On April 27, we’ll make our return to the Mediterranean with a voyage calling on Mykonos and Santorini. One of the things we’re most looking forward to? The food! After all, one of the best ways to experience a culture is to experience the food. The fresh, farm-to-table flavors of the Mediterranean are hard to top.
Can’t you imagine yourself having a leisurely lunch in Santorini, soaking up the sun? The wonderful thing about this July cruise is that the Azamara Journey will arrive in port at 7:30am, before the crowds of tourists, and won’t depart until 10:00pm. That leaves you plenty of time to eat, sightsee, and take in a famous Santorini sunset!
One of our favorite places to visit in Greece is Sparta. This former military powerhouse is now a hot destination for foodies. Sparta is nestled among mountains and the Valley of the Eurotas River. The fragrant lemon and olive groves in the valley provide the town with a heavenly scent. You can learn more about Greek culture and cuisine when you explore the Museum of the Olive and Greek Olive Oil. Visit in August 2015 during this voyage.
Though nothing beats the real thing, it’s easy to have a delicous dinner of Greek cuisine at home. To start, serve fresh pita bread with tzatziki dip. Grill some souvlaki skewers and halloumi cheese, and serve alongside rice pilaf and salad. And don’t forget the life of the party – Ouzo!
Robert van Rijsbergen is the Corporate Executive Chef for Azamara Club Cruises. He says, “A Greek Salad is quite simple and very popular. The perfect summer salad if you ask me.”
Though Americanized versions of Greek Salad often include lettuce or other greens, a true Greek Salad does not.
Make your Greek Salad stand out from the crowd by using Robert’s unique recipe! In this salad, Robert uses olive tapenade instead of regular olives, uses creamy feta instead of cubes of cheese, and chops vegetables on an angle rather than dicing. The result? A delicious Greek Salad with a twist that’s sure to wow your friends and family!
Greek Salad With A Twist (Makes Six Servings)
1 cucumber, unpeeled, seeded, and sliced 1/4-inch thick in an angle
1 red bell pepper, large-diced
1 green bell pepper, large-diced
1 yellow bell pepper, large-diced
1 cup cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
1/2 red onion, julienned
5 scallions, sliced on an angle
1/2 pound feta cheese, blended until creamy (you can add a little sour cream)
1/2 cup olive tapenade
Small bunch flat parsley
Rosemary or thyme croutons
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/4 cup good red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
Place the chopped cucumber, peppers, tomatoes and red onion in a large bowl.
For the vinaigrette, whisk together the garlic, oregano, mustard, vinegar, salt and pepper in a small bowl. Still whisking, slowly add the olive oil to make an emulsion. Pour most of the vinaigrette over the vegetables and toss lightly. Set aside for 30 minutes to allow the flavors to blend.
Add the creamy feta, scallions and olives tapenade on top immediately before serving. Garnish with croutons and flat parsley. Drizzle the rest of the vinaigrette around each serving of salad, and serve at room temperature.
To me, temples and castles seem to be magical, and they take me back to a time in the past. I left Asia as a child, and this is my first journey back to Asia. It is a great introduction for me to further explore my history.
But this part of the world is all new to me. Visiting KekLok Si—what a visual feast! No wonder it’s name means “Temple of Supreme Bliss”.
Is it a colorful city in the mountains? That may be what it looks like on the surface, but it’s actually the largest Chinese temple in Southeast Asia, right in Penang.
As you hike to the temple up the stairway, it is a slow incline that lifts you to your Zen path. The roofs provide shelter over an assortment of shops that sell souvenirs and other goods.
Inside, it’s hard to comprehend all the detail. There are literally millions of images of Buddha (there’s even a Pagoda of 10,000 Buddhas!), and so many sculptures, murals and carvings that all have specific meanings. The priest who founded the temple, Venerable Beow Lean, felt that the location had the right feng-shui for a temple. He named the hill “Huock-san”, or Crane Hill, because he thought the hill looked like a crane spreading its wings.
