5 charming European port cities only small ships can reach

An Azamara ship waits off the coast of Hvar, Croatia.

Savvy travelers know that smaller is better, and that’s certainly true on an Azamara cruise.

With passenger capacity around 700, each of the cruise line’s 4 vessels—Azamara Pursuit, Azamara Journey, Azamara Quest, and the newest, Azamara Onward—offer a personalized, boutique feel. These mid-sized ships are nimble. They can access less-touristed ports that most larger cruise ships can’t reach, particularly in the sun-saturated countries along the Mediterranean Sea.

Azamara’s country-intensive itineraries offer in-depth exploration of both well-known and less-visited ports. These offer more time in port, including overnights. This gives guests the opportunity to linger and experience an immersive vacation without crowds. Here are just 5 charming Mediterranean ports you can visit on an Azamara luxury cruise.

1. Seville, Spain

The Gardens of the Real Alcázar Palace in Seville, Spain.

The Gardens of the Real Alcázar Palace in Seville, Spain. ©malajscy/Adobe Stock

Something to consider when visiting Seville on a cruise: It’s not on the coast. Most large cruise ships must moor at Cádiz, Spain, and then bus passengers 75 miles inland to reach the historic city.

But on an Azamara cruise, you’ll have a unique opportunity to cruise up the Guadalquivir River directly to Seville. That means extra time—2 overnights—to explore in depth the capital of Andalusia, one of Spain’s oldest cities.

Seville’s Old Town offers 3 UNESCO World Heritage Sites in just 2 square miles. Tour the fortified Islamic-style Alcázar royal gardens and palace, with its intricate plaster and tile work. Then enjoy Seville’s nightlife at Tablao Flamenco El Arenal, one of the top flamenco venues in the world.

Couple dining at Taberna el Papelon in Seville, Spain

Couple dining at Taberna el Papelon in Seville, Spain. Photo courtesy Azamara.

Onboard its ships, Azamara continues the Spanish influences in its craft cocktails and cuisine. If you’re cruising on Azamara Quest or Azamara Journey, rest your tired feet while savoring tapas and sangria at the al fresco Sunset Bar.

2. Paros, Greece

White buildings with blue doors line a walkway in Parikia, Greece

Old town of Parikia on Paros island in Greece. ©Mazur Travel/Adobe Stock.

Paros is in Cyclades, the same island chain as Mykonos and Santorini. It offers all the magic of the more popular islands with far fewer crowds, as you’ll discover on a country-intensive cruise through Greece with Azamara.

Your ship will call at Parikia, enchanting with its white buildings splashed with brightly painted doors. Wander the winding streets, where shops offer a rainbow of goods, including wide-brimmed hats, boutique clothing, and painted pottery. Celebrate your souvenir finds on Parikia’s plaza, savoring a scoop of artisan gelato or a glass of the local white wine, retsina, at a taverna. 

Guests clad in all white dancing aboard an Azamara ship

Azamara’s on-deck White Night party. Photo courtesy Azamara.

The celebratory mood continues onboard with Azamara’s on-deck White Night party. A highlight of any sailing, this celebration is especially memorable set against the turquoise Aegean Sea. 

3. Amorgos, Greece

Chora set against white buildings on Amorgos island

Chora, the capital, looms over Amorgos island in Greece. ©imagIN photography/AdobeStock.

With its dramatic cliffs, buttery soft beaches, and a notable shipwreck visible from the shore, Amorgos, also in the Cyclades, seems like a movie set. And it was. Luc Besson’s 1988 film Le Grand Bleu starring Jean Reno was filmed here.

Star in your own vacation feature by strolling the beach town of Katapola, where your ship will dock. Then, take a taxi ride or an hourlong hike to the village of Chora, said to resemble a swallow’s nest clinging to the hillside, to marvel at its dazzling views.

Feeling adventurous? Climb the 350 steps to the 1,000-year-old Panagia Hozoviotissa monastery, renowned for its brilliant-white, narrow façade. Reward your efforts with a sip of homegrown concoction rakomelo, which combines the Greek spirit raki with cinnamon, cloves, and thyme honey. 

4. Koper, Slovenia

Vineyard in Koper, Slovenia

Vineyard in Koper, Slovenia. Photo courtesy Azamara.

Just 3 miles from Italy on the Adriatic Coast, Koper is bilingual and heavily influenced by Italian culture. The medieval city with Venetian-inspired architecture bustles now, so it’s surprising to learn that it once was a rocky island inhabited by only goats. 

Crowds of people seated beside the Bell Tower

Bell Tower in Koper, Slovenia. Photo courtesy Azamara.

The city is best enjoyed at a leisurely pace, and you won’t have to hurry because Azamara gives its guests ample time in port.

Start by climbing the bell tower in Old Town for panoramic vistas. Then, stop in Carpaccio Square, named for Venetian Renaissance painter Vittore Carpaccio, renowned for the vibrant reds in his works.

If you want to explore beyond the city, Azamara offers several shore excursions from Koper. You might pedal a bike past vineyards and authentic fishing villages. Ride in a vintage van through the countryside to an estate for olive oil tasting. Or sail in a traditional wooden boat on picturesque Lake Bled, to visit Bled Island and learn about medieval history.

You may also like: 8 great European cities for food lovers

5. Hvar, Croatia

Small ships fill the harbor off the coast of Hvar, Croatia

View of the harbor in Hvar, Croatia. ©rustamank/Adobe Stock.

With its famous lavender fields that bloom in the summer, 13th-century fortifications, and year-round sunshine, the Croatian island of Hvar is a highlight on many Mediterranean cruises.

Yes, sunbathing is popular at this idyllic location on the Dalmatian Coast. But Hvar offers so much more. Try local wines from Croatia’s top wine region. Walk the centuries-old streets. Nibble on grilled seafood and local snacks. Tour the Cathedral of St. Stephen, the Arsenal, and the Franciscan Monastery. Or take an off-road tour through the hills of olive groves and vineyards, one of several Azamara shore excursions from this port.

At the end of an active day, guests aboard Azamara Onward are in for a treat. Cap off a blissful day with a signature cocktail creation at the new ship’s Atlas Bar. Try the Mumbai Hug, featuring in-house chili-infused vodka and ginger syrup with fresh lime juice and cilantro. Pair your drink with light bites in a chic space that, much like Hvar, brings contemporary touches to a legacy of Azamara’s country-club tradition.

Azamara ships

Limited-time savings on Azamara cruises

Book select 2023 and 2024 cruises by March 31, 2023, for 40% savings and $300 additional onboard credit per stateroom.

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