Destination Immersion Blog

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

Darwin & The Blue Mountains of Australia

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As an under-graduate studying Sociology (ahem…a while ago) I spent many a night reading Darwin and becoming fluent in his theory of evolution via natural selection. So it was with great interest that I recently read a fascinating article called “Darwin’s Forgotten World: Australia’s Blue Mountains Influenced the Great Thinker’s Understanding of Evolution as Profoundly as the Galapagos.” (Perrottet, Tony. Smithsonian Magazine, January 2015: 50-61.)

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The Unique & Charming Port Towns of Sicily

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Sicily… I just love saying the word. It has such an awesome undertone in American popular culture and to be honest, it really lives up to it in many ways. While American mobster movies have made Sicily a household name; most people don’t really know anything about it and don’t think to go there when they think of Italy. I have been to Sicily on three different occasions and each one was better than the last leading me to discover more of the biggest island in the Mediterranean.

Trapani_AFAR_168_blue_sky_hull_darkTrapani, Sicily

My first time in Sicily I flew into Trapani; a small coastal city on the west coast. Western Sicily is ancient and rugged, tranquil and sunny and a fascinating introduction to the island. It looks today much of what it must’ve looked like 100 years ago. There are shepherds herding their sheep, stone farmhouses dotting the horizon and fields of Marsala grapes as far as the eye can see. It is almost perfect and an amazing way to get a true sense of the island and its people. The west coast of Sicily is by far the least touristed part of the island and maybe in fact the whole country of Italy.

As you move east, you will undoubtedly stop in the capital of Sicily, Palermo. Palermo is a rugged city with a lot of character. I think of it because it was the setting for the final scene in The Godfather trilogy where an assassin missed Michael Corleone and accidentally killed his daughter. That scene can be relived at the famous Teatro di Massimo in the center of town. It is very beautiful and not to be missed.

The best way to see Palermo as is the case for most of Italy is by foot, eating your way through the city. The best restaurant that I ate at was Focacceria del Massimo across from the Teatro di Massimo. The workmen’s lunch of pasta and sandwiches is absolutely fantastic.

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From Palermo, you can head west or south. I suggest heading south taking in some amazing scenery including Mount Etna en route to the east coast of Sicily. The east coast is where you’ll find some of the beautiful and famous port towns like Siracusa, Catania and Taormina

Taormina-Mt-EtnaMount Etna, Sicily

Siracusa, SicilySiracusa, Sicily

All of these towns are wonderful to explore and take day trips from as well. Another little known but great spot in Sicily is Agrigento in the south; which is the home to the Valley of the Temples. Personally, it was probably my favorite thing about Sicily aside from the food of course!

However, no matter where you go in Sicily, you will always find three things. Stunning scenery both natural and manmade; amazing food that is uniquely Sicilian; and lovely people with a real zest for enjoying life. Sicily is a place you’ll want to return to over and over. 

Taromina 2Taormina, Sicily

Azamara has several cruises calling in Sicily including:

Ten Travel Destinations You Must See At Night

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Longer stays. Overnights. Night touring. It’s why Azamara voyages are for those who love travel. After all, why travel all the way to an exotic destination only to leave it before the sun has set? Since a picture is worth a thousand words, we searched Instagram for these incredible photos of our favorite cities to experience after dark.

Venice, Italy

Venice, Italy at night.Source: Instagram.com

Evenings in Venice were made for wandering. Enjoy a sunset gondola ride, take in the live music from cafe orchestras at St. Mark’s square, and stroll down cobblestoned alleys that lead to dead ends. The city is quieter, mysterious and charming at night.

Our 10 Night Greek Isles to Venice voyage ends with an overnight stay in Venice. After disembarking, you could even extend your stay and explore the city more.

St. Petersburg, Russia

St. Petersburg, Russia at night.Source: Instagram.com

If you visit St. Petersburg in June, you’ll experience the famous “White Nights”, when the sun only sets briefly and city streets bustle around the clock. But as this photo shows, the city can be just as beautiful at dusk.

Amsterdam, Netherlands

Amsterdam, Netherlands at night.Source: Instagram.com

Just like Venice, Amsterdam’s canals and bridges make it a beautiful place to visit at night. Enjoy a late dinner, explore the city by bicycle, or people-watch from a sidewalk cafe to soak up the ambiance of Amsterdam in the evening.

Stockholm, Sweden

Stockholm, Sweden at night.Source: Instagram.com

The Absolut Ice Bar at the Nordic Sea Hotel is a nighttime favorite in Stockholm. But if you feel like warming up, try a cozy pub for beer and traditional Swedish food.

If overnight stays appeal to you, we have just the cruise for you! The 12 Night Summer Baltic voyage features overnight stays in Stockholm, St. Petersburg and Amsterdam. 

Bangkok, Thailand

Bangkok, Thailand at night.Source: Instagram.com

Enjoy dinner with a view. Restaurants along the Chao Praya River will provide temple views, like this photo. Or take in the whole dazzling city from a rooftop bar.

Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam at night.Source: Instagram.com

Night markets, bars and coffee shops are all popular places to spend a night in Ho Chi Minh City. Street food is popular here. Be prepared for the aromas of grilled meats and fragrant soups to tempt you away from formal dinner plans. Don’t leave without trying authentic banh mi, the popular Vietnamese baguette sandwich.

Our 14 Night Discover Thailand & Vietnam voyage will really let you soak up the culture. It features overnight stays in Ho Chi Minh City and Halong Bay (Hanoi), as well as two overnights in Klong Toey (Bangkok). 

Sorrento, Italy

Sorrento, Italy at sunset.Source: Instagram.com

In Sorrento, your favorite way to spend the evening just might be watching the sun set. It’s impossible not to fall in love with the relaxed ambiance, quaint streets and stunning panorama of this part of Italy.

This 11 Night Islands of the Medierrranean cruise includes an overnight stay in Sorrento.

Cabo San Lucas, Mexico

Cabo San Lucas, Mexico at sunset.Source: Instagram.com

Cabo is famous for beautiful beaches and a lively nighttime scene, making an overnight stay there a must. Try this 12 Night Costa Rica to Baja voyage in February 2016.

Barcelona, Spain

Barcelona, Spain at night.Source: Instagram.com

Late-night and overnight stays in Barcelona are a must if you want to experience the city like a local. Most restaurants serve dinner from 9pm to 11pm. Enjoy cava wine, tapas and churros while you’re here.

The photo above is of a church, perched on Mount Tibidabo. The mountain provides stunning views of Barcelona and the surrounding coastline.

This November cruise includes three overnight stays! Spend the night in Palma de Mallorca, Valencia, and Barcelona.

Sydney, Australia

Sydney, Australia at night.Source: Instagram.com

Sydney, Australia at sunset.Source: Instagram.com

Sydney Harbour is so stunning, we couldn’t choose just one photo. This 10 Night Great Barrier Reef voyage concludes with an overnight stay in Sydney, so guests have the opportunity to extend their stay in this incredible city.

Now there’s just one question: where will you go next?

15 Photos That Prove Italy Was Made For Cruisers

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We love seeing your Azamara cruise photos almost as much as you love Azamara cruises. These photos showcase fifteen incredible Italian travel destinations that can be visited via cruise – all courtesy of our incredible guests. 

Portoferraio, Elba

Azamara Quest in Portofferaio Elba by Anne T,Photo Credit: Anne T.

The beautiful island of Elba might be best known for its connection to Napolean. We love it for Portoferraio’s bustling waterfront boardwalk, historic villas and fortresses, and incredible cuisine. Indulge in fresh cuttlefish, squid and octopus, while you’re here.

Manarola, Cinque Terre

manarola cinque terre by hermi z.Photo Credit: Hermi Z.

The five cliffside villages of the Cinque Terre show guests a quieter side to the Italian Riviera. Manarola is the second-smallest of the towns, and possibly the oldest. Make sure you try the locally produced wine, Sciacchetra, while you visit!

Try the 7 Night Costa Brava to Cinque Terre Voyage this May.

Venice

Supermoon in Venice during overnight stay with Quest by Doug K.Photo Credit: Doug K.

Venice is known as one of the most beautiful and romantic cities in the world for good reason. Take the advice of travel expert and Azamara blogger Lee Abbamonte, and spend some time getting lost in this incredible city.

Amalfi

honeymoon in amalfi by jason d.Photo Credit: Jason D.

If there’s such thing as heaven on earth, it just might be Amalfi. Lemon groves, winding cliffside roads and dramatic scenery make this idyllic town a must-see port.

There are eight upcoming cruises that call on Amalfi.

Rome

Vatican - JillPhoto Credit: Jill M.

Rome, the eternal city. Art, history, culture, food, shopping – Rome offers something for everyone. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and it can’t be experienced in one either. Travel here countless times, and you’ll always discover something new. The awe-inspiring Colosseum and breathtaking beauty of St. Peter’s Basilica may even justify repeat visits.

The October 2017 Vatican to The Acropolis Voyage embarks from Civitavecchia (Rome). Arrive a few days early and explore the city.

Livorno

Livorno Italy at sunset by June FPhoto Credit: June F.

Livorno is the gateway to Tuscany, and a wonderful port for both new and veteran cruisers. If you’ve been to Florence and Pisa already, you can spend your time in port exploring quiaint Tuscan villages like Lucca and Volterra.

Capri

Capri - Vanessa J.Photo Credit: Vanessa J.

From the famous Blue Grotto to the incredible views of Monte Solaro, the island of Capri will take your breath away. Take the chairlift from Anacapri to snap a photo like this one.

Giardini Naxos, Sicily

Mount Etna and Giardino Naxos taken from Quest by Corinne W.Photo Credit: Corinne W.

