With their stunning coastal landscapes, picturesque villages, and rich cultural heritage, the enchanting Mediterranean regions of Turkey and Greece are perfect for couples seeking an unforgettable getaway. And as our Editor, Natalie Bannister, discovers, there’s no better way to experience the beauty of this region than with Azamara Cruises, a boutique cruise line that offers a personalised and intimate journey like no other.
A Boutique Cruise Experience in the Mediterranean
When it comes to luxury cruises, Azamara Cruises stands out from the crowd. With a boutique experience that exceeds expectations, they offer a range of world-class dining options, leisure services, and lively entertainment. Every aspect of your journey with Azamara Cruises is carefully curated to ensure a romantic and unforgettable experience. And, unlike larger cruise lines, Azamara’s ships are designed to reach destinations that others cannot touch. This exclusivity allows for late evenings and overnights in port, giving you ample time to truly immerse yourself in the destinations you visit. Each day is a new adventure, with the freedom to explore each destination at your own style and pace.
Exploring the Cultural Heritage of Istanbul
The romantic journey begins in Turkey’s Istanbul, a city that straddles two continents and bridges the gap between East and West. Istanbul offers a fascinating mix of architecture, cuisine, and people that reflects its rich history. Start your exploration with visits to iconic landmarks such as the Hagia Sophia, a masterpiece of Byzantine architecture, and the Blue Mosque, known for its exquisite Iznik blue tiles and stunning interior; immerse yourself in the bustling atmosphere of the Grand Bazaar, one of the world’s largest and oldest covered markets, where you can shop for unique jewellery, carpets, spices, and ceramics; and step back in time at the Topkapı Palace, the magnificent residence of Ottoman sultans for over 400 years, and experience the opulence of the empire. Don’t miss the opportunity to descend into the Basilica Cistern, an underground water reservoir hidden beneath Istanbul’s historical peninsula, and marvel at its mind-blowing size and scale — it’s absolutely breathtaking!
A Journey Through Time: Exploring The Historic Turkish Coastline
Azamara Cruises takes pride in its destination-focused approach, providing unique daily shore excursions that delve into the rich history of each port. Along the Turkish coastline, a plethora of historic sites await exploration, offering a journey through time and a glimpse into the ancient civilisations that once thrived in this region.
Your first port of call is Canakkale, a vibrant port city in southwestern Turkey. Join an excursion to the archaeological site of the ancient city of Troy, known for its legendary connection to the Trojan War. Pay tribute to the lives lost during World War I at the poignant Gallipoli Peninsula, where you can participate in a guided tour to explore this hallowed ground.
Another must-visit destination is the ancient city of Ephesus, located near Kuşadası, a beach resort town on Turkey’s western Aegean coast. This remarkable archaeological gem dates back to the Greek, Persian, Roman, Byzantine, and Ottoman empires and is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Here, we join one of Azamara’s shore excursions and let an expert guide lead us through the city ruins, sharing intriguing stories and insights as we stroll the ancient streets, marveling at the open-air amphitheater that once seated 25,000 people, and standing in awe at the Library of Celsus, an impressive building that once housed over 12,000 scrolls.
But the wonders of Ephesus don’t end there. Azamara Cruises offers an ever-changing lineup of unique and immersive cultural experiences called AzAmazing Evenings. These signature events showcase each destination’s local culture and heritage, and on our 11-night Turkey to Greece cruise, we’re immersed in the beauty and history of Ephesus with a romantic concert of classical music surrounded by the ruins of the ancient city. Picture yourself sitting in the open-air Odeon Theatre, surrounded by ancient columns, as a symphony orchestra performs pieces by Bach and Mozart under the starry night sky. It’s a truly unforgettable experience.
Where History Meets Seaside Charm: Discovering Cesme
Continuing our romantic journey with Azamara Cruises, we reach Cesme, a charming town located on the Cesme Peninsula on the Aegean Coast of Turkey, a seaside haven that is known for its rich history. Take a leisurely stroll through its cobbled streets, passing by the 14th-century Genoese fortress, and immerse yourself in the town’s laid-back atmosphere; seek out one of the area’s many popular beach clubs for a day of seaside pleasures; or, for a picturesque village experience, do as we did and head to Alacati, just a short drive away. This colourful Aegean gem, with its Greek heritage and well-preserved stone houses, offers narrow, bougainvillea-framed cobblestone streets lined with boutiques, bars, and restaurants, and is a perfect place to spend a few hours soaking up the street scenes and relaxed atmosphere.
Patmos and The Azamara White Night Party
As we wake up on our first morning in Greece, we find ourselves arriving on the island of Patmos, also known as the Island of the Apocalypse. Disembarking from Azamara’s tender to explore Skala, the island’s main port and largest town, we stroll along the long promenade, with its shops and restaurants, and soak in the pleasant atmosphere before making our way to Chora, a picturesque settlement about four kilometres away.
