Destination Immersion Blog

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

Connecting Through the Love of Travel

Note: This is a special feature post from Chris Owen of ChrisCruises.com.

Sailing on the Azamara Journey, our first stop was the Greek port of Gythion, a seaside town known for beaches, shoreside cafes and fishing boats. It’s where Greeks go for vacation and is not on the itineraries of very many cruise ships.

gythion-MAVROVOUNI-BEACH

An Azamara Land Discoveries tour brought an in-depth exploration of the place with plenty of free time to enjoy what we experienced along the way. As anticipated, the destination focus of Azamara Club Cruises is alive, well and good reason to sail with the boutique cruise line. A number of respected sources have provided verification of that in the posts here before mine and more will follow. My focus is a bit different, concentrating on how that destination focus is attained at such a high level. We begin with the shared experience.

On our “Wonders of Mystras” Land Discoveries tour, we explored medieval ruins, the remains of what were once palaces and a number of churches. It was a walking tour over steep and uneven terrain that started high in the mountains and ended beachside. Along the way, our local guide shared a love for the region as only a lifelong resident could. Moving right along from beginning to end, the five-hour experience could easily have been stretched into a longer tour. Still, what made the day memorable was more than the places we saw and what we learned. It was doing so with like-minded people who shared each other’s passion for travel.

An Azamara shore excursion in Gyhtion, Greece.

That a shared experience can bring a wonderful travel memory is nothing new really; those who have sailed before might remember others they have met on cruises of the past. The difference here is that the travelers seem hand-picked to gel quickly as a group with a keen sense of adventure and serious desire to do more than visit a place. It’s the direct connection with destinations, enabled by Azamara, that is the gold here and it did not take but one tour to see it clearly.

Gythion, Greece with Azamara Club Cruises.

Still, along with the end result of what Azamara does bringing like-minded travelers together, those same people have a higher level of independence. They want free time to explore on their own and Azamara makes sure that happens. Several times throughout our tour, time was given to go off on our own. At the conclusion, we had the option to go back to Azamara Journey or stay ashore with hours left in the day to enjoy the port. That’s exactly what many of us did, too, lingering at a shoreside café to enjoy a few Greek beers, olives (as only the Greeks know how to grow) and Baklava. Take away the shared experience element and it would still have been a good day. That it was shared with keenly focused, like-minded travelers put it over the top.

Enjoying extra time in port in Greece.

The Azamara Journey will call on Gythion, Greece again in August. Click here to view the itinerary.

Cruising to Gay-Friendly Mykonos

Note: This is a special feature post from Mark and Dale from Meet Me OnBoard, the largest gay cruise community online. Azamara is a proud partner with Meet Me OnBoard.
 
Cruising to the gay-friendly destination of Mykonos, Greece with Azamara Club Cruises.
 
Mykonos is a gay-popular destination we’ve always dreamed of visiting, and while we’re interested in every stop on our current Azamara Journey cruise, we were extra happy this one was on the itinerary—especially with a late night stay. (An aspect we’re really loving about the line!) Like many LGBT travelers, we appreciate the chance to explore by day and night.
 
Mykonos has a reputation of embracing the LGBT visitor (and certainly straight folks, too—many of whom might not even realize the island’s gay-friendly vibe). Within minutes of walking into the old town the gay visitor who is “tuned in” will feel the welcoming and affirming nature of the island.
 
For instance, we noticed the music vibe in the coffee shops and bars, stores with sexy swim suits for men, and rainbow colors incorporated into the signage of business places.  The fact that there were scores of attractive, stylishly dressed men in port was more than just a hint!
 
Cruising to the gay-friendly destination of Mykonos, Greece with Azamara Club Cruises.
 
The classic Greek look of whitewashed buildings with blue and red accents are typical on Mykonos. Walking the smooth stone streets in the old town, every turn in the warren of twisting streets brings a new vista or photo opportunity. Shops abound from local crafts to the big international luxury brands. We loved how businesses fit in alongside ancient-seeming landmarks — trendy bars right next to a serene, Orthodox church where candles cast a magical glow onto the altar and icons. For instance, we were drawn into a wonderful restaurant called ODE where we enjoyed an excellent smoothie. ODE was designed in a clean and crisp contemporary way, very sophisticated, comfortable and familiar to the gay traveler.
 

In the past, the sea breezes nourished the island by powering the iconic windmills on Mykonos, here with the Azamara Journey in the background. The iconic windmills of Mykonos are a testament to the island’s connection with nature and the sea. 

Cruising to the gay-friendly destination of Mykonos, Greece with Azamara Club Cruises.

Mykonos’s “Little Venice” is aptly named:  A strip of buildings directly on the shore are reminiscent of the iconic Italian city. Bars and cafes dot the shoreline here — a stretch locals call Alefkandra Beach. At this prime real estate where visitors savor dinner or a cocktail at sunset, we noticed that several businesses were especially gay-friendly.  Luckily, Azamara’s late-night port stays allowed us to enjoy an incomparable Aegean sunset in Little Venice.
 
Azamara has several voyages calling on Mykonos in 2015, 2016 and 2017. View them here. 

