Azamara Quest will be the line's first ship to visit Australia. Picture: Supplied

There's a little cruise line that's creating huge waves of excitement among travellers as the next big thing in luxury voyages.

Azamara Club Cruises has been operating under president and chief executive Larry Pimentel from 2009 and has established itself as offering a unique cruising experience thanks to the introduction of what's known as destination immersion.

"We try to introduce destination immersion and cultural immersion. That is, showcasing the sights and sounds, people and food that exist around the world. People buy us for having some of the world's most unique itineraries and deployments," Mr Pimentel says.

"I think it makes us different from other lines in a very big way. In our case, destination immersion means longer stays in ports than any other line, it means more overnights than any other line and it means night touring, which is very rare in cruising."

Azamara aims to give travellers more opportunity to enjoy their destinations with time in ports varying from one day to two or three nights.

After touring Asia, Europe, the Americas, the Mediterranean and the West Indies with great success, Mr Pimentel decided it was time for Azamara to make its Australian debut.

The first port of call will be Darwin, as part of the 14-night Bali and Barrier Reef Voyage at the end of 2015, followed by stops across Queensland before disembarking in Cairns. This will be a Christmas and new year voyage, with passengers spending the first day of 2016 cruising the magnificent Great Barrier Reef.

Choosing to add Australia to the itinerary was an obvious next step for Mr Pimentel when he saw how frequently Australians were getting on board Azamara.

"I think for us to have the growth we've had - we've had a 10-time growth with Australian guests in the last four-and-a-half years - is stunning and yet we've not been to the country. So I think when we come to the country and the ship gets showcased as it goes around the country I fully expect our business to be explosive," he says.

The cruise company is working on piecing together a possible circumnavigation of Australia for 2016 with the deployment team exploring options for visits to Tasmania, Brisbane, Melbourne and Sydney.

According to Mr Pimentel, Azamara's Australian voyages will be different from those of other cruise lines thanks to the accessibility of their smaller ships.

"The size of this ship allows us to go to smaller ports . . . that's what the deployment team is looking at, some of these smaller places to see what can be delivered there," he says.

The Azamara fleet consists of two sister ships, each carrying 686 guests, Quest, which will be the first to visit Australia, and Journey.

While the ships may be considered on the small side they still include heaps of eating options from cafes to steakhouses, a swimming pool, gym, acupuncture centre, casino entertainment facilities, shops, destination centre for excursion information and a telecommunications centre so passengers can send photos home.

"The ships are boutique ships, they have everything that a large ship would have but they're not large . . . the difference is the ships are a more inclusive palate," Mr Pimentel says.

Before taking the reins of Azamara Mr Pimentel wasn't looking to move on from his own cruise creation SeaDream Yacht Club and first decided to give the opportunity a miss.

"In 2009 Richard Fain, who is the chairman and CEO of Royal Caribbean Cruises, called me and asked to see me about taking this product called Azamara," he says.

"At first I didn't think I was too interested and I told him that . . . I called him back and said 'I'll go on the product and that will give me a better notion'.

"My wife and I booked our own voyage and he said 'which voyage are you on' and I said 'I'll tell you when I come back I don't want it to be wired'. I looked at the product and came to the conclusion that the ship had the right bones, the right structures, and was small enough yet big enough to go to places all over the earth."

Mr Pimentel came to the helm of Azamara with extensive travel experience that helped him begin to shape a cruise line that focused on what he had found to be the best bits of travel.

"Travel allows us to get the perspective we've read about in books but see it first hand," he says. "I'm one of these people who almost every place I go I've said 'I could live there' because I'm just fascinated with culture."

However, he is convinced that if he were to live anywhere besides the US it would be Australia.

"I just think the country is fantastic, I think the people are fantastic - more laidback," he says. "Life is not as intense as it is in the States but it is also a country with great diversity."

Mr Pimentel got his first glimpse of other cultures when he backpacked around Europe as a young person and has since found he cannot get enough of the world.

"It really gave me a perspective that the world wasn't the United States," he says. "I found that there wasn't a right and wrong but there was a difference . . . and you begin to realise the culture itself is the delight of differences and if you celebrate those then it makes the world quite an interesting place."

For a man who has traversed every continent and 127 countries there's the desire to venture further afield, to what could possibly be the most unique place of them all.

"Think of the next frontier, Space. It would be quite interesting to go to outer space . . . people are buying trips that are rocket trips into space, I mean what an experience that might be," he says.

The West Australian

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