Speaking to TTG during an exclusive first look at Pursuit in Belfast last week (July 4), the line’s managing director said that its partnership with the MJM Group had given Azamara unprecedented control over the biggest refit in its history.
Built in 2001, the Renaissance class ship, Azamara’s third, was acquired by Azamara’s parent company Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd in March after 12 years with Carnival.
It has sailed as Swan Hellenic’s Minerva II, Princess Cruises’ Royal Princess, and most recently as P&O Cruises’ Adonia: "It’s a ship known and loved by Brits, whatever you call it," said Twynam, Azamara’s UK managing director. "I don’t think we anticipated just how loyal people are to this ship specifically. They want to try it out as Azamara Pursuit now."
Pursuit though marks a new approach for RCCL, entering into a turnkey agreement with MJM to deliver the refit.
"Because our new build team has been so busy with [RCCL ships] Edge, Symphony and Spectrum, we’re doing it as a turnkey," said Twynam.
"Larry [Pimentel, Azamara CEO] loves family businesses - and we have great chemistry with our partner MJM Group. They have a legacy of craftmanship and quality. So we are using just one business rather than 30 different suppliers.
"MJM’s factory is just 40 minutes down the road. They’re doing everything there and then bringing it up to fit.
"They were able to bring it [this project] to Harland and Wolff. It’s been their dream to do a project locally; we thought that was pretty cool.
"The by-product is Pursuit has become a UK story - it’s got a British captain and a British entertainment director, and its first five sailings will touch Southampton, where it will be christened and will depart on its maiden voyage."
Twynam said details such as sheet metal bathroom linings, replacing wallpaper, hand-cut shower tray tiling and carpet resistant to water marks were examples of where Azamara’s partnership with MJM was creating a better quality result.
Although the refit will mirror that of Azamara’s other two ships, Quest and Journey, many of the new features coming to Pursuit will be retrofitted across the fleet. All three ships will shed their casinos to make way for a "destination-focused lounge" called The Den, for instance, and gain UK sockets and USB ports in cabins.
"By maritime law, you can only open your casino in international waters," said Twynam. "If you stay longer and overnight in port than any other cruise line, as we do, you’re not in international waters so the value of them to us was very limited. It [The Den] will look stunning.
"We’ve created entirely new steel cabins not on previous ships. The back of house stuff is incredible, and that’s before sexy stuff like carpets, mirrors, chairs and suites."
Azamara took delivery of the ship in April and it will sail on July 24: "To bring this ship up to Azamara’s standard requires a long time," said Twynam, reflecting on the considerably lengthier timescale compared against the 14-16 days for Quest and Journey.
"There are two ways to grow - build or buy. If you build at the moment on this sort of size, it’s two or three years. RCCL has a great track record of operating these kind of ships and Pursuit is the youngest one."