Azamara’s new cruise ship Aamara Onward will sail a destination-heavy 21-night cruise from Dubai in the UAE to Istanbul in Turkey in 2024.
Although new to Azamara (the ship was purchased from Princess Cruises in 2021), Azamara Onward was actually built in 1999 and spent many years sailing as Pacific Princess prior to the pandemic.
Fully refurbished and refitted to Azamara standards, the ship is now the fourth vessel in the luxury boutique cruise line’s fleet, and this cruise from Dubai is in keeping with its reputation for destination-intensive itineraries.
During the voyage, the ship will make 12 port calls, most of them on consecutive days, with the longest stretch of days at sea during the six-day leg between Dubai and Jeddah in Saudi Arabia. Other ports of call include Sharm El Sheikh, Safaga and Port Sokhna in Egypt, Aqaba in Jordan, Ashdod and Haifa in Israel, and Bodrum and Kusadasi in Turkey before the cruise ends in Istanbul.
On the first leg between Dubai and Jeddah, Azamara invites passengers to spend the days relaxing at sea, sampling international dining, watching Broadway-calibre entertainment, or relaxing with a signature spa treatment.
Jeddah in Saudi Arabia is the burgeoning cruise destination’s primary cruise port, home to ancient architecture and beautifully maintained historic mosques. “Try some of Jeddah’s most beloved dishes, like fresh deep-fried fish, saleeg chicken and milky rice, or pillow-soft khubz bread,” the cruise line suggests.
Azamara Onward then spends another day at sea cruising for Sharm el Sheikh, Egypt, which sits on the southern tip of Sinai to the east of the Suez Canal, and is home to some of the world’s most spectacular dive sites. Land excursions include a visit to the foot of Mount Sinai and St. Catherine’s Monastery, which dates back to the 6th century.
The following day, Azamara Onward arrives in Aqaba, Jordan, the only port in the kingdom, and the gateway to ancient Petra. The city of Aqaba itself benefits from the warm, clear waters of the Red Sea, revealling brilliantly coloured tropical fish and coral, with several world-class beach resorts.
Inland, passengers will find the ancient “Rose City” of Petra, an archaeological wonder where magnificent temples and tombs are carved into red sandstone cliffs, from which the Nabatean Kingdom dominated the region in 300 BC.
Safaga in Egypt is the next port of call, and Azamara Onward stays overnight night so that passengers have time to visit nearby Luxor, the “world’s greatest open-air museum” and a gateway to the Valley of the Kings on the east bank of the Nile River.
On the west bank sits the site of ancient Thebes, the pharaohs’ capital at the height of their power, during the 16th–11th centuries BC. There are two huge, surviving ancient monuments: the graceful Luxor Temple and the Karnak Temple, a mile north.
This is the first of two consecutive port calls in Egypt. After Safaga, Azamara Onward cruises overnight to Sokhna, home to Khan al-Khalili, a giant bazaar that dates back to the 14th century when traveling traders would sell their wares from across Arabia.
Unfortunately, Azamara Onward doesn’t stay overnight here, as from Sokhna, passengers can take a tour to Cairo to visit the Great Pyramid of Giza, the Grand Egyptian Museum, and the National Museum of Egyptian Civilization. But, because there’s only one day in port, guests have to choose between Sokhna itself or Cairo.
Azamara Onward then makes for the Suez Canal, a 120-mile modern-day engineering marvel that connects the Red Sea with the Mediterranean, creating a short-cut between Europe and Asia that was dream of since the days of the Pharaohs, but wasn’t realised until the 19th century.
Once in the Mediterranean, Azamara Onwards makes for Jerusalem, one of the world’s most sacred cities, with a plethora of landmarks and temples that are sacred to all three Abrahamic religions.
The ship doesn’t stay overnight here, but doesn’t depart until 10pm at night, giving passengers time to walk along the Via Dolorosa, home to the Stations of the Cross, and see some of history’s holiest shrines, including the Western Wall.
“You can also venture outside the city to explore the imposing Masada Fortress overlooking the Dead Sea,” says Azamara.
The next port of call is Haifa, providing another opportunity to discover more archaeological and biblical sites of wonder, including Nazareth, Galilee, the Jordan River, and Elijah’s Cave, considered by some to be a place for miracle and a pilgrimage destination for Jewish, Christians, Muslims and the Druze for centuries.
In Haifa itself, passengers can also try the city’s famous shawarma, made with turkey thighs layered with lamb fat and stuffed into a pita with tahini sauce, pickles, and French fries, or explore iconic sites like the immaculately landscaped terraces of the Bahá’í Gardens and the gold-domed Shrine of the Báb. The nearby German Colony also offers shops, galleries and restaurants amid 19th-century architecture.
The ship then spends another day at sea cruising for Bodrum, Turkey, where another late-night stay is offered, giving passengers time to explore what was once the site of the Mausoleum at Halicarnassus—one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.
The second port call in Turkey, the ancient Turkish port of Ephesus, is another late departure, so that passengers can explore architectural and historical marvels like the Library of Celsus, the Odeon, and the House of the Virgin Mary.
At the end of a 21-night voyage of more than 4,000 nautical miles, Azamara Onward arrives in Istanbul, the bustling modern incarnation of what was once Constantinople, which once stood as the first link of the ancient Silk Road between Europe and Asia. Incidentally, the Silk Road was also around 4,000 nautical miles in length.
Istanbul is a mosaic of cultural diversity, and a lure for foodies, history buffs, and sightseers alike. Straddling the geostrategic Bosporus Strait, Istanbul has stood for more than 2,500 years between conflicting surges of religion, culture, and imperial power.
The Old City reflects the cultural influences of the many empires that once ruled here. In the Sultanahmet district, the open-air, Roman-era Hippodrome was for centuries the site of chariot races, and Egyptian obelisks also remain. The iconic Byzantine Hagia Sophia features a soaring 6th-century dome and rare Christian mosaics.
Categories: Middle East Cruise News, News
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