Did you know that people care far more about port stops on a cruise than they do days at sea? Or that there's such a thing as port stop overkill? We caught up with Claudius Docekal, who oversees all itineraries as Azamara Club Cruises’ Head of Deployment, to find out how he caters to the cruise line's passengers and keeps them happy.
Q: How do you go about putting together an itinerary?
A: We try to make the destination, not the ship the highlight. There are many wonderful things on a ship of our size -- such as the orchestra and great entertainment -- but the beauty is that I personally have been to 95 or 98 percent of all the ports we go to. I know what's out there, and I schedule our stays in these ports according to what they offer.
I try to schedule a port almost every single day, or half day, especially in Northern Europe and the Mediterranean. (People tend to book cruises by the number of ports, not by days at sea.) At the same time, once people have five or six ports in a row, they get exhausted. Every once in a while, I've learned, people actually do like a day at sea, so I try and sprinkle a half-day in the morning or afternoon.
Q: What other factors do you take into consideration?
A: I also try to create itineraries that do not repeat themselves every week or even every 10 days, so that people can book cruises back-to-back. Many cruise lines tend to go to the same ports, but I try to provide guests with a combination of well-known ports with some unique, insider ports that guests have probably never heard of that I feel are underrepresented and very much worth the visit.
Q: What’s a perk that’s unique to an Azamara cruise?
A: On every cruise we have complimentary “AzAmazing Evenings,” where we invite the entire ship to experience something on shore that they would not be able to experience on their own -- a Greek wedding performance on a square in the middle of Crete, for example.
Q: What are some of the things passengers may not know before booking with Azamara?
A: The industry trend is toward big ships, and a lot of people book these cruises because they think 'the bigger the ship, the more things to do.' But what they find out once they travel on a smaller ship like ours is that smaller is nice because we have a lot of amenities they expect on big ships -- a seven-piece live orchestra, five dining options every night, a big spa, and acupuncture -- just on a smaller scale. And what [passengers] find most refreshing is they never have to line up anywhere.