly completed documents requested by the Greek government.
Despite these obstacles, boarding went smoothly. On board, the mask is compulsory when you do not eat, drink and during excursions. Between the strict protocols and the reality that only 195 passengers would be on board the Azamara Quest for this navigation (instead of the usual capacity of 690), I felt safer on this cruise than I have traveled in d other places since the start of the pandemic.
What to expect aboard Azamara
Azamara strongly focuses on immersion in the destination. This intensive seven-night trip to Greece was the line’s first return to service and the first sailing as an independent cruise line after being sold to Sycamore Partners last year.
Azamara president Carol Cabezas said she chose Greece for the restart because it is a destination where the line shines. “Our guests love it here, and we can run the experience beautifully, especially with the Destination Celebration,” said Cabezas, noting that the Destination Celebration is an emerging onboard event for the company.
Cabezas also mentioned Azamara’s new focus on improving the dining experience on board, especially in terms of destination-specific offerings. Former Azamara passengers have already noticed and are impressed with the updated offerings at Discoveries Restaurant, the main dining room located on the 5 aft deck. Rob Doerfler, Guest Relations Manager, said the set of the menu had been redesigned during the pandemic.
Azamara also has a new partnership with the luxury division of Starboard Cruise Services – a company of LVMH Moet Hennessy, which provides a premium shopping experience at the two retail stores aboard the boutique cruise line’s three ships. . Cabezas commented in a press release that with this collaboration, “We are in a better position to reveal even more of the history, art, cuisine and local customs that make every destination rare and beautiful.”
New events on board, celebration of the destination
AzAmazing Evenings, the line’s iconic destination event that traditionally takes place in land-based venues like the ancient amphitheater in Ephesus, Turkey, is a little different right now, with a new “Destination Celebration” program designed to bring AzAmazing Evenings back to the ship.
Destination Celebration brings heritage and cultural experiences aboard Azamara Quest. For this navigation, a live evening in the open air was organized on the pool deck by Duo Violins and their accompanying musicians. Passengers seemed to enjoy the two brothers’ energetic performance with rock, pop, dance music and cinematic Greek-inspired soundscapes while sipping cocktails and enjoying Baklava. To complete the theme, there were even Greek gods in authentic tunics, capes and crowns.
Azamara’s White Night Party also took a temporary hiatus with the introduction of “Quest Fest”. In the best interest of everyone’s safety, this evening on board keeps everyone socially distanced at multiple locations on the ship. According to Doerfler, the event being new, it will evolve with each additional navigation.
During my navigation, a new “Dine Around the Quest” dinner was offered at the Windows Café or at the Discoveries Restaurant (both restaurants offered the same menu), followed by an evening of entertainment, small bites and aperitifs on offer. around the ship. The event kicked off poolside with song and dance by The Quest Band, The Signature Signatures and Cruise Director Amanda and and Assistant Cruise Director Geoffrey.
Passengers quickly danced and sang with the crew, including myself. The Quest Fest After Party with DJ Justin in the lounge drew the regular evening crowd and quite a few other passengers to top off the evening’s festivities.
Like the good old days, with a new twist.
Azamara’s next trip
With Azamara Quest in service in the Mediterranean, the second ship in the line to restart, Azamara Journey, is expected to resume service in October 2021 in Greece, while Azamara Pursuit is expected to resume operations in January 2022 in South Africa.
Earlier this year, Azamara announced the purchase of a fourth R-Class ship, the former Pacific Princess, which will launch in May 2022 as Azamara Onward. Cabezas said the addition of Azamara Onward will allow the line to sail to more destinations, including the new, so far, very popular route to the Black Sea. With a fleet of four ships for the first time, passengers can expect more specialty cruises in conjunction with sporting events like the Monaco Grand Prix, the British Open, an ongoing relationship with Perry Golf and cruises featuring artistic and cultural exhibitions such as the Venice Biennale.
As I disembark and head home tomorrow, leaving behind some of my fellow travelers who will be taking over the route next week, it was wonderful to be in this little bubble halfway around the world.
After 18 long months since the last time I sailed, for at least a week aboard Azamara Quest, life was almost “normal” again.