Cruise lines have ships that ply just about all the waters of the world, each focusing on their own presentation of the places they visit. Take two different cruise lines to the same place, odds are the experience will be unique at each. To a point. Most cruise lines have an entire department devoted to arranging tours and a variety of off-ship products. They contract with local tour operators, put them through a rigorous screening and training process and check on the actual experience passengers are getting throughout each season. On a seven day cruise, that might mean 50+ tour operators to keep tabs on, a daunting task for even a giant cruise line. Azamara Club Cruises has a better idea.
When we talk about Azamara Club Cruises, the name is first associated with destinations. Azamara fought a hard fight to be considered by many the top destination-focused cruise line in the world. As part of Royal Caribbean International, Azamara has the unique position of being a tiny cruise line with the backing and depth of a solid company. In Azamara world, the off ship passenger focus is keen and, at times, obviously more important than the bottom line. Either that, or they have a budget line item named ‘Just For The Heck Of It’ with funding to do some unannounced GGB (Grand Gesture of Brand) on every sailing.
We saw that last summer when the Captain of Azamara Quest decided to let us stay later than the published itinerary to see the sea organ in Zadar, Croatia.
This is a nimble little company able to stop on a dime and cruise through the long haul. Considered a luxury cruise line, Azamara has high hotel standards that are carried out by an efficient and friendly crew. The Captain and other senior officers are seen around the ship. A nicely-sized and run casino is there but not the star of the show. A No-Pushy Spa that doesn’t end the lovely treatment with a hard sell on potions and salves. Entertainment worth seeing.
Pretend You Own The Cruise Line: Let’s do something different. Why not contract the entire shoreside experience with the top travel company in the world? Makes sense. Rather than holding accountable for quality the 75+ tour operators needed Australia season, you have just one: Abercrombie & Kent.
Unless today is your first time visiting this site, the name Abercrombie & Kent (A&K) should be a familiar one. We just got back from one of the top travel experiences of my life on a tour of Egypt and Jordan. Every step of the way, A&K staff was there to guide us through. They organize that operation in much the same way that Azamara is knocking on A&K’s door; seeking the street level contacts to get things done. And they do.
“Abercrombie & Kent will be sharing its singular service and luxury amenities with Azamara travelers on these voyages,” says Roberta Jacoby, Managing Director, Global Tour Operations for Royal Caribbean Cruises, Ltd. That’s great news for fans of Azamara Club Cruises, most of which seem to share a passion for the destinations.
Over 75 unique Australia A&K-run excursions include Azamara signatures elements like Insider Access, an immersion in local daily lifestyles, or Nights and Cool Places, after-sunset tours of local hotspots, plus AzAmazing Evenings, complimentary nights of fabulous cultural entertainment.
- Insider Access: Kazu and the Cultured Pearls of Friday Island (Thursday Island, Australia) – Journey to Friday Island, a remote island in the Torres Strait to visit the Kazu Pearls farm and see pearl culture and enjoy a Japanese lunch.
- Nights and Cool Places: Crocodile Watch River Cruise (Port Douglas, Australia) – Keep a lookout for crocs on a leisurely float along the lush mangrove channels of Dickson Inlet on a traditional paddleboat with cocktails and music.
- AzAmazing Evenings: Parade Grounds At Fort Scratchley (Newcastle, Australia) – Enjoy didgeridoo, jazz instrumentals and singing by the Australian James Morrison and others at historic Fort Scratchley with a fireworks finale.
- AzAmazing Evenings: A Night with The Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra (Hobart, Tasmania) – Listen to a night of beautiful music with a performance by the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra, plus meet the orchestra.
Azamara brings A&K
It made a lot of sense to me that Abercrombie & Kent would do the Egypt & Jordan we just experienced best by having a solid infrastructure of vehicles, drivers, security and guides divided and managed by a number of leaders on the ground. That worked too. Our A&K Signature Small Group Tour of Egypt with extension in Jordan far exceeded our expectations early. Then they zoomed off to the place where they make luxury travel products and came away with some great features.
We went far beyond just visiting the pyramids but the words of Ibrahim, our certified A&K resident Egyptologist (‘guide’ to others) said after our Giza complex visit “Oh, that’s just the beginning”. He was right and kept proving it throughout the journey; one well-planned adventure after another. We went beyond the history, past the UNESCO World Heritage List sites and into the social, economic and political climate of the past and present, along with Egypt’s high hopes for the future.
It should come as no surprise that destination-focused Azamara would think of trusting to A&K to run their Australia tour operations. In any other arena, that trust would be to deliver the tour safely, as specified and everybody goes home happy. Smart Move: Abercrombie & Kent is the gold bar standard for luxury land travel. There is zero downside to this courting of sorts between two very focused travel companies. A&K’s product will be only in Australian waters…but look for that position to blossom as A&K provides truly thoughtful experiences that go beyond the expected.
A Solid Reason Why This Will Work
I’ve seen Azamara Club Cruises continue their keen destination focus, first defining a major direction that nearly the entire cruise industry has embraced. But also because their two twin 688-passenger ships each run like a new computer. Smarter than your last one and faster.
I’ve also seen first hand, a side of Abercrombie & Kent that predisposes them as a good choice for handling the guest shore experience. The A&K Connections river cruise product is basically group space booked on someone else’s ship, in our case Austrian line Luftner Cruises. It becomes apparent rather quickly concerning everything from meals to stateroom housekeeping; A&K has added a layer of luxury to the standard fare. A&K guests take away a far more interesting if not fulfilling travel experience compared to other land travel companies. Azamara Club Cruises and Abercrombie & Kent have the potential to be a perfect pairing. It will be interesting to see how this unfolds in real life. In this world of luxury cruise travel, nothing is off the table.
Bonus Of This Partnership: Also good news for socially-connected travelers; Both bosses Larry Pimentel (@) who promotes Azamara’s destination focus and Geoffrey Kent (@Geoffrey_Kent) who has been taking travelers to those places for quite some time are socially quite active on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. That’s rare. Funny how things change. I once believed it true to never trust anyone over 40. Now I don’t trust brands who are not interested in social interaction. Both these are.