Cruise Guide Column: Azamara Club Cruises unveiled

The two-ship Azamara Cruises fleet — the 684-passenger Azamara Quest seen here anchored off Sorrento, Italy this past summer, has now become Azamara Club Cruises. Photo by Michael Coleman

By Michael Coleman

Executives at a fledgling cruise line with huge potential have gone back to the drawing board in an effort to re-brand their two year-old company.

The two-ship Azamara Cruises fleet is now Azamara Club Cruises. Owned by parent Royal Caribbean (which also operates Celebrity Cruises), the new focus and a series of attributes are designed for upmarket, experienced travelers.

“This isn’t a strategy of going ‘from good to great’,” said Azamara Club Cruises President & CEO Larry Pimentel. “This is about taking an already great product and making it exceptional.”

Pimentel oversees the operation of identical sister ships: the 684-passenger Azamara Journey and Azamara Quest.

Azamara is scheduled to visit 140 ports in 50 countries in 2010, with itineraries featuring more overnight stays to allow guests to immerse themselves in communities and cultures — the line’s new focus.

Among the overnight locations are Istanbul, Turkey; Sorrento, Italy, which offers a host of tour options along the Amalfi Coast and Capri; a full three days and two nights in St. Petersburg, Russia, on Azamara’s Scandinavia and Russia Itineraries; and multiple overnight stays in Azamara’s Southeast Asia region, including Ho Chi Minh City, Bangkok, Singapore and Hong Kong.

“We’re going to slow down the tempo, and allow our guests to not just see the destination, but to live it,” said Pimentel.

Look for distinctive two-day shore excursion packages tailored to the various overnight destinations, allowing additional immersion in Dubrovnik, Croatia; Odessa, Ukraine; Livorno (Florence), Italy, Warnemunde (Berlin), Germany, or London, in addition to Sorrento and St. Petersburg. 


Look also for similar packages from Bangkok to Laos; an overnight tour from Hiroshima to Osaka via bullet train; a three-night experience from Mumbai including a visit to the Taj Mahal; overnight tours in Israel between Ashdod and Cairo, and a Grand Egypt tour featuring the best of both Luxor and Cairo. 


Among Azamara’s specialty tours include a Ferrari driving tour in Civitavecchia, Italy; a walk down memory lane in Liverpool with the “In the steps of The Beatles” tour; a private demonstration of chocolate flavors in Dubrovnik; a “Theatre A La Carte” evening in London; Croatian liqueur tasting in Zadar; an Imperial Russian Court evening at Tsarskoye Selo in St. Petersburg; an evening gondola serenade in Venice; and high tea at the Burj al Arab Hotel in Dubai.

As part of it re-branding efforts, the line will also place a heavy emphasis on fine cuisine and will expand its focus on wine to include vintages from boutique wineries around the world. Improved onboard wellness programs and service standards will also be implemented.

Beginning in April, look for inclusive amenities included in the cruise fare: bottled water offered at no charge throughout the voyage; specialty coffees and teas; housekeeping and dining gratuities; shuttle bus service to/from port communities; destination-influenced entertainment and enrichment programs; most meals and room service; house wine at lunches and dinners; and self-service laundry. Specialty dining in Azamara’s intimate Prime C steakhouse and the Mediterranean-influenced Aqualina will be complimentary for suite guests for the duration of their cruise. 
       

On the Web: azamaraclubcruises.com

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