The temple is perched on a hillside and provides amazing views of Georgetown. The magnificent view provides such an array of colors and flavors, and brings me back to my childhood in Vietnam.
What a riot of color and detail! Touring the Kek Lok Si temple in the hills surrounding Penang is an absolute one-of-kind experience—and one I’ll never forget.
By Azamara Club Cruises on Wednesday, March 25, 2015
Istanbul, Turkey is where West meets East, and tourists can visit Europe and Asia in the same day. The city is an exotic, fascinating mix of old and new. World travel expert Lee Abbamonte wrote “Istanbul can be maddening at times, but Istanbul is a treat for the senses and will take your breath away. It is one of my favorite cities in the world.”
We currently have 28 voyages that begin or end in Istanbul. Once you book, you might want to extend your vacation by a few days to explore this incredible city. Or, make the most of your time in Istanbul by choosing a Land Discoveries tour that will help you hit all the highlights. Our voyages feature late-night departures and overnight stays, so there’s no need to rush. Though Istanbul itself is a bustling metropolis, your time there shouldn’t feel hectic. After all, you’re on vacation!
Istanbul has lots to offer, but we’ve narrowed down the list to five things you must experience while you’re there.
Istanbul is home to many incredible museums that highlight the city’s rich history. Topkapi Palace (pictured here) was home to Ottoman Sultans (and their harems) for over 300 years, but is now a museum. Visit to see the grandeur of the palace, the famous Topkapi Diamond, and other historical treasures.
The famous Hagia Sophia was once a church, then a mosque, and is now a museum. This makes it one of the most interesting places in Istanbul, both historically and architecturally. You’ll see both Ottoman and Byzantine influences under one great dome, as well as spectactular Byzantine mosaics that weren’t uncovered and refurbished until 1930.
For those with a deeper interest in history, the Istanbul Archaelogy Museums are a highlight and can be found near Topkapi Palace.
Istanbul’s Blue Mosque is the city’s most famous mosque, and absolutely worth visiting. From the outside, you may wonder how the mosque got its name. Inside, the Blue Mosque is covered with 20,000 spectacular, shimmering blue-green tiles. 260 stained glass windows and intricate floral patterns painted on the ceiling give the mosque a bright, airy atmosphere very different from the experience of the Hagia Sophia.
Of course, the Blue Mosque is not the only beautiful mosque in Istanbul. The Süleymaniye Mosque is the second-largest in the city, and features a grand courtyard. At Rüstem Pasha, you’ll find the best examples of Iznik tiles (the distinctive Ottoman decoration) in all of Istanbul.
Turkish cuisine is diverse, flavorful and world-renowned. Indulging in street food is a must, as well as enjoying a leisurely late-night dinner. (There’s another reason to be thankful that Azamara ships stay late in port – great cuisine should never be rushed!)
Döner: Turkey’s most popular street food, a sandwich filled with meat (usually lamb) that has been thinkly sliced from a rotating spit.
Börek: Phyllo pastries with a variety of fillings, like ground meat, cheese and spinach.
Meze: Instead of a main course, order these shareable plates of cold starters. Eggplant, artichokes, yogurt, chilis and tomatos are common ingredients.
Midye: Mussels (and seafood in general) are popular in Istanbul. You’ll see roving vendors carrying baskets piled with shells, which have been stuffed with mussels, rice, herbs and spices. At snack bars, look for mussels that have been battered and fried.
Kumpir: Huge baked potatos, taken hot out of the oven and split, then filled with a variety of toppings – cheese, pickles, olives and more. It’s not uncommon to ask for six or seven ingredients. The kumpir-maker mixes everything up and stuffs it back into the potato skin.
Simit: Sesame-coated bread rings. Simit is the ultimate street food – cheap, delicous, easy to eat and seemingly available on every corner.
Baklava: A popular Turkish dessert made with phyllo pastry, nuts and syrup.
