Azura seen below after her first visit to Amsterdam sailing the Northsea Canal passage to the North Sea. Here, she passes the village of Velsen Noord.
The Azura is a near sister to the Ventura, a ship that debuted in april 2008. With 116.017 tons, Ventura is slightly larger then her newer sister. Azura was measured at 115.055 tonns. Both names are new to the fleet of P&O Cruises. The ships are technically a part of the Grand Class that was originally designed for Princess Cruises. But because these ships were intended for the fleet of P&O, they differ in interiour design from the American orientated Princess Cruises ships. Also, the Grand Class is a collection of modified designs to the original trio of ships, all with slight differences from each other. All these classes are carefully explained at the page of Grand Princess under Princess Cruises. Ventura and Azura are of the same design as the Crown-class of Princess Cruises.
Below, Azura is shown docked in Rotterdam at her first visit to this city, also her first visit to The Netherlands. The date is the 23rd of april, 2011.
Azura was built at the Fincantieri wharf at Monfalcone, Italy as yardnumber 6166. She has a lenght of 290 meters, a width of 36 meters and a draft of 8 meters. She was designed to carry 3096 passengers and 1226 crewmembers. The ship has a total of 19 decks, of which 14 are meant for the passengers to use. She sails at a normal speed of 22 knots and was built especially for the classic British clientele of P&O Cruises, this in contradiction with Ventura who is aiming for a more modern and younger audience. Azura offers her passengers a classical and traditional modern environment, if you do not think that this is possible, well, it is.
At the 27th of october 2008, her keel was laid and she floated out of her building dock at the 26th of june 2009. For this occasion, she was blessed by a priest, something that is not always performed when a new cruiseship is handed over. She was officially delivered to P&O at the 26th of march of 2010 and a few days later, at the 31st of march, she set sail from the wharf to Southampton, where she arrived at the 7th of april.
Azura entering the lock at IJmuiden, just meters to spare. There are plans in a far stage to built a new lock at IJmuiden, far bgger then this one, that was built in 1929. The new lock will possibly open around 2019.
Azura docked within the lock. Untill 2001, it was possible to walk on the quaysides next to the ship, it was oficially forbidden but the lockkeepers kept their eyes shut when people did. Nowadays, the sides of the locks are fenched in.
Azura has several unique elements for P&O. She is the first ship in the fleet that features the SeaScreen, a large television screen at her Lido deck, also seen at her sisters in the Princess Cruises fleet. Also, Azura has 18 single cabins, something that is very uncommon within the cruise industry and is never been seen at ships of P&O before. She also has an outdoor spa, only accesible for adults at extra charge under the name of The Retreat. Besides these new features, she has some very traditional elements common to older ships within the P&O fleet. The English pub is named Brodie's, after Brodie Willcox, one of the founders of the Peninsular Steam & Navigation Company, of which P&O Cruises originates. Also, some of the 11 restaurants aboard are named 'select dining' venues. These can be used at some extra charge and this is now a P&O tradition. One of these restaurants is called The Glass House and this is also a wine bar, that serves exclusive wines that can be sampled by the passengers. Other restaurants include Seventeen and Sindhu, an Indian restaurant , created by Atul Kochhar, a chef that earned 3 Michelin stars and now went to sea for the first time. Next to the 11 restaurants, there can also been chosen from 12 bars. For other entertainment, the ship offers two showlounges, two spa's, an outdoor cinema just behind the funnel, a 800-seat theater and a gym. Also, for the more sportive types, four pools and six hottubs are available. The heart of the ship is formed by a three deck high atrium, that offers a café, an art gallery, a library a bookshop and several other shopping options. At night, the atrium is also used as a dancevenue. But don't think it will be a discoteque though, the polished wooden dancefloor will be used for ballroom dancing so waltzes and quickstep will be danced here. When you don't know how to dance these classic dances, don't be ashamed, there will be dance instructors available to teach you how to use your feet properly...
Again, Azura at Rotterdam in 2011 as seen from the Veerhaven, a yaughting harbourat the city side of the river Maas, from where the ferries to the Holland America Quay departed before the river was spanned by the Erasmusbridge in 1996.
Azura was named by a former Royal Ballet dancer named Darcey Bussell at the 10th of april 2010. The ship was registered at Southampton, next to London a traditional homeport for the ships within the P&O Cruises fleet. But this was altered to Hamilton (Bermuda) in november of that same year. This was done, because under the flag of Bermuda, it is possible to host weddings aboard the ship, a highly attractive extra reason to cruise with Azura. Bermuda is a British crown colony, so the ships are still registered in Great Britain. Two days after her naming, Azura sailed with paying passengers aboard for the first time from Southampton as the largest British cruiseship for the British market untill the Britannia was introduced in 2015.
Azura all lit up in the evening at the quay in Rotterdam.