Immersing our Senses in Patmos, Greece

Note: This is a special feature post from Mark and Dale from Meet Me OnBoard, the largest gay cruise community online. Azamara is a proud partner with Meet Me OnBoard.
 
Among our stops on the Azamara JourneyPatmos—a Greek island—is a place we felt the ship had taken us on a journey back in time. We learned that the island’s history reaches into Greek mythology of the seas: Neptune, God of the Sea, was said to have been the first to set foot on Patmos. Mere mortals arrived somewhere around 3,000 BC. Around 4,000 years later, in 1,088, an awesome Orthodox monastery was built.
 
Patmos, Greece.
 
Everything about our cruise on the Azamara Journey has been an immersive feast for the senses, and visiting an ancient, still-operating monastery on Patmos engaged all our senses. 
 
For us—as lovers of interesting music—it was our ears that got the main course. While exploring the hilltop Monastery of St. John the Divine, we discovered that modern monks still chant as part of their daily ritual. Hearing them chant while we walked the narrow corridors was a special treat. 
 
Patmos, Greece
 
(St. John the Divine was the man who is said to have received the biblical book of Revelation in a cave—now a chapel—halfway up the hill to the Monastery). 
 
The monastery features narrow stone spiral staircases, bell towers, a domed oven, and a museum’s-worth of ancient art and icons. We had a true sense that Azamara Journey had delivered us to another period in time. 
 
Patmos, Greece
 
Whether religious or not, visiting a place like this is a reminder of the lengths people have gone for their beliefs. We listened for whispers from the walls—wondering what they’d say if they could talk—there’s certainly been more than one gay monk in the world.
 
Set atop a hill, the still-functioning Orthodox monastery can be reached by bus, taxi, or on foot by the hearty traveler. Surrounded by the old town of Chora, and with a commanding view of the island and the harbor, this is a “don’t miss” UNESCO world heritage site. 

Delicious Dubrovnik: the Taste of Dalmatia & City Tour

Note: This is a special feature post from Mark and Dale from Meet Me OnBoard, the largest gay cruise community online. Azamara is a proud partner with Meet Me OnBoard.

Like many LGBT travelers, we’re big fans of the opportunity to explore each local cultures’ food and drink. So for a day in Dubrovnik, we stepped off the lovely Azamara Journey and indulged in a Land Discoveries tour to a small working farm just outside the city. They produce olive oil and wine to sell, and vegetables for their own use. Speaking good English, the farm’s owner demonstrated the old method of first press and second press olive oil production, using his own 30 year old horse (we’d never seen olive oil pressed by any method—and after seeing it done in such a rustic manner we’ll forever pretend this is how the grocery store oil back home was pressed).

The farmer’s wife then hosted our group for lunch: homemade prosciutto, salad greens, vegetables and olive oil, local cheese and wine from their vineyard—served at tables in their backyard overlooking the Adriatic Sea. Simple and decadent for all our senses.

The beautiful food of Dubrovnik.

The beautiful food of Dubrovnik.

Our guide, Natasha, pointed out an island off the coast which was first developed by the Benedictines, who were then expelled by Napoleon. Upon expulsion they were said to have dripped candle wax all around their compound and left candles upside down in the earth. The curse meant that anyone who had control of the Island would eventually die a non-natural death. The curse would only be lifted when every bit of the candle wax was removed. Beautiful, but we decided not to look for a vacation home there…just in case.

Dubrovnik Old City

Dubrovnik Old City.

The tour continued with time in the old city. Compared to many European cities we’ve visited, many Dubrovnik building façades seemed decidedly basic. Our guide explained that after essentially freeing themselves from outsider rule [in the 14th Century], the City-State of Dubrovnik became wealthy. However, the custom was to conceal wealth as a way to avoid repeated aggression from outside powers. Ambassadors were instructed to live and dress simply when abroad. City architecture used sandstone because it was non-flammable, local and cheap, and thus not showy. This is the kind of destination immersion we love, and a well-vetted tour company made it fascinating.

Reimagine Azamara – See The Renderings!

The response to our announcement that we’re renovating Azamara Quest and Azamara Journey has been fantastic. Guests who are booked for 2016 voyages can’t wait to join us onboard and experience the exciting upgrades we have planned. 

For now, these renderings will have to suffice! But don’t worry, this isn’t all. We’ll be sharing exclusive information and updates all summer long. 

Stateroom Rendering

Stateroom Rendering

Stateroom Bathroom Rendering

Stateroom Bathroom Rendering

A muted color palette of earth tones will be incorporated throughout the ships. 

Club Continental Suite Rendering

Club Continental Suite Rendering

Our new spa suites will feature rain showers with ocean views, double vanities and outdoor Jacuzzi tubs overlooking the sea. 

Club Continental Suite Bathroom Rendering

Club Continental Suite Bathroom Rendering

RCI25_Azamara_revite_Pan_Asian_cam01

A new Asian al fresco restaurant will be one of many revitalized open-air spaces for guests to enjoy.

RCI25_Azamara_revite_Pan_Asian_cam02

Find out more by visiting our website!