AZURA - The Naming Ceremony. 10th April 2010.
Azura, a designer boutique ‘hotel at sea’ it says in the brochure. Was she? Is she any different than her sister Ventura? Well, Yes she is….There are a few obvious differences, some good some not so, a shame that there is no covered pool on this ship for example. I love a swim, and on the cloudy and poor weather days sailing across the bay or in the Baltics or Norway a covered pool is always a bonus. There is also no indoor cinema, again a very nice extra to have on a poor weather sea day…so lets hope Azura is mainly going to warm sunny places like the Med, Caribbean and Canaries.
Azura will be the first P&O ship to have a outdoor cinema instead, a ‘Sea Screen’, so that will be nice on a balmy warm evening I expect. I liked the Chronicles magazine and book shop. How nice now to be able to buy a magazine for those sunny sea days! Although sadly as yet no men’s magazines, but the assistant did say they would try and get some in after requests were made for them. A first for P&O ships I believe. There is also ofcourse a wonderful library stocked with brand new books including travel books, autobiographies and fiction. Azura also has The Glass House, a upmarket wine bar with wines chosen in consultation with wine expert Olly Smith. Wine can be bought by the glass in here, poured by knowledgeable sommeliers. Michelin-starred chef Atul Kochhar has a supplement restaurant onboard too called Sindhu, described as fine dining Indian Cuisine with a British Twist.
This ship seems to be aimed more at adult market and Ventura more for the families but both are family friendly ships and both have nurseries onboard. Azura being first in the fleet to offer inside and outside single staterooms. P&O seem to be aiming to provide a ship for everyone, especially with the new small Adonia coming soon to replace the adult only elderly Artemis which leaves the fleet at the end of the cruising season. The brochure says no ’sisters are exactly the same’ and having been on Ventura and Azura all- be- it for a short amount of time, I agree they are not the same atall.
The décor is different from Ventura, the colours of lime green and burgundy evident in the Atrium and cabins, we had burgundy in our balcony cabin, yet others on the same deck and grade were green, so that’s a nice touch.
I had a balcony cabin to stay in for this event, a few differences from the other ship cabins in the fleet I noticed - we now seem to have The White Room bathroom toiletries, replacing Temple Spa. The mugs on the tea tray were very big white ones, great for that first cuppa looking out to sea on the balcony, and I noticed Lyons rich roast ground coffee in a one-cup bag which was a new item in the drinks sachet wooden tray. The lights for the cabin are activated by the cabin card, no notices to explain this, you have to work it out for yourself, just a plain white box by the door light switches, I suppose this is to save energy and ensure lights are only on when you are in the cabin which seems a very good idea.
The size of the cabin was fine, nice art work and a flat screen TV. I liked the en-suite too. We had a cubicle shower, and it seemed roomy enough, compared to a Oceana balcony for example, which was very small. The walk-in wardrobes are a great idea (the same as on Ventura).
Anyway, enough about the ship, this review is about the naming….
When we arrived at Ocean Terminal, and went to the arrivals lounge. We sat and waited to board and a nice touch was all of a sudden, a ‘Officer’ who was walking through the waiting area burst into song, he was of course a singer in turned out, probably from the entertainment team, another chap also sang and a girl all in Officers uniform.
After a strict security check - my first time to have a full body search (EXTERNAL ONLY!!)and my luggage turned out of its case and looked through (my styling brush looked like a knife apparently! ) when it went through the scanner, we eventually got onboard. I think it was 3.30pm (check in started at 3pm).
We headed for our cabin straight away to leave our hand luggage, as we had a 4pm meet with Carol Marlow (P&O Managing Director) who had kindly agreed to meet us ‘top 12 posters on the P&O community chat site‘. Oh dear! Cabin door doesn’t open, look around to see other people having trouble opening their doors as well. Eventually a steward appears and lets us in, but we have to go down to the reception later to activate the card. We leave the luggage and head straight for the Planet Bar up on deck 18 for our short meet with Carol Marlow.
