By Lin Humble, Vice President
This past July, my husband and two sons were fortunate enough to enjoy a delightful week in the Mediterranean and Adriatic with Azamara Cruises aboard their ship, the Quest. Only hosting 690 guests, the smaller size of this floating boutique hotel ensures up-close access to ports that other bigger ships do not have.
The staff to guest ratio is also quite high, resulting in the kind of attention to service and details not found on many mainstream cruises. Small enough to invoke a feeling of intimacy, the Quest is also large to provide all of the amenities and activities one would expect on an oceangoing cruise.
Our experience started in Venice, where we were met at the airport by our Azamara transfer representative who was awaiting our arrival. He whisked us off to the port and we had seamless check-in. We had room access right away and our baggage was promptly delivered to our cabin. This enabled us to get refreshed and head out to the nearby vaporetto (water bus) station so we could begin our explorations of Venice’s charms. With three nights in Venice, we were able to comfortably pace our adventures to take advantage of more of what Venice has to offer.
One the highlights of the Azamara cruise is the inclusion of an “AzAmazing” experience. Offered on most cruises, the events are designed to take advantage of the destination in the most memorable way possible. For us, the “AzAmazing” evening was a trip to a complex of old Venetian shipyards and armories called the Arsenale di Venezia. We enjoyed an after-hours visit to the Biennale Arts Festival that was closed to the general public but opened for Azamara guest exclusively. The show featured guided tours of the exhibition and was followed by drinks and appetizers, while we enjoyed the spectacle of light dancers harnessed to sides of the various buildings. The show was magical!
Another highlight of our time in Venice was the exquisite timing of our cruise stay so that we could enjoy, from our ship, the annual celebration of the “Festa del Redentore” – a religious observance that remembers the terrible plague of 1567 that took the lives of over 50,000 people. In gratitude for its ending, the Doge promised to remember God’s grace with a festival and services that still occur on the third Sunday of July each year. For locals and visitors alike, the highlight is the amazing fireworks show that takes place on Saturday evening. Lasting 45 minutes, the fireworks transformed the spires and domes of Venice’s lagoon architecture in to moving pallet of brilliant light.
As our time in Venice ended, we set sail for a full day at sea, enjoying the Quest’s pool and on-board amenities. We arrived in the early morning at the Adriatic port of Kotor, Montenegro – an ancient city that is only accessible by smaller ships such as ours. Surrounded by stone walls and Mount Saint John, the city is best enjoyed on foot. We took a launch to visit the famous Blue Caves and were greeted by the brilliant blue waters, the hue of which are affected by the light at different times of day. Afterward, we took the challenge of scaling the 1,350 steps to the top of the upper town walls to enjoy the views of the city, St. John’s Fortress and the bay. Kotor became one of my favorites among the places we have visited in this region.
After our visit to beautiful Montenegro, we headed to our most anticipated stop, Corfu. Wasting no time, we left the ship and rented a car to take in the beautiful landscapes and spend the day just relaxing in the sun and enjoy the tranquil waters. This evening, as we did on others, we enjoyed movies aboard ship and prepared for our next destination, Sicily.
During our stay at the Sicilian port city of Taormina, we opted for an excursion to Mt. Etna, the still active volcano that dominates the visual landscape. We hiked to the top and enjoyed the stunning views before spending the rest of the day shopping and enjoying lunch.
The stunningly beautiful Amalfi Coast was our next destination and we enjoyed an excursion in Positano, doing nothing more adventurous than spending the day at the beach and enjoying the provided seaside lunch. Once again back to the ship or our last night on board.
Our last day we arrived in the port of Civitavecchia, the port for Rome. Saying farewell to the Quest and our AzAmazing Adventures, we took a ship’s transfer directly to Rome and extended our stay with a night in Rome, returning to the US the next day.
Azamara is noted for its unique, port-intensive itineraries and impressive service standards. We were certainly not disappointed and our expectations of Azamara Cruises were exceeded in every way. The ship, the crew, the dining options and the destinations, all conspired to give us a most memorable Mediterranean holiday! And we can’t wait to do it all again!
By: Lin Humble
Vice President, AffordableTours.com