Thank you very much for your patience while our itinerary and shore excursion team is still reformulating the itinerary and developing new 'land discoveries' as a result of the unexpected tidal change in Bordeaux. As was explained to me, it's important to remember that this port is a "tidal" port which means that our vessel can only enter AND exit the port of Bordeaux based on the times provided to us by the local pilots.
As a result, this new time frame created a domino effect not only on the port prior to Bordeaux - Belle Ile, but also down-line after Bordeaux:
Belle Ile - Our originally scheduled stop in Bell Ile had to be cancelled as a result of the new Bordeaux departure timing change related to the tidal conditions of the Garonne river.
With respect to Bordeaux, in the first issue of our 2012 Destination Guide (US/Canada) no specific port times were indicated other than "PM" under "Arrive" and "Depart" and that it would offer an "overnight" stay because we were awaiting the tidal times from the pilots.
We will now arrive into Bordeaux at 03:15 AM on Sunday, August 12 due to the tides since we lost more than half a day that was set aside for Belle Ile. Departure from Bordeaux will be on August 13 at 03:30 PM. That offers you the entire DAY AND NIGHT in Bordeaux on August 12th ..PLUS until 03:30 PM on Monday - almost two full days.
Saint-Jean-De-Luz, France -
The port times in St. Jean de Luz actually provide more time than the original iteration ...around 29 hours rather than 20. However, rather than arrive at 04:00 PM, Tuesday, August 14, as originally scheduled, the vessel will now arrive at 08:00 AM. The sailing time the next day (Wednesday, August 15) was originally scheduled for 02:00 PM is now at 01:30 PM.
Pasajes (for San Sebastian, Spain) -
San Sebastian does not have a port and Pasajes is the closest port to San Sebastian at a distance of only 4 miles/6 km! It was originally scheduled as a evening call from Wednesday, August 15 at 05:30 PM until the next morning, Thursday, August 16 at 02:00 am. The intent of that original schedule offered an evening opportunity for you to visit the charming Old Town of San Sebastian and sample some of what are generally known as the best tapas bars in all of Spain.
With the new revised times of arriving Wednesday, August 15 at 04:30 PM and not departing until the next morning, Thursday, August 16 at 04:00 PM, you will still have the opportunity to sample the Tapas Bars of Old San Sebastian that evening, but also the next morning, to visit the very attractive and popular city of San Sebastian. We are hopeful that you will enjoy this popular town.
We have reached out to the Guggenheim Museum and we will be offering an early morning exclusive opening of the Guggenheim Museum beginning at 7:30AM on the morning of the August 17. Their normal opening hour is 10:00 AM. Because of limited staffing and opening hours, the museum will not be able to accommodate independent visitors for this early opening and thus guests wishing to see the inside of the museum are highly encouraged to take part on our organized tour.
Also, since the Journey departs Pasajes at 04:30PM on the August 16 and arrives in Bilbao at 11:30PM that same night, we will also offer an evening "overland" program that takes a select group of guests to Guetaria, Zumaia, and a pintxos (Spanish tapas) dinner experience at a two star Michelin restaurant in Azurmendi - all located along the way between Pasajes and Bilbao. The program will also take the guests by the Guggenheim in the evening so that they have an opportunity to view the beautiful architectural wonder of the museum before returning to the ship in Bilbao.
Both of the above programs are being finalized and will not be shown in our Land Discoveries programs section of our website. They should be posted there within the next 10 days; however, as soon as I have the confirmed operating details I will share them with all you on this thread.
I have shared your specific personal opinions about some of the port with our itinerary planner, who believes that this fascinating voyage offers some of the very best ports that can be visited in this part of the world:
Commencing with a full day in the charming and idyllic St. Peter Port followed by a relaxing day at sea.
Almost two full days and a night in amazing Bordeaux where, due to the small size of our vessel, the Azamara Journey will be berthing only minutes from the very heart of this attractive city.
St. Jean de Luz has always received rave reviews from our guests in the past and also offers easy access to magnificent Bayonne and the famous resort town of Biarritz.
And of course, Pasajes for San Sebastian and Bilbao have been addressed above.
Although the time in Porto has been reduced, there are excursions that offer highlights of this most interesting city in northern Portugal.
The voyage concludes with a noon arrival and full overnight in wonderful Lisbon.
We understand your disappointment about the impact that the unexpected tidal conditions on the originally published itinerary. Now, some of you find yourselves in a distressing position of having to reassess your initial positive expectations about your Azamara vacation rather than fast-forwarding yourselves into the voyage experience.
It's always a very difficult experience when the need arises to make an itinerary change, for whatever reason, for both our guests and ourselves. Nevertheless, it's one of the inescapable risks of the cruise product which explains why the industry is always sure to clearly state that itineraries are subject to change.
I think from a few of the comments expressed here and on Facebook, that perhaps we've lost some of your confidence about our integrity to continue to deliver the onboard experience that has been so highly rated by many of you and others who have had the opportunity to already vacation with us. It is within this context, "Ithikan," that "I assure you that we have not "shaved the itinerary to save money and have reneged on the promise of [our] advertisements." Further, there is no need to cause a "stir" on Facebook to get our attention. Our relationship with our current and future guest is our most important asset.
Please go directly to the Cruise Critic Azamara Forum to continue this discussion and any others that might arise because it's open and honest. We just want to be as good as we can be and that's why I spend time on Cruise Critic and the internet's cruise message boards.
Travelers need to book what they believe to be the best for them. I'm hopeful that many of you will find this revised itinerary acceptable and if so, we are grateful for your support.
Chief Blogging Officer*
Azamara Club Cruises
(*CBO is an authorized and compensated representative of ACC)