Under a beautiful evening sky in Monte Carlo, the Azamara Onward was officially christened on May 2.
The festive ceremony was attended by media partners and the ship’s maiden voyage guests.
Azamara President Carol Cabezas spoke emotionally about the company’s journey through the pandemic and extended special thanks to her team.
“We have all been tested these past couple of years, and I am exceedingly pleased to see where we are today,” said Cabezas. “There is a combination of what I consider superheroes onshore and onboard who have exemplified resilience and passion. Thanks to all their efforts, we have made it to this wonderful day. Together, we will take Azamara further than our wildest dreams.”
For this special maritime tradition, Azamara chose Beth Santos, founder and CEO of Wanderful as the Onward’s godmother.
Ms. Santos is an avid traveller who saw the need to create a community and social network to support and empower female solo travellers.
After blessing the ship, she and Azamara Onward’s captain Carl Smith cut the ribbon to release the ceremonial champagne bottle for a perfectly smashing christening.
Onward at a glance
Prior to the naming ceremony, Azamara Onward treated travel advisors and media members to a four-night “shake-down” cruise that departed on April 28, sailing from Barcelona to Marseille, Porto Venere, and Monte Carlo with an overnight stay.
At 592 feet long, 84 feet wide, and 30,277 gross-registered tons, the Onward has a capacity for 684 guests and 408 crew.
The newest ship to join the Azamara fleet, Onward was purchased from Princess Cruises and extensively refurbished before joining her three near-identical sisters Azamara Journey, Azamara Quest, and Azamara Pursuit.
It is important to note that while the public areas received new flooring, upholstery, furnishings, and all staterooms and suites were refreshed, the ship was not completely gutted and rebuilt.
READ MORE: Here's a first look at the Azamara Onward
Many of the foundation structures – the bones of the ship so to speak – remain from her previous life and some do show their age.
The delayed arrival of supplies and shortage of workers due to the pandemic also severely impacted the completion of the ship’s refurbishment.
During our voyage, staff and crew were still working fervently to finish the pool deck, and shipments of stateroom amenities, such as hairdryers and verandah chairs, are still en route.
Classic favourites & new additions
Loyal guests will enjoy the return of classic venues onboard the Onward.
Meals are taken at Discoveries restaurant and Windows cafe – the main dining room and the buffet, respectively. Buffets have returned to self-service but beverages are dispensed by servers.
Specialty restaurants Prime C (steak and seafood) and Aqualina (fine Italian) are also back, as is the popular Mosaic Cafe serving specialty coffees and snacks.
New to the Onward is Atlas Bar, which replaces the library found on board her sister ships.
It is an intimate lounge serving signature handcrafted cocktails, complemented by gourmet bites such as smoked lobster carpaccio, foie gras terrine, and smoking wagyu.
Cocktails are $17.95 each or included with the premium beverage upgrade package.
With lounge names such as The Den, The Living Room, and The Patio, the Onward exudes a relaxed ambiance that feels like home and a resort casual evening dress code prevails in the evenings.
Service is attentive and servers quickly address guests by name and remember their preferences.
Aptly named, the Cabaret Lounge offers small-scale entertainment with musicians and vocalists. The Spirits bar, Onward Boutiques, Sanctum Spa, and Fitness Center complete the interior line-up, while a pool, hot tubs, a jogging track, and large sunny areas provide outdoor enjoyment.
“Change The Way You Sea”
With this new tagline, Azamara continues to deliver destination immersion, their primary pillar of strength.
It begins with preferential access – the boutique-sized ships can sail up narrow channels and into small harbours, docking in the heart of town.
In Marseille, we tied up at the Port De La Joliette, steps away from shopping and seaside restaurants, where large ships were berthed at the commercial port 7.5 kilometres away.
Excursions showcasing Marseille and neigbouring Aix en Provence and Cassis provide a glimpse into the history and culture of these French seaside towns.
Destination immersion is further achieved through late and overnight stays, where guests can spend more time discovering their surroundings, engaging with the locals, and soaking in the culture of the places they visit without having to hurry back to the ship at 4 or 5 p.m.
Our late stay in Italy’s charming Cinque Terre region began with the Onward anchoring in Porto Venere at 8 a.m.
Various tents were set up throughout the medieval town with local food and beverage tasting stations and musical entertainment for guests to enjoy as they wander through the colourful streets.
Dubbed AzAmazing Day, this day-time event premiered during our cruise and is a variation of the regularly-scheduled AzAmazing Evening which treats guests to an art or cultural immersion experience at an exclusive venue.
In addition to the AzAmazing Day, guests had the option to experience the nature and culture of Cinque Terre villages via wine tasting, hiking, and village-hopping excursions.
The Onward remained in Porto Venere for 15 hours, a duration that is common in many Azamara itineraries.
The breathtaking skyline of Monte Carlo provided the perfect backdrop to another Azamara exclusive – The White Night Party.
Occurring once every cruise, guests are asked to wear something white (from a splash to head-to-toe) to attend an elaborate deck barbeque with live entertainment.
Our perfect evening saw us dine under billowing Azamara flags and banners while ensconced by the twinkling lights of Monte Carlo as the sun dipped below the horizon.
Azamara also features several single-country itineraries that take a deep dive into popular destinations such as Greece, Scotland, Croatia, Japan, South Africa and more.
Dedicated Canadian sales team
Azamara is represented by two strategic business development managers in Canada: Eva Horne (firstname.lastname@example.org) in Western Canada while Margarita Peloso (email@example.com) looks after the East.
“Canadian travel advisors share a resilience that never ceases to amaze me,” said Horne. “They’ve had to adapt to an ever-changing landscape of restrictions, regulations, redeployments, and news. I really look forward to connecting with everyone in person once again, as I sure have missed them all.”
Azamara Onward will spend her inaugural season in Europe, her line-up will include several country-intensive itineraries.
After spending the holiday season in the Caribbean, she will return to Europe for most of 2023, and a world voyage is planned for January 2024.