In this post, we’re pleased to introduce a guest blogger. Welcome, Azamara cruiser Deirdre!
This is the story of our ten days on Azamara Journey. Our voyage began in Lisbon, ended in Barcelona and stopped along the way in Cadiz, Gibraltar, Valencia, Menorca, Port Vendres and Palamos.
So many factors go into choosing which Azamara cruise to take. Time. Weather. Number of days. Promotions. Ease of getting to embarkation and departure ports. These are all practical reasons for booking. And then there’s one irresistible driving force that compels you to book THE cruise. For me, it was Carcassonne. On the Journey itinerary “Alcazar to Gaudi,” we’d be docking in Port Vendres, and I’d see the fabled castle, the castle to end all castles. There! This was the cruise for me and Rob, my agreeable husband, said “Yes, book.” And that was it.
Carcassonne, the castle that launched a cruise!
We arrived in Lisbon three days prior. I love Lisbon. I think it’s one of Europe’s hidden gems. The cobblestones glisten in the sunlight. The Fado music is hauntingly beautiful. The food is simple, pure, delicious, and surprisingly inexpensive. There are interesting museums and castles. The people are welcoming. What’s not to love about Lisbon? It’s a great place to spend time before embarking.
We even saw the Journey sail in from our seat on the tram!
Lisbon’s beautiful mosaic sidewalks look like shimmering waves!
The first stop, Cadiz, is a stone’s throw from the gracious and lovely city of Seville. If cities could be ladies, Seville would be a gracious and elegant one. We visited Alcazar, the elaborately detailed palace which will be featured on an episode of the TV show Game of Thrones. We’d have liked Seville even if we didn’t know about the show. We also found the fantastic waterfront promenade in Cadiz, not far from where the Journey docked.
The Cadiz waterfront is a wonderful place to stroll around.
Next, we stopped in Gibraltar. I have an inexplicable fondness for the mega rock and will happily choose any voyage that brings me there. Our plan was to hike the Mediterranean Steps, a path up to the summit. Weather reports gathered before leaving the USA said the weather would be in the 70s (F). Yet once onboard, our daily newsletter said high 80s. I did not believe it. We hiked. We sweated and wilted all the way up to the summit where a Gibraltar cabbie spotted us and told us in no uncertain terms to get in his cab. NOW. “I won’t even charge you,” he said. I can’t even imagine how bedraggled we must have looked! We’ll climb Gibraltar again, sure, but maybe not in such heat.
Even the apes weren’t climbing the rock!
An overnight stay in Valencia took us to a castle in Xativa and an underground river the following day. This is one thing I particularly love about Azamara: the overnight stays that allow so much time to explore. I wasn’t impressed with Valencia the first time I saw it (I can’t imagine why), but two days there changed my opinion. Valencia has it all: narrow higgledy-piggledy streets in the medieval quarter and grand boulevards and buildings just beyond. Delicious tapas and shopping, too! And did I mention the caves? We’re cave junkies. It seems every Azamara voyage we go on finds us in a cave and this was no exception. We took the Land Discoveries tour to St. Joseph Cave and floated down a serene, silent river. It was a beautiful experience.
Varied architecture in Valencia.
I had no expectations of our next port, Mahon, Menorca. We booked another Land Discoveries tour (cave, of course) and I left it at that. Much to my delight, Menorca proved itself to be the island that stole the show (to the point that we have another Azamara voyage booked next year that brings us back!) Menorca is beautiful and unspoiled. You will see endless fields with rocky walls dividing them. Glorious vistas to the sea. Ancient ruins. Beaches that will take your breath away. Small villages that will enchant. What you won’t see is rampant commercialism and high rise condos. That’s not what Menorca is about. It’s about spectacular cliffside caves like Xoroi.
Cliffside dining at Xoroi Caves.
Ah, Carcassonne, the lynchpin that made me book this itinerary. I saw it! Did I love it? No. I did like it, though. I’ve come to the conclusion that I prefer castles ruined to castles restored, but that’s ok. It’s off my bucket list and that makes me happy. What we did love was the village of Collioure, darling of the French Impressionist painters. We had more than enough time to walk there after our excursion ended and it made for a marvelous end to our French day.
The scenic harbor of Collioure.
Our final port before debarking in Barcelona was a hard one: Palamos. What to do… See Dali’s home? Visit medieval Girona? Decisions, decisions! We chose Girona because there’s something wonderful about a city that retains so much of its centuries old roots. It did not disappoint. We were lucky enough to be there on a holiday and we saw people walking around with Catalan flags proudly draped around their shoulders. Dancing, too. Our tour guides demonstrated the Catalan dance that we saw in the squares and though none of us could duplicate the steps, we enjoyed watching the footwork. We left Girona sad that we couldn’t stay longer but we had things to do: it was off to fabulous Barcelona that afternoon!
Everything was festive in Girona on the National Day of Catalonia.
Beautiful Barcelona. I would book an Azamara cruise for this one reason alone: When an Azamara ship goes to Barcelona, she parks at the foot of Las Ramblas steps from the Christopher Columbus statue. Rob and I literally walked off the ship and into the city. No taxi required! We were already there, ready to explore this vibrant, heady city which never sleeps. You want it? Barcelona has it: Food, history, beauty, art, entertainment. Barcelona is a feast for the senses and a firecracker way to end a ten day voyage that brought happiness every single day.
Rob relaxing on Journey’s new furniture in the shadow of Las Ramblas.
