Azamara Pursuit: the South Africa Intensive Voyage

The race for novelty and exclusivity in the cruise industry has materialized in recent years, especially in the search for increasingly stunning ships, a wider range of onboard services, and extreme experiences, both on board and ashore.

The common concept of cruising has always been about visiting as many places as possible, preferably as diverse as possible, during the same itinerary. Azamara Voyages represents a product of extreme interest as it has found a unique path between these two realities and recent trends by being exclusive and different from all other fleets.

The trend of paying more attention to itineraries and the cultural aspects they can offer has been known for some years and has become a part of numerous cruise companies, especially premium and luxury ones that, with a small average number of guests, can guarantee access to exclusive ports and offer personalized excursions. This type of travel experience is particularly realized in extreme locations such as the Arctic and Antarctica, where the impact of extraordinary landscapes alone justifies the entire cruise.

Azamara Voyages has recently introduced the philosophy of “Immersive Voyages,” itineraries designed to focus on a single country or region to truly explore the visited places in depth and with various opportunities for discovery. This concept is different from the classic cruise stops, sometimes even just for half a day, because they are focused on reaching as many cities as possible. Azamara, with its fleet of four ships, instead offers the opportunity to choose a destination and understand it thoroughly, with numerous overnights that allow excursions and stays inland, revolutionizing the sense of cruising as an exciting but often superficial and hectic journey.

We decided to get up close to this reality, embarking on an extraordinary journey to discover South Africa aboard Azamara Pursuit. A 10-day itinerary focused on this wonderful country that the company offers throughout the winter season with Cape Town as the homeport. Like every Azamara “Immersive Voyage,” the perspective is to devote oneself entirely to the discovery of a country, with its natural beauty, culture, and traditions. And that’s exactly what we had the opportunity to appreciate, from the first hours spent on board, admiring Cape Town from the Waterfront area as Azamara Pursuit set sail for the first time.

The well-planned itinerary immediately included two days of navigation, which helped us relax, get to know the ship and its services, and prepare for the first exciting and challenging excursions. The first stop of the itinerary is Durban, where, after a brief city visit, we have our first encounter with the magic of South African animals and nature. Visiting the Tala Game Reserve, we observe the first rhinos, antelopes, giraffes. Intense colors, wonderful landscapes, just a few kilometers from the big city. Continuing north along the Indian Ocean coast, we reach Richards Bay, where the first overnight is planned. The first day is dedicated to the St. Lucia Wetland Park, where we discover the first hippos living in these waters during a river cruise. They are large families, living together and enjoying the warm South African sun, occasionally emerging from the waters. Images that accumulate gradually and make our experience more and more fascinating.

The next day, we explore one of the country’s most famous parks, the Hluhluwe Game Reserve, the oldest in South Africa. Here, the wild nature is truly palpable, and it’s extremely exciting to traverse the internal roads in a simple car, glimpsing elephants, zebras, buffaloes through the windows. Many small appearances that familiarize us with the discovery but never make us accustomed to these beauties and the thrill of being just meters away from animals so distant from our daily lives.

After two days of intense safaris, it’s time for navigation again. Azamara Pursuit reaches the waters of Mozambique for cabotage law reasons, with a brief technical stop in Maputo. It’s not part of our Intensive Voyage, entirely dedicated to South Africa, and shortly after, we reverse the route and sail south to Port Elizabeth. Here, too, an overnight is planned to fully enjoy this beautiful region.

The first day is dedicated to the Kariega Game Reserve, one of the most beautiful places we had the opportunity to visit on this cruise. Not only wonderful animals, from lions to impalas to giraffes. But also incredible nature, with green hills, watercourses, lush vegetation. A true paradise to traverse with devotion and respect, and a touch of excitement for any sudden appearance of animals.

During this magical day, emotions don’t end upon returning from the excursion. It is, in fact, the day of the Azamazing Event Night offered within the Feather Market Centre in Port Elizabeth. At dusk, all Azamara Pursuit guests move to the city center and are welcomed with a drink, music, and figures dressed in traditional attire inside this splendid theater structure. Shortly after, we are immersed in a show of lights, music, and dance, capable of conveying the true essence of local culture in an entertainment and fun context. An enriching moment, like every Azamazing Event, that will be part of the most indelible memories of the cruise experience. The careful and impeccable organization transforms the event itself into something magical, concluding with music on board the ship as soon as we return to the port.

