To coincide with the release of Azamara Club Cruises and Celebrity Cruises annual Europe “early bird” deals, the lines' captains have revealed their favourite European ports and insider tips – helping Aussies make informed choices for their dream European cruise.
From ancient Greek mythology and the freshest seafood, to some very cheeky monkeys, the phenomenally well-travelled captains share their Europe highlights and provide travellers with insider information on the hottest places to visit to help them book their 2018 European getaway.
To celebrate the Europe early bird booking season, Celebrity Cruises, the modern luxury cruise line renowned for gourmet food, wine, relaxation and romance, is offering US$300 onboard credit and two free beverage packages per stateroom to guests who book an Oceanview or above on selected 2018 Europe sailings by 1 November 2017.
Meanwhile, guests who book a selected Europe 2018 voyage with Azamara Club Cruises – the boutique cruise line allowing guests to stay longer in port and experience more of the destination – can book a Verandah stateroom for the price of an Interior Stateroom, when booked by 30 November 2018.
A favourite port of mine would have to be my home town of Leith, Edinburgh. Our ship docks right next to the Queen's former Royal Yacht Britannia and from the port, it's a short distance to the centre of Edinburgh - which is in my view the most beautiful city in the UK.
DO: From the port, it's a ten minute drive to the centre of Edinburgh. During the summer months when Journey visits, Edinburgh is a hive of activity, with the city gearing up for events like the Edinburgh Festival which - the biggest arts festival in the world. Walk up the Royal Mile and you'll see a whole range of wonderful, historical sights - like the Palace of Holyrood House and the new Scottish Parliament buildings. At the top of the mile sits Edinburgh Castle – an absolute must-see, offering incredible views over the views over the city.
EAT: The area of Leith – known simply as 'The Shore' – is a mere five minute walk from where the ship docks and is one of the most vibrant areas of Edinburgh, with a large number of restaurants and bars lining the river, the Water of Leith. Here you have a variety of dining options from the Michelin starred establishments of 'The Kitchen' and 'Wishart's' to other less opulent but equally delicious choices such as 'The Ship on the Shore' - my favourite seafood restaurant, where the Shetland Mussels are always my first choice on the menu.
SECRET INSIDER TIP: Prepare yourself for the one o' clock gun fired from the castle each afternoon - it has been known to scare the daylights out of visitors (and occasionally longtime residents)!
BEST TRAVEL ADVICE I'VE BEEN GIVEN: Leave the guidebook at home. Sometimes it's best just to wander and get lost in a city.
CRUISE: Fares start from AU$9229/NZ$9969 per person for a 15-night “Journey to the North Cape” cruise on Azamara Journey, departing Edinburgh (Leith) on 24 July 2018. The cruise overnights in Leith, before continuing to Bergen, Flam, Gudvangen, Geiranger, Svolvaer, Troll Fjord, Tromso, Honningsvag, Olden and Haugesund in Norway, and Skagen and Copenhagen in Denmark with guests receiving a Verandah Stateroom for the price of an Interior Stateroom as part of Azamara's Free Double Upgrade deal.
“Kotor has been my favourite port ever since I visited for the first time some 15 years ago! There's nothing quite like sailing into the stunningly beautiful fjord-like Bay of Kotor on a cruise ship; and the old-world atmosphere of the town is breathtaking.”
DO: I love the hike up to St John's Fortress at the top of the hill. Dotted with old churches and war-time ruins, the walk is rich in history as well as beauty. And the view at the top looking out upon Kotor Bay is out of this world!
EAT: I love the pizza with Njegušk prosciutto! Montenegro's crisp sea and mountain air apparently give this cured meat its flavor!
SECRET INSIDER TIP: Visit "The Lady of the Rock" opposite Perast – this beautiful church sitting atop a man-made island is teeming with maritime history and mythology, and is considered a guardian angel to all sailors – and cruise ships - that pass by.
BEST TRAVEL ADVICE I'VE BEEN GIVEN:
Pack everything you think you will need - then remove 20 percent from the case! You're always bound to pick up keepsakes of your travels along the way, so you want to leave room in those suitcases, if catching a flight back to Australia, post cruise.
CRUISE: Fares start from AU$5429 NZ$5869 per person for a 10-night Adriatic and Med Treasures voyage on Azamara Quest, departing Venice on 16July 2018. The cruise calls to Koper, Hvar, Dubrovnik, Kotor, Amalfi, Rome, Florence and Portofino, before finishing in Monte Carlo, with guests receiving a Verandah Stateroom for the price of an Interior Stateroom as part of Azamara's Free Double Upgrade deal.
CAPTAIN MICHAEL KATZAS OF CELEBRITY CONSTELLATION
Favourite European Port: Gibraltar, UK territory on Spain's south coast.
“The Gibraltar Straits connect the Atlantic Ocean to the Mediterranean Sea and at their narrowest point, separate Gibraltar from Africa by only seven nautical miles – making the tiny British territory a curious melting pot of languages and customs.”
DO: The Rock – you must visit the Rock of Gibraltar. At over 4000 metres high, the Rock boasts a wealth of fascinating sights, including Europa Point, one of the rocks many lookouts offering breathtaking views, including the Moroccan Coast Africa on a clear day; and, of course, the famous Barbary Macaque monkeys, who call the Rock of Gibraltar home.
EAT: My favourites are Rosto, a delicious pasta dish with meat sauce, and Torta De Acelga, a spinach pie which is actually of Italian origin but very popular in Gibraltar.
SECRET INSIDER TIP: For anyone planning a trip to the top of the rock be sure to make it back onboard with all your belongings – those monkeys like to take souvenirs from tourists!
