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P&O have released details of their next ship, Azura, construction of which recently started. She’s a sister to Ventura (and therefore a very close relation to recent Princess ships, e.g. Ruby Princess) but will be somewhat different from the earlier P&O ship. Whereas Ventura was aimed very much at first-time UK cruisers, and especially families, Azura will be mainly geared to adults and couples, and will offer “high quality service in a contemporary embience”, according to Nigel Esdale, P&O’s managing director. He also said the the new ship will “go back to the core of P&O’s Britishness”.

The highlights of the design are the provision (for the first time on P&O) of some single cabins, and also an adult-only sun-deck to be called The Retreat. I suspect this will be very similar to Princess’ ‘Sanctuary’. Another idea taken from Princess is Movies under the Stars – MutS.

Beyond those aspects it seems that the features of Azura will be quite similar to those on Ventura: the numbers and locations of bars, restaurants and lounges will be almost the same as on Ventura, although the details will differ. Gone is East, Ventura’s ‘Asian Fusion’ speciality restaurant, to be replaced by Sindhu, a British-Indian fusion restaurant. Gone also is the White Room, probably replaced by a restaurant to be called Bentleys (one or two of the names could still be changed). One thing that is interesting is that none of the restaurants are to be named after chefs – have P&O found that the names of Gary Rhodes and Marco Pierre White don’t have the pull that was expected?

Azura will be under construction for almost another 18 months, so many details could change. But I’m interested and excited by this ship. We enjoyed our cruise on Ventura, and we hope to cruise on either Ventura or Azura in spring/early summer 2010.

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