Few ships afloat can match the intimate charm of the original eight “R” vessels commissioned for now-defunct Renaissance Cruises between 1998 and 2001. Identical in almost every structural and mechanical detail, they have all gone on to successful reincarnations for P&O, Princess, Oceania and Azamara Club Cruises.
Azamara Club Cruises, a division of mega-ship conglomerate Royal Caribbean International, is a two-ship, upscale, destination-oriented fleet comprised of the 2000-built AZAMARA JOURNEY (ex R SIX) and AZAMARA QUEST (ex R SEVEN). The vessels accommodate up to 697 guests and measure 30,277 gt and both have recently emerged from stem-to-stern make-overs with new soft fittings and furnishing as well as a number of behind the scenes enhancements.
I was particularly excited about joining the AZAMARA QUEST on her second ever departure from Los Angeles for a cruise up the California coast to San Francisco. Before embarking as a guest, I spent the greater part of the morning as a visitor, trying to capture as much of the ship as possible before fellow guests boarded.
AZAMARA QUEST has eight cabin categories, ranging from 560-square-foot Club World Owner’s Suites to 158-square-foot interiors. There was just barely enough time to cover the gamut of accommodation and a few public spaces…
Conceived by British-based design firm McNeece, the former R Ships‘ Edwardian interiors are often likened to the TITANIC and LUSITANIA but are actually inspired by the Ritz Carlton Hotel, now operated by Four Seasons, in Chicago.
Our stateroom for the next eight nights would be spacious Club Continent Suite 8059 on starboard Deck 8. Measuring 266-square feet, it features two lower beds convertible to a queen, floor-to-ceiling glass doors, veranda, sitting area with sofa bed, bath tub, flat screen television, DVD/CD player, fridge with mini-bar, thermostat-controlled air conditioning, direct dial telephone and voice mail, desk and in-room safe.
Club Continent Suites have large bathrooms with plenty of storage nooks, a tub and shower. The included toiletries are an especially nice touch with high quality About Rose brand shampoo, conditioner, bath gel and moisturizer as well as cotton balls and swabs.
Within moments of our arrival, a tap on the door signaled the arrival of Eyup, our cheerful and dedicated butler, who, along with attendant Mark, would ensure we had every creature comfort at our beck and call throughout the week. Suite category guests have a stocked mini-bar with complimentary canned beverages (tonic, soda, soft drinks, bottled water) and beers, wine and Perrier available for purchase. Every afternoon, there would be a selection of canapés, fruits and fresh flowers to enjoy. We also had complimentary bottles of liquor, including Bombay Sapphire gin, Absolut vodka, Black Label whiskey and Pirat Rum.
After buffet lunch in Windows, we unpacked and treated ourselves to a specialty coffee in the Mosaic Cafe on Deck 5 overlooking the grand staircase. Nespresso brand coffees are available for purchase but the included-in-the-fare coffees were not only rich and piping hot but leagues ahead of most shipboard specialty coffees. And the fresh-baked jalapeno chicken mini-croissants, tuna brioches and coconut macaroons were delicious enough to become a cherished daily ritual throughout the voyage.
AZAMARA QUEST has a wonderful gym on the starboard side of her Aqua Spa on forward Deck 9. Free headphones are provided for use with the cardio equipment (usually enhanced with an inspired view of the sea) along with unlimited bottled water and fresh towels.
Before open seating dinner in the gorgeously refitted Discoveries Restaurant, we wandered ashore for some views of our brightly lit jewel of a ship at Pier 93, best known to millions of television fans as the “Love Boat” terminal.
At 10:00 PM, we watched from our veranda as AZAMARA QUEST slipped quietly away from the terminal and into the channel on her way to sea. Fortunately, calm conditions awaited in the Pacific as our ship slowly made her way on a north-by-northwesterly course towards idyllic Santa Barbara.
End of Part One.
Much more to come…
Special thanks: Martin Cox, Janet Diaz, Harrison Liu, Tracy Quan
Having documented over 400 passenger ships and taken more than 200 cruises, MaritimeMatters’ co-editor Peter Knego is a leading freelance cruise writer, a respected ocean liner historian and frequent maritime lecturer both on land and at sea. With his work regularly featured in cruise industry trades and consumer publications. Knego also runs the www.midshipcentury.com website which offers MidCentury cruise ship furniture, artwork and fittings rescued from the shipbreaking yards of Alang, India. He has produced several videos on the subject, including his latest, The Sands Of Alang and the best-selling On The Road To Alang."