Azamara Club Cruises’ newest ship, Pursuit, will allow the line to target a return to some of its most beloved destinations, UK boss Richard Twynam has said.
The Renaissance-class ship, Azamara’s third, was built in 2001 and was acquired by the line’s parent company Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd (RCCL) in March after 12 years with Carnival.
TTG was given an exclusive first look around Pursuit in Belfast last week (July 4) where it is in wet dock ahead of its inaugural sailing on July 24.
"This is definitely the biggest refit in our history," said Twynam, Azamara’s UK managing director.
"There’s been no stone unturned. Every single space on this ship will change, as will all the furnishings - carpets, mirrors, chairs, suites, and so on. It’s a vast project."
Pursuit will sail 50 new itineraries, travelling to more than 70 new destinations and 19 new ports.
"Pursuit opens up destinations we couldn't go to with just two ships," said Twynam.
"Agents can already sell us in 2020 to South Africa. This ship will go to Rio Carnival, Mardi Gras, the Panama Canal and South Pacific - it's taking us to Iceland for the first time. It gives us scale. It allows us to be more adventurous with our deployment."
Twynam said while the line was guided by geo-politics, Azamara was keen to return to some of its most profitable itineraries.
"Right now, it's about those places we want to go back to, like the Black Sea," said Twynam.
"We've got parts of the Black Sea in our 2020 deployment, although not Ukraine. We're looking at it very closely for 2021. I think we'll see Egypt come back too.
"We're a long way from going back to certain places though. Guest safety is our number one priority and we have to be compliant with Foreign Office guidance.
"But we're in a changing world - we could all be talking about cruising to North Korea. Who knows."
Twynam reiterated Azamara's commitment to the trade, which constitutes 90% of its business, adding the line achieved its annual sales target for Pursuit by the third week of January.
Headline changes to the ship include stripping out its casino, which will be replaced by a new "destination-focused lounge" called The Den. This concept will be retrofitted to Pursuit's sister ships, Quest and Journey, also at the expense of their casinos.
While the refit will mirror Quest and Journey, Twynam said the main changes were to be found in the minutiae like UK sockets and USB ports in cabins and new sheet metal bathroom linings replacing wallpaper and tiles, as well as various bespoke fittings possible only thanks to its turnkey partnership with Belfast firm MJM Group.
"The quality will be the same across all three ships," said Twynam. "But the scale of this is so much bigger than what we've done before."
Quizzed on the price of the refit, a reported £50m, Twynam added: "I'll let you ride with that number - it's only when you get on board though you realise what that money gets you.
"These ships are small, they sail beautifully. It's only eight decks too so you feel close to the ocean - people just love it."