Champagne, fireworks, and cruise-industry VIP’s highlighted the official naming ceremony of Amazara Club Cruises’ newest vessel, Azamara Pursuit in Southampton last week. Afterwards, a lucky few cruise fans (including yours truly) got to experience a mini-cruise aboard the new vessel. Here’s my insider scoop on the big event, plus my review of the new ship.
What makes Azamara different?
I have to confess that I was an Azamara virgin until last week’s experience. But as an avid cruise fan, I already knew a bit about the line’s history and reputation.
Azamara Club Cruises is a little over 10 years old. The brainchild of Larry Pimentel, the line set out with a clear ethos, Destination Immersion. These days, it’s easy to take this for granted, but back when this concept first came out it was a very different take on cruising. Focussing on enrichment, Destination Immersion is about more than just visiting a place for a few hours. Why not stay longer and immerse yourself in the cultures, language, art and communities you visit? This is something I can wholly get on board with.
Azamara Pursuit – The little ship that could
With this in mind, I was very excited to attend the christening of Azamara’s newest ship in Southampton, Azamara Pursuit. This is the first new ship for the line since its creation and marks rapid growth, with 50 per cent additional capacity, allowing the line to visit 40 percent more destinations in the coming years.
The addition of a third vessel to its fleet opens up all sorts of opportunities for the line, with the promise of more intimate itineraries around South Africa, Ireland and Scotland (to name but a few). They are taking Destination Immersion further, with more overnights, experiences and combining cruising with land holidays. Why not cruise around Africa and finish it off with a safari? Or experience the elegance of the Orient Express? It’s certainly exciting times for the line.
For this reason, the line is very popular with LGBT passengers. It consistently wins LGBT awards and is a firm favourite of MMOB members. Azamara goes beyond LGBT-friendliness to actively embrace and celebrate diversity and community.
The christening of a cruise ship always creates a sense of excitement for cruise fans. This is especially true for a line like Azamara, welcoming its first ship in over a decade.
Azamara Pursuit has not one, but two godmothers representing the travel industry. These two influential executives are Ellen Asmodeo-Giglio, executive vice president and chief revenue officer of Afar Media and Lucy Huxley, editor in chief of Travel Weekly UK.
During the ceremony, both Richard Fain, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd (the parent company of Azamara), and Larry Pimentel, President and Chief Executive Officer for Azamara Club Cruises, spoke about Azamara’s exciting future. We also watched personalised messages from the crews of Azamara Journey and Quest in welcoming Pursuit to the fleet. You could see and feel the admiration and sense of family between all the crews.
The ceremony also thanked workers from Belfast, Ireland, who undertook the refurbishment and transformation into Azamara Pursuit. You could see a very special bond had formed between the workers, the crew and the ship. So much so, to celebrate this relationship, the ship features a replica of The Beacon of Hope sculpture in its atrium. The Beacon of Hope, found in Belfast, represents peace, harmony and thanksgiving.
The ceremony culminated with both godmothers pushing a button releasing two signed bottles of champagne over the bow of Pursuit. This moment signalled the start of the celebrations for officially welcoming Pursuit to the family.
The evening’s festivities continued with Pursuit leaving Southampton to a dramatic and energetic fireworks display.
In Pursuit of adventure
On our two-night celebration voyage, we departed Southampton and journeyed to Cherbourg, France. I’d not visited Cherbourg before and Azamara were keen that we all remember our time there.
And what better way to remember the city than with an immersive Azamazing Afternoon. One of the things that sets Azamara apart is the Azamazing excursions concept. As part of our day in Cherbourg, Azamara invited all guests to enjoy an afternoon embracing local French culture.
Pursuit had docked adjacent to the old Transatlantic Liner terminal buildings in Cherbourg. These ornate and beautiful structures have hosted some of the most famous liners in history, including the ill-fated Titanic. The majority of this complex is also an interesting museum, called La Cite de la Mer, and is worth a visit if you ever find yourself in Cherbourg.
As part of the Azamazing afternoon, the old luggage and ticket hall was transformed into a French market complete with delectable patisseries, chocolates, pastries and bread. We took in all the sights, sounds and smells as we journeyed on a sensory quest through the hall. Bands played fun music and local artisans hand-crafted silhouettes with nothing more than a keen eye, steady hand, and a pair of scissors. Guests indulged in local cheese meandering through the display, quenching our thirst with some champagne as we absorbed the atmosphere.
After the market, we attended the “So Frenchy” cabaret. This bawdy and burlesque experience featured 14-pieces of orchestra, 8 azamazing dancers and a singer. The party atmosphere at the event felt intoxicating.
In Pursuit of comfort
Azamara Pursuit is the third boutique ship in the Azamara fleet. Unlike many other lines, Azamara’s fleet of ships only take 600-700 passengers. The ships’ small size allows them visit smaller ports. With the extensive refurbishment of Pursuit (which previously sailed for P&O and Fathom as Adonia), Azamara have taken the opportunity to evolve the design and concept of what they offer. Pursuit features five restaurants, seven bars and lounges, and 62 on board culinary experts. These ships may be small but are definitely mighty.
Those familiar with the brand and its ships will instantly feel at home in familiar surroundings. Whether this is in the form of the on-board cuisine, in the shape of the main Discoveries Restaurant, or speciality dining at the Prime C Steakhouse and the line’s signature Italian, Aqualina. Or perhaps through one of Azamara’s signature events and entertainment, such as the White Night (more on that below!).
Pursuit is however not an identical to Azamara Journey and Quest. With the opportunity of a new ship, Azamara have changed things up. The décor is slightly updated compared to her sisters, and the line has taken the opportunity to add new cabins. They also opted to totally remove the casino to create a whole new space, The Den. The Den offers Azamara guests an opportunity to draw inspiration for future adventures. Besides offering a space for cruise dreams and planning, The Den also has a good bar!
In Pursuit of Delight
During the christening, Larry Pimentel stated that, “Pursuit is a labour of love. Our guests appreciate the gift of travel, they are cultural connoisseurs and they have an explorer state of mind.” Being my first Azamara cruise, I could really appreciate this statement – the attention to detail is amazing and the passion from the crew is really something. This is evident in everything they do.
It would not be an Azamara Cruise without White Night. I’ve heard many tales of this Azamara special event and seen it in photos, but experiencing it is a whole different thing. The top two decks around the pool are transformed into a fun outdoor restaurant and party area. It felt like a true family gathering, where people come together under the night’s sky to enjoy one another’s company and celebrate life. What makes this event so special is that the guests and crew enjoy it together and are part of the experience. Savour a fabulous meal and then dance the night away under the stars. What more could you wish for!
All-in-all, I was blown away with my short time on board Azamara Pursuit. She is a beautiful ship, with a friendly crew, and a great addition to Azamara Club Cruises. There’s only one word that can accurately describe Pursuit in my opinion – Azamazing, and I think all that will sail on her in the future will agree.
Visit Azamara Club Cruises
About the author
Marcus Adams is a UK-based travel writer and cruise blogger. He has had a passion for cruising since he was very young and in his spare time you can find him blogging about the travel industry for a number of years. His blog, sparkx.org aims to be a quick, simple and easy go-to place for information. He’s also very active on social media and can be found on twitter @sparkx and Instagram sparkx_a.
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