Summary of Azamara Cruise

Summary of Azamara Cruise

For future reference I like to record the itinerary and favorite stops from a cruise. So here goes.

Azamara Journey June 12 - 23, 2015

  • Venice, Italy
  • Dubrovnik, Croatia
  • At sea
  • Crete, Greece
  • Santorini -- hike Fira to Oia
  • Mykonos -- morning trip to Delos
  • Patmos
  • Kusadasi (Ephesus) Turkey
  • Lemnos (replaced Lesvos due to unrest)
  • Istanbul, Turkey

Its hard to say what my favorite stop was on this trip. I enjoyed seeing the old city of Dubrovnik and hiking around the walls. I enjoyed our hike from Fira to Oia on Santorini (despite the fact that it was hot and I complained about the heat) I enjoyed our scooter rental explorations on Patmos. I enjoyed our tour, rug bargaining, and the evening concert in Ephesus, I enjoyed our cooking class in Istanbul.

Minus the screwup on our suite, the Azamara experience was really nice and relaxing. We enjoyed the fact that drinks were included, and so we didn’t have pocketsful of paper for signing for anything and everything. We enjoyed our freedom to dine in the specialty restaurants (Prime-C and Aqualina) whenever we wanted, and we had a great time at the best-of-the-best night with the other suite guests. The formal table service was a show unto itself, with all of our butlers serving us in synchrony like the servants at Downton Abbey.

Biking in Patmos

Biking in Patmos

We may have missed 2 or 3 km of paved road, but other than that we pretty much covered the island of Patmos today. And what a great way to cover it we discovered. Scooters! Not our usual biking fare, but the island is very hilly and we wanted to cover more ground.

Scooter Selfie

So, we got off the ship and made the short walk to Moto-Leo. A distinctly family run scooter rental operation. Father and daughter, with no deposit or arduous paperwork to rent for the day. Which the daily rental was only 15 euro. So it was also a very cheap way to see the island.

The whole island reminded us of small town living. Although Patmos is a Christian Pilgrimage destination, and they obviously get cruise ships stopping in, the island has not succumbed to that overly touristic feeling. We loved it.

The highlight of the island is the Cave of the Apocalypse, where St. John wrote the book of Revelations. Its pretty small, and they don’t let you take pictures inside, so other than saying it looked like a small cave-like chapel there is not much more to say.

Above the cave sits a monastery and this was our second stop for the day. After parking the scooters and starting the walk up the hill I noticed something that was definitely out of place on the top of Patmos. A “Hawkeye Rd” sign. Really?! An Iowa Hawkeye sign on this tiny small island in Greece. “Iowa Hawkeyes!” I exclaimed. Then I met Jimmy. “Are you from Iowa?” he asked? “yes, from Decorah” I said. “Oh, thats just north of Independence isn’t it?” Clearly this dude knew his Iowa geography! “Yes” I said. “Well, people from Iowa get free coffee, come in, come in!”

Note the Hawkeye Rd sign!

We learned from Jimmy that he had lived in Iowa some 13 years until he inherited this building, which brought him back to the island. He has a fantastic view, and is obviously doing quite well with the restaurant and the gift shop.

After doing the only two touristic things on the island we took off on our scooters to explore the nooks and crannies of the island. We saw lots of beautiful little secluded beaches and coves that would be perfect for swimming or snorkeling.

One of many beautiful little coves on

Death March from Fira to Oia

Death March from Fira to Oia

There were six ships in the harbor at Santorini Celebrity, MSC, Azamara, Holland America, and Saga. Azamara was definitely the smallest with just under 700 passengers, but the Celebrity Equinox more than made up for our size. So it was probably over 6000 people descending on the city for the day. In response, the port officials had to stage all of the tender operations so as to not completely overwhelm their ability to welcome people to their city. Meaning, the gondola ride to the top and the poor donkeys carrying people not willing to wait in line for the gondola.

One of the many nice things about the Azamara line is that we stay in port longer than anyone else. Whereas most cruise lines will arrive at a port around 8AM and leave by 5PM Azamara will stay until 10 or 11PM. This has many great benefits in that you can stay ashore much longer, and even have dinner on shore if you like. Or if you have dinner on the ship you are doing it while the ship is anchored! It also goes a long way to reducing the stress around getting out and back from a shore excursion.

Nevertheless, when we arrived on shore the line to take the cable car up the hill stretched across the port. It looked like it was going to take two hours just to get into town but in the end the lined moved fairly quickly and it was only 30 minutes.

The island of Santorini is really just the rim of an ancient volcanic caldera that sticks up above the water. Its easy to see the outline of the circle in this picture:

Our goal for the day was to escape the crowds in the city by hiking from Fira to Oia a five mile walk along the rim of the caldera. Through all of the white villages with their shops and hotels. It sounded pretty easy and it didn’t even look like a very long walk when we were starting out. But it felt a lot longer as there was no breeze and the temperature got up to 32 C or about 90 F. The title of this post is a bit dramatic, as it was not that bad of a walk, and although in a few places we walked through volcanic gravel that insisted on getting in our shoes we had 3 hours of amazing views.

The long walk to Oia

When we arrived in Oia we badly needed a shower, or a dip in one of the many pools we passed on the way. Instead we found a nice little shady restaurant and revived ourselves with some carbonara and a glass of wine. We had escaped the crowds of Fira, seen a lot of beautiful scenery, and worked off a few calories hiking in the heat. It was a great day. Yes, it felt like a forced march a few times along the path to Oia in the heat, but as part of life’s journeys this was worth the effort.

Meanwhile, back on the ship is was Azamara’s white night night. Everyone was out on deck dressed in white and the crew was serving a great dinner. They had the webber kettle going and there were some great greek kabobs and other good food. To top off the evening we watched another great sunset over the rim of the volcano.

Jane and I in our whites

Another amazing sunset