IMG_2023.jpgGrey skies and a chill wind greeted P&O’s Azura on her arrival in the UK today, but there was a warm welcome from cruise ship enthusiast lined up at vantage points on Southampton Water.
The 116,000-ton ship will be named by ballerina Darcey Bussell on Saturday, and sets out on her maiden voyage on Monday. Before then she will host thousands of visitors – among them regular P&O passengers, travel agents, and 1,200 specially-invited guests for the naming ceremony.
Carnival UK chief executive David Dingle clambered aboard the vessel off the Isle of Wight at 6.00 am this morning, and was on the bridge as Captain Keith Dowds brought the ship to her berth, escorted by a tug spraying jets of water across her bow.
IMG_2049.jpgP&O managing director Carol Marlow (above) joined dozens of fans on a pleasure boat which went out to Calshot Spit to meet Azura and followed her into Southampton.
The ship, a sister for Ventura, is the first P&O ship to have a cinema screen out on deck above one of its swimming pools, and also features an adults-only Sanctuary area for relaxation and spa treatments.
Carrying 3,1000 passengers and 1,200 crew, it is also the first ship in the fleet to have custom-built cabins for singles. There are 18 of them along a corridor tucked away behind Brodie’s bar and casino.
I got a sneak preview of the ship’s interiors this morning – its decor will be familiar to P&O aficionados, and there are none of the flashy gimmicks which were installed on Ventura to attract a younger, family crowd.
Unfortunately, interior pictures are embargoed until later in the week, so you’ll have to be patient, and settle for these shots taken as the ship sailed into port.