With the August 2018 debut of its third ship, Azamara Pursuit, Azamara—the boutique premium line operated by Royal Caribbean Cruises, Ltd—has expanded its offerings by 40 percent and added 61 ports of call. We checked out Azamara’s 2018-2019 itineraries to find the most interesting new voyages, and then compared them to similar cruises by premium-category competitors to determine if they’re a good deal. Here’s what we found:
An Icelandic Voyage
A 15-night Wonders of Iceland Voyage (August 13-28, 2018), from Southampton. The new 690-passenger Azamara Pursuit cruises the British Isles (England, Scotland, Ireland, and Northern Ireland) and circumnavigates Iceland, making four port calls there. It will be the second voyage for the newly refurbished ship—which like Azamara Journey and Azamara Quest, was built as a Renaissance “R” vessel.
Why It's Unique: Mixing cities (Dublin, Belfast, and Waterford) with outdoor adventure, the sailing calls on three new ports: Oban, Scotland, offering access to the Highlands’ lochs, castles, and distilleries; Fowey on England’s Cornwall coast, known for its literary history and beaches; and Seydisfjordur, Iceland, a colorful outpost set close to 25 waterfalls. And an overnight in Reykjavik lets passengers enjoy the legendary nightlife.
Price: With fares starting at $6,699 per person, this cruise is on the pricier side. Viking has several 13-night Iceland’s Majestic Landscapes voyages in summer 2019 on Viking Sky that visit the same four Icelandic ports (but swap Norway and the Faroe Islands for the U.K.), from $5,199. Crystal Serenity’s 11-Night British Isles Legacy in June 2019 offers more British Isles (nine ports) and less Iceland (just an overnight in Reykjavik) but four fewer nights, from $5,010.
A South American Pursuit
A 21-night South America Pursuit (December 1-22, 2018), from Lima to Buenos Aires. Azamara Pursuit will visit 15 ports (four of them new for Azamara) in Peru, Chile, Argentina, Uruguay, and the Falkland Islands.
Why It's Unique: The ship will overnight in Antofagasta, Chile, offering access to the stunning vistas of the Atacama Desert, and Punta Arenas, Chile, home to colonial mansions and Magellenic penguin colonies, as well as cruise the Chilean fjords and the Beagle Channel (both Azamara firsts).
Price: From $6,499 per person, this itinerary is a fairly good value since it costs about the same as a 16-night Tiera del Fuego Passage on Crystal Symphony scheduled for February 2019, from $6,530. That said, Oceania Sirena has a 21-night Southern Sauntering itinerary in February-March 2018, from $4,599.
Going Down Under
A 14-night Australia & Indonesia Voyage (March 8-22, 2019), from Cairns to Singapore. This adventure-lovers’ cruise on 690-passenger Azamara Quest (refurbished in 2016) visits eight ports in three countries.
Why It’s Unique: The ship overnights in Darwin, Australia (gateway to Kakadu National Park) and calls on two-square-mile Thursday Island (site of the Japanese Pearl Divers Cemetery) before cruising to Indonesia for visits to Komodo Island (where you’ll see giant dragon-like lizards), Bali (where local crafts and dance are highlights), Surabaya (with its bustling Arab Quarter), and Semarang (to see the massive Buddhist temple at Borobudur) before finishing with an overnight in Singapore.
Price: From $4,099 per person, this itinerary is a pretty good deal. For a lot more Australia and a bit less Indonesia, Viking is offering a 17-night Komodo & the Australian Coast voyage from Bali to Sydney on Viking Orion in November 2018, from $5,699, while Crystal Symphony will sail an 18-night Great Barrier Reef & Beyond cruise from Sydney to Singapore in April 2019, from $6,425.
A European and UK Sail
A 14-night Tall Sails & Remembrance Voyage (May 28-June 11, 2019), from Barcelona to Greenwich, England on 690-passenger Azamara Journey (refurbished in 2016) calls on nine ports in Spain, Portugal, France, and England, offering a savvy itinerary for both wine lovers and history buffs.
Why It's Unique: Timed to coincide with the 75th anniversary of D-Day (the ship will dock in Cherbourg, Normandy on June 6th) as well as a sail down the Seine to be front row at a tall-ship regatta in Rouen, this cruise begins with Iberian sun, hits mid-stride with WWII remembrance, and ends with an overnight in London.
Price: Starting at $5,199 per person, this sailing is unique in its timing and access, but Crystal Serenity will be right on its tail with a 12-night Peninsula Panorama that overnights in Honfleur a few days after D-day, from $4,720, as will Oceania Nautica with its 10-night Nostalgic Reflection itinerary, from $3,299.
A 14-night Circle Japan Country Intensive Voyage (August 21-September 4, 2019), from Tokyo. Part of Azamara’s new single-country focus, this cruise on Azamara Quest dives deep into Japanese culture.
Why It's Unique: Calling on 11 cities—all but one, Busan, South Korea, in Japan—this sailing circumnavigates the island nation and visits five new ports: Aomori (known for its modern art and architecture), Akita (home to samurai culture and scenic mountains), Kanazawa (where 98 percent of Japan’s gold leaf is produced), Kitakyushu (spared the atomic bomb that hit Nagasaki), and Sakaiminato (known for seafood and comic characters) in addition to Kobe, Shimizu (for Mt. Fuji), and Hiroshima.
Price: Starting at $4,999 per person, this cruise offers good value. The only similar options are two small-ship voyages: 10-night Grand Japan on Windstar’s 212-passenger Star Legend in April 2018, from $5,799, and 11-night Smithsonian Journey’s A Cruise of Japan on 220-passenger L’Austral in May 2018, from $5,995.