A Regional Sampling of Italian Cuisine

Posted By : Courtney Anderson/ 274 0

What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you think of Italy? Is it ancient civilizations and wonders of the world? Bustling metropolises and passionate people? These are all things that Italy is known for, but if you’re like us, your mind skips beyond these signature staples and focuses on one thing—the food.

Italy is synonymous with cooking. The techniques, recipes, and dishes born out of Italian kitchens are some of the most popular and influential throughout the world. No matter where you call home, odds are there’s an Italian restaurant nearby—though the slices of pizza and sizeable helpings of spaghetti they serve may be very different from what you can expect on your trip to the Bel Paese. Depending on the region of Italy you visit, you’ll sample many dramatically different (and delicious) dishes.

Why is that? It has a lot to do with the country’s fascinating history and the proud cultures that flourish in its 20 unique regions. If you have an appetite for learning more, join us for this four-course look at Italian cuisine.

A BRIEF HISTORY OF ITALIAN FOOD
Italy is home to more than 2,000 years of culinary history dating back to the Roman Empire. In fact, the Roman cookbook Apicius was compiled in the 1st century and today is believed to be one of the oldest collections of recipes ever discovered. The name of the book was inspired by Marcus Gavius Apicius—perhaps the world’s first foodie—who has long been associated with a love of a good meal. There are some who say he compiled the collection, though no conclusive evidence of this exists.

What is indisputable, however, is that the diversity of regional Italian food took off after the fall of the Roman Empire. This massive political and cultural shift in the area gave rise to individual city states, each fostering distinct traditions—including in the ways they would cook and prepare their food. These city states and regions remained mostly autonomous until the late 1800s (well over a millennium) when Italian unification occurred, and the country of Italy was born. That said, even today, it’s common for Italians to proudly declare loyalty to their region—as well as their regional cooking style—before declaring loyalty to their country.

Now, this doesn’t mean similarities can’t be found throughout Italian kitchens and dining rooms. No matter the region, you’ll find emphasis placed on fresh, high-quality ingredients. Seasonal vegetables, meats, fish, eggs, and cheese, are hallmarks of dishes across the country. Simplicity is also an essential element of Italian cooking, with most recipes having very few ingredients—all of which are carefully considered.

NORTH AND SOUTH, NIGHT AND DAY

Italy’s not a large country—it runs about the length of California—but the culinary differences between the north and south can sometimes make it feel like you’re dining in two different worlds.

Resting in the shadows of the Alps and the Dolomites, Northern Italian meals take a great deal of influence from the European countries it borders. You’ll find notes of French cuisine in this area, as well as influences from Italy’s Swiss and Austrian neighbors. Meat and dairy both factor heavily in Northern Italian dishes, as do rice, corn, and cheeses. The closer you get to the water, the more you’ll notice seafood on the menu.

You may be surprised to learn that pasta dishes aren’t as popular up here as they are in the south, but there is a distinct richness to Northern Italian food—highlighted by the butter-based creamy sauces that often top a dish. Risotto, polenta, gnocchi, and stuffed pasta are all northern staples, as are cured meats such as Prosciutto di Parma.

Making your way south and deeper into the Mediterranean, you’ll find meals infused with Greek and Moorish influences. Sometimes referred to as Cucina Povera (poor-man’s cooking), Southern Italian dishes are where the elements of simplicity, minimal ingredients, and a touch of creative thinking shine. The naturally warm climate of Southern Italy means ingredients such as peppers, tomatoes, and olives are readily available, and form the basis for many of the South’s iconic culinary exports—including pasta dishes, olive oil, and Neapolitan pizza margherita. You may be surprised to learn that horse meat is considered a delicacy in some parts of Southern Italy, so don’t be shocked when it appears on the menu. Southern Italian dishes also take advantage of bountiful hauls from the Mediterranean. You’ll often see recipes that call for octopus, fresh sardines, anchovies, tuna, and swordfish.

When you travel to Italy, join us in the north for tomato tasting in Tuscany, a guided tasting tour through the seaside town of Rapallo that offers a seat at the table where locals love to dine, or a cooking class with the culinary masters of Elba. Then, in the south, uncover the secrets of Sicily’s dishes, perfect pasta making in Alghero, and stroll the fish and fruit markets of Sorrento. Along the way, you might just pick up a few of the secrets to mastering Italian cooking, or, at the very least, a new favorite dish!

SAY CHEESE
Across Italy, you’ll find more than 400 different types of cheese, ranging from iconic flavors like mozzarella and parmesan to lesser-known styles like la tur, the hard to come by bettelmatt, and the flavorful weinkase lagrein. Like other Italian foods, cheese varies dramatically by region. At the foot of the Italian Alps in the north, for example, cows graze pastures eating flavor-rich grass, and their milk is used to produce bagòss, fontina, and gorgonzola. It is said that some astute taste testers can tell which type of grass a cow ate—and exactly which pastures they grazed in—before the cheese-making process begins.

In the south, the natural landscape is much rockier, making it difficult to raise cattle. Instead, southern farmers began raising sheep and goats (Cucina Povera!), which produce milk for their cheeses, including pecorino, caprino d’aspromonte, and vastedda della valle del belice. The south is also where mozzarella originates. Tasting true Italian mozzarella, you’ll notice a distinct difference from its North American counterpart, which is typically made with cow’s milk. If sampling the cheeses of Southern Italy is top of your list, join us for wine and cheese at Quattro Passi, a Michelin Restaurant overlooking the waters of Sorrento Bay.

DIVING DEEPER: ITALIAN FOOD BY REGION
While looking at Italian cooking through the lens of northern style or southern style can be helpful, it doesn’t quite capture the diverse nature of the food. Italy is home to 20 unique regions, each of which lends its own flavor to the dishes we know and love. Let’s take a closer look at what to expect from the regions you visit when traveling through Italy with us.

SARDINIA
West of the Italian peninsula, Sardinia’s limestone cliffs rise high above crystal clear waters. The second largest island in the Mediterranean, Sardinian cuisine has largely been influenced by its history as a safe place to stop on trade routes. Phoenicians, Spaniards, Carthaginians, Arabs, and Romans would frequently dock along the shores of Sardinia, bartering their goods, as well as sharing their gastronomic culture.

Because Sardinia is an island, it should come as no surprise that seafood is in favor here. In Cagliari, visit La Scala to sample incredible handmade fregola Sarda—a signature Sardinian pasta topped with seafood sauce. Further northwest in Alghero, lobster is king. Often prepared the Catalan way (a result of Catalonian conquerors visiting the area at the tail end of the Middle Ages), expect your lobster—known as aragosta alla Catalana here, to be boiled with tomatoes and onion, then seasoned with oil, lemon, salt, and pepper.

CAMPANIA
The food of Campania is more commonly known as Neapolitan, and the region is responsible for two of Italy’s most appetizing exports—spaghetti and pizza. You’ll have no trouble finding spaghetti alla Puttanesca—a seafood pasta featuring anchovies, capers, olives, tomatoes, chili peppers, and garlic—in any restaurant, but we recommend Ristorante Pizzeria Il Mulino in Amalfi for a quiet, flavorsome experience.

For another Amalfi favorite, make your way to the Marina Grande. Beginning life a seaside bar in 1918, Marina Grande moved to Spiaggia Grande in 1935 and has been serving locally-inspired dishes using ingredients sourced from farmers and fishermen from along the Amalfi coast. Be sure to try their selection of local artisanal cheeses, including caciotta di bufala, a buffalo soft cheese this region is also famous for. This is the type of restaurant where you’ll continue to savor the meal long after the food is finished.

If an authentic slice of Neapolitan pizza is a must-try for you, you’ll find it at Pizzeria Da Franco in Sorrento. This restaurant exudes a charming Italian aesthetic—which is wonderful—but what you’re really here for is the pizza. You may have to wait a few minutes as the pizzeria is typically filled with locals, but the wait is certainly worth it.

MARCHE
Relatively isolated compared to many other Italian regions, farmers in Marche are known for overseeing their crops with a little help from lunar methods (think the Farmer’s Almanac). Legends handed down from generation to generation continue to play a significant role in when work gets done on farms throughout the region—including when their delectable casciotta d’urbino cheeses are produced.

Marche has staked its claim as the origin of porchetta, a boneless pork roast stuffed with herbs and spices and roasted on a spit. This savory and fatty dish is held in very high regard through Italy. So much so, the Italian Ministry of Agricultural, Food, and Forestry named porchetta a prodotto agroalimentare tradizionale, a traditional food product of great cultural significance.