Deirdre and Rob Norton, from Indianapolis, sailed on the Azamara Journey September 3, 2014, from Lisbon to Barcelona. Avid travelers and cruisers, this is their third Azamara Club Cruise in 9 months. Deirdre’s cruise review on Cruise Critic was so popular she was invited to be a guest blogger. This is the first of two posts on their Mediterranean cruise.
A selfie before the AzAmazing Evening – a concert in St. Michael’s Cave in Gibraltar!
If you’re feeling inspired by Deirdre’s travels (we certainly are!), click here to browse for your own voyage. And don’t forget, these cruises are eligible for a free double upgrade until December 14, 2014.
I’m excited to report that the Azamara Quest and Azamara Journey have received fantastic new outdoor furniture. The next time you cruise on one of our ships, you’ll be enjoying brand new sun loungers, umbrellas, daybeds and more.
Not only is the new furniture lovely, it’s environmentally friendly. We sourced the furniture locally while the ships sailed in Spain this season. It’s made by Kettal, a family-run company headquartered in Spain. The furniture is made in Tarragona, Spain using sustainable materials and eco-friendly paint.
Kettal’s well-known commitment to the environment was an important consideration in our selection of this furniture.
The ships also received new stateroom tables! These are an exciting new feature, and one long-awaited by the Azamara faithful. The oval-shaped tables can be elevated for in-suite dining for two. During the day, they’re lowered to become coffee tables.
The Azamara vessels are continually being updated. Next on the agenda will be the refurbishment of the Suites!
If you’ve been on an Azamara cruise before, you know we love to spoil you. Frothy coffees, delectable desserts, mouth-watering steak and exotic international buffets – dining onboard our ships is “AzAmazing”! If you’re a real foodie, you’ll also want to partake in some of our culinary-themed, exclusive Insider Access tours.
With these five handy tips for keeping fit on your cruise, you can feel good about your vacation indulgnces!
Eat well, travel often
Our longer stays in port gives guests plenty of time to explore. Walking around a new city is a great workout, and the best way to get a feel for the place. Don’t forget to pack a comfortable pair of shoes!
Walk or Run
Head up to Deck Ten on the Azamara Journey or Azamara Quest, and you’ll find a jogging track perfect for a walk or run. Take in the fresh sea air and beautiful views as you make your laps. Don’t forget to stay hydrated! Bottled water is complimentary onboard our ships.
Take a Class
Fitness classes are a fun way to relax and burn calories, and we have something for everyone. Take advantage of complimentary classes like pilates, cycling, sunset yoga or dance lessons.
For an additional cost, you could even partake in a session with one of our fantastic personal trainers!
Enjoy Healthy Options
Eating healthy doesn’t have to be a sacrifice. At Discoveries Restaurant, there’s a delicious healthy option every day, making it easy to make a more health-conscious choice.
Seared tuna salad
Dance the Night Away
Who says exercise can’t be fun? Spend a night or two dancing at the Looking Glass Lounge, where our DJ will be spinning your favorite hits. And you’ll definitely want to pack your dancing shoes for our famous White Night parties, which feature a poolside buffet (weather permitting), boutique wines on the house, and music from a live band.
White night party
Armed with these tips to stay fit, you’re ready to go! All that’s left is choosing your next adventure…
Bali is the world’s most perfect place. There, I’ve said it and can’t take it back…and why would I want to? Bali is an amazing place, and what makes it so special isn’t just that it’s beautiful, or has amazing resorts, food, culture, wildlife, art, nightlife and, beaches. It’s that Bali has something for everyone at any budget, and interest. Bali is, in one word, phenomenal.
I have been to Bali several times, and each time I have seemingly done it at a different budget level. As I’ve grown up, so has my budget and taste.
When I first went to Bali, I stayed in the beautiful and raucous beachfront area of Kuta. Kuta is not only known for surfing and the beach, but also for its legendary nightlife and budget accommodation. At that time in my life it was perfect. Kuta is also a great place to base yourself to take excursions in and around Bali; remember Bali is a pretty big island.
As Bali has started developing, so have the areas of Seminyak and Jimbaron. These are the two best areas for luxury hotels, resorts and also higher-class restaurants and nightlife. Jimbaron boasts that it has some of the nicest resorts in the world, literally. Seminyak is a fun place to hop around, check out different hotels, and have great cocktails in cool settings. My favorite place for a cocktails is at the Ayana Resort on the cliffs overlooking the water at Rock Bar. It is a truly amazing spot for a sunset drink.
As I said, Bali is pretty big and there are a lot of cool excursions on the island. Ubud is a great place to go to get some real Balinese culture, and see some really cool monkeys as well. They are quite friendly and the accompanying temple complex gives it a really cool feel as well.
Bali is littered with temples and shrines, so it’s hard to make sense of what’s what, or which to take the time to see. If you only have a day or so, I would suggest that you make sure you get up to Ubud, and stop to see some of the typical rice terraces that adorn the hills of Bali. Then stop along a road at a temple that looks good to you. Many look alike and you will get the feel and sense from most of them. Traffic can be an issue in Bali, so I wouldn’t want you driving halfway across the island to see a temple that isn’t much different than one right near you.
Don’t forget to shop in Kuta and Seminyak for those Balinese souvenirs, art and clothes, and for goodness sake, do not forget the sunset cocktail! That is Bali at its finest!
Excited to visit Bali? Azamara has a few voyages headed there in 2015! You can view them all here.