Azamara's Asian itineraries for early 2011 are destination-oriented, highly inclusive and right-priced.
When well-known cruise executive Larry Pimentel took over as president of Azamara Cruises the first thing he did was change the name to Azamara CLUB Cruises. Previously, the line had been treated as a small offshoot of Celebrity, under the aegis of Adam Goldstein, but Larry knew the first thing he had to do was differentiate the line.
Along those lines, another challenge he faced was differentiating the line from Oceania Cruises and the ships of Princess, which are virtually identical sister ships to the Azamara line (these eight identical ships all once belonged to Renaissance Cruises). When I met up with Larry at Seatrade 2010, last March, I asked if it seemed like a good idea that all eight ships were deployed in the Meditarranean for the summer of 2010. He merely shrugged, it wasn't his idea, but obviously Larry Pimentel has much different itineraries in mind for 2011 and 2012, including South America and Asia.
As soon as early December, 2010, under five months from now, Azamara Quest will already be sailing in Asia from Hong Kong to Shanghai. She ends her Mediterranean season with a final stop in Alexandria before heading through the Suez Canal and straight through to Dubai on December 8th and on to Thailand and Singapore before Christmas. But these repositioning cruises are long on sea days, the real Asian immersion starts January 8.
Pimentel told me he would differentiate Azamara with more destination focus, including much longer stays in port. The January 8 itinerary is exotically enticing with two full days docked in Honk Kong, a full day in Hue (Danang, Viet Nam), two days docked in Ho Chi Minh City, a full 48 hours from January 16 - 18 in Bangkok followed by a day in Ko Sumui, Thailand, and ending with an overnight in Singapore before you disembark the next day. The following cruises offer basically the same 14-day itinerary (some in reverse) through February and once again March 29.
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|Azamara Quest||The Thelassotherapy Pool|
This amazing 14-night cruise starts at just $2649 for an inside cabin, or $3949 for a verandah. If you read our interview with Larry done last May you know that he has made Azamara much more inclusive than before. The cruises now include tips in the cruise fare and some drinks such as water and soda and wine with dinner. He also promised longer stays in port and this cruise shows he is delivering on that promise. A quick look at the Oceania brochure shows a similar itinerary to this (15-days) starting at $4999 inside.
Come March 5, 2011, we start seeing 12-night cruises featuring Hong Kong, Xiamen China, Kagoshima, Nagasaki and Kyoto Japan, Busan South Korea and ending in Shanghai. This amazing itinerary starts at just $2399 inside and $3049 verandah stateroom. March 17 a 12-night cruise starts in Shanghai and sails to Qingdao and Tianjin in China, then South Korea and ends in Hong Kong. These cruises are not repeated - Quest repeats the itinerary from Singapore to Mumbai and ending in Dubai ($1999 inside and $2799 verandah).
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|Azamara Quest Wine Bar||Verandah Stateroom||Italian Restaurant|
These are excellent prices for Asian cruises, especially on a small ship designed for destination cruising. These itineraries are very destination-focused with overnight stays in many ports. An important point is that the embarkation and ending ports of call almost always include an extra day with the ship remaining in port. This means you can fly in and get situated on the ship and still have time to see the city the next day before the ship sails. You don't have to fly in early and book a hotel.
Azamara Quest then returns to Europe for the summer season, but if you are interested in even more exotic itineraries, the next time she ventures through the Suez Canal December 2011 she has an entirely new set of itineraries for 2012. It starts with 2011 Christmas cruise from Singapore. Spend Christmas Day cruising around the volcano of Krakatoa followed by several ports in Indonesia including Komodo and Bali.
At the end of the day, Azamara is a very exotic cruise line on the level of luxury cruise lines but at truly bargains prices. All eight ships originally built by Renaissance Cruises in the 90s are still in service and many Renaissance fans migrated to Oceania Cruises because it has largely the same management as Renaissance had. But Azamara offers the same ships, plus much lower prices and far more included in the cruise fare (gratuities and wine with dinner). It's an excellent value now because it is still largely undiscovered, but once it catches on expect the prices to nearly double to the levels of the nearly identical Oceania Cruises fleet.