Autumn cruising the Mediterranean with Azamara Pursuit

From the glitz and glam of Monte Carlo to the Napoleonic history of Ajaccio plus a close encounter with a sea turtle along the way: Carole’s Western Mediterranean cruise with Azamara was full of Azamazing experiences

Autumn is a great time to cruise the Mediterranean. The fierce heat of summer has subsided leaving temperatures perfect for exploring yet warm enough to relax by the pool with a refreshing pre-dinner mojito (or whatever cocktail/mocktail rocks your boat). Our 7-night ‘Mediterranean Jewels’ voyage from Civitavecchia (Rome) to Barcelona aboard Azamara Pursuit visited some fascinating ports. The boutique ship’s small size allowed it to dock close to the centre of the action with no queuing for tenders to ferry guests to and fro.

On board Azamara Pursuit

With around 500 passengers (max 702) comprising a lively mix of mostly American and British guests of all ages from 20 to 90+ and several solo travellers, the ship never felt crowded. No queues for the lifts or battles for sunbeds, and plenty of elegant lounges and bars offering a choice of quiet relaxation or lively activities. The ship also sports a spacious fitness area, spa and a running/walking/meandering track.  We found the 400+ crew attentive, helpful and friendly, with the captain and officers very visible.

Our stateroom

Our accessible stateroom accommodated my husband’s manual wheelchair with ease, giving us welcome extra space and a well-equipped bathroom with grab rails and a shower seat. We were adjacent guest relations and close to the lifts but did not hear any noise above the sound of the engines. The bed was extremely comfortable with handy USB ports beneath the reading lights. The desk area had a UK 3-pin plug and a couple of European plug sockets. A sofa, large TV and mini bar completed the room along with plenty of wardrobe and cupboard space, drawers and hangers. All was kept spotless by our friendly steward.

Dining

There’s no risk of going hungry with Azamara. Breakfast and lunch are served in Windows café with a generous buffet of hot and cold, sweet and savoury options plus an egg station. This is also the place to go for nightly themed buffet dinners. On warmer mornings I loved breakfasting outside with a fantastic view of Monte Carlo one morning and the majestic Cathedral in Palma the next. Discoveries, the main restaurant for dinner, serves up good quality food in generous portions. For fine dining, guests can book the two specialty restaurants – an Italian ‘Aquilina’ and a Steakhouse/seafood ‘Prime C’ at an additional cost. Our favourite place for a light lunch or afternoon snack was Mosaic Café with a fine choice of freshly ground coffees, delightful finger sandwiches, savoury mini-buns and cakes.

Entertainment on board ship

The Azamara Azamazing evening certainly lived up to its name with the arrival of the famed Incanto Quartet – four talented female singers who regularly support Andrea Bocelli. Their beautifully blended voices took us on a medley from Abba to Opera. There were inhouse shows every night, a piano bar, a band and a disco, so something to suit most tastes. And of course the White Night when everyone dresses in white and parties ‘til the early hours! Daytime activities included quiz shows, bingo, card games, deck games, darts and health seminars as well as destination lectures.

Excursions

Azamara’s booklet of shore excursions offered a tempting array of experiences at each port from strenuous hikes to historic and architectural adventures, priced from $59 to $489 pp. As the majority offered on this cruise were not suited to wheelchair users, and my husband was happy to relax on board, I chose to explore on my own direct from the ship at no extra cost. This gave me the flexibility to pop back to have lunch with my husband and ensure he was safely ensconced in the Drawing Room for a quiet read. Azamara’s Guest Relations supplied a useful map and fact sheet for each port and I used Google maps on my phone to give me directions along with helpful timings to avoid an ungainly sprint back before final boarding. Sadly, it didn’t factor in my amazing ability, to stride off confidently in the wrong direction along three of the four streets facing me at a crossroads in Palma city centre, much to the amusement of people-watching pavement diners.

Ports of call

Civitavecchia (Rome)

The voyage commenced at the port of Civitavecchia, around 80km from Rome city centre and 60km from Fiumicino Airport. As Rome has long been on my wishlist, we booked a two-night pre-cruise hotel stay along with a private accessible tour of the eternal city. Rome is truly awesome – nothing could have prepared me for my first glimpse of the Colosseum and the wave of emotions it evinced.

