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Azamara Club Cruises, which has developed its distinct branding by pioneering destination-focused cruising, is launching a series of cruises that explore a single country in depth.
Called Country Intensive Voyages, the itineraries include most, if not all, the ports in the nation of call. The 15-night Circle Japan Voyage planned for 2019, for example, calls on 12 ports, giving passengers entree into the country from a variety of angles.
The itineraries must include one other country to comply with cabotage laws, but even that has been turned into a benefit. For instance, a cruiser can take advantage of the 18-night Australian Explorer Voyage’s embarkation in Bali to arrange a pre-cruise stay.
Azamara will have 11 Country Intensive Voyages available in 2018, and has a devoted section on its website to the single-country sailings. Next year, travelers can choose among seven- to 18-night cruises that explore Mexico, Australia, Croatia, Norway, New Zealand, Greece, Spain, Italy and Costa Rica. In 2019, passengers will find intensives to Japan, Iberia, France and more.
The distinctive factor of the new sailings is the intimate experience of a country and direct encounters with local life and culture — a concept Azamara pioneered vigorously and that is now prime currency for all cruise lines, including both seagoing and river. For the intensives, the company has built a set of shoreside experiences that will allow guests to see different regions through various lenses, honing in on the area’s wildlife, art, culture, unusual natural features, cuisine and more.
For example, the Australia intensive will take Azamara passengers to 10 ports. They can swim with whale sharks in Exmouth, have their pictures taken with a koala in Perth, sample the arts of Melbourne and climb the Sydney Harbour Bridge or see an opera in Sydney.
Which travelers are good prospects for these in-depth cruises? Larry Pimentel, president and CEO of Azamara, says 22 percent of the line’s guests are first-time cruisers, with a strong crossover from clients who customarily book tours, and 48 percent are from the U.S. The average passenger age is 55-plus — though millennials do sail with the company (and give them their highest scores), but generally with their boomer parents.
The intensives, however, may enlarge Azamara’s demographics, attracting a variety of clients who see cruising as a means to an authentic and comprehensive encounter with a destination.