Sailing Azamara: We’re Not In Dubrovnik Anymore

(Korcula, Croatia) We had visited Croatia a number of times in the past. Popular goes down as an all time favorite port of call. Visited by ships of all sizes, ’s old town is within walking distance and the port itself makes a great place to begin a shore excursion. Pre-sold on the flavor of Croatia and its people, one of the most attractive parts of our Journey was visiting different three ports on the Dalmatian coast other than Dubrovnik. Doing so with destination-focused Azamara Club Cruises had the potential to bring a unique perspective to our travels. In Korcula, we found all we had bargained for and more during a day that highlighted a number factors that differentiate Azamara from other cruise lines.

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The Background We Need

Like so many places in this part of the world, Korcula has an interesting past, dating back to around 1000BC. Also similar to a number of destinations we have visited, Korcula too is a walled city, located about halfway between Dubrovnik and Split. Highlights include a land gate dating built in the 14th century, St Mark’s Cathedral and an Old Town area. All of the information above and more comes to Azamara passengers the night before arrival in any given port, courtesy of the onboard Pursuits newsletter. Concise and usable information for those who may not have spent time researching the destinations or need a bit of a refresher before actually visiting.

Taking that focus a bit further, Azamara has on board a guest lecturer who frequently narrates what we are seeing as we sail much like a U.S. Park Service Ranger might come on board when passing through protected areas in Alaska.

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Tendering Made Easy

The smaller size of Azamara Journey enables us to visit ports like Korcula, where docking a larger ship would not be possible. It’s not so much that big ships cannot visit these ports due to size as it is getting passengers on and off when they get there. Big ship tendering operations are complicated and time-consuming, robbing passengers of valuable time ashore. Indeed, many cruise travelers shy away from itineraries with a number of tender ports or simply don’t get off the ship at them.

Azamara makes it easy with continual tender operations all day. Different than other lines, they don’t wait for tender boats to fill up with passengers before going back or forth from the ship.

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Unique Ports Of Call

As mentioned, we love Dubrovnik and have visited a number of times. Had we stopped there on this trip, that would have been just fine with me too. Still, nearly every Mediterranean cruise we have been on has included a stop in Dubrovnik. Visiting Korcula provided a unique and different experience.

While a walled city, Korcula was steps away from the pier, no other ships were in port and even on a rainy day, navigating the streets was easy. On our walking tour of the area, the local guide provided additional information about the history, buildings and traditions of Croatia, all consistent with what we had read and heard on the ship.

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Interesting Tour Guides

It is perhaps a subtle difference but an important one nonetheless. I have been on tours where guides have been a bit generous when larger than real numbers suit their narrative or conservative when smaller is better.   Still, those keenly interested in the history, geography and current state of a destination will find accurate information via the vetted guides used by Azamara. From what I can tell. I am not a historian.

Personally, my thought is just get me there and put me in front of the places I want to capture images of because I don’t trust your information anyway. I can count on two hands the excellent tour guides I have experienced in my lifetime. They were all on river cruises with not one on an ocean cruise. To me, that makes Azamara’s destination focus, taken to this detailed level we are experiencing here, a solid point in their favor.

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And When Things Go Wrong…

To me, it often feels like big ship shore excursion operations are often more focused on the logistics of moving people from place to place without considering the details of the experience carefully. Azamara seems to have taken that time and used it wisely. Granted, I have been on three tours out of hundreds they offer around the world. Still, not every tour is a home run, even for Azamara.

On a cave-focused tour taken by a number of passengers on our sailing, it appears that the enduring memory will be that of being barked at by the guide over safety issues.   They won’t shake that memory but revisiting it over the last few day, recounts of that tour have morphed into a bit of a joke, referring to that guide as The Cave Nazi, once again highlighting the value of the shared experience offered by cruise vacations.

Fielding the curve balls that travel throws our way from time to time with ease is typical of the passengers who sail with Azamara.   Still, that crewmembers pay keen attention to detail heads off trouble before it starts. Accessible shipboard management gives us the opportunity to express our concerns and gives them the opportunity to right wrongs.

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Interestingly, we have just begun to explore that area of Azamara operations. Coming up next is Venice Italy and what is called an Azamazing Evening. The signature event highlights the fact that Azamara ships stay late in port and offer what they call ‘night touring’.

That’s next. That’s what Azamara promotes as one of their best features.

 

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