Marche is also a region where you’ll find delicious pasta, especially in the coastal city of Ancona. Wide noodles such as lasagna and pappardelle are preferred here, and you must try the region’s signature dish, vincisgrassi. This pasta casserole is highlighted by a rich meat ragù and a creamy bechamel sauce. If you ask us, any chance to sample authentic vincisgrassi makes a trip to oft-overlooked Marche essential.

PUGLIA
The heel of Italy’s boot, Puglia is not to be walked away from when it comes to food culture. For many, Puglia is their first stop on any culinary tour. Considering we’re in Italy, that’s saying a lot. But there’s no denying just how special this agricultural haven is—especially when you sink your teeth into their fresh fruits and vegetables for the very first time. They’re so flavorful, they transform antipasto from an appetizer to a full-blown meal—you simply won’t be able to help yourself from going back for seconds (and maybe even thirds).

Orecchiette is the pasta of choice here, which translates into “little ears.” A quick look at the shape of this pasta—made with just flour and water—should clear up any confusion on the name. Typically served with cime di rapa, or aged ricotta and fresh tomatoes, orecchiette is ideally shaped for soaking up and enjoying sauces (chefs were clearly “listening” to what their patrons wanted when they created orecchiette).

Puglia is also where much of Italy’s olive oil is produced, which you can sample for yourself on our ancient tradition of olive oil shore excursion. You may even want to bring some home with you to add an authentic Italian flavor to your next meal.

LAZIO
Home to Rome, Lazio truly was once the center of the known universe. Many of Italy’s most famous pasta dishes—including spaghetti carbonara, cacio e pepe, and pasta alla gricia—originated here, and in general, the region prefers long strand noodles (think the aforementioned spaghetti and fettuccine). During your time here, you can join us for an authentic pasta making workshop at a local farmhouse, where you’re certain to pick up a secret or two from local paste producers.

A trip to Lazio isn’t complete without sampling saltimbocca—one of the area’s most iconic meat dishes. Imitated around the world, authentic saltimbocca is highlighted by veal that is wrapped in thinly sliced pieces of prosciutto, then pan-fried in white wine and butter. You’ll also want to try an order of Arrabbiata—a traditional pasta dish notable for its particularly spicy tomato sauce.

You’ll find more chicken-based dishes in Lazio than in most other regions of Italy, which makes it the perfect place to try pollo con i peperoni. Commonly associated with Ferragosto, a holiday celebrating the Assumption of the Virgin Mary, pollo con i peperoni has become a much loved warm-weather dish consisting of seasoned chicken and a colorful mixture of bell peppers.

Artichokes are also integral to cuisine in Lazio (especially when deep-fried whole in a dish known as carciofi alla giudia), as are sizable green olives, which are used in the production of canino dop extra virgin olive oil (try some as seasoning on your bruschetta). This is also the home of pecorino romano, a hard cheese made using sheep’s milk and often served over pasta dishes.

SICILIA
Like Sardinia, Sicilian food has been inspired by cultures that have carved out their spot on the island over the centuries. It’s not uncommon to find Greek, Arabic, and Spanish influences in dishes served here—and Sicilians take pride in blending these elements into something that is distinctly their own.

As a region, Sicilia is amazingly fertile, and the variety of crops that can grow here (everything from oranges to eggplants, tomatoes to pistachios) is nearly unparalleled. Combine this with a wealth of seafood found just off the coast, and you have the recipe for a fantastic gastronomy scene.

Order sfincione in Sicilia and you might expect a hot slice of pizza, but you’ll be in for a surprise. Instead of a traditional pizza pie, expect a rectangular, thick, and doughy crust—actually quite similar to focaccia. As for toppings, you’ll find the traditional tomatoes, onions, anchovies, and herbs for seasoning, as well as strong local cheese—often caciocavallo, a stretched-out curd cheese made of goat’s milk. This will all be covered by the sauce, which goes on top to ensure it doesn’t soak into the thick crust.

To get a sense of Sicilian snacks, make a point of trying arancini. These fried risotto croquettes are a sought-after street food that, while easy to find, prove difficult to replicate (if only because every vendor puts their own spin on them). Some arancini are stuffed with meat ragù, others may contain mozzarella cheese and peas. Try a few while exploring a Sicilian market and you won’t be disappointed. Just make sure you leave room for cannoli—the signature deep-fried pastry tube of Sicilia!

If you’re still hungry—and a little adventurous—treat yourself to the crunch of a few raw red prawns. Often served in elite restaurants around Italy, Sicilians know the secret to a tasty prawn is a splash of lemon juice and a drop of olive oil. That’s it, no need for cooking. If you consider yourself to be a serious foodie, your stop in Sicilia isn’t complete without trying this tasty—albeit unconventional—snack.

TUSCANY
Perhaps Italy’s most renowned food region, Tuscany’s reputation is well earned. Hearty, simple, and seasonal, a trip through Tuscany is like a trip through Italy’s culinary heart.

You’ll quickly notice almost all meals in Tuscany are served with a simple loaf of unsalted bread. This tradition dates back to the 16th century when a tax placed on salt forced local bakers to get creative with their baking. The salt tax is long gone, but the tradition has carried on and in many ways is the signature element of Tuscan bread. Initially, this bread may seem a little flavorless, but you’re missing its main purpose—to soak up leftover sauce and juices on your plate after the meal is done. Keep this tip as fresh in your mind as the bread in your basket and you’re in for a delightful meal.

Bread shows up throughout Tuscan meals, from fettunta (a traditional bruschetta) to ribolita (a twice boiled soup). You’ll even find bread salad, better known as panzanella, which is day-old bread mixed with a medley of sun-ripened vegetables, drizzled with olive oil and vinegar.

But it’s not all bread in Tuscany! Pasta is also (unsurprisingly) popular, particularly pappardelle alla lepre, which is an egg noodle dish served in a wild hare sauce. For many, this is the signature Tuscan meal. Other enjoyed meat dishes include cinghiale in umido (a wild boar stew) and bistecca alla Fiorentina—a Tuscan steak that comes from the Chianina breed of cow.

And speaking of cow, don’t miss the chance to try lampredotto—the fourth stomach of a cow. Now hear us out, this may seem like a strange choice, but locals love it, and you’ll often find them queued up on the street waiting for a serving. You’re on vacation, now’s the time to eat adventurously!

LIGURIA
Nestled between the mountains and the sea in Northwest Italy, Liguria is synonymous with the Italian Riviera. And being a coastal region, it also has a close association with fresh seafood, particularly fish, mussels, and squid—all of which is often combined in ciuppin. A soup originally conceived as a way to use up what was left at the end of the day at the fish market, ciuppin offers a beautiful hodgepodge of flavors. Because fish is more common the meat in Liguria, you’ll also find fresh seafood in most pasta dishes. You can even order antipasti ai frutti di mare, which is essentially a charcuterie board from under the sea.

If you’re craving seafood (alongside a view you simply must see), we recommend booking a terrace table at Ristorante Belforte, where the carefully curated menu is certain to tantalize your taste buds. Located about an hour northwest of Portovenere, the view alone is worth the trip.

Pesto is also a prized ingredient in Liguria cooking, in fact, you can trace its origin back to Genoa, the region’s capital city. If you’re looking for tips on making your own perfect pesto, you’re in the right place, as you can make your own when you join us for an authentic cooking class in the seaside villages of Cinque Terre.

EMILIA-ROMAGNA
The northern region of Emilia-Romagna is sometimes referred to as “Italy’s breadbasket” for its robust gastronomy scene. This is a region to visit if your heart is set on eating well, and eating a lot.

Balsamic vinegar and parmigiano reggiano (known as parmesan around the world) were born here, as were favorites like prosciutto di parma and cappellacci pasta. One thing you won’t find, however, is spaghetti bolognese. This may seem strange, considering Bologna is the region’s capital. So why the name? It probably comes down to a miscommunication after WWII, when American soldiers returned home hoping to find something as delicious as the ragù they ate on deployment. When they asked Italian immigrant chefs to replicate it, something obviously was lost in translation. Spaghetti bolognese was born, but don’t bother looking for it on the menu in Emilia-Romagna. Instead, sample the many unbelievable ragù-topped dishes waiting for you.

While it’s arrivederci for spaghetti bolognese, you will find plenty of tortellini, as well as two different types of gnocchi: pisarei e faśö, which is made from flour and breadcrumbs, and borgotaro malfatti, which is made using ricotta and herbs bound together by eggs and breadcrumbs. When we visit, we never miss a chance to try erbazzone, the region’s iconic savory country-style tart stuffed with spinach, chard, parmesan cheese, and pancetta.

