Destination Immersion Blog

The home of insider destination info, travel tips and things Azamara

See How We See The World

Want to get a taste of your upcoming vacation before you even leave the house? Now you can with Azamara 3DI, the latest groundbreaking (and seafaring) innovation from Azamara!

Cartagena, Colombia

Here at Azamara, we tend to see the world differently, especially when it comes to cruising. We already spend longer in port than any other cruise line. We offer such inclusive amenities as international wines & beers and select spirits (big cheers to that!), plus, our complimentary AzAmazing Evenings are truly unprecedented and trendsetting—although so far, no one else has pulled it off like we do…if we do say so ourselves!

Well, once again, Azamara is ahead of the cruise line curve, as we’ve pioneered a new way to learn about cruising with Azamara 3DI, a 360-degree virtual reality tour that takes you from your stateroom to some of the most fascinating ports in the world.

Officially launched at Travel Massive in New York City on April 16th, Azamara 3DI not only lets you explore onboard and take part in Land Discoveries®, but you’ll also see and hear—literally!—the sights and sounds of what makes us such a unique destination-focused cruise line.

Quepos, Costa Rica

How did we do it? Through 360-degree filming during the 12 Night National Parks of Panama Voyage, we created a fully immersive virtual reality experience, which is viewable through a virtual reality headset, or on your computer or mobile device. Simply go to Azamara3DI.com, where you’ll find several immersive experiences including zip lining, a horse and carriage ride through Cartagena, and so much more.

It’s that easy. And it’s that uniquely Azamara.

So once you’ve experienced Destination Immersion® in virtual reality, make sure you start planning your next voyage, so you can see everything in “real” reality!

Ten Wine Facts To Impress Your Dinner Guests

10 Facts About Wine from Azamara Club Cruises

During my Azamara Quest voyage, I was treated to the Chef’s Table California menu dinner, and it was such a fun experience. I enjoyed learning the fun educational facts from Darko Lilic, our sommelier on the Azamara cruise. Ready to test your wine knowledge? Here are ten wine facts you may not know:

1. Do you know what a Tastevin (or tâtevin) is? You may have seen sommeliers in Europe wearing one around their neck on a chain. It is the tasting cup used by tasters and wine producers. This silver cup is concaved and faceted, allowing winemakers back in the days of candlelight to catch as much of the light as possible to evaluate the wine. It is also used to appreciate the color of the wines, especially the reds, and to test the quality and clarity of the wine, to see if it is ready to drink.

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2. The word “sommelier” is a old French word meaning butler or an officer in charge of provisions, derived from the Old Provençal saumalier, or pack-animal driver. 

3. “Cheers!” we say, as we clink glasses with our friends and family. This ritual started back in the Middle Ages, when poisoning was a favorite way to get rid of an enemy. To be sure their glass was poison-free, drinkers would first pour a bit of wine into each other’s glass, so if there was poison in one, it was now in both. 

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But soon, people in the company of trusted companions would pass over the tasting and just clink their glasses instead. Although there’s no real proof to this story, historians speculate that this custom is why “To your health” is a favorite saying along with the glasses clinking. Others say that the noise of the glasses clinking together was meant to dispel evil spirits. Either way, it’s a nice way to start a meal or event.

4. The French didn’t invent wine; in fact, the oldest known wine making was in Iran back in the Neolithic period. These Zagros mountain villagers were making and storing wine around 5400 B.C. in some of the earliest pottery jars archeologists have found. The Nile Delta established a royal winemaking industry around 3000 B.C., with the Pharaohs of Egypt enjoying wine so much that they took thousands of liters of wine into their tombs with them.

5. Romans were wine drinkers too, and we know this for a fact because a bottle of wine was found near the town of Speyer, Germany, buried in the tomb of a Roman noble. It is thought to be the world’s oldest bottle of wine, and itdates back to A.D. 325. It was discovered in 1867, and is currently on display at the town’s Historisches Museum der Pfalz.

6. Where could you find the largest consumption of wine per capita in the world? California’s Napa Valley? France? Italy? Well, almost. The Vatican is the winner. According to the Wine Institute, more wine is drunk per person in the Vatican City than in any other country in the world. Not only is there the regular consumption of ceremonial Communion wine, the Vatican’s residents are also more likely to be elderly, male, highly educated and eat in large groups—and these are all factors that indicate a propensity for greater wine consumption.

