For some, a single day in port can be all that you may need. Take the tropical islands of the world for example – how much time do you really need lying in the sun, swimming in the ocean or doing whatever you choose to do on these isolated land pockets?
But if you’re cruising the Mediterranean, or the Baltic, or any number of regions around the world almost literally oozing with culture, history and activity – how often have you been forced to return to your ship much earlier than you had hoped in order to keep to schedule and to make it to the next port in time? For some, it can be a frustrating part of cruising.
One such line bucking the trend of only staying in port for the day is Azamara Club Cruises, which recently took its mantra of being the “Destination Immersion” cruise line one step further, expanding the concept to “Stay Longer. Experience More”. The line, more of a cousin than a sister to parent brand Royal Caribbean – has only two ships in its fleet, these being the identical Azamara Quest and Azamara Journey.
Essentially, what this means is that the boutique small-ship line has come up with 13 ways to showcase over 1,000 experiences in 70 countries around the world to its guests. This will come by the line able to access more ports, some which larger ships cannot access, and promoting the vast range of experiences, each within the separate categories, which include:
Cruise Global, Adventure Local – Not everything associated with a cruise needs to be quite so relaxed and casual.
Azamara realises like every line that sometimes, its passengers are yearning for a wild ride, full of white-knuckle drama and excitement. Activities forming part of this category are offered all over the world and include off-road driving in 4WD vehicles, such as across the Arabian desert. Alternatively, depending on the part of the world you’re in, guests may have access to things such as snorkelling or a chance to view local wildlife up close and personal, even if the trip to get there is a little bumpy and hairy.
Cruise Global, Taste Local – Definitely a popular one as hundreds of ports around the world are known for their local delicacies, taste sensations or unique twists on everyday cuisines. The same can be said in many cases for local blends of wine or craft beer.
Great food is one of the joys of travel and often can make or break a holiday. But Azamara will leave that up to you to decide – it can organise visits to local wineries, craft breweries and local restaurants. Sometimes, the best local flavours come from private homes and guests can venture inside with a local family for a home cooked meal.
Cruise Global, View Local – Of course you’ll want your camera for this one as Azamara organises a huge range of shore excursions to check out some of the most awe-inspiring natural and man-made wonders in the world. This might be a cliff-face or waterfall, mountain range, natural lagoon or any of the countless picturesque sights to fill up your camera.
Visits to museums, archaeological sites and other cultural experiences also fit this category to help you take in a major dose of the local lifestyle.
Cruise Global, Nights Local – Nobody enjoys leaving behind a destination when there is so much more to see and do, particularly if so many of a port’s highlights come out at night. This is what separates some cruise lines from the rest, as part of Azamara’s core is giving its guests the chance to experience this nightlife.
In fact, nearly half of all the ports visited by Azamara Quest or Azamara Journey over the course of the year sees the ship remain tied up until at least 8pm, meaning you’ll have a chance to enjoy an early dinner at a local restaurant before reboarding the ship.
On many occasions also, the ship may remain in port for one or more full nights, particularly if a local festival or celebration is taking place at the same time. Guests can come and go from the ship at their leisure, even at the wee hours of the morning if they feel like visiting the theatre, painting the town red at a local nightclub or heading out for a walk at sunrise.
Cruise Global, Bike Local – Pretty self-explanatory, but you may not know that Azamara ships carry a small fleet of 15 bicycles which can be hired out by guests to explore a port under their own steam – almost literally.
Biking tours are escorted by a local expert who knows the area you’re exploring like the back of their hand. And it’s this expert knowledge which will ensure you see some local highlights you’ve never seen in a brochure – mostly because only these locals even know they’re there. Tours make regular stops at local cafes and houses to take a break and engage with locals.
Cruise Global, Meet Local – Pretty much in the same way as food, the local people make a destination memorable, and Azamara is capitalising on this by bringing its guests to locals. Doors are opened to private family farms, homes, local businesses and other establishments for travellers to see the local way of life in a particular destination.
Guests can witness and even take part in local traditions as they get to know their hosts and become a local for a day – maybe even make new friends that will last long after the voyage.
Cruise Global, Eco Local – All around the world, you’re bound to encounter, or have the chance to encounter, the local flora and fauna. Led by local experts, guests can venture into a nearby rainforest, visit a wildlife sanctuary or view some amazing natural wonders in action.
Activities may include bird watching, visiting an elephant orphanage or seeing local geysers explode into life in New Zealand, you’ll need some comfortable walking shoes and binoculars. And definitely your camera.
Cruise Global, Shop Local – Every visit by a cruise ship to a city or town plays a part in boosting the local economy by injecting huge piles of cash into local businesses in exchange for often locally made handicrafts or produce.
Azamara encourages this, especially in small ports and villages where this cash will really make a difference in helping a local community. To do this, some of the ship’s shore tours might conclude in a local market, dropping off guests to wander amongst as they make their way back to the ship.
Cruise Global, Walk Local – You’ll need some comfortable walking shoes for this one, as in some ports, you’ll have a chance to venture off on a hike although usually quite an easy one. Whether this is a bushwalk, an extended wander among a town or city or a rigorous trek to the top of a mountain or volcano, some of these tours can be the best way to see your port.
Walks are available to suit all activity levels, whether you’re just after a casual stroll or an intensive trek more than capable of helping you break a sweat.
Cruise Global, Celebrate Local – Throughout the year, all sorts of major events are taking place in cities all over the world. These may be a local celebration such as a tomato festival, a celebration of a town mascot, a major sporting event or even a national holiday, but Azamara often finds itself right in the heart of the action.
Examples may be a ship taking in the Monaco Grand Prix, the Wimbledon tennis tournament, British Open golf or dozens of others. If your cruise happens to coincide with one of these events, make sure you get amongst the action off the ship.
Cruise Global, Customise Local – Undoubtedly the most flexible of all of Azamara’s local immersion programs. By its name alone, it gives passengers the chance to put together their own experiences in a particular port. In many cases, the ship will attempt to make special arrangements if there is something highly particular you’d like to experience.
Often this may just be the hiring of a private car and driver for the day, who can take you anywhere you like within reason. You may even like to surprise some friends or relatives by turning up at their house or workplace.
Cruise Global, Golf Local – In conjunction with Perrygolf, Azamara offers the “White Glove Service” to travellers who can’t pass a golf course without taking a chance to tee up a ball.
Throughout the year, Azamara operates occasional golf-themed cruises where most of the ship brings their golf clubs with them and enjoys a round at some of the finest courses you’ll ever find. Clubs are carefully handled and managed for guests so they don’t take up any extra room in their stateroom. They’re even transported directly to and from the course and prepared for their owner ready to use.
Perrygolf will arrange pairings, caddies and everything else about the experience so you can focus on simply honing your swing.
Cruise Global, Stay Local – Not every shore excursion booked through a cruise line returns to the ship at the end of the day. In some cases, guests can pack themselves an overnight bag and venture deep into a destination to experience it over a number of days.
For example, a voyage in the Arabian Peninsula could see guests disembark in one port and head off into the desert for the day, reaching an isolated Bedouin camp late in the day and enjoying the entire night camped under the stars. The tour then continues into the second day and eventually meets the ship again, often at the next port of call. These tours allow travellers to enjoy a night’s accommodation in some truly unique places.
How many of these categories have you experienced on an Azamara Club Cruises voyage? Or which one sounds the most interesting to you? Tell us below in the comments.