Turkish Tea and Coffee: Turkish black tea is the national drink, and consumed plentifully. Turks often add cubed sugar, but never lemon or milk. Turkish coffee is made with sugar and very finely ground coffee. It’s typically double- or triple-boiled, with some of the grinds remaining in the bottom of the cup. The result is a strong, flavorful cup of coffee that is traditionally served with a glass of water.
Rugs, linens, fabrics, jewelry, art, antiques, spices, ceramics… the list of things to buy in Istanbul is endless! Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar is one of the oldest and largest covered markets in the world. It spans 61 streets, is home to over 3,000 shops and attracts anywhere from 250,000 to 400,000 daily visitors. Bring your bargaining skills, and take your time as you wander this incredible complex.
Photo Credit: Azamara guest Diane
Sometimes night is the best part of your day. In Istanbul, that couldn’t be truer. The city is vibrant and fun-loving, and comes alive after dark. Settle in at a meyhame for platters of hot and cold meze, or find a great rooftop patio where you can sip a cocktail and take in the views.
This June voyage embarks from Dubrovnik, Croatia and visits several popular Greek ports before concluding with an overnight stay in Istanbul.
By Bonnie MacLaird, Chief Blogging Officer, Azamara Club Cruises on Monday, March 23, 2015
Almost exactly a year ago I was attending my first of many meetings with Azamara Club Cruises and the very elegant British woman in charge of our marketing for the United Kingdom used the word ‘bespoke’ in reference to selling our cruises in the UK market. I jotted the word down with a note to look it up. Of course I had seen the word written but hearing it out loud brought me up short. It sounded somewhat Shakespearean. And frankly I was not sure I understood what she meant to convey by the use. As an aside I’ll point out that the word is used throughout our brochures and website, and I have even seen the use of it skewered a bit on a social media forum I monitor. Still, due to lack of time or attention span, I had not looked it up.
So fast forward to last night where one would have found me at home watching a Masterpiece Mystery on PBS (Grantchester) while, coincidentally, flipping through a friend’s copy of “The English Home” magazine. What do I see but the word ‘bespoke’ sprinkled throughout in articles and promotions, such as “Bespoke Furniture for your Home” and “Bespoke Hand Painted Tiles” and again I wonder, just what are they trying to convey? So merely one year tardy I looked it up online:
“Bespoke is an adjective for anything commissioned to a particular specification. It may be altered or tailored to the customs, tastes or usage of an individual purchaser. Synonyms are ‘custom-made’, ‘made to order’, and ‘made to measure’. Antonyms are ‘Off-the-shelf’ and ‘ready-to-wear’. The word bespoke is derived from the verb to bespeak, meaning to ‘speak for something’. The particular meaning of the verb form given in the Oxford English Dictionary, ‘to speak for, to arrange for, engage beforehand: to ‘order’ (goods)’, is first cited from 1583. The term is generally more prevalent in British English, for example, bespoke jewellery. American English, on the other hand, tends to use the word ‘custom’ instead, as in custom car, custom motorcycle etc.” (Source)
Ah ha! It means custom-made. In the case of our line’s publicity you will see it used throughout, such as “To add to your experience, we now include an exclusive, bespoke, authentic AzAmazing Evenings event on most voyages.” In this example it is meant to convey that each voyage will include a unique (made-to-order for that voyage) evening event ashore.
Or a word search of our website will result in various hits, most about tours, but here’s one I found about coffee: “At Mosaic Café, the ships’ central gathering spot, guests can purchase a freshly brewed cup of bespoke coffee or tea.”
I can attest to drinking many cups of bespoke coffee at the Mosaic Café while aboard the Journey this past fall. In fact I now realize I am a master at brewing a bespoke pot of coffee for my husband and myself nearly every morning! Ok, I jest a bit. I am happy to now know how to use the word in a sentence. And I am proud to be a part of a company that does do things differently, not in cookie-cutter fashion.
Note to the yet-to-cruise on Azamara…this is one of the least stuffy lines I have ever sailed. There will be no vocabulary quiz onboard!