Here you’ll find the still-active Mount Etna volcano, towering over this port at 10,900 feet. Volcanic soil has enriched farmland, resulting in lush crops of olives, citrus and grapes. 

There are fifteen upcoming voyages calling on Giardini Naxos (Taormina), Sicily.

Positano

Positano - Vanessa J.Photo Credit: Vanessa J.

Positano is one of the most picturesque towns along the Amalfi Coast, making it a favorite stop for Azamara cruisers. Visit Spiagga Grande, a beach lined with restaurants, cafes and gelaterias. If you’re in the mood for shopping, pick up some beautiful handmade leather sandals.

Florence

Florence - JillPhoto Credit: Jill M.

Florence is a bustling mecca of culture. Take in incredible architecture, food, shopping and art while visiting. Try not to get overwhelmed! Use our “Seven Things To Do in Tuscany” blog as a guide for planning your time in port.

Vernazza

Vernazza photo by Hermi Z.Photo Credit: Hermi Z.

Considered by many to be the most picturesque of the Cinque Terre towns, Vernazza has recovered well from a devastating mudslide in 2011. For the best views, begin hiking from Vernazza towards Monterosso al Mare.

Portofino

portofino italy by andreaPhoto Credit: Andrea

Portofino is the quintessential storybook Italian town. Thanks to charming streets, picturesque pastel homes, exclusive boutiques and quaint cafes, the calm fishing village has become a favorite of the “Jet Set”. 

Plan your visit for 2017 – this cruise calls on Portofino and includes a stop in Monte Carlo during the world’s largest yacht show.

Santa Margherita

azamazing evening in santa margherita by jillianPhoto Credit: Jillian

Santa Margherita can be a starting off point for a visit to the Cinque Terre, but is also a wonderful resort town in its own right. Visit the Villa Durozzo Palace, a beautiful building from the 1600s that now serves as the Vittorio Rossi Museum. 

Cruise to Santa Margherita in September 2015.

Sorrento

azamara journey in sorrento mount vesuvias by charissaPhoto Credit: Charissa

The backdrop of Mount Vesuvius makes for a striking photo when our Azamara ships tender in Sorrento. Visit the preserved ruins of Pompeii, a city captured in volcanic ash after Mount Vesuvius erupted in 79AD. You can also climb to the summit of the volcano.

Choose among 18 upcoming voyages to Sorrento.

Portovenere

Portovenere, Italy by Peggy L.Photo Credit: Peggy L.

Portovenere is known for romance. In fact, English poets Lord Byron and Percy Shelley once spent time here, soaking up the sun and the ambiance. 

Cruise to Portovenere in September 2015.

Want to see more photos of Italy? Check out our Pinterest board and start planning your dream cruise!

Venice: One of Italy’s Greatest Treasures

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“Aaaaaaahhhhhh, Venice” – Indiana Jones

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Indiana Jones, much like James Bond, was always pretty good at those clever one-liners and every time I go to Venice this quote is all I can say. Venice just makes your mouth gape. Your body relaxes and you just take in the majesty of this city of water. Venice is perfect. 

I went to Venice for my first time way back in 1998 and have been back 4 subsequent times and each time it’s been better than the last. I think that Venice is truly appreciated as you get older and as you take your time to discover the true nuances of this great fairy tale city. 

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I don’t care what any guidebook tells you to go see or do in Venice. The best thing to do is simply stroll around the alleyway streets that seemingly dead-end around every corner. Get lost in Italy’s greatest treasure. That’s where you’ll discover the Venice that you can’t find in guidebooks.

Eat gelato, cappuccino, pasta and all your Italian favorites from little hidden places outside of the main touristic thoroughfares. Discover little hidden piazzas and restaurants and find your perfect Venice photos where you least expect them. 

Venice-Collage

While places like the Grand Canal and Piazza de San Marco are fabulous, you will be bombarded with thousands of tourists and charged significantly more than other areas of Venice. Don’t get me wrong, these are must-see places but just make sure you discover your own Venice. It’s a small place with a lot to offer beneath the surface.

Some of the hotels in Venice are some of the world’s best luxury retreats. It makes all the difference when choosing a place to stay in Venice. I especially recommend a place overlooking the Grand Canal, as that’s my favorite way to take it in-watching the world go by. Watching couples driven around by the famous punters of Venice and seeing first-timers blown away by Venice’s beauty and allure.

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As I stated, Venice is a big tourist spot and expect it to be crowded if you go in the summer or the high season. It’s one of the world’s most popular places to visit for a reason. But if you have some flexibility, go during the off season or even in the winter and have the streets basically to yourself to experience as you see fit without throngs of tourists. I warn you it gets pretty cold in the winter but it’s a different experience that I loved!

However, whether it’s winter, spring, summer or fall – you’ll be saying “Aaaaaahhhhhh, Venice”. 

Azamara has 22 upcoming voyages calling in Venice including:

With late-night departures, overnight stays and unique night tours, you can experience the beauty of Venice at night when you travel with Azamara Club Cruises.