Notes from a Venice Virgin

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Guest relations, managed by the formidably talented Ngawhira Fleet (New Zealand) ably assisted by Louise Bissett (Scotland) were always there to smooth any wrinkles in the carpet before you. They made sure that you were looked after, and I noticed they gave additional time to the singles (like me) who appreciated just that little bit extra attention.

Crete

The only real problem I experienced was a continual temptation to overindulge with the plentiful food on offer. At the 9th floor buffet the lunchtime choices from 12.30pm to 3pm were almost over the top: fresh roasts, multiple salad choices, pasta, stir-fry and omelets made to order, fruit, tarts, ice-creams and a 24 hour supply of specialty teas and coffee.

The itinerary involved visits to Zadar, Dubrovnik, Crete and on to Athens, with plentiful shore excursions for those who wanted to explore locally. Apart from Dubrovnik, a wonderfully atmospheric ancient city with traces of plunder, rape, earthquake damage and decay all still hanging like a barely visible dust in the air, what I saw of Croatia did not do a great deal for me. At one point I found myself in a café surrounded by people talking in a language I had never heard before, gazing at a menu which listed incomprehensible options, with the prospect of having to pay in a currency I neither understood nor indeed possessed. However, everyone seemed to be puffing away on strange smelling cigarettes, so I lit up a Marlboro Light and immediately began to feel better. (For the sake of the record, I do believe it was Zadar, which struck me as an especially one-horse town, particularly on a rainy day.)

Greek Islands

So, Azamara Cruises provide a high-end experience at a middle-range price, and their efforts to please and to ensure that each and every guest is looked after with a degree of individual attention is remarkable. In this highly competitive market where many operators are cutting (or charging more for) additional services, Azamara seem to be keen to add things on, taking theoretical comments from passengers and turning them into practical options. So it does seem they have uncovered a niche market, but one I suspect will grow rapidly and thus be taken up by other operators who will surely not want to be left behind in Azamara’s wake.

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