The next day, we are still in Port Elizabeth. The weather is wonderful, with a beautiful sun shining on the city, and it’s time to prepare for another safari. We chose the Kragga Gamma Game Park, not far from the city, to deepen our knowledge of animals and discover new ones. Safaris are wonderful adventures that blend the adrenaline of discovering marvelous animals with the relaxation of places, so peaceful and wild, that convey the true beauty of this extraordinary country. In this reserve, we approach a family of rhinos so closely that we can hear their breath. But also lionesses, saved many years ago from the sad fate of a circus, and now living in this park, giving emotions to the guests observing them beyond the enclosure. But we are also surrounded by ostriches, buffaloes, and elegant giraffes.

After leaving Port Elizabeth, the itinerary includes a morning stop in Mossel Bay, from where it is possible to explore the famous Garden Route, one of the most beautiful roads in South Africa, with breathtaking views of the sea and incredible panoramas inland. It’s time to return to Cape Town, where fortunately, we have the third overnight of the cruise to enjoy the city and discover all its charm. Azamara Pursuit docks right at the Waterfront, and it is extremely easy to reach the key points of the city.

The morning, with a splendid sun and clear sky, is perfect for ascending Table Mountain, a symbol of the city. Breathtaking panorama, overlooking the Cape, the city, the entire bay extending endlessly towards the ocean. A truly fascinating place, which we imagine has remained the same for centuries in its simplicity and beauty. In the afternoon, we explore the city center, returning to the Waterfront area, which is undoubtedly the liveliest part of the city. Restaurants, bars, shops of all kinds, and a large shopping center represent the pulsating heart of this area, animated at every hour of the day. At dusk, it becomes even more charming, with an infinite series of lights, many people strolling and crowding the restaurants, and our Azamara Pursuit proudly displaying itself just behind the promenade. Outdoor dinner on the Sunset Veranda is the best way to continue enjoying the city, even in the comfort of already being on board, ready for disembarkation the next day.

Azamara Pursuit, one of the four sister ships in the Azamara Voyages fleet derived from the renowned R-class of Renaissance, is ideal for this type of itinerary, dedicated to the discovery of countries with intense and overnight-rich itineraries. Its medium-small size makes it perfect for accessing small ports or organizing tender landings. It has ample spaces on the external decks, allowing guests to enjoy navigation and the warm climates expected in itineraries around the world, and the interiors are elegant, inspired by a classic but timeless taste. Recent refittings have ensured excellent maintenance despite the age of this class of ships, still perfectly enjoyable and, in fact, bringing us back to the true essence of cruises.

The gastronomic offer is rich in relation to the number of passengers. Alongside the Discoveries Restaurant, the main restaurant, there are several other options. The buffet is open for every meal and in the evening always offers regional specialties, also proposing dinners in the beautiful outdoor Veranda that are always different and engaging. The Patio is another informal alternative, located on the Lido Deck, open until late afternoon, with grill specialties, salads, and excellent ice cream. The two specialty restaurants, Prime-C and Aqualina, can combine excellent dishes in two cozy and scenic environments, with large windows overlooking the sea. Whether they are classics of Italian cuisine, like those offered by Aqualina, or incredible meat cuts like those provided by Prime-C, a dinner in these restaurants represents much more than a meal but a beautiful experience that enriches the memory of an extraordinary journey.

Other initiatives set up by Azamara Voyages to make the journey “intense” even on board are also extraordinary. The White Night, for example, is an onboard party night, with a dinner under the stars prepared in the Lido area, enriched by dances and entertainment. Even more precious thanks to the intervention of a group of South African dancers who performed with great skill, immersing the guests in the most authentic local tradition. Just as we appreciated an incredible evening at Aqualina, which offered a perfect combination of dishes with musical interludes by the onboard opera singer. Many small moments that make up the mosaic of an unforgettable cruise.

The friendly, professional, and always available staff adds value to the travel experience, making guests feel comfortable from the first steps on board. And it lasts throughout the cruise, creating an atmosphere of familiarity and friendliness that is an integral part of the uniqueness of Azamara Voyages. These service peculiarities, well-maintained ships, a 24-hour active room service, represent the company’s value alongside the fundamental choice we talked about, namely offering truly extraordinary itineraries.

A winning combination, capable of attracting for the exclusivity of the ports and the possibility of really exploring the chosen destination in depth, without sacrificing the comfort and well-being on board, thanks to the services offered by the fleet, the quality of the service, and the atmosphere of great complicity that is established on Azamara Voyages. The desire felt as soon as we disembarked is therefore to browse the elegant catalog and start choosing another “Immersive Voyage,” not without the difficulty of orienting ourselves from Japan to South America, from Norway to the splendid Mediterranean.

With Azamara’s philosophy, it is not necessary for the destination to be completely new: we can certainly experience it in a different way, thanks to the immersive experience, overnights, and exclusive excursions.

Stay tuned for further updates, information, and reviews of Azamara Voyages on Cruising Journal with photos, videos, and cruises on offer.

Gabriele Bassi