It was 5:30 in the morning when the Azamara Journey quietly sailed into Sydney Harbour earlier this week.

But standing on the top deck, with mimosas in hand, were around 200 of the ship’s guests toasting the arrival of the Journey into Australian waters.

It was a momentous occasion to celebrate the maiden call – and on top of that, it was Captain Johannes Tysse’s first trip back to Sydney since 1996.

But it’s a sign that the boutique cruise line is pushing to take a share of the Aussie market, with both the Journey and her sister, the Azamara Quest coming back in 2018.

Australians are now one of the largest groups booking with Azamara Club Cruises, a boutique cruise line which focus on more immersive experiences.

Royal Caribbean’s Managing Director of Australia and New Zealand, Adam Armstrong said in 2017, the Australians were only 100 passengers behind the Brits in bookings, with the Americans still taking out the top spot.

While many cruise lines promise bespoke experiences, Azamara does deliver, especially with its new offerings through ‘Cruise Global, Experience Local’ which is what drawing the Aussies in. The ships stay longer in port, if not over-night which gives passengers the chance to explore cities by the evening.

Cruise Passenger went onboard the Azamara Journey on her visit to Sydney. She’s just gone through a multi-million-dollar refurbishment with public areas getting a refresh. The furnishings are lighter in colour and more modern and sleek.

Like her sister ship, the Azamara Quest, the Journey feels like a luxury ship with the decadent furnishings, high-quality food, excellent service and private areas. But compared to other lines, the atmosphere and vibe on board is relaxed. The gents are wandering around in collared shirts and tailored bermudas, while the ladies are wearing fashionable casual summer frocks.

Steve, Azamara’s business development manager in Australia and our host on the ship said it’s the informality of the brand and the immersive experiences that attract the Aussies.

“Australians love the immersive itineraries. Part of the rebranding is a new idea called ‘Cruise Global, Connect Local’. We have customer feedback from guests about how they want to experience destination. For example, we have ‘Cruise local, Bike Local’. There are 15 push bikes on the ship and we offer bike tours. The first will be in Napier in New Zealand next week. Another example is ‘Cruise global, Taste Local’, where we take guests to the Akaroa Cooking School,” he said

“Also what’s made her so popular among the Australians it is a small and friendly. It’s upmarket without the formalities. Gents don’t have to wear suits and ties and the ladies don’t have to wear cocktail gowns. It’s five-star without the la di da.”

Azamara Club Cruises will be heading to Japan and Alaska for the first time next year. For more information, click here.