Researched and Written By

Researched and Written By Aaron Saunders

Saturday, April 10, 2010

A New Ship for P&O

Azura arrives at Southampton, England on April 7, 2010.
Photo courtesy of P&O Cruises

There is excitement in the air at the port of Southampton, England today - P&O Cruises' newest ship, Azura, arrived at the Ocean Terminal on Wednesday in preparation for the big day: today, the ship will be christened at 8pm BST (12pm PST) by ballet star Darcey Bussell, who will smash a bottle of champagne against the ship's hull in accordance with tradition.

The very pleasant city of Southampton is also pulling out all the stops, including a free party in Mayflower Park titled "Voyage into the Blue".  In addition to live music and dance performances, the naming ceremony will be broadcast to those in the park via large screens, and will conclude with a spectacular fireworks display set to light up the night sky at 8:30pm BST (12:30pm PST).  

Many people know what a long maritime history Southampton has: both the Mayflower and the RMS Titanic set sail from here, and the city plays host to a large number of cruise ships that call here every year, operating cruises to the Med, Northern Europe, and of course the traditional transatlantic crossing.

Many North American cruisers may not be familiar with P&O.  Catering almost exclusively to the British Market, P&O's origins trace back to 1837 when the Peninsular Steam Navigation Company was awarded the lucrative Admiralty contract to carry mail to the Iberian Peninsula and beyond.  More recently, it operated a series of vessels, many of which were transferred from sister-line Princess Cruises.  

Azuara's dazzling Atrium.
Photo courtesy of P&O Cruises 

Azura was purpose-built to cater to the British cruise market, and is a sister to P&O's most recent newbuild, Ventura.  If these ships look familiar, it's because they should: they are derivatives of Princess Cruises highly successful Crown Princess, an evolution of the Grand Class ships pioneered by Princess with the debut of Grand Princess in 1998.

The similarities end there, however.  The interior design of Azura is a stunningly eclectic mix of old and new, and even includes a specialty dining venue called Sindhu, specializing in dishes from India fused with British tastes and textures.  

Brodies, Azura's upmarket pub.
Photo courtesy of P&O Cruises. 

Also making a comeback is a feature which had been disappearing steadily from newer ships: single occupancy staterooms.  Solo travelers will be pleased to know Azura will allow them to travel in these special staterooms, appropriately-sized, without the addition of the dreaded 'single supplement.'  The addition of these is a first for P&O.

 The Inside Single Stateroom.
Photo courtesy of P&O Cruises.

We expect to bring you more on this fascinating ship in the coming weeks.  In the meantime, to learn more about Azura and P&O Cruises, head on over to their website and experience all this unique and decidedly British line has to offer to cruisers from around the world. 


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