"Azamara is more inclusive than it's ever been," president and CEO Larry Pimentel told reporters in a phone briefing, adding the types of passengers the line attracts prefer to pay upfront for their vacations and don't want to be "nickel-and-dimed" on board.
Though the line already offers select wine free at lunch and dinner, it has never offered free excursions. But nighttime touring "is an area that we're really going to push the envelope in," Pimentel said. Starting in 2013, in addition to new night tours available for purchase, Azamara will provide one free night experience – what executives call an "AzAmazing Evening" – that incorporates local flavor, both in terms of taste (food and drink) and culture (concerts, ballets and shows).
Examples of the 52 Exclusive Destination Events, which run two to three hours, include a red carpet arrival and private ballet performance in St. Petersburg or a sherry wine tasting and private equestrian ballet performance in Spain. Yalta, Kousadasi, Sorrento, Bilbao, Haifa and Gibraltar also will offer night events.
Bill Leiber, Azamara's chief blogging officer, detailed several more of the Exclusive Destination Events on the Cruise Critic message boards.
Azamara has been testing the night touring program for the past month to ensure the ship's crew could move 500 to 600 people to and from events without problems. One such test took passengers from Livorno to the Verrazano Castles in Tuscany, where tour-goers heard from historians and enjoyed a private concert by the Three Tenors. Response from passengers to the test programs has been positive, Pimentel said.
To participate in the free excursions, passengers need to sign up when they get onboard.
The complimentary night tour offer replaces the 50 percent off shore excursion program, which will be phased out simultaneously. Passengers sailing and prebooking excursions before March 2 for Azamara Quest or April 17 for Azamara Journey will still get 50 percent off when booking online at least four days before sailing. The new inclusions launch onboard Azamara Quest on March 27 and Azamara Journey on May 15.
Azamara Chief Blogging Officer Bill Leiber also posted about the program on Cruise Critic's message boards.
--by Dori Saltzman, News Editor