Livorno (Florence and Pisa)

Azamara Pursuit spent two days docked in Livorno as part of the company’s commitment to immersive port experiences. This allowed guests time to explore the must-see sites of Florence (90 mins), the iconic leaning tower of Pisa (35 mins) and to venture further afield to the colourful coastal yowns of the Cinque Terre (105 mins), or the walled cities of San Gimignano (90 mins), Lucca (48 mins) Volterra (74 mins).  There was also an option to wander around Livorno’s Venice District with its network of canals and the crumbling Fortezza Vecchia.

Monaco (Monte Carlo)

We had expected a tender for Monaco so were delighted to find ourselves docked on the quayside near the centre. I spent the morning strolling past closely guarded designer boutiques to the world-famous glittering gold and marble Casino. You can step inside the grand atrium for free in the morning but p.m. there is a dress code for the gaming rooms and you need photo ID. A breezy walk along the seafront led me to the Oceanographic Museum that occupies a dramatic cliffside location. I felt more at home amidst the awesome and natural undersea world standing inches from a rescued sea turtle, delicate sea horses and sleek sharks than rubbing shoulders with the rich and famous. I also squeezed in a visit Princess Grace’s Rose Garden, the cathedral and a wander along the routes followed by the infamous Monte Carlo Rally, peppered with statues of drivers and their cars.

Ajaccio

We arrived at the birthplace of Napoleon Bonaparte in bright sunshine and found the city alive with a bustling local market emitting tantalising aromas of cured meats and cheeses, and the acrid smoke of roasting nuts. It was Armistice Day and on my ramblings to find the well-hidden but well-worth-a-visit Maison Bonaparte I was literally stopped in my tracks by a coach disgorging a marching band. They set off to a rather solemn beat but livened up at the Cathedral, where I inadvertently took mass (I had just sat down to ease a back pain and felt too embarrassed to leave!)

Mahon, Minorca

This pretty little port was very sleepy on a Sunday so after a quick wander around the harbour and up to the fortifications I returned to the ship for a relax by the pool. I wished I had taken an excursion to see more of the island.

Palma de Mallorca

As the port was a 50-minute walk from the city centre, Azamara laid on a free shuttle bus to the magnificent honey-coloured cathedral. From here I headed to the fascinating 10th century Arab Baths dating back to the times of Moorish rule. I also discovered some excellent galleries: the Fundación Bartolomé March where I wandered alone among statutes by Henry Moore, Barbara Hepworth and Auguste Rodin, and the Museu Fundación Juan March where I enjoyed works by Salvador Dali, Picasso and Joan Miró for free. Emerging from these peaceful places I was plunged into bustling streets with a lively vibe. Definitely a city worth a longer visit.

Barcelona

This enchanting city was our final port of call. Guests had the option of several excursions in the city and surrounding areas with overnight at a hotel or a transfer direct to the airport. The trip to the stunningly beautiful monastery in the multi-peaked mountain range of Montserrat looked particularly tempting. One for the wishlist. We took advantage of Azamara’s coach transfer to the airport as we had an early flight home and I had previously visited Barcelona in depth.

Final thoughts

Azamara Pursuit is the perfect ship for independent travellers seeking a boutique cruising experience with interesting and immersive itineraries. Docking close to major centres made it possible to spend time wandering the ports or arrange your own tour if none of the many organised excursions appealed. On sail days there is a range of activities on board and plenty of space to find your own corner. Open dining means you are not restricted by fixed dinner times, unless you book one of the specialty restaurants. The accessible staterooms are perfect for wheelchair users and we found it easy to manoeuvre around the ship. If you are hoping to explore the destinations together we recommend checking out the shore excursions tour descriptions for your planned cruise as we found many on this particular cruise were not recommended for wheelchair users or guests with limited mobility.   

Next steps

Carole and her husband enjoyed a 7-night Mediterranean Jewels cruise aboard Azamara Pursuit.

Take a look at Azamara’s four boutique ocean-going ships, sailing to destinations worldwide, taking you to ports where larger ships won’t fit and allowing for a greater immersive experience. Contact our Silver Travel Advisors on 0800 412 5678 to book your cruise with Azamara.

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Carole Tidball

2 Responses

  1. Yes a very helpful information as my daughter and I are on the Azamara Pursuit in August 2024 looking forward to the cruising experience.

    1. It is a lovely ship. I felt very proud as I walked back towards it after my daily excursions. I am sure you will both have a wonderful time.

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