FRIULI-VENEZIA GIULIA
Bordered by Austria to the north and Slovenia to the east, it should come as little surprise that the culinary traditions of Friuli-Venezia Giulia are influenced by its European neighbors. Dig a little deeper, and you’ll discover that everyone from Napoleon to Attila the Hun has passed through the region on their way to the Adriatic—bringing with them recipes and spices that locals have absorbed and incorporated over the centuries.

Polenta is popular here, and it is often served with stewed meats, or fried flat with cheese and potatoes into wafers known as frico. When you visit Trieste, stop by Tavernetta al Molo for polenta with fish (and enjoy the lovely sea view while you dine).

In the western parts of the region, cheeses such as montasio and frico are favored, as are smoked meat meatballs known as pitina. To the east, the neighborly influence really comes into play, and it’s not uncommon to dine on goulash, apple strudel, and jota—a stew comprised of beans, sauerkraut, potatoes, bacon, and spare ribs. This is where you can also try cherry gnocchi. This dish is served during cherry season, which occurs in the summer. As the seasons change, you can expect to see less cherry gnocchi on the menu, but more plum gnocchi—a dish again inspired by the neighbors to the north.

Eager to learn more about the food emerging from Friuli-Venezia Giulia? Take a cooking class at EATALY Trieste, where your chef-instructor will guide you through the creation of an authentic Friuli-Venezia Giulia meal.

VENETO
From the mountains down to the shores of the Adriatic, Veneto is a region steeped in dramatic shifts. That goes for more than just the landscape, the food also varies greatly—both from Italy as a whole and even within the seven provinces that make up the region.

It may surprise you that pasta doesn’t play a significant role in Venetian cuisine. Certainly it’s not unheard of to find a restaurant serving a bigoli dish, but here in the north, polenta and rice have usurped it as the carbohydrates of choice.

If you’re a foodie, the risotto you’ll try in Veneto is as awe-inspiring as the gondolas navigating the canals of Venice, the region’s capital city. On the shores of the Adriatic, seafood risotto is common, but the further inland you travel, you’ll find plenty of variations—including pumpkin, radicchio, and even frog legs.

While debate has raged for many years over where tiramisu was invented, the consensus is that it’s a Venetian dessert. Even if this weren’t the case, we’d still recommend a visit to I Tre Mercanti to try what many locals and visitors alike consider to be the best tiramisu in the city—which makes a good case for it being the best tiramisu in the world.

CENTO ANNI!
A common Italian toast before a meal, cento anni is a wish for one hundred years of health, and we could easily spend that amount of time discussing Italian fare, but we’d much rather be sampling risotto in Venice, ordering pappardelle alla lepre in Portoferraio, and investigating the finer points of Neapolitan pizza along the Amalfi coast.

 

 

 

 

Post By Azamara Club Cruises on Thursday, April 11, 2019
Original Post can be found here

The New Wave Of Cruise Experiences

Posted By : Courtney Anderson/ 358 0

Thirteen experiences you didn’t know you could have on a cruise.

Today’s cruising boom is good news for everyone, from aficionados who love setting sail to those ready to give a new vacation style a go. And as cruising’s popularity grows – approximately 27 million people stepped aboard in 2018 – cruise lines have diversified. It’s all about variety these days, not just in ship size – ranging from intimate, 60-passenger yachts to next-level, 6,000-person megavessels – but in style too. You can sip coffee on your balcony as you float down a European river, go searching for wildlife on an expedition ship, or get lost in a floating city at sea. Itineraries are also more creative: Culinary academies and wellness centers on board, for example, pair well with surprising shore excursions, from hiking up mountains to attending orchestra concerts. These 13 experiences are offered by cruise lines that participate in Virtuoso Voyages – an exclusive program that offers complimentary benefits and perks to travelers who book cruises through a Virtuoso travel advisor – and they’ll make you think twice about what you can do on your next sailings.

 

Welcome to the new era of cruising, where almost everything goes.

 

1 – Explore Marine Life From Inside A $3 Million Submarine

Realize your James Bond fantasies with a trip on Crystal Cruises’ Crystal Esprit, a 62-passenger yacht that touts a three-person submersible as one of its water-based activity options. (Jet Skis, kayaks, and stand-up paddleboards are also at the ready.) A pilot takes two passengers at a time on explorations up to 1,000 feet below the surface, including on a seven-day, Dubrovnik-to-Venice sailing. The Esprit is an ideal vessel for scuba divers and snorkelers, and its slim size means it can call on smaller ports, including the yacht marina in Kotor, Montenegro; Croatia’s walled city of Dubrovnik; and all the way north to Venice.

Departures: Multiple dates, July 7, 2019, to August 30, 2020. Virtuoso Voyages benefits on select sailings include a $125 shipboard credit. Submersible experience, $350.

 

2 – Set Sail With Your Pup In Tow

Crossing the Atlantic on Cunard’s eight-day, New York City to Southampton sailing is slow travel at its finest – rest, relaxation, and enrichment, from tango lessons and yoga sessions to fi lm screenings and music recitals. Share the adventure with your four-legged BFF on the 2,620-passenger Queen Mary 2, which has an onboard kennel for 24 pets. Like their owners, cats and dogs receive VIP treatment, including a portrait session, fleece coat, and “turndown service” of freshly baked biscuits. The pet lounge and play area welcome animals from both sides of the pond with a Liverpool lamppost and an NYC fire hydrant.

Departures: Multiple dates, June 7 to December 15, 2019. Virtuoso Voyages benefits on select sailings include private port transfers in New York City and London and an onboard specialty-dining credit.

 

3 – Get Your Daily Cardio In

You’ve worked too hard to let your fitness routine slide for a week. Do as much (or as little) as you like with AmaWaterways, the river-cruise line that stables bicycles for shore excursions and employs dedicated wellness hosts to lead core and circuit training classes on board. On the new, 196-passenger AmaMagna, which debuted in May and is twice as wide as most European river ships, cruisers can log a mile on the top-deck walking track, take a stretching class in the Zen Wellness Studio, hydrate at the juice bar, or get a massage. Disembark on an eight-day, Vilshofen-to-Budapest Danube River sailing to bike along the river or hike to a castle.

Departures: Multiple dates, June 2 to December 29, 2019. Virtuoso Voyages benefits on select sailings include an onboard host and welcome reception and a guided tour of Vienna’s Schönbrunn Palace.

 

4 – Discuss World Affairs With A Career Diplomat

There’s nothing like sailing with an astronaut, scholar, government official, or filmmaker to vanquish the shuffleboard-and-buffets cruising stereotype. Seabourn raises the intellectual bar with its Seabourn Conversations series, featuring notable guests who don’t just lead onboard lectures, but engage with fellow passengers over meals and excursions as well. Ashok Sajjanhar – India’s ambassador to Sweden and Latvia and president of the Institute of Global Studies, New Delhi – will educate guests on the 599-passenger Seabourn Ovation during a 19-day, Dubaito-Singapore cruise with stops in the United Arab Emirates, Oman, India, Sri Lanka, and Indonesia.

Departure: December 2, 2019. Virtuoso Voyages benefits include an onboard host and welcome reception and a $150 shipboard credit or a private shore excursion in Mumbai.

 

5 – Stay Out LATE Without Fear Of Missing The Boat

Azamara Club Cruises pioneered overnight port stays, letting guests revel in the local nightlife in addition to the standard daytime scene. The boutique cruise line is amping up its after-dark experiences with a new series of exclusive evening shore excursions, such as taking in an acrobatics performance in Valencia, Spain. On an 11-day, round-trip-from-Athens sailing on the 702-passenger Azamara Pursuit, travelers can attend a traditional Jewish folk music performance by a klezmer group at Jerusalem’s Ashdod Performing Arts Center. It’s part of an immersive, three-day stop in the holy city that includes visits to the Western Wall and the Dome of the Rock.

Departure: September 4, 2019. Virtuoso Voyages benefits include an onboard host and welcome reception and a $150 shipboard credit or a private shore excursion to Jerusalem.

 

6 – Finally Figure Out The Difference Between A Julienne And A Brunoise Cut

Make tasty use of your time at sea on Oceania Cruises’ 1,250-passenger Marina or Riviera ships by enrolling in a cooking class or three at the onboard Culinary Center. Kick things off with Slice: Mastering Chef Knife Skills to learn the basics of mise en place before trying your hand at making pasta or grilling. The 12-day, Rio de Janeiro-to-Buenos Aires voyage on the Marina offers a balanced diet of cultural excursions in Paraty, Brazil; beach time in Punta del Este, Uruguay; and food and wine tours in Montevideo and Buenos Aires.