Footnote: It turns out its usage is on the upswing according to Google.
Here are a few recommended “bespoke” voyages this summer:
By Azamara Club Cruises on Thursday, March 19, 2015
Beaches are great, but there’s more to summer than sunbathing. Imagine strolling down the cobblestoned streets of a village that appears to be straight from the pages of a fairytale, or cruising through mystical Fjords highlighted by picturesque waterfalls. The natural beauty of Northern Europe is best experienced in the summer, and it will take your breath away.
Belfast is no longer a destination that travelers should avoid. The city has undergone quite the transformation and visitor numbers are on the rise. Find Donegall Square in the heart of the city to see the Edwardian City Hall, and the Titanic Memorial. Afterwards, grab a pint at the Crown Liquor Saloon, a Victorian pub dating back to the 1880s.
Copenhagen is known for its skyline of spires, its colorful waterfront and its beautiful parks. Explore Tivoli Gardens, or cruise the canals with our Land Discoveries tour.
Douglas, Isle of Man
Douglas on the Isle of Man is small, but definitely worth visiting. Charming cafes and restaurants line the sea front, gardens brighten up quaint streets, and the island’s village of Cregneash is home to the fascinating Manx community.
A cruise through the Norwegian Fjords might remind some of Disney’s hit film Frozen. It’s a place so magical, you’ll think you must have entered a fairytale. A small luxury cruise ship is the ultimate way to explore the fjords and see the spectacular Seven Sisters Waterfalls.
When our ships dock in Edinburgh (Leith), Scotland, we often spend several nights. You’ll be thrilled to have so much time to explore this incredible city. Begin your day at Edinburgh Castle, perched high above the city.
The quiet seaside town of Cobh in County Cork is your gateway to this stunning part of Ireland. Explore Cobh’s hitosry of seafaring and relationship with the Titanic, see the fortress and monestrey on Spike Island, or take the train to the charming village of Cork.
Traditional architecture meets modern design in Helsinki. Visit Kauppatori Market Square to find fresh, local food and unique handicrafts. Join our Land Discoveries tour, and you’ll visit one of the largest ice bars in the world. How cool is that?
Fans of the British TV series Broadchurch have all fallen in love with the show’s locale, England’s stunning Jurassic Coast. Dover’s steep white cliffs and sparkling ocean made for a stunning panorama, so pack your camera.
Honningsvag, Norway, is the last village before North Cape and home to only 4,000 people. From Honningsvag, you can the majestic cliff of North Cape where the Atlantic meets the Arctic.
St. Petersburg, Russia
Enjoy several days exploring art and history in St. Petersburg, Russia. The stunning Catherine Palace (pictured here), the Hermitage, Peter and Paul Fortress and the Church of Our Savior on the Spilled Blood are only a few of the city’s must-see spots. Land Discoveries tours can help you make the most of your time in port.
Isle of Skye, Scotland
Portree, Scotland is your gateway to the magical Isle of Skye. Soak in the ambiance of rolling green hills, thick misty air and rugged coastline. The spectacular Quirang hike will leave you breathless. This is what Scotland is all about.
Guernsey, Channel Islands
If you’re in a book club, there’s a good chance you’ve read The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. The work of fiction brings Guernsey during wartime to life for readers. The small island of Guernsey was occupied by Germans during WWII, a fact that makes it such an interesting place to visit today.
Love sports? Music? History? There’s something for everyone in Liverpool. The city is home to excellent rugby, football (or, soccer, to Americans) and golf, and is the birthplace of The Beatles.
Tromso, Norway is situated far North of the Arctic Circle, and boasts a dramatic landscape of snowcapped mountains, stunning fjords and scattered islands. The town’s Arctic Cathedral is an architecural masterpiece, with eleven arching triangles representative of icebergs.
The fairytale-like town of Tallinn, Estonia will charm you immediately. There’s no need to rush here. Find a seat at an outdoor cafe along the Palace Square and enjoy your surroundings.