CRUISE THE PLANET
Coming up in June, we return to Azamara Club Cruises for an Isles of Croatia Voyage that looks to be incredible. In addition to three different targeted stops in Croatia, the 12-night sailing includes two ports in Greece, one in Italy and another in Montenegro. Sailing round-trip from Istanbul, the Turkish port makes a total of five countries plus a number of days at sea. Planning ahead as we do in advance of any destination-focused journey, I was reminded of the rich history in this part of the world while viewing an episode of Building Wonders on PBS’ Nova series. The takeaway: I have a lot of ground to cover in advance of sailing. Let’s get to work on that right now.
The Building Wonders episode was titled Hagia Sophia: Istanbul’s Ancient Mystery and tells the story of a giant structure built in Constantinople (today’s Istanbul) in the year 537 that was exceeded in size only by Egypt’s pyramids at the time. Over the centuries, Hagia Sophia served as an Eastern Orthodox cathedral, was converted to a Roman Catholic cathedral then a mosque before being secularized and opening as a museum; it’s purpose today. Our Azamara Journey sailing begins and ends in Istanbul. On the front end, that my flight gets in early and our ship sails away late makes a 15 minute cab ride to Hagia Sophia quite doable.
See this short PBS promo video that highlights this magnificent structure:
Starting something new in our advance research efforts, a YouTube playlist to help track resources used, this first one titled Azamara Istanbul, Greece, Montenegro, Croatia, Italy. That playlist title is significant for a couple important reasons. First, to name this effort Azamara 12 Night Isles Of Croatia Voyage, as it is titled on the Azamara website would restrict its future value: Azamara rarely repeats itineraries. However, the twin ships of Azamara Club Cruises do sail the world over and might very well visit these ports again in the future, on a differently configured itinerary. Azamara past guest Le Club Voyage members know this and often book their next cruise while sailing for this reason.
Venice Italy, for example, has a very good chance of being graced by an Azamara ship in the future, also for good reason. The smaller sized Azamara ships do not pose as great of a threat to the fragile marine environment of Venice.
Looking a bit deeper at the itinerary for our 12 Night Isles Of Croatia Voyage, Azamara Journey will take us to a number of places with world class attractions matching the caliber of Hagia Sophia. But taking us from place to place and enabling an immersive experience at the destination are often two totally different efforts.
Parts of sailing on larger ships that cause concern, if not added effort, on our part:
- Big ships that leave port at 4:00PM don’t allow any time at all for seeing destinations at night. Imagine visiting New York City, Miami or your own home town only by day.
- Equally unsatisfactory, short time in port makes for a rushed experience. Regular readers of this space know one of our favorite things to do ashore is find a nice cafe to sit and enjoy the day, on our timetable.
- Standard fare bigger ship shore excursions mimic those of third-party providers making price comparison a viable issue when planning. This comes at a time when the only focus should be on the amazing places we will see and the enduring memories that can be created.
Having sailed with Azamara Club Cruises once before, I understand what they are all about.
“When you’re in the midst of some of the most dazzling cities, renowned UNESCO World Heritage sites, and “I can’t believe we’re here!” places on Earth, the last thing you want to do is rush back to the ship for a 4:00 PM departure,” points out Azamara Club Cruises on their newly-redesigned web site, themed “The Voyage For Those Who Love Travel.”
Pretty much inventing the accurate descriptor “Destination Immersion”, differentiating factors in favor of an Azamara voyage for those who have a cultivated appreciation for destinations are longer stays in port, a number of overnight stays and night touring on each and every voyage.
In a press release promoting Azamara’s new website, President and CEO Larry Pimentel promises “something truly unique when it comes to destination immersion.” Further defining the Azamara focus, Pimentel adds “We deliver on our promise to provide our guests with authentic, local, and in most cases exclusive, experiences in each country and port of call we visit, allowing them to return home feeling enriched, educated and enlightened.”
He’s singing our song there; that’s for sure. Stay tuned for more.
Actually, take a look at Azamara’s new video ads on YouTube, all quite consistent with the Azamara promise.
All photos- Azamara Club Cruises
Chris is not a paid spokesperson or brand ambassador. Not compensated by cruise lines, what you read here are his observations, thoughts and interpretations, biased only by a positive outlook and appreciation for what cruise vacations have to offer travelers.