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LUXURY CRUISING


“OUR DESTINATION was the 13th CENTURY CHATEAU D’Agassac and ITS RICH purple-fruit vineyards”


With such an unusual itinerary, coupled with the enhanced events on board and ashore, it’s little wonder the 676-passenger vessel sailed full. After embarkation in Dublin, Captain Johannes Tysse set a course for Holyhead where many guests headed to Conwy, Caernarfon and Beaumaris castles, while I enjoyed an exhilarating journey on the narrow-gauge, steam-powered Ffestiniog Mountain Railway. After heading back across the Irish Sea, the imposing St Finbarr’s Cathedral, with its three gothic spires, signalled arrival at the sleepy city of Cobh, where we ventured into the rolling countryside to visit Blarney Castle and kissed the legendary stone.


Mosaic Café. “Azamara Club Cruises is a product of people,” explained the relaxed president. “For me, there’s nothing better than hearing first-hand comments from our guests. I’m prepared to discuss any concerns as well as take plaudits; this is an up-close-and-personal opportunity for guests to have access to the president. “Such important feedback, together with the vital responses we receive on guest questionnaires, has allowed me to develop the product and I believe we’ve now found our sea-legs.” Pimentel is also effusive about the role of social media


A 84 WORLD OF CRUISING I Winter 2011-12


day at sea gave me time to chat with Pimentel over several freshly- brewed espressos and lattes in the


with the line, adding, “We’re the only company in the cruise industry to have a Chief Blogging Officer.”


As the boutique and stylish niche line within the mighty Royal Caribbean empire, Azamara offers a wealth of differentiat- ing elements that passengers are increas- ingly appreciating, such as the addition of complimentary wines from small vineyards in California, Chile and South Africa served at lunch and dinner.However, it is a more fundamental change to the cruising ethos that has this most engaging cruising pundit at his most impassioned. “Cruising has gone from exploration by sea to building ships that are destinations in themselves. I’ve reversed this trend and, at Azamara, we now place the emphasis on land discover- ies. This has proved to be a great success.” When pressed on this, Pimentel elucidated further: “Firstly, I researched the motivation behind why people travel and discovered 22 per cent of Azamara guests have never been on a cruise before. I then


asked if longer stays in port would be a deciding factor in booking with us and the emphatic answer was ‘Yes.’ “It strikes me as crazy to sign up for


a cruise where there’s an element of culture, only to sail away from port in the afternoon denying those more cerebral guests the opportunity for any in-depth exploration. Consequently, for 2012, we are offering ‘destination immersions’ during our Land Discoveries programme by scheduling multiple overnight stays which allow the rare opportunity for some night-time exploring.” Our two-day stay in Bordeaux certainly


gave us a flavour of this prudent strategy. Located 60 miles inland from the Atlantic on the Garonne River, the city is surrounded by world-renowned vineyards and châteaux. Beautifully restored in the heart of Aquitaine, it is now listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site for its ‘outstanding urban and architectural ensemble.’ Shortly after lunch in the Windows Café looking down on the Chartrons riverfront, we boarded a fleet of coaches for a three-


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