Departure: December 7, 2019. Virtuoso Voyages benefits include prepaid gratuities.

 

7 – Celebrate Your Anniversary With A Polynesian Blessing Ceremony

Cast away to the South Pacific for the most memorable of occasions aboard the 332-passenger Paul Gauguin Cruises. During an eight-day, roundtrip from Papeete sailing through the Society Islands – full of archaeological sites, lagoons fit for snorkeling, and white-sand beaches – local onboard hosts know as Les Gauguines and Les Gauguins can bless couples in a traditional Polynesian ceremony by reciting a love poem, singing, and after a Champagne toast, wrapping celebrants in a traditional patchwork tifaifai quilt. They’ll also teach you how to say “I do” in Tahitian, dance island-style, and make a basket out of pandanus leaves.

Departures: Multiple dates June 8 to December 28, 2019. Virtuoso Voyages benefits on select sailings include an onboard host and welcome reception and a $150 shipboard credit or a private shore excursion in Moorea.

 

8 – Spend All Day At The Spa

Bookending stops in Sint-Maarten, Dominica Saint Lucia, Antigua, and Saint Bart’s, four of the 11 days on Regent Seven Seas Cruises 750-passenger Seven Seas Explorer’s roundtrip from Miami journey are spent at sea, offering prime time to find some inner peace in the ship’s Canyon Ranch Spa. This at-sea outpost mirrors the famous destination retreat, with yoga classes, seaweed wraps, hot stone massages, reflexology, and hydrotherapy features ranging from saunas to cold rooms. Between oxygen facials and pedicures, check out the ship’s impressive art collection, including several Picasso’s, or learn about the healthful secrets of Mediterranean cooking in the Culinary Arts Kitchen.

Departure: January 8, 2020. Virtuoso Voyages benefits include an onboard host and welcome reception and a $150 shipboard credit or a private shore excursion and lunch in Saint Bart’s

 

9 – Learn How To Steer A Sailboat

Sixteen sails bound to four masts help power the 360 foot Star Flyer clipper ship, one of three throwback vessels in the Star Clippers fleet. Nautical culture meets luxury aboard this 17- passenger vessel, which has two swimming pools on its teak decks. Friendly deckhands, who hoist the sails manually each time the ship leaves port, offer knot-tying classes, ship-maneuvering lectures, and demonstrations on navigating with a sextant – a tool to measure angular distances at sea. Test your newfound skills on a 15-day, Barbados to Panama voyage, which visits Grenada, the ABC Islands (Aruba, Bonaire and Curacao), and Colombia and culminates in a sailor’s dream transit through the Panama Canal.

Departure: November 23, 2019. Virtuoso Voyages benefits include an onboard host and welcome reception and a $150 shipboard credit or a private shore excursion and lunch in Saint George’s, Grenada.

 

10 – Turn Your Expedition Photos Into Professional Masterpieces

Go beyond VSCO and your smartphone’s filters: The fully equipped Photo Studio aboard Silversea Cruises’ 254-passenger (200 in polar waters) Silver Cloud offers master classes in composition, editing, and Adobe’s Lightroom and Photoshop programs. High-tech printers encourage shutterbugs to create postcards and panoramic prints, regardless of whether they were taken using an iPhone or a DSLR. Photograph the wildlife that inhabits the bottom of the earth on a ten-day, roundtrip-from-Ushuaia expedition to Antarctica. The ship’s resident photo manager will coach passengers on adjusting shutter speeds so they can capture images of seabirds in the Drake Passage, penguins on the South Shetland Islands, and otherworldly icebergs in the Antarctic Sound.

Departures: Multiple dates, December 10, 2019, to January 20, 2021. Virtuoso Voyages benefits on select sailings include a $300 shipboard credit per person.

 

11 – Read Adventures Of Huckleberry Finn On The Mighty Mississippi

The sense of freedom and possibility brought to life in Twain’s iconic novel can still be found on Ol’ Man River, and you’re likely to experience both during American Queen Steamboat Company’s nine-day cruise from New Orleans to Memphis. On board the 436-passenger American Queen, an authentic paddlewheel riverboat, watch the Mississippi roll past from the ship’s decks, read a classic tome in the Mark Twain Gallery, and take in a show in the Grand Saloon. Along the way, holiday themed events and excursions reveal the history and heritage of the U.S. South. See NOLA’s ceremonial lighting of bonfires on the levee, learn how to perfect buttery biscuits in the Natchez home of award-winning chef Regina Charboneau, and more.

Departure: December 15, 2019. Virtuoso Voyages benefits include an onboard host and welcome reception; contact your Virtuoso travel advisor regarding an additional, soon-to-be-announced amenity.

 

12 – Travel Back In Time On The Nile River

From the hand-built pyramids at Giza to tranquil Nile excursions aboard a traditional felucca sailboat, travelers will revel in the ingenuity of past centuries during their time in Egypt. Seven of the 12 days on Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection’s round-trip-from-Cairo itinerary are based on the elegant 82-passenger River Tosca. Egyptologist-guided excursions decode the colossal statues of Memnon, the mummified remains of King Tutankhamun in his Valley of the Kings tomb, and the hieroglyphics adorning temples from Luxor to Aswan. Changing pace, ride a felucca and take tea at the hotel where Agatha Christie set Death on the Nile. Go now, while tourism is growing, but before the masses return.

Departures: Multiple dates, September 28 to December 28, 2019. Virtuoso Voyages benefits on select sailings include a $200 shipboard credit per person.

 

13 – Get Cooking With A Celebrated Chef

The James Beard Foundation ships out its award-winning chefs and sommeliers on culinary-themed Windstar Cruises sailings, which include cooking demos, beverage pairings, and market tours. Gain firsthand knowledge by joining a talented chef and beverage expert on a ten-day, San Diego-to-Vancouver sailing aboard the 212-passenger Star Breeze, which plies the U.S. West Coast with stops in Santa Barbara, Monterey, San Francisco, Portland, and Seattle. The chef will host a wine-paired dinner, lead a shopping trip, and provide a cooking demonstration. Work off the meals while exploring the Monterey Bay Aquarium and Seattle’s Pike Place Market.

Departure: May 5, 2020. Virtuoso Voyages benefits include an onboard host and welcome reception and a custom-curated shore event.

 

 

Original Article from Virtuoso Traveler July 2019 issue

Are You a Cruiser? Ten Questions to Ask

Posted By : Courtney Anderson/ 994 0

A floating hotel has something for everyone. Don’t believe it? Just consider these ten questions.

Cruising. Perhaps you long ago slammed this particular porthole shut, with vague ideas about buffets, crowds, and tired cabaret shows. But lately you’ve been hearing friends rave about their recent cruises, and you’re getting curious.

Whether you’re interested in glacier trekking or pool lounging, exploring secluded islands or city streets, spending days on vineyard tours or in spas – if you can name it, there’s a ship for it. And the best parts of cruising remain the same, regardless of sailing style or destination: You only need to unpack once, and the views are ever-changing.

Not quite convinced? The following questions will help you determine whether you should set sail. (The answer is yes.)

1 – Are You a Foodie?

Top chefs have expanded their empires to include the world’s waterways, and new ingredients await discovery in each port. Here’s a taste of what’s on board.

Wine lovers will savor Uniworld’s eight-day Bordeaux vineyard cruise aboard the 130-passenger River Royale, with cellar tastings in Saint-Émilion, a Sauternes-paired lunch, visits to farmers’ markets in Libourne, and bicycle rides through the back streets of Bordeaux.

Crystal Cruises’ annual Food & Wine Festival sailings feature guest chefs and sommeliers, cooking classes, and more. A roundtrip Los Angeles journey aboard the 980-passenger Crystal Serenity takes in the flavors of Mexico with stops in La Paz, Ensenada, and Mazatlán.

 

2 – Do You Want to See It All?

Sailings that encompass vast regions and whole seasons can write your life’s next chapter.

Spend nearly five months aboard Silversea’s 382-passenger Silver Whisper. In 2019, the line’s 132-day world cruise takes in 31 countries and 52 ports. From snorkeling on Moorea to sampling wonton soup in Hong Kong and strolling San Sebastián, Spain’s historic Old Town, this is one trip that truly earns the moniker “voyage.” (Have less time? Select one of its roughly two-week routes that’s right for you.)

Also for 2019, Crystal Cruises’ 85-day journey on the 980-passenger Crystal Serenity will visit more than 15 countries. Explore the natural wonders of Australia and Africa, isles of the South Pacific, and top cities such as Sydney and Barcelona.

