Azamara Onward, the fourth ship in Azamara Cruises’ 15-year history and the first new ship under cruise line president Carol Cabezas, was officially christened on May 2, 2022 in a charming dockside ceremony in Monte Carlo, Monaco.
In attendance were media