Social media is becoming increasingly influential in shaping the cruise programme for upmarket operator Azamara Cruises, according to its president.

Speaking ahead of this week’s launch of 2012 itineraries, president Larry Pimentel said he had been fascinated to see how feedback on websites such as Cruise Critic and USA Today’s Cruise Log had become so influential.

Last year Azamara appointed an independent chief blogging officer to monitor and respond to the social networking community and Pimentel said this had led to changes to itineraries and the onboard offering.

“Guests are becoming participants in the creation of the product,” Pimentel said.

“In the old days we used to pay for focus groups, and it cost a fortune; now we listen to what’s being said on the web.”

The two-ship premium line has unveiled 54 itineraries ranging from five to 16 nights between March 2012 and February 2013.

More than half of calls by Azamara Journey and Azamara Quest include late night and overnight stays in port.

The programme covers 64 sailings with calls at 181 ports in 57 countries throughout the Mediterranean, northern Europe, South America, India and the Caribbean.

Several itineraries coincide with cultural events. A 12-night Chelsea Flower Show voyage, departing May 17, 2012, from Amsterdam features debut calls at Vlissingen in Holland and Southampton plus two-night stays in Antwerp, Paris and Greenwich, the latter offering passengers the opportunity to attend the annual RHS Chelsea Flower Show.

Pimentel added: “We designed our itineraries to coincide with some of the world’s most exciting events, such as Rio’s Carnival and the Floriade in the Netherlands.”