Turkey and Greece with Azamara
I had the pleasure of sailing on the Azamara Journey for 11 nights this September. The cruise started in Istanbul and ended in Piraeus (the port closest to Athens). Azamara is a premium cruise line with 4 ships--all holding about 690 guests. They are known for stopping at unique ports (Azamara is often times the only cruise line stopping at the port), staying longer in port (many days we didn't leave until 10pm) and having more cultural immersion on board.
This was my first time sailing with Azamara and I was impressed. This sailing was a bit different in that the ship was only about 50% full---so the service we received was beyond excellent. The staff to guest ratio on this sailing was nearly 1:1 (even when full, the ratio is still close to 1 staff member for every 2 guests). This level of service is often only found on the highest end of the luxury market. Random staff members said "Good morning Tracey"....I was thinking, are they talking to me??
I chose this sailing for the ports of call. We started with an overnight in Istanbul, so even if you arrived the day of the cruise, you still had one day in the city to explore. There was only one day at sea and the other days we were in port---the earliest we left a port was 5pm and many days it was much later. This allowed me to take longer tours to get to places that were a couple of hours outside of the port and on the days where I was just wandering on my own, it allowed me to go ashore in the morning and then come back for a bit and then head out again. Since Azamara's ships are smaller, they can dock right in town---something the bigger ships can't always do.
We had strong winds on the day we were supposed to dock in the first port after Istanbul--about 30 minutes before we were supposed to dock, the captain came on and said it just wasn't going to be possible. I knew this could happen---cruise itinerary ports are not guaranteed---but when it happened at the first port, I was disappointed. We had an unexpected day at sea and it was a gorgeous sunny day (albeit it a bit windy). I saw dolphins "playing" along the ship under my balcony and we passed close to some islands that had hundreds year old monasteries along the coast. Not ideal, but Azamara made the most of the sudden change. We made it to our next port as planned the next day. I was shocked when the captain announced that on our scheduled day at sea, we would actually go back to the port we missed. This doesn't happen often as it costs the cruise line money. I appreciated being able to visit all of our scheduled ports.
As we all know, food is an important part of cruising :) I have been a vegetarian most of my life and Azamara had the most vegetarian friendly options of any cruise I have been on. I think having lots of local Turkish and Greek food on board helped the variety of options. There were gluten free, vegan and keto options at nearly every meal (buffet or menu). Of course there were plenty of meat and seafood options as well---especially at the speciality dining restaurants (a surcharge applies to these restaurants). The food was high quality and well prepared. There were always at least 3 options for each meal (including room service). There were also areas of the ship that served snacks during the day and the Living Room had late night snacks available until midnight (room service is 24/7, so no one goes hungry!). I enjoyed eating in Windows as you could eat outside for breakfast, lunch and dinner--I enjoyed several sunsets this way. The Sunday Brunch was also impressive---so many choices and it was perfect for a day when we didn't get into port until noon (Sunday was supposed to be the day at sea).
The ship itself was well equipped. I enjoyed a massage at the spa one day and it was quite large for a cruise ship---and my massage was excellent. The fitness center had several treadmills, ellipticals, weight circuit machines and free weights. There were spinning, boot camp, yoga and stretching classes during the sailing and there was an open area where you could stretch or practice yoga on your own (all with views of the beautiful scenery). The pool area had plenty of seating and there were 2 hot tubs. The ship had several bars and areas where music was played in the evenings. The top deck had shuffleboard and a walking track. One of my favorite areas was the library and it was well stocked with books for loan. For the size of the ship, Azamara offered quite a variety of options to keep you busy on board. Azamara has a destination immersion event each cruise, along with a White Night---a large buffet and entertainment on the pool deck one evening later in the cruise. This night also serves as a chance for the guests to thank all of the staff on board with rounds of applause as each department walks out.
Azamara has a mostly inclusive cruise fare---many beverages (with and without alcohol) are included in the rate, as is room service, most entertainment on board and staff gratuities. Wifi, speciality dining, spa treatments and premium alcohol are not included. For the ports where the dock is outside of the city center, Azamara provides a shuttle to and from the city center many times during the day.
I would love to help you plan your next cruise with Azamara. Please contact me to start planning.
Tracey is the owner of Unraveled Travel and has traveled to every continent (thanks to the recent visit to Antarctica!