Ottawa Citizen

The talented Mr. Docekal’s picks

Renowned Azamara exec finally reveals his favourite ports of call

- PHIL REIMER Visit portsandbo­, sponsored by Expedia CruiseShip­Centers, 1-800-707-7327, www.cruiseship­, for daily updates on the latest cruise news, best deals and behind-the-scenes stories from the industry. You can also sign up for an ema

When it comes to cruising, Claudius Docekal is a know-it-all. And that’s a good thing. I can’t think of anyone who knows more about the ports of the world and, as a result, for many years he has been my go-to guy when it comes to research on cruise ports.

I first met the talented Mr. Docekal in January 2011 on board Journey, one of the two Azamara Club Cruises ships, while cruising in the Sea of Cortez, a.k.a. the Gulf of California. He had only been with Azamara for a year, having moved from SeaDream with current Azamara president Larry Pimentel.

When they both arrived in 2010, Azamara’s schedule was locked in for months ahead. As director Deployment, Destinatio­ns and Charter Sales, Claudius started to make his mark later in 2011 by leading the industry in overnights and late-night departures, then designing the schedule to have ships show up at events such as the Grand Prix of Monaco and Carnival in Rio.

Today Claudius continues to travel the world, planning. While most of us who cruise are contemplat­ing a year ahead, he’s already well into 2017 and looking ahead to 2018.

Claudius loves all his cruises so I had to twist his arm to give me something new that he has put to bed for 2017.

“India!” he says. “It’s becoming a major cruise destinatio­n and offers the opportunit­y of using Mumbai as a base to visit places out of the norm. An April 2017 cruise has several stops in India, Sri Lanka, Maldives and four days of cruising the Seychelles.”

His reluctance at picking favourite ports is well-known so I asked him — no, I pleaded — for a few of his favourites. He relented.

“In Northern Europe, I think Stockholm is one of my favourite cities. The cruise into port through their archipelag­o is one of the most beautiful entrances to any port. We arrive in daylight, taking about four hours.”

For Claudius, Stockholm visits include the Vasa Museum and a look at the preserved warship of the same name.

Next on his must-see list: a Roof Top Tour. Really?

“Yes. You have a private guide, you’re hooked to a safety cable, and you make your way around the top of the old parliament buildings. It’s a novel way to see the city from six stories up on a 300-metre course with stops to point out Stockholm’s history.”

Where else in Northern Europe?

“Edinburgh — and St. Andrew’s, a 45-minute drive away — not for the golf but for the history. And, of course, the distilleri­es.” In the Mediterran­ean? “We anchor below the city of Sorrento and from there the Amalfi highway goes to many historic sites, but one of my favourites is Positano, about 30 minutes away from Sorrento. If you’re on a larger ship docking in Naples it’s about a 90-minute drive. Visitors to Positano were among the famous: Escher, Steinbeck, Picasso and Zeffirelli, who referred to themselves as ‘willing prisoners of a legendary landscape.’?

The Caribbean? No hesitation here.

“Nevis,” he says, “unspoiled, lush, uncrowded, a volcano in the middle, the Alexander Hamilton Museum, botanical gardens and the beaches.” What’s next at Azamara? “We are very proud of our Azamara evenings where we take our passengers to places that are unique. And I’ll look to be adding more of these, and of course, (I am) always looking for places where our smaller ships (686 passengers) can dock that will make the journey truly unique, both aboard and ashore.”

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Claudius Docekal
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