55 When Azamara visits Greece, it takes guests to both marquee ports such as Rhodes (pictured above) and smaller, lesser-known places cultural exploration of one country by taking guests to both popular marquee ports and smaller, lesser-known places. In Greece, for instance, Azamara visits Rhodes, Mykonos and Santorini but also the smaller ports of Argostoli, Patmos and Amorgos. “This mix allows travellers to fully immerse themselves in the different cultures, traditions and flavours of one country, which offers a more meaningful and authentic travel experience,” explains Pawlus, adding that Azamara visits more unique ports in Greece than any other cruise line. “Our shore excursions encourage guests to connect with the local people, culture and heritage in each destination. For example, guests can learn the secrets of mosaic design from islanders in Amorgos or enter the cave of Saint John the hermit in Patmos.” Azamara operates country-intensive voyages to destinations worldwide, including Australia, Greece, Croatia, Iceland, Scotland, Canada, South Africa, Italy, Ireland and many others. These sailings were particularly successful in Japan in 2023. “The back-to-back itineraries in Japan performed fantastically,” says Pawlus. “Guests discovered Japan’s local culture and history through multiple new experiences, such as wine tastings in a local miso and soy sauce factory in Akita, mangrove kayaking in Ishigaki, and exploring the Seiben Garden in Aomori. We also made a maiden visit to the port of Niigata, known for its scenic mountains and expansive rice fields. We look forward to returning in March and April 2024 when the cherry blossoms are blooming.” Pawlus attributes much of Azamara’s success to the relatively small size of its cruise ships. “We can access lesser-known ports, such as Sihanoukville in Cambodia, and dock in the heart of destinations, allowing guests to walk straight off the ship and into the town or city without the hassle of additional shuttle services,” says Pawlus. “In Porto Venere in Italy, our guests can disembark and be walking along the town’s charming, cobbled streets within minutes, whereas passengers on larger ships dock at sea and tender to shore. Meanwhile in Montreal, only smaller ships like ours can fit under the overhead power lines to take guests right into the city.” Smaller ships also make it easier to overcome the perennial challenge of every itinerary planner: port congestion.