7. China has become the leading market for red wine—not just for its flavor. It’s a color favored by the government, and also is considered lucky. 

8. Did you know that it takes three types of grapes to make Champagne? It does! It takes two reds, a Pinot Noir and a Pinot Meunier; and one white, a Chardonnay. The color of a Champagne comes from the pressing, when winemakers decide how much of the grape skin’s pigments to color the wine. 

9. According to a new study from the Rockefeller University, an average person can recognize about 1 trillion different smells—much higher than the widely quoted estimate of 10,000 smells. 

10. Red wine is good for you. Don’t believe me? How about believing a study from Queen Mary & Westfield University in London, that showed how red wine tannins contain procyanidins, flavonoids that against heart disease. But not every wine is procyanidin equal. It turns out that wines from the island of Sardinia and those from the southwest of France have more of these procyanidins than wines from other regions and countries, so look for those on your store’s shelves.

Keep these facts handy at your next dinner party, and you’ll be sure to wow your friends.

But on the ship, it was our sommelier who wowed us with his vast wine knowledge. Each course was perfectly paired with the wine selection—many thanks to Executive Chef Fabio D’Agosta, and our sommelier, Darko Lilic, for such a wonderful experience! Thank you to our host, Tomasz for the gracious dinner invite and the delightful dinner conversation.

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Cheers to good health!

Visiting The Mediterranean Island of Malta

Abroad Lee Abbamonte

Malta is a place that I always forget about. It’s a little island nation in the Southern Mediterranean that most people don’t know anything about. It’s not a place that has an Eiffel Tower, an Empire State Building or something you absolutely must see before you die. What it does have is a lot of beautiful places and things to see and do. They’re not household names but they will leave an impression long after you’ve left Malta. Personally, I can’t wait to go back to Malta! 

Valletta-Malta

For a relatively small island, Malta has a lot on offer for the visitor. First, the old city is a fantastic place to visit. Really it’s one of the best-preserved old cities in the region if not the world. Remember that Malta is located just below Sicily and just above both Libya and Tunisia. In fact, the first time I went to Malta, I flew there from Tunis, Tunisia.

The other pleasant thing about Malta’s Mdina is that it’s a virtual ghost town so even in the summer; you’ll have great photos and get the feel of having it to yourself. That’s a difficult thing to do on nearby Italian, Greek or French islands.

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The capital of Valletta is an intriguing place that looks like something out of a movie. In fact, Valletta and Malta are often used to film movies or TV shows on location, most notably current, Game of Thrones. The views from the Gardens are fabulous and the small streets give it an old gothic kind of feel. I highly recommend having a drink in one of the numerous small pubs in Valletta. All the bartenders like to tell stories of the people that have passed through over the years. 

Journey in Valletta

Most people have heard of the Maltese Falcon although few people actually know what it really is. That said, the Maltese do offer falconry on the island and it’s a pretty fun thing to do and makes for great photos and videos. 

I also suggest getting out of Malta proper and heading out to the island of Gozo just offshore. Gozo is great for water activities and a really off the beaten path kind of destination, easily visited on a day trip. Not to mention, it is absolutely gorgeous!

Views of Malta from beautiful walled city of Mdina

Plus, if you feel like dancing, Malta has no shortage of places to go out at night. They have clubs and bars to suit any age and it kind of reminds me a bit of Cyprus in terms of nightlife, but less seedy.

Finally, the best way to see Malta is by just getting out and doing it. Hire a car and just go. There are also public busses that will take you around the island but I always find it more fun to drive myself! As they say…Malta is more. 

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Azamara has several cruises calling on Malta, including:

See all upcoming cruises to Malta in 2015, 2016 and 2017 here.

River Cruising Through Cochin’s Alappuzha

Recently, I discovered the love of cruising, and after a cruise tour through Europe, I am on my first international cruise with Azamara Club Cruises on Azamara Quest. What an expedition to kick off my first trip for this year! 

Afternoon bubbly in the Bay of Bengal during a luxury voyage with Azamara Club Cruises.

