By Azamara Club Cruises on Wednesday, June 17, 2015
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.
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.
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.
We’re making our first voyages to New Zealand in 2016, and the anticipation is almost too much to handle. New Zealand is one of the most beautiful and unique destinations on Earth. It’s the perfect place for a cruise line that breaks the industry mold with a unique focus on destination immersion.
We won’t be in “The Land of the Long White Cloud” until January, but until then we’re pouring over photos of New Zealand on Instagram. We just had to share our excitement here on the blog! Here are some of our favorites:
Wellington is the capital of New Zealand, and has been developing a reputation as a cool, yet relaxed, cultural hub. You’ll find lots of art, fantastic coffee, and spectacular views from the top of Mount Victoria.
Akaroa also offers guests the chance to travel to Christchurch on a Land Discoveries tour, or journey into “Middle Earth” – the Southern Alps at Mount Potts High Country Station, where parts of The Lords of the Rings trilogy was filmed.
Tauranga is the most populous city on New Zealand’s famous Bay of Plenty, and another port where we’ve planned an overnight stay. You can visit the incredible Hobbiton Lord of the Rings film set on a Land Discoveries tour – trust us, this isn’t just for movie buffs! The natural landscape and the “hobbit holes” will have you pulling out your camera again and again.
Dunedin is known as “the Edinburgh of New Zealand”, thanks to the city’s proud Scottish heritage. It’s also known for the picturesque drive up Otago Peninsula. Don’t forget your camera, you’ll want to capture the rugged beaches and stunning panoramas that can’t be found anywhere else.
Dunedin also offers visitors great food and nightlife. You can tour the Cadbury World chocolate factory, relax in one of the city’s many local pubs, cafes and restaurants, pick up a bottle of Milford (Dunedin’s own single malt whiskey), or tour the Speights brewery.
Bring your appetite to Kaikoura. The town is known for delicious seafood feasts, particular crayfish. But the best thing to do in Kaikoura is watch for whales and dolphins. Take a tour, and then enjoy dinner at a local restaurant! That’s what late-night departures are all about.
Auckland is the most populous city in New Zealand, yet features pristine beaches, farms, rainforest. You can go horseback riding or shopping; spend your day touring a sheep farm or taking in the city from atop the Sky Tower.
The nearby island of Waiheke offers wineries and art galleries for those looking to unwind. Or for something more adventurous, climb to the top of Mount Eden for breathtaking city views.
We have two voyages calling on New Zealand in 2016. This 16 Night voyage embarks from Sydney, Australia and concludes in Auckland. This 13 Night voyage embarks from Auckland, and concludes in Sydney. Can’t join us? Don’t worry! We’ll be back in 2017. View those itineraries here and here.
By Azamara Club Cruises on Thursday, April 16, 2015
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!
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.
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.
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.