BEST TRAVEL ADVICE I'VE BEEN GIVEN: Learn some greetings in the local language (perhaps while you're relaxing on the ship's deck on a sea day) and SMILE! You'll find building rapport with the locals you meet will make your travels even more memorable and rewarding.
CRUISE: Fares start from AUD$2,869/NZD$3,009 per person for an Oceanview Stateroom on a 10-night Italy and Spain voyage on Celebrity Constellation, departing Rome on 7 May 2018. The cruise calls to Naples, Sicily, Malta, Mallorca, Cartagena, Gibraltar, before overnighting in Barcelona, with guests receiving US$300 onboard credit and two Classic Beverage packages per stateroom as part of Celebrity's Europe Earlybirds sale.
CAPTAIN PANAGIOTIS SKYLOGIANNIS OF CELEBRITY REFLECTION
Favourite European Cruise Port: Mykonos, Greece
“Mykonos is a medley of modernity and tradition and its allure is hard to resist. I love the blue skies, the vibrant fishing boats peppering its shores, the bursting purple bougainvilleas and whitewashed cube houses and the white-sand beaches – combined, they all create a picture of enormous beauty.”
DO: I love going to the beach, and in Mykonos you can go to a different one every day, if you choose. If it is your first time visiting Mykonos, I'd recommend discovering its rich history by visiting the small island of Delos, which features prominently in Greek mythology.
EAT: Seafood – of course! You must not leave port without trying fresh calamari and sea bass in a local restaurant.
INSIDER SECRET: Definitely take advantage of one of our ship's organised excursions. My highest recommendation is "Ancient Delos", where you'll enjoy incredible views of the Cyclades Archipelago during a scenic boat ride on the Aegean Sea and discover spectacular floor and wall mosaics at the Hellenistic mansions of Delos.
BEST TRAVEL ADVICE I'VE BEEN GIVEN:My best pieces of advice are not to sweat the small stuff, and to really try and immerse yourself in the sights, sounds and flavours of each port of call – you'll create memories that will last a lifetime if you follow these two golden rules.
CRUISE: Fares start from AUD$4229 NZD$4449 per person for a Balcony Stateroom on a 10-night Italy and Greek Isles voyage on Celebrity Reflection, departing Rome on 8 June 2018. The roundtrip calls to Sicily, Malta, Mykonos, Rhodes, Santorini, Athens and Naples, with guests receiving US$300 onboard credit and two Classic Beverage packages per stateroom as part of Celebrity's Europe Earlybirds sale.
* Azamara Club Cruises, Terms and Conditions: Prices shown are for the lowest Club Verandah stateroom available at time of going to print. Upgrade Promotion allows guests to book Club Veranda staterooms at Club Interior stateroom prices and is applicable to new bookings made between 1 September – 30 November 2017. Offer is subject to availability and may be withdrawn at any time without notice. Azamara Club Cruises reserves the right to correct any errors, inaccuracies or omissions and to change or update fares, fees and surcharges at any time without prior notice. For full terms and conditions visit www.azamaraclubcruises.com
*Celebrity Cruises, Terms and Conditions: Applicable to new individual and non –contracted group bookings made between 6 September – 1 November 2017. Offer provides the choice of two of the following: Free Beverage Package, US$150 per person Onboard Credit, Complimentary Unlimited internet or an additional US$150 OBC per person. Offer is subject to availability, is capacity controlled and may be withdrawn at any time without notice. Celebrity Cruises reserves the right to correct any errors, inaccuracies or omissions and to change or update fares, fees and surcharges at any time without prior notice. For the full terms & conditions of the promotion visit www.celebritycruises.com.au.
Azamara Club Cruises is a boutique up-market cruise line operating two 690 guest ships, the Azamara Journey and the Azamara Quest. Azamara's wide selection of Destination Immersion signature programming offers guests the opportunity to Stay Longer and Experience More, delivering guests authentic cultural experiences across the globe. The ship's smaller size allows for visits to ports larger ships are unable to venture to. In 2017, Azamara will take guests to more than 200 ports, in 68 countries, including 195 late night stays and 82 overnights. Azamara's commitment to Destination Immersion coupled with exceptional onboard service offers a unique cruise holiday.
Celebrity Cruises' iconic "X" is the mark of modern luxury, with its cool, contemporary design and warm spaces; dining experiences where the design of the venues is as important as the cuisine; and the amazing service that only Celebrity can provide, all created to provide an unmatchable experience for holiday makers' precious time. Celebrity Cruises' 12 ships offer modern luxury holidays visiting all seven continents. Celebrity also presents incredible cruise tour experiences in Alaska and Canada. Celebrity is one of five cruise brands operated by global cruise company Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. (NYSE: RCL). For more information, visit www.celebritycruises.com.au, phone 1800 754 500 or see your local travel agent.
RCL Cruises Ltd Australia commenced operation in December 2008 as the Australian arm of global cruise holiday company Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. The company offers three cruise brands in Australia and New Zealand: Royal Caribbean International, Celebrity Cruises and Azamara Club Cruises. In the 2017/2018 cruise season Royal Caribbean International retains its position as the largest cruise brand in Australia, with a fleet of four incredible ships sailing in the region including Australia's biggest, newest and most modern cruise ship, US$1 billion Ovation of the Seas, South Pacific sisters Explorer of the Seas, Voyager of the Seas and culinary favourite Radiance of the Seas home porting in Sydney. Australia's highest rated cruise ship Celebrity Solstice will also sail her sixth local season out of Sydney, while Azamara Club Cruises' boutique Azamara Journey will return for a second season, visiting the west coast of Australia for the first time.