What an AzAmazing adventure on Azamara Quest. I love this adventure, my home away home. I’m also so grateful for the wonderful introspection I’m discovering during my experience through Asia

I woke up to this beautiful view:

The beautiful view on the way to Kochi, India with Azamara Club Cruises.

We landed in Cochin, in the province of Kerala, and departed by motorcoach, weaving our way through India’s streets. It was a great way to take in the flavors of the city as we drove to our boathouse excursion. 

The houseboat takes us on a journey unique to Kerala, where we get a glimpse of what happens in rural life. We wind our way through narrow canals lined with palm trees and greenery, and also tour open vistas over the Alappuzha river. 

Houseboats in Kerala, India.

Their houseboat is an amazing blend of Indian heritage (a thatched roof) and new technology (solar panels used for lighting!), and was converted from a kettuvallam, a traditional boat that’s been used for hundreds of years in the region. 

Farming and fishing was the way people made a living here in the last 15 years, but within the last five years, over 2,000 houseboats have ushered in a wave of tourism. It seems that the houseboats come in various levels of luxury, and have even been rated by the Department of Tourism, like hotels! And, like hotels, the high-end houseboats will have nice furniture, lush carpets and modern equipment in the bathroom, as well as being extremely varied in their locations. (Although most hotels don’t travel!)

Alappusha River cruising in a traditional houseboat.

After our cruise, we stopped along the way at the Marari Beach Resort for lunch and some leisure time in the tropics.  What a beautiful resort! 

This trip through the waters of the Alappuzha on a traditional houseboat was extraordinary and memorable. The experience of my short tourist passage makes me wonder at how travelers passed through the same route hundreds of years ago, and if they saw a similar picture. 

Cochin, India with Azamara Club Cruises.

Traveling always gives me the time and ability for self-reflection. This trip to Asia gives me a very different perspective, especially when I think of our lives in America, to consider. This has been my favorite excursion of this trip—so far.

Ann Tran joined us onboard the Azamara Quest as a guest of Azamara Club Cruises. Click here to view similar Spice Route voyages.

Nine Fascinating Facts About The Spice Trade

Nine fascinating facts about the spice trade, via Azamara Club Cruises

How often do you use pepper or salt when you’re cooking? Do you sprinkle cinnamon on top of your oatmeal in the morning? Why does everyone go nuts for a Pumpkin Spice Latte when October arrives?

As I’m starting my spice tour with Azamara Club Cruises, I’m realizing how much we take these spices we use every day for granted. As I’m learning more about the spices used in these different regions, I’m also learning about their importance in the world’s history. Here are some fascinating facts:

1. Kerala, my fourth stop on the trip, was a major spice trade center as early as 3,000 B. C.

Traveling the Spice Route with Azamara Club Cruises

2. Arab traders controlled the spice trade between Europe and the East, like China, Indonesia, India and Ceylon (now Sri Lanka, my third stop), for almost 5,000 years until Europeans started looking for a new route to the Far East. 

3. Christopher Columbus found America by accident, on his way to finding a new route to India. He found Jamaica instead, which has many spices of its own, like allspice.
 
4. It was Portuguese explorer Vasco de Gama who was the first to finally reach India in 1497, successfully navigating the southern tip of Africa. He returned from his landing spot on the southwest coast of India with his ships laden with nutmeg, cloves, cinnamon, ginger and peppercorns.
 

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5. In the Middle Ages, Europeans lacked refrigeration and general hygiene, leading to food spoiling quickly. Spices were so important because they helped mask the flavor of not-so-fresh food.

6. The Netherlands really, really wanted a small Indonesian island called Run for it’s high volume of nutmeg, so it traded a few colonies across the Atlantic. One is now called Manhattan.
 
7. Wars over those “Spice Islands” in Indonesia, like Run, lasted for about 200 years, between the 15th and 17th centuries.
 
8. Piracy was rampant on the seas, especially off the coast of Portugual, preying on the ships that were carrying spices back to Europe from the Far East.
 

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9. India is the top spice-producing country in the world. 

Top Spice Producing Countries

 Travel the Spice Route with Azamara Club Cruises! Upcoming voyages include:

Ann Tran was invited to cruise onboard the Azamara Quest.