 

3 – Do You Prefer to Venture Off the Beaten Path?

Set sail to ports at the edges of civilization, and cruise rivers deep within Land Rover country.

Game-spot from the comfort of your stateroom during four days with AmaWaterways aboard the 28-passenger Zambezi Queen, as you navigate Botswana’s Chobe National Park.

 

4 – Are You a Night Owl?

Stay up late for chic theme parties, people-watching, and fun shows.

Azamara Club Cruises throws a White Night Party on its sailings, transforming outdoor decks into glamorous dancing and dining venues.

 

5 – Do You Like to Spread Out?

The most lavish and lovely accommodations come with endless blue views.

Cunard’s five Duplex and Grand Duplex suites on the 2,961-passenger Queen Mary 2, on two levels joined by a sweeping staircase, feature two master baths and a private gym. To go all out, combine all five into one 9,000-square-foot mansion.

 

6 – Do You Like the Great Outdoors?

Natural encounters let you heed the call of the wild.

Join wildlife icon Jean-Michel Cousteau aboard an Aqua Expeditions vessel on the Amazon and Mekong rivers. Take guided kayak tours along quiet jungle routes to talk conservation and ecosystems, and enjoy relaxed onboard chats about Cousteau’s top photo and videography tips.

 

7 – Is Vacation Actually a Perfect Time to Get Healthy?

Superior spas, mindfulness, and wellness menus for self-care at sea.

Seabourn’s Spa & Wellness with Dr. Andrew Weil program takes health at sea to a new level. Meditation and yoga programs address physical, social, and spiritual well-being; seminars cover topics such as anti-inflammatory foods, healthy aging, and mindfulness. Dr. Weil himself joins some sailings each year.

 

8 – Are You Seeking Cultural Immersion?

See destinations through the eyes of locals and respected experts

Explore Madeira’s capital of Funchal on an exclusive Virtuoso Voyages excursion on board Oceania Cruises’ 1,250-passenger Riviera during a round-trip Barcelona sailing. Ride a cable car to the hilltop village of Monte, where you can take in the churches and palaces before trying out the carros de cesto, wicker toboggans that zoom you down the hill to Livramento. You’ll also visit a wine cellar to savor the nuances of the island’s famous sweet elixir, and relax over a wine-pairing lunch at Belmond Reid’s Palace hotel.

Sail French Polynesia with Paul Gauguin Cruises to delve beyond its beautiful shores. Onboard hosts include an archaeologist who specializes in the ancient ceremonial structures of the Marquesas and an art historian with no fewer than seven books published on the cruise line’s namesake.

 

9 – Are You a Thrill Seeker?

Sky-high adventures via new technologies and old-fashioned daredevilry.

Star Clippers’ 227-passenger Royal Clipper is still the world’s only five-masted, full-rigged sailing ship – and you can climb one of those masts, with a provided safety harness, of course, to take in the views over the vessel’s 42 billowing white sails.

 

10 – Do You Appreciate the Finer Things in Life?

From white-tie evenings to well-dressed breakfasts in bed.

Renowned for its commitment to the golden age of cruising, Cunard’s 2,961-passenger Queen Mary 2 has a formal dress code in the main dining venues – which most guests are eager to embrace. Each sailing typically features three formal nights, such as a masquerade ball or Roaring Twenties–style dance.

On Silversea’s ships, each cabin has dedicated butlers who are trained through the Guild of Professional English Butlers.

 

 

 

This article originally appeared in the February 2018 issue of Virtuoso Traveler. 

Gratuities

Guide to Cruise Line On board Gratuities

Posted By : Courtney Anderson/ 558 0

Figuring out how much to tip and who to tip while on a cruise can be confusing, even if you are a seasoned cruiser. Some lines automatically charge gratuities to your onboard account, others include them in your cruise fare, or have a special promotion where you get FREE gratuities. It seems that every cruise line has a different amount they charge and where those gratuities go.

Here is a break down of cruise line on board gratuity charges with some of the top cruise lines

Azamara Club Cruises
Azamara Club Cruises includes gratuities in its fares.

Carnival Cruise Line
Carnival Cruise Line charges $13.99 per person per day for guests in standard rooms; and $15.99 per person per day for guests in suites.

All of the gratuities collected go to Carnival’s shipboard staff. According to its website, the amount is spread between its housekeeping team, dining team, and alternate staff.

Carnival recently announced that it would start charging 18 percent, up from 15 percent, on the automatic gratuity it charges for onboard beverages and a la carte dining outlets.

Celebrity Cruise Line
Celebrity charges $14.50 per person per day for those in standard accommodations; $15.00 per person per day for Concierge Class and AquaClass guests; and $18.00 per person per day for those in suites.

On its website, Celebrity says that collected gratuities are shared between stateroom attendants, dining services staff, and housekeeping staff.

The cruise line also adds an 18 percent gratuity to all beverages, spa, salon, and minibar purchases.

Cunard Line
Cunard automatically charges $11.50 per person, per day, to passenger shipboard accounts in Britannia accommodations. For passengers in Grill Class accommodations the charge is $13.50.

An automatic 15 percent gratuity is added to all bar bills. A 15 percent charge also applies to spa treatments and services.

Crystal Cruises
All of Crystal Cruises’ sailings are all-inclusive, so gratuities for its staff — housekeeping, restaurant, bar, and Penthouse butler staff — are already included in the cruise fare.

Holland America Line
Holland America increased the cost of its automatic gratuities in October, announcing that it would start charging $14.50 per day per person for all guests staying in standard rooms; and $16.00 per person per day for suite guests, starting in 2019.

Holland America states that 100 percent of gratuities go toward compensating onboard crew members.

Norwegian Cruise Line
NCL is increasing its gratuities starting on April 1, 2019. For all sailings after that date (excluding guests booked before on sailings before April 1), Norwegian guests sailing in any stateroom category up to a mini-suite on most ships will be charged $15 per person per day. Those sailing in any suite, Concierge, or The Haven stateroom will be charged $18 per person per day.

Standard guests on Norwegian Sky and Sun, two ships that sail with an all-inclusive price, will be charged $20.50 per person per day. Suite guests will be charged $23.50 per person per day.

Oceania Cruises
Oceania automatically adds $16.00 per person per day for standard guests; and $23.00 per person per day for suite guests.

Oceania also adds an 18 percent charge to all beverage purchases, spa services, and specialty dinners.

Paul Gauguin Cruises
All onboard gratuities are included in Paul Gauguin’s all-inclusive fare.

Princess Cruises
A discretionary gratuity of $15.50 per guest for suites, $14.50 per guest for mini-suites and club class, and $13.50 per guest for interior, oceanview, and balcony staterooms. This gratuity will be shared amongst those staff who help provide and support your cruise experience, including all waitstaff, stateroom stewards, buffet stewards, and housekeeping staff across the fleet.

A 18% gratuity is added to bar charges, dining room wine accounts, and Lotus Spa® services. This is shared amongst the beverage staff, their support staff and Lotus Spa® personnel.

Regent Seven Seas Cruises
Gratuities are included in the cruise fare for all of Regent’s sailings. The line also offers another option for guests who want to go above-and-beyond for their crew: donations to the Crew Welfare Fund, which is used for crew events, are welcomed at the Purser Office onboard.

Royal Caribbean International
Royal Caribbean’s automatic gratuity is $14.50 per person per day for standard guests; and $17.50 per person per day for suite guests.

Gratuities are shared among dining, bar and culinary services staff, stateroom attendants and other hotel services teams who work behind the scenes to enhance the cruise experience.

Seabourn
According to Seabourn’s website, “Gratuities are neither required nor expected on Seabourn ships.”

Silversea
All gratuities onboard, including all service gratuities except spa, are included in Silversea’s all-inclusive fare.

Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection
When it officially launches in 2020, the Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection will offer a fare that includes onboard gratuities for all restaurant, bar and housekeeping services, along with multiple dining venues, 24-hour in-suite dining, beverages such as beer, select spirits and wines, soft drinks, coffee, tea and bottled water in-suite and throughout the yacht, onboard entertainment and enrichment, use of the marina-style platform with access to watersports, and Wi-Fi.

Viking Ocean Cruises
Viking adds a discretionary hotel and dining charge of $15.00 per person per day to shipboard accounts. Those charges are shared among the waitstaff, stateroom stewards, buffet stewards, galley staff, laundry staff, and others.

That fee does not include Viking’s 15 percent gratuity for bar and deck service.

Virgin Voyages
As part of the lead up to the 2020 launch of its first ship, Scarlet Lady, Virgin Voyages revealed that all of its onboard gratuities will be included in the cruise fare.