Ms Marlow meets us along with Elliott the Media Manager who arranged for us P&O Cruise Community top posters to come to the event. Carol asks us if we like Azura, a silence….as we have all been onboard about 15mins, and that was just the trip up to our cabins and along to the bar, so we can’t really answer that one…but agree she looks a lovely ship. She shakes hands with every one of us and says nice to meet you, then tells us about the ship. Some questions are asked about itineraries and new suggestions for new places to go. I also asked one question 'Will P&O ever bring ever back some mid range 70-80,000 tonnes ships into the fleet again or will they always be the size of Ventura/Azura ? And she said Azura maybe the last one of this size for quite a while and they may well come back to Aurora/Arcadia sized ships depending on the needs and wants of their customers...so you never know. After the 15min meet we thanked Carol for inviting us, and she went on to a press conference.
Then it was time to explore the ship. We only had about a hour or so. I took some photos of the ship, here is a link to them:
Then we decided to have afternoon tea, unbelievably my first ever afternoon tea after 10 cruises, I never attend these as I don’t like to eat food that close to dinner, even though we are on 2nd sitting. As we don’t go into dinner tonight until 9pm I decide to give it a try, and enjoy the savouries, having 2, and there was also finger sandwiches, and assorted tiny pasties , cakes and scones, and of course plentiful cups of tea!.
Back To the cabin then to change for the formal naming event party. I wear a black & white dress with gold sheer wrap (as it’s black, white and gold dress code), I meet Elliot the Media Manager outside the Planet bar, and he invites us for drinks with his wife, so champagne is the order of the day at the free bar. Then onto the Gala reception, with plentiful canapés and drinks. Ventura was still in dock and sailed later than usual at about 7.30pm , it was wonderful to see these two ‘sister-ships’ together, as she sailed past Azura gave her some horn blasts.
The naming ceremony then began with Sir Trevor McDonald doing the introduction, followed by Carol Marlow giving a speech, and then there was dancing first from boys from the London ballet school, in sailors outfits and then dancers doing different dances from a ‘movie dance theme’ for example Elvis was on the sea screen in the movie jail-house rock and below the dancers were dressed in the same jail -outfits doing the same dance.
Darcey Bussell then came on stage and named the ship, and then we had streamers from above and fireworks over the ship. As the fireworks faded we all went on into dinner.
The menu was a fixed one, and we luckily liked all that was offered:
Duo of Loch Fyne Smoked Salmon and Scottish Langoustine
Leek and Mushroom Veloute (soup!)
Rack of West Country Lamb
Chocolate Delicacies (oooh even a pot of runny white and dark chocolate with a chocolate spoon.)
The dinner service was rather slow, we had our soup at 10.30pm… but I expect the new waiting and kitchen staff are still finding their feet, and we all waited patiently and enjoyed what was offered.
We had a full guest list given to us so here are some of the people invited….
Who went ?
There were VIP's and minor? celebs depending on your point of view, and a few big celebs - depending on your point of view. !
First the Celebs (or VIP's) !
Sir Trevor McDonald
Darcey Bussell CBE
Kim Woodburn(how clean is your house- the blonde one with the hair bun!)
Helen Worth (Gail from Corrie)
Esther Ranzen CBE
Sarah Kennedy MBE Broadcaster
Angela Griffin (ex Corrie, ) Now talkshow host and acts in other shows
Craig Revel Horwood
Emma Crosby - GMTV
Gary Rhodes (Celebrity Chef)
Annabel Croft (tennis player)
Olly Smith Wine expert and has a bar on there -Glass House
Atul Kochhar -Michelin chef
Then there were P&O/carnival top execs..
Carol Marlow -Managing Director
David Dingle CBE
and other Managers ...
There were Food Writers,and Critics, Travel writers , Travel Agents, Lords, Baroness's, Dr's Etc, and people from businesses related to the building of Azura.
and the representatives of cruise chat sites such as Cruise Critic, Cruise.co.uk and P&O…
to be cont/d (too long!)