Azamara Debuts Virtual Reality Cruises, Local Eats Recommendations
PHOTO: Octopus salad at Croatia's Trattoria Tinel, one of Azamara's recommendations in their "Cruise Global, Eat Local" program. (courtesy Trattoria Tinel)
Azamara Club Cruises, which operates two 686-passenger ships, has developed a new virtual reality experience to promote its "destination immersive" itineraries.
Ellen Bettridge, vice president of marketing and sales, the Americas, and Signe Bjorndal, director of global marketing and public relations, introduced the new Azamara 3DI system (the DI stands for destination immersion) to trade media at the cruise3sixty travel agent conference this week in Fort Lauderdale.
The system shows 360-degree views of many of the exotic places Azamara takes travelers, including Costa Rica and Colombia. When viewers place goggles and earphones on, they can turn their head or look up and down to get the full experience of the place. For example, when viewing a serene beach on Costa Rica, a monkey suddenly walks into view. Or, you can almost feel your stomach drop and you seem to swoop down a zipline.
"It's 360-degree footage, and you are smack in the middle of it," Bjorndal said.
The 3DI system will be used at consumer and travel agent conferences to give people a better idea of the types of itineraries operated by Azamara, she said. The 360-degree footage can also be viewed on Azamara's website at www.azamara3di.com, although not in 3D.
"Our destination immersion means longer stays in ports, more overnights and night touring," Bjorndal said. "One-hundred percent of our itineraries have one or several overnights and late-night stays in ports."
Azamara also debuted a clever new program for foodies (and aren't we all foodies nowadays?).
Called "Cruise Global, Eat Local," the program recommends restaurants around the world frequented by the local people.
"We did an enormous amount of research around the world to find out where the locals eat," Bjorndal said. "We're not talking about the Michelin-starred restaurants, we looked for the places where the locals want to go to eat. Those are the ones we guide our guests to. It's going live in the next few weeks in Europe. During our testing, it was stunningly successful."
The restaurant recommendations are posted on Azamara's website and are included in a new flyer for travel agents to use when talking to clients.
Bettridge said the ship's own crew was consulted. "They always knows the best places to go. We also talked to tourism boards and hotel concierges," Bettridge said. "The key was we didn't want to have the fancy restaurants, we wanted the places locals go on a Tuesday night."
The flyer includes a taverna on Santorini, a pizzeria and trattorias in Livorno and Sorrento, a kebab joint in Istanbul, and a brasserie in Split. It also recommends a specialty at each place as well as distance and approximate walking time from the cruise port.
"At the end of a half-day tour, you can be dropped at a restaurant, so we made sure it is close to the port or easy to take taxi to get back," Bettridge said. "It's not a touristy recommendation; we want to make you feel like you're part of a destination."
A sample of the recommendations:
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