Windstar
Windstar raised its daily gratuities in January of this year — now, the luxury line charges $13.50 per person per day for gratuities for all guests.

Windstar also adds a 15 percent service charge for bar service.

 

While it’s important to recognize that gratuities are a primary way of rewarding on board crews that make the experience of sailing special, most cruise lines allow guests to adjust (either increase or decrease) the amount paid in gratuities by going to guest services during the cruise. So you can feel confident that you are paying what you feel is fair.

 

 

Gratuity and service fee amounts valid at time of publishing 
Alaska

The Last Frontier: Nine Unforgettable Alaska Adventures

Posted By : Courtney Anderson/ 435 0

Vast swaths of raw wilderness untouched by man, picturesque mountains capped in snow, rugged coastlines alive with the roar of the oceans and the songs of shorebirds—there’s a good reason Alaska is known as the Last Frontier. With national parks larger than many European nations, flora and fauna thriving in their natural habitats, and charming port towns filled with adventurers and frontiersmen, Alaska is a place unlike any other on Earth.

Our onshore experiences bring you beyond Alaska’s misty ports and into the heart of the wild. Showcasing Alaska’s unique, thriving spirit and culture, these shore excursions offer something for everyone—from history buffs and hikers to foodies and fjord fanatics.

At each port of call throughout your trip to Alaska, there is adventure waiting to be had. Looking for a little inspiration? Here are a few of the incredible experiences you can try during your journey into the heart of the Last Frontier.

 

A WILDERNESS SAFARI IN HAINES
Known as “The Valley of The Eagles,” the town of Haines is considered by many to be one of Alaska’s true adventure hubs. After all, it has long been a jumping off point for outdoor enthusiasts looking to make their way into the 49th State’s great unknown. And you can make that journey for yourself on the Glacier Point Wilderness Safari.

This Azamara shore excursion offers something for everyone, including a cruise through the Lynn Canal—North America’s deepest fjord. Here, whales breach the water’s surface, though you may miss them as you become transfixed on the towering mountains that surround you. You’ll see beautiful beaches and lush rainforests—two things that may not immediately come to mind when you think of Alaska—as you make your way toward the Davidson Glacier at Glacier Point. Best of all, a canoe trip through the glacial lake below gets you even closer to this large valley glacier.

Before you make your way to the Davidson Glacier at Glacier Point, we recommend learning a little more about these incredible natural wonders. Alaska Public Land Information Center has an excellent glacier primer worth checking out—where you can learn how glaciers form, what makes Alaskan glaciers so unique, and more.

 

SEA KAYAKING THROUGH A STATE PARK NEAR HOMER
If Alaska is The Last Frontier, then Homer is the last stop—literally! Nestled at the end of the Sterling Highway, surrounded by mountains on one side and the Kachemak Bay on the other—Homer is a destination alive with pioneer spirits and wild hearts. And just across the water, your next adventure awaits on a sea kayaking journey in Kachemak Bay State Park—Alaska’s first state park.

Fridtjof Nansen, one of the world’s greatest polar explorers and a Nobel prize winner, once called the kayak “Far and away the best one-man boat in existence.” Of course, you can choose between a solo or tandem kayak on your journey along the shores of Kachemak Bay State Park. As your guide shares fascinating insights on this remote part of the world, be sure to keep your eyes peeled for the wildlife who call Kachemak Bay State Park home—including majestic moose and black bears bigger than any you’ve seen in The Lower 49 (Alaskan lingo for the contiguous United States).

Kayarchy is an excellent resource for those interested in learning more about the thrills of sea kayaking, and we highly recommend their detailed look at this versatile boat if you’re interested in learning more before you take to the waters.

 

TRY YOUR HAND AT ALASKA’S STATE SPORT
Dog mushing (also known as dog sledding) is more than Alaska’s official state sport, it’s a statewide obsession—one that is celebrated every year during the Iditarod. This 1,150-mile sled dog race takes racers from Anchorage to Nome every March in an unforgettable test of endurance. When you travel to Juneau with us, you can experience what it’s like to be a racer in the legendary Iditarod as you hop aboard a dog sled for a journey across the Mendenhall Glacier.

Now, one does not simply walk to the Mendenhall Glacier. This nearly 14-mile long glacier, originally known as Aak’wtaaksit (the Glacier Behind the Little Lake), is hidden within the Tongass National Forest—and the best way to get there is by helicopter.

Upon arrival, you’ll have the opportunity to learn the reigns from some of Alaska’s professional mushers. You’ll also find yourself in the company of hundreds of huskies ready to take you on the ride of a lifetime. Whether you want to take control of the team yourself, or simply sit back and enjoy the thrill of it all, this excursion brings you closer than ever to one of Alaska’s most enduring and iconic traditions.

For thousands of years, sled dogs and humankind have been working together in the coldest regions of North America. You can learn all about the history of this wonderful relationship in this brief history of Dog Sledding put together by Outdoor Dog World. Or, if you’re fascinated by the Iditarod, ThoughtCo. has an informative overview of the history of the race, how it works today, and the dogs who take center stage—or perhaps center sled—each year.

 

STEP FOOT INSIDE ALASKA’S WILDEST KITCHEN
Alaska has always been heralded as a foodie hot spot, with the area’s unique gastronomy culture yielding some exciting dishes—ranging from unmissable to unbelievable. They’re also renowned for their seafood—and you can learn for yourself how they prepare these culinary delights when you step foot inside Alaska’s Wildest Kitchen during your time in Icy Strait Point.

Learn preparation secrets from local fishers as they share stories of life on the Alaskan waters—a conversation that is certain to work up your appetite. Luckily for you, once you learn how to prepare fresh Alaskan seafood, you can try some for yourself!

While you’re here, don’t miss the opportunity to do some fishing of your own! Icy Strait Point is a fisher’s paradise—especially if you have your heart (and line) set on halibut or salmon. Food Republic has put together a great guide to Alaskan salmon—including a look at all five different types you’ll have the opportunity to try and catch when your visit.

 

FJORDS AND FOOD—A PERFECT PAIR
Near the southern tip of Alaska, you’ll find Ketchikan—a community awash in indigenous heritage and towering totem poles. It’s also just west of the striking Misty Fjords National Monument. A mix of towering fjords and jagged sea cliffs, the Misty Fjord National Monument is a sight to behold, especially when—true to its name—it’s enveloped by mist.

It shouldn’t come as a surprise that there are no roads to the Misty Fjords, but our Misty Fjords Flightseeing shore excursion can get you there! On this guided tour, you’ll have the opportunity to see this breathtaking natural landmark from the air as you make your way through the mist for an up-close view—complete with expert insights from a local expert. Keep your camera handy, because at 3570 square miles, there’s a lot to see.

For many, sightseeing is the perfect way to work up an appetite—which is why a stop at the George Inlet Lodge is a must. Here, enjoy an all-you-can-eat feast of Dungeness crab—known for its distinct sweet flavor. While Dungeness crab is found throughout the Pacific Ocean (as far south as Mexico) Alaskan Seafood knows—and we’re inclined to agree—that the most flavorful Dungeness crab you can try is hauled in from along the shores of Alaska.

 

WALK THROUGH AN ALTERNATE HISTORY IN KODIAK
In Kodiak, you’ll find interesting nods to Russian heritage around every corner (or should we say dome?), a variety of museums, and a lot of fishing boats. Over 600 in fact—making Kodiak Alaska’s largest fishing port. It’s also home to a fascinating piece of American military history, one that serves as a reminder of what could have happened during World War II.

Fort Abercrombie State Park was once a fortified military installation ready to fend off an Axis attack. Of course, that attack never came—partially due to inclement weather—and after the war, it became an attraction towering on the cliffs of Monashka Bay. You can explore the fort for yourself, as well the rest of the state park, on a nature walk with us.

This shore excursion pairs you with a local guide who will take you through the colorful state park, pointing out highlights of the natural landscape and elusive wildlife along the way. Your expert guide will also share insights on Kodiak’s history as a military outpost as you make your way toward the Miller Point Gun Placement and Kodiak Military History Museum.

Long before it was a point of defense in World War II, the region surrounding Fort Abercrombie State Park was already a wealth of historical significance. History buffs will love this detailed look at the region put together by Alaska’s Department of Natural Resources.

 

SAIL THROUGH RESURRECTION BAY IN SEWARD
Bustling and beautiful, Seward wraps around the edge of breathtaking Resurrection Bay—providing picture perfect panoramic views that will make you fall in love with this part of the world. Animal lovers will adore Seward, especially the Seward Sealife Center—Alaska’s beloved marine mammal rehabilitation facility.