Chora offers elegant white mansions, fortified buildings, and medieval architecture. Atop a hill, you’ll find the Monastery of Saint John the Theologian, an imposing structure that offers breathtaking views of the surrounding landscape. After exploring Chora, we return to Skala and enjoy a meal at a waterside taverna, savouring traditional Greek dishes and taking in the views of fishing boats and luxury yachts in the small port, followed by a refreshing swim in the crystalline waters of Skala Beach before returning to Azamara Quest for an evening to remember.
Tonight is all about Azamara’s signature celebration, the White Night Party, where guests are invited to don their favourite white attire and dance the night away under the starry sky, and we’re ready to party in style.
As the sun sets over Patmos, the White Night Party warms up on the pool deck of Azamara Quest. There are dazzling white lights, shimmering decorations, and stylishly dressed guests everywhere you look. The Dom Perignon and Veuve Clicquot are chilling, and we sip on signature cocktails expertly crafted by talented mixologists before feasting at the (absolutely sensational!) buffet before hitting the dance floor for a night of fun and celebration at sea.
Santorini: The Gem of the Aegean
Sailing into Santorini, we’re instantly captivated by its breathtaking clifftop vista of white-washed villages. Azamara Quest docks just offshore from the vibrant town of Fira, nestled on the rim of a caldera 900 feet above the sea, and we take a tender to the cable cars that shuttle tourists up the steep cliffs to explore the charming streets of the town. While some of our fellow passengers opt to venture to the picturesque settlement of Oia, known for its famous sunsets and blue-domed churches, we instead settle in at one of Fira’s superb cliffside restaurants to relax and indulge in a leisurely three-hour-long lunch, savouring simple, delicious Greek dishes and local wines. With the caldera and boutique hotels spilling down the cliffside to the sea as our backdrop, it was a perfectly romantic way to enjoy the relaxed charm and beauty of this iconic Greek island.
Mykonos: Cosmopolitan Charm and Relaxation
Azamara Cruises ensured that we arrived early, ahead of the other cruise ships, to maximise our time on the cosmopolitan island of Mykonos with fewer crowds. We set out to explore the charming streets of Little Venice and Mykonos Town, enjoying the romantic atmosphere created by the whitewashed buildings and narrow alleyways, and indulge in a meal at one of the many quaint cafes and visit one of the island’s beautiful beaches for some sun and relaxation.
As evening falls, head back to Mykonos Town, which comes alive after dark. Enjoy a candlelit dinner at a rooftop restaurant, dance the night away at one of the island’s famous clubs, or simply take a moonlit walk along the waterfront. Mykonos offers the perfect backdrop for a night of romance before catching the last tender back to your luxury quarters on Azamara Quest.
Fine Dining and On-Board Indulgence: A Culinary Journey
While exploring the incredible cuisine of Turkey and Greece during your journey, you’ll also have the pleasure of experiencing the culinary delights aboard Azamara Quest. The ship offers a range of dining options that will satisfy even the most discerning gourmands.
Head to Windows Cafe for a casual buffet experience featuring cuisines from around the world. Each day, the cafe showcases a “Dish of the Day” that highlights the local cuisine of the port you’re visiting. Enjoy sweeping views of the Aegean Sea as you indulge in the breakfast buffet, the perfect way to start your day.
For an Italian fine dining experience, visit Aqualina, where sumptuous flavours transport you to the heart of Italy. If you’re craving steaks and seafood, Prime C offers a menu that tantalises the taste buds. Discoveries Bar and Restaurant, at the heart of the ship, offers a warm and inviting atmosphere in a refined setting. Enjoy romantic meals together over fine wines and memorable dishes.
Azamara Cruises also offers a variety of bars throughout the ship, each with its own unique ambiance. Start every evening with pre-dinner drinks in the elegant piano bar, The Den, and work your way through the menu of skilfully crafted cocktails that make up the Atlas Bar Experience. Meticulously concocted using freshly squeezed juices, handmade syrups, and a curated selection of spirits, the Atlas Bar Experience takes guests on a sensory journey that mirrors their voyage.
Bespoke Luxury on the High Seas: Unforgettable Moments
With its capacity for only 702 passengers, Azamara Quest provides an intimate and boutique-like atmosphere, setting it apart from other cruise ships. We loved our choice of a stay in the Veranda Staterooms, which offer modern decor and surprisingly large verandas, providing comfort and expansive ocean views. Watch as the ship docks and departs from each port, taking in the breathtaking scenery from your own private perch.
Your luxury experience extends beyond your sleeping quarters. Azamara Quest offers the Sanctum Spa, where you can indulge in a range of treatments, from massages to facials and body wraps. For those looking to stay active, the fitness centre is equipped with state-of-the-art equipment, and daily yoga and Pilates classes are available.
A Romantic Journey to Remember: Memories That Last a Lifetime
The 11-night voyage aboard Azamara Quest comes to an end in Athens, where we reflect on the unforgettable experiences, breathtaking landscapes, and delectable cuisine that have made this Aegean journey truly exceptional. From exploring the vibrant streets of Istanbul to immersing yourself in the ancient history of Ephesus, from savouring traditional Turkish and Greek flavours to indulging in life aboard Azamara Quest, every moment of our Mediterranean odyssey with Azamara Cruises has been filled with romance, discovery, and adventure.
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