Cozy cruisin’

Written by Debbi K. and William D. Kickham

Azamara Club Cruises offers a Goldilocks moment in cruising – just right for those who want a luxury line with only 670 passengers, delectable food and posh amenities – as we discovered during our 23 days of back-to-back cruising from Venice to Athens to Rome aboard the Azamara Journey.

While many other ships depart midday, forsaking all sightseeing fun, Azamara affords you more time in port with many bespoke “AzaMazing Evenings.” You might visit Mdina Cathedral in Malta, for a superb concert of choir singers or enjoy a pianist at an outdoor venue in Chania, Greece.

There’s also plenty to savor onboard. Both the Azamara Journey and the Azamara Quest were recently completely refurbished, yielding contemporary décor, state-of-the-art spas and spa suites, expanded dining offerings and up-to-the-minute technology. The Journey’s living room and dining room enable you to send “postcards” via interactive tabletops. You can do this while relishing first-class fare prepared by Chef Iwan Pennings and his team, whether its kebabs and ratatouille on the Patio Grill, a simple panini at lunch or prime rib in the Discoveries dining room. (Pennings also creates gluten-free, low-sodium, low-carb, low-fat and low-cal menus, along with everything in between. Later, in the fitness center, you can work out with weights, treadmills and machines – so you can depart shipshape – and not in the shape of a ship.

As for the entertainment, we would’ve gladly paid to see the Carnegie Hall-caliber performances Azamara showcases, backed by its talented seven-piece orchestra.

But we didn’t have to, of course. Part of what makes Azamara stand out is that the line makes everything so easy. You pay one price upfront and everything is included. (Upgrades are available.) And you don’t need a ball gown or tuxedo. It’s country club casual, particularly for the “White Nights” outdoor party on the pool deck, where just about all the passengers dance the night away with new friends.

Azamara offers first-class hotels to bookend your cruise. However, due to full capacities, we booked our own hotel rooms. Our pre-cruise hotel in Venice was the Hilton Molino Stucky, an excellent choice that’s right on the dock in Giudecca. It offers world-class service, great dining (we enjoyed the excellent Club Lounge and the restaurant’s signature Nutella crepes), and a quick, free water shuttle service to Piazza San Marco for Italian shopping and sightseeing. Similarly, post-cruise, we loved the Sheraton Roma Hotel & Conference Center, which attracts guests from countries far and wide and boasts a terrific Club Floor with delicious food and beverage presentations, great breakfasts included, a luxurious fitness center and a free 20-minute shuttle to the center of Rome. Now that’s amore.

With all this, it’s no wonder that extended sailings are popular on Azamara – particularly back-to-back bookings, a new trend. Tore Berset of Norway was celebrating his 51st sailing on Azamara in only five years. His travel companion, Lee Ewert of Canada, said that the two consistently schedule back-to-back bookings: “This is my fourth Azamara cruise in six months. Cruising changed my life.”

For more, visit azamaraclubcruises.com. Contact Debbi K. Kickham at GorgeousGlobetrotter.com and MarketingAuthor.com. William D. Kickham is a personal-injury attorney who can be reached through attorneywdkickham.com.

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