Not far from here is the Kenai Fjords National Park—home of the Harding Icefield and Bear Glacier—where you can explore more of Seward’s majestic beauty and wildlife on an Azamara shore excursion that takes you across Resurrection Bay and into the park. As your boat navigates its way between gorgeous glaciers and towering fjords, be sure to keep your eyes open for a closer look at Alaskan wildlife, including sea otters, killer whales, massive humpbacks, and more.

Words can hardly do the Kenai Fjords National Park justice. Luckily for all of us, the adventurers at The Greatest Road Trip have put together a fantastic photo gallery of their time spent in the park (along with plenty of useful tips for visitors). Take a look and get ready to ramp up your feelings of wanderlust!

 

EMBARK ON AN ANIMAL ADVENTURE IN SITKA
Less than 200 years ago, Alaska wasn’t a state. It wasn’t even an American territory—it was Russian. And the capital city of Russian Alaska was New Archangel, known today as Sitka. Russian influence is teeming throughout this city—one of the oldest non-native settlements in Alaska—from the atmospheric Russian Cemetery to the Russian Bishop’s House museum on Lincoln Street.

Beyond its cultural history, Sitka is also a popular destination for spotting some of Alaska’s most beloved wildlife—many of which you can catch a glimpse of on an Azamara shore excursion. Take a northern wildlife safari out to sea, where you’ll catch glimpses of sea otters playing, whales breaching the water’s surface, and curious bears patrolling the shores. From here, return ashore and make your way to the Alaska Raptor Center. No, this isn’t a secret dinosaur facility. It’s a beloved rehabilitation center for birds like the mighty bald eagle who have been injured in nature to heal and learn to soar the skies once again.

Over time in Alaska, changes to the ecosystem have resulted in a diminished natural territory for bears. An unfortunate side effect of this shift is an increase in sick or abandoned bear cubs. Typically, these cubs would have a nearly impossible time surviving in the wild, which is where Fortress of the Bear comes into the picture. This not-for-profit sanctuary—that you’ll visit as part of this Azamara shore excursion—recuses bears and rehabilitates them back to health, giving them a second chance to live a full life.

 

RIDE THE RAILS IN SKAGWAY
Skagway, the fabled gateway to the Klondike, is home to a wealth of history. If the walls of its colorful buildings could talk, they’d tell the story of men and women who arrived seeking their fortune during the gold rush—and who managed to make the legendary Wild West look pretty tame by comparison.

Now you can follow in the tracks of these adventurers who made their way up north in hopes of striking it rich on our Azamara shore excursion that takes you along the White Pass and Yukon Route Railway. An engineering marvel to this day, this narrow-guide railroad is rich with history. Climbing nearly 3,000 feet in just 20 miles, the train weaves through evergreen forests and mountainside tunnels while providing you with stunning panoramic views along every mile of the track. The end of this line brings you all the way to Canada’s Yukon territory, where you’ll switch from riding the rails to riding the roads on the way back to Skagway. Along the way, you’ll be treated to stories from the days of the gold rush, as well as opportunities to see iconic Klondike landmarks for yourself.

 

ARE YOU READY TO CONQUER THE LAST FRONTIER?
Is your pioneer spirit starting to stir at the thought of a voyage to Alaska?

It’s time to embrace your inner frontiersman and experience this northern beauty for yourself. While we’ve highlighted some of the exciting adventures you can have in Alaska, the truth is we’ve only scratched the surface. There is so much to see and do in Alaska, and with our expertly curated shore excursions, you’re sure to find something new, marvelous, and unexpected on every stop of your journey. The Last Frontier awaits! It’s time for you to answer the call of the wild and forge your own path

 

 

By Azamara Club Cruises on Thursday, December 27, 2018
Original Blog can be found here

A few days on the Azamara Pursuit

Posted By : JoAnne Patterson/ 0 0

Azamara Pursuit is the newest ship to join Azamara Club Cruises. As an agent I had the pleasure to be present for the naming ceremony and two-night cruise from Southampton to Cherbourg in late August of 2018.

When I boarded the ship, I instantly was drawn to the warm shades of color throughout the ship and the contemporary artwork which includes a replica of Andy Scott’s towering sculpture “Beacon of Hope” in the Mosaic Café.

One of the changes featured on the Azamara Pursuit vs the other ships in their fleet is that they have removed the casino and introduced a new lounge called The Den.  This is where guests can book shore excursions or their next cruise or simply enjoy live piano music while relaxing and sipping on one of their themed drinks.

Azamara Pursuit has two new Club Spa Suites located on Deck 9, which in addition to the suite inclusions features exclusive access to the Sanctum Spa, a glass enclosed bathtub overlooking the ocean with a separate rain shower.

Another unique and enjoyable feature is the AZ-amazing experience –  we enjoyed an afternoon in Cherbourg where the cruise terminal was transformed into a French market complete with fresh flowers, cheeses, champagne and macaroons.  What completes the experience onboard the Azamara Pursuit are the friendly staff and officers who are attentive and make you feel like part of a community.

Azamara 2020 Itineraries

Azamara Club Cruises® Unveils 2020 Itineraries

Posted By : cruising/ 674 0

Azamara Club Cruises® Unveils 2020 Itineraries featuring new immersive land excursions and maiden voyages to destinations including South Africa, French Polynesia and Hawaii

New York, May 2018: The announcement of Azamara Club Cruises’ ® extensive 2020 itineraries highlights the brand’s commitment to creating immersive experiences for travelers to connect with local cultures. In 2020, guests will explore deeper into newly added destinations including South Africa, French Polynesia and Hawaii. With a total of 92 individual cruises across the three ships, Azamara will offer 41 maiden ports, 303 late night stays, 170 overnight stays and 40 country-intensive voyages, where guests can explore numerous ports within one country and stay late or overnight in most cities.

Azamara’s carefully crafted 2020 itineraries emphasize spending more time in port, enabling travelers to explore beyond the initial layers of a city and fully immerse themselves in the destination. In addition, Azamara will also unveil new Land and Sea packages hosted by Micato Safaris, a luxury safari outfitter that will further enhance the brand’s immersive land products.

“Our guests spoke and we listened; the addition of our third ship, the Azamara Pursuit, has allowed us to expand our footprint across all seven continents, bringing guests to new destinations, new experiences, and new opportunities,” said Larry Pimentel, President and CEO of Azamara Club Cruises. “In 2020, Azamara will offer a total of 473 late night and overnight stays, a 12% percent increase from 2019, which will allow us to provide our guests with the opportunity to experience night touring at some of the most compelling destinations.”

(1) South Africa/African Continent and South Pacific Itineraries

Azamara will be expanding its global coverage by calling in South Africa and the African Continent for the first time. Each voyage will offer an exceptional variety of immersive land programs that take travelers to the heart of Zulu culture, South Africa’s most famous wine region, and beyond.

The new South Africa itineraries will coincide with pre-and post-cruise packages from Micato Safaris. Azamara and Micato both embody a similar love of travel, exploration and value creating one-of-a-kind experiences for travelers. Highlights include 30 departures of the two following tours:

• Five-Night Kruger to Cape: A Wildlife & Culinary Safari (offered pre-or post-Azamara voyage) Before embarking on a voyage with Azamara, meet the Micato team in Johannesburg for an exploration from Kruger to Cape Town with stops along the way at a notable game reserve and a visit to the Western Cape, known for its world class wines and top-quality restaurants; an experience that will delight the senses.

• Five-Night Wild Wonders of the World – Victoria Falls & Botswana Safari (offered pre-or post Azamara Voyage): Travel through Zimbabwe to Botswana to experience one of the Seven Wonders of the World, Victoria Falls. This expedition also includes a dawn game drive through Botswana’s Chobe Game Reserve and an optional helicopter tour of the falls.

In addition to the extensions by Micato Safaris, Azamara continues to expand its extensive Destination Immersion programing (guests can step on land as an insider, and travel deeper, beyond the initial layers of a city across Africa by adding a diverse selection of shore excursions including:

• Cruise Global, Stay Local – Kenya: On this overnight excursion, travelers will fly past Mount Kilimanjaro – the highest mountain in Africa – and over the Great Rift Valley to Kenya’s renowned game reserve, Masai Mara, where they will spend the night at the Neptune Mara Rianta Luxury Camp, located along the Mara River. The excursion includes two game viewing drives in search of elephant, lions, rhinos, cheetahs, giraffes and more.

