As someone who normally flocks to the Caribbean islands for some reprieve, I wanted to try something a little different for my milestone birthday. Since my husband had never been to Europe, we thought we might do a “sampler” of various spots and the best way to do that was a cruise.

There are so many great cruising options in Europe that we had a hard time deciding which one would be best for us. Europe has a lot of smaller cruise lines with a large focus on service, quality, and destination. Viking, AmaWaterways, and Azamara are a few examples. While it was a hard choice, we ultimately chose Azamara because of the itinerary it offered. Specifically, they dock for longer, including late night and even some overnight stays, which gave us more time to explore the destinations. They also tout themselves to be the leader in Destination Immersion experiences, so it became a no-brainer for us as we love to soak in the culture of wherever we are visiting.

We chose an 11-night Italy intensive cruise. We had just come back from nine days in Greece, so we were ecstatic to only have to unpack our suitcase once! These ships are smaller for a more intimate trip. You really get to know the staff and other passengers as you don’t get lost in a sea of thousands of people. Our cruise only had 250 guests on board! Because of this small number of guests, the cruise line was focused on quality offerings from the wonderful food across all restaurants, to the cultural activities that come aboard at port stops, such as opera singers and various other entertainers.

Having a smaller ship also means that you can get into ports that other larger cruise lines can’t get into. Had we taken a larger line, we would have missed Kotor, Montenegro which is a small narrow port and one of our favorite stops on the cruise. Here we were able to climb up the side of a mountain to an abandoned fortress, see amazing views of the Bay and surrounding town, and also try squid ink pasta which was delicious!

As mentioned, another one of my favorite things about the European cruises and Azamara in particular, are the later days in port and overnight stays. Our cruise stopped in a port very close to Florence, Italy where we had an overnight stay. We were able to easily hop on a train into the city for the night. We spent an amazing evening strolling the streets of Florence, enjoying a late-night gelato and cappuccino listening to street music, all without a concern of having to be back to port by a certain time. The next day we went on a wonderful winery tour through Tuscany and the medieval town of San Gimignano! I highly recommend this tour. We went to two different wineries where we not only got to sample their wines, but also a variety of olive oils and balsamic vinegars. One of the wineries even had cows where they made their own cheese! Another late-night port stop gave us time to visit the island of Capri for the entire day. Between the amazing food and gorgeous scenery, this is a trip that won’t be soon forgotten.

For those of you not quite sure where you want to go, but want to experience as much as possible, you really can’t go wrong with one of these European lines that will give you the opportunity to see so many different places in such a short period of time! Reach out so we can start planning yours!