Azamara Club Cruises likes to immerse their passengers with destination rich cruises and their cruise from London to St. Petersburg certainly proves it. Spend 12 nights onboard the Azamara Quest and enjoy all-inclusive value including gratuities for housekeeping, bottled water and soft drinks, specialty coffees, boutique wines with lunch and dinner, butler service, shore excursions and so much more. The Azamara Quest was specially designed to be smaller and more sleek than most cruise ships. Azamara Quest, like her sister ship, Azamara Journey, is filled bow-to-stern with wondrous luxuries and appointments that enhance your voyage of discovery-making it one that you won't soon forget. Azamara Quest also features two specialty restaurants, concierge amenities Spa and Wellness Center, a coffee cafe a piano bar and a wine bar, live entertainment, daily enrichment programs (like wine and champagne tastings), and this is only her short list. Start your voyage in Southampton, England. Muse on voyages past as you sail out of Southampton, long a maritime center, its yards turning out warships for king and country from the Hundred Years War in 14-15th centuries, to two world wars in the 20th century. It was the departure point for the Mayflower in 1620, and the ill-fated Titanic in 1912. The charms of London are not far away, but pray tarry in the south to explore other wonders, including Bath, with its natural hot springs and stunning architecture and the mysterious megaliths of Stonehenge, or venture all the way west to Lands End, and the wild moorlands and pirate haunts of Cornwall. Next, Azamara Quest takes you to visit Amsterdam. Amsterdam has a personality all its own, including a long time reputation for tolerance. You'll be thinking of tulips and wooden shoes, perhaps Heineken beer, and some of the city's past inhabitants: Rembrandt, Van Gogh, and Anne Frank, who wrote her famous diary hidden in a canal-side house. Did you know that Amsterdam has more canals than Venice (connecting a jigsaw puzzle of 90 islands), joined by some 1280 bridges (many illuminated by fairy lights at night), or that it boasts the oldest stock exchange in the world? Kiel Canal, Germany is the world's busiest artificial waterway, linking the North Sea with the Baltic, and cutting 250 miles off the journey by eliminating the need to sail around the Jutland Peninsula. Operating since 1895, it was widened to accommodate larger vessels in early 20th century. Still narrow enough to keep ships close to the shore, and with no locks, it is basically a gentle cruise through the backyards and gardens of the local folk, whom you may see riding their bicycles, or picnicking on a fine afternoon. Be sure to return their waves of welcome. Next is Copenhagen, Denmark which is known as a city of spires: the skyline of its medieval core is punctuated only by the steeples of churches and towers of palaces, though a modern building boom has overtaken other parts of the city. Today's Copenhagen is known for its excellent quality of life and environmental consciousness. With many parks, it is green both literally and in today's sense of the world. It is also bicycle friendly, with bike baths lining almost every major street. After a ride or wander through the old town, stop for a local repast of Smorrebrod, traditional open-face sandwiches, or a mouthwatering Danish pastry. The island of Bornholm is a far-flung bit of Denmark that appears to have gotten lost in the Baltic Sea between Sweden and Poland. It boasts numerous picturesque fishing villages and 15 medieval churches, some of which are 12th century round structures with unique artwork and architecture. Take a stroll down quiet cobbled lanes in the old part of the capital, Ronn, a garden town, where backyard plots produce flowers and fruit, though they may not be easy to spot behind the fine half-timbered houses. Wednesday is market day on the main square of St. Tory, a great opportunity to chat up the locals, and see what is on offer at their stalls. Next port is Helsinki, Finland. Helsinki is a successful blend of traditional and modern architecture and design, interwoven with the beauty of nature, and a few quirky, purely Finnish touches such as a church built inside a giant chunk of granite, and a venue that is a unique combination of cafe, restaurant, bar, laundromat and sauna. Classic Russian onion-domed churches share the stage with Nordic minimalism, and a large concentration of Art Nouveau buildings. Prominent globally in the fields of technology (think Nokia) and design (Marimnekko and Aero), Finland has also recently topped the charts as having the world's best educational system. Szar Peter the Great founded St. Petersburg, Russia in 1703 as a window to the west, a launching pad for his attempt to modernize Russia and open up to outside influences. The architecture is varied and striking, with golden domed churches, and an astounding number of large and extravagantly decorated palaces, consistently evoking wows from visitors. The grandest include the countryside Peterhof, with its lavish gardens and majestic golden fountains cascading down to the Gulf of Finland; and the Winter Palace, within the complex o the Hermitage, one of the world's largest museums, with a collection of some three million works of art and artifacts. Next Azamara takes you to Tallinn, Estonia. Despite occupation at one time or another by each of its near neighbors, Tallinn is independent-minded and has creative ways of showing it, consider the Singing Revolution of 1988, the massive musical demonstration against Soviet rule that set Estonia on the path to independence. Visit St Olav's Church, once the tallest building in the world, at least until 1625. Then pull up a chair at one of the cafes in the charming town square, heart of the city for 800 years. After your coffee, explore St. Catherine's Passage, a quaint old lane, home to a collection of craft workshops, and check out the secret 17th C. tunnel system. Off to Stockholm, Sweden it is. Lively, cosmopolitan Stockholm sports an appealing mix of modern Scandinavian architecture and fairy tale palaces, watched over by a Board of Beauty, responsible for preserving the city. One third of its area is devoted to green space, and another third to waterways, providing lots of room to breathe. Gamla Stan is the oldest section, retaining the medieval layout of narrow meandering paths. For the contemporary take there's Sodermalm, known trendily as SoFo, with welcoming restaurants and pubs, specialty shops and boutiques. Stieg Larson fans hang out here, as it is the area of the city where most action in the Millennium novels takes place. A wonderful itinerary for anyone wishing to visit this part of Europe. Experience it onboard the Azamara Quest with more overnights, longer stays in port and night touring.
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