• Cruise Global, Meet Local – South Africa: On a day trip to Shakaland – a living monument of Zulu culture – travelers will be met by a Zulu guide who will act as an interpreter as he leads them through the village. Guests will learn how to make a sword and shield as well as build a traditional Zulu “beehive” grass hut.

• Cruise Global, Taste Local – South Africa: Departing from Cape Town, the excursion will take travelers to the Paarl region – one of South Africa’s most famous wine-producing areas – for a formal vino tasting at a wine estate. Following, guests will pay a visit to Haute Cabrière – founded in 1694 and situated on opposite ends of the breathtaking Franschoek – where visitors will get to experience a deep passion for wine as well as a pairing comprised of two farms.

The 2020 itineraries will also feature an 18-night maiden voyage to French Polynesia and Hawaii, visiting some of the most unique Hawaiian Islands (Maui, Oahu and Hilo). During this voyage guests can shop for bright Polynesian silk wrap or shop for items with Tahitian black pearls, an organic gem only found in that region and formed from the black lip oyster. Some of the land experiences guests can participate in include:

• Cruise Global, Eco Local – French Polynesia: Join a marine biologist in this ecotourism and research project on wild, free-ranging dolphins. Learn about the geology of French Polynesia while viewing the dramatic beauty of Moorea from the water. Spinner dolphins, rough-tooth dolphins and pilot whales are seen around Moorea, while an excellent commentary provides details on the remarkable life and society of these wonderful mammals.

• Cruise Global, Adventure Local – Hawaii: Embark on an underwater exploration of Maui onboard a high-tech passenger submarine. The expedition will pass the “Brig Carthaginian,” a sunken ship built in the 1920s that now acts as an artificial reef off of the coast of Maui’s Puamana Beach Park.

(2) Specialty Voyages

In addition to adding new destinations and immersive land experiences to its offerings, Azamara’s 2020 itineraries will feature an assortment of specialty voyages including the following:

• Nearly half of Azamara’s 2020 itineraries will include country-intensive voyages, giving travelers the opportunity to connect to the authentic heart of local life and culture. The new country intensive sailings include Ireland, Scotland, Denmark, and South Africa.

• For the first time, Azamara’s three sister ships will meet on October 8, 2020 in Koper, Slovenia, where the cruise line will host a grand AzAmazing Evening in port for all guests on all three ships, and then sail together to Venice.

• Azamara’s holiday and Christmas sailings provide the opportunity to take part in celebrations around the world including ringing in the New Year in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil and Cape Town, South Africa.

• On February 20, 2020, the Azamara Quest will be embarking on the brand’s second World Journey from Cape Town to Southampton.

• The Triple Tour is a 42-night voyage starting May 26, 2020 from Athens to Copenhagen, allowing guests to sail on all three ships and get an in-depth experience with crew members across the entire fleet, all on one epic voyage. More details on the Triple Tour will be available in early Summer of 2018.

(3) New Stateroom Category:

Starting in 2020, Azamara will offer guests a more inclusive stateroom category called Veranda Plus. The new accommodation will have the same dimensions and features as a regular Veranda stateroom, for a slightly higher cost, but include additional benefits such as: internet minutes, one night of specialty dining, priority embarkation and more. All of these amenities have been built in price, which will provide a value for guests, versus buying individually.

Azamara Pursuit

Posted By : Courtney Anderson/ 0 0

We’re opening the door to maiden ports, new itineraries, and unforgettable, unique experiences with Azamara Pursuit. Plus, we’re returning to several destinations with more immersive experiences than ever before. Like our sister ships, Azamara Pursuit offers some of the most extraordinary adventures on Earth, to places you’ve always dreamed of. Or only just heard about.

Totally new-to-Azamara destinations include Antofagasta (Chile), Lima (Peru), and the Beagle Channel—and those are just some of our South American maiden destinations. Not only will we take you to 15 new ports and a whole host of bucket-list locales, but we also stay longer in each one, so you have more time to experience the world’s many wonders.

Two sailings with Azamara

Posted By : cruising/ 0 0

We wanted to cruise but I was looking for something a little different, we finally decided that we would try Azamara. I had sailed onboard a few much larger ships, but my husband had only sailed on one larger ship, so he was a bit anxious to move to a smaller ship. After much convincing, I told him it would be fine. We sailed on the Azamara Journey on the ‘West Indies Hideaways’ cruise, for 10 days.

Well, it was better than fine. It was Azamazing! From the moment we arrived at the pier and checked in to being welcomed on board. The crew and staff were very happy to greet us with big smiles and of course a glass of bubbles. The crew went out of their way to learn what you preferred during the cruise. We met many friends that cruise and still talk about them.

I also was skeptical because of the ‘smallness’, but after only a day, I thought the Journey was just right. Our stateroom was pleasantly decorated. The food was delicious and lots of fresh fruit and veggies throughout the entire cruise. We had a few themed buffet lunches in the restaurant. We even had a ‘white night’ party around the pool. Everyone and everything was decorated in white. They had set up a hot/cold buffet and food stations so we had SO much to choose from, it was hard to decide what to indulge in.

Our itinerary was also very good with the Journey being able to visit many ports the larger ships cannot and also we stayed overnight in port once or twice. The scenery, the islands we visited, we will never forget.

The following year we found another cruise on the Azamara Journey and I really wanted to go this time because she had just come out of dry dock, so I wanted to see what was new. The Journey was even better this time. She had many upgrades all around the ship. This, however did not take away from her charm and elegance. The crew once again outdid themselves with their fantastic service and attention to detail. Our itinerary ‘Temples, Jungles and Beaches’ explored more of the western Caribbean. We tried the specialty restaurants. The service and food wonderful again. We had an Azamazing evening in St. Maarten with a steel drum band set up not far from the ship. The music and entertainment was great and when we returned to the ship (late), they escorted us to the observation lounge for cherries jubilee!

I also would like to say that the crew (captain, cruise director etc) were visible many times on both cruises we sailed on. They were very approachable and friendly, sat with us for some meals and attended events. This makes such a big difference when you sail on a smaller ship. It is refreshing. It is more intimate. You meet many nice people and learn more about them too.

I am looking for us to go on another Azamara cruise in the future, especially on the Journey OR maybe the Quest. Now there will be even more to see around the world with the addition the Azamara Pursuit.

Two sailings with Azamara

Posted By : Courtney Anderson/ 0 0

We wanted to cruise but I was looking for something a little different, we finally decided that we would try Azamara. I had sailed onboard a few much larger ships, but my husband had only sailed on one larger ship, so he was a bit anxious to move to a smaller ship. After much convincing, I told him it would be fine. We sailed on the Azamara Journey on the ‘West Indies Hideaways’ cruise, for 10 days.

Well, it was better than fine. It was Azamazing! From the moment we arrived at the pier and checked in to being welcomed on board. The crew and staff were very happy to greet us with big smiles and of course a glass of bubbles. The crew went out of their way to learn what you preferred during the cruise. We met many friends that cruise and still talk about them.

I also was skeptical because of the ‘smallness’, but after only a day, I thought the Journey was just right. Our stateroom was pleasantly decorated. The food was delicious and lots of fresh fruit and veggies throughout the entire cruise. We had a few themed buffet lunches in the restaurant. We even had a ‘white night’ party around the pool. Everyone and everything was decorated in white. They had set up a hot/cold buffet and food stations so we had SO much to choose from, it was hard to decide what to indulge in.

Our itinerary was also very good with the Journey being able to visit many ports the larger ships cannot and also we stayed overnight in port once or twice. The scenery, the islands we visited, we will never forget.

The following year we found another cruise on the Azamara Journey and I really wanted to go this time because she had just come out of dry dock, so I wanted to see what was new. The Journey was even better this time. She had many upgrades all around the ship. This, however did not take away from her charm and elegance. The crew once again outdid themselves with their fantastic service and attention to detail. Our itinerary ‘Temples, Jungles and Beaches’ explored more of the western Caribbean. We tried the specialty restaurants. The service and food wonderful again. We had an Azamazing evening in St. Maarten with a steel drum band set up not far from the ship. The music and entertainment was great and when we returned to the ship (late), they escorted us to the observation lounge for cherries jubilee!

I also would like to say that the crew (captain, cruise director etc) were visible many times on both cruises we sailed on. They were very approachable and friendly, sat with us for some meals and attended events. This makes such a big difference when you sail on a smaller ship. It is refreshing. It is more intimate. You meet many nice people and learn more about them too.

I am looking for us to go on another Azamara cruise in the future, especially on the Journey OR maybe the Quest. Now there will be even more to see around the world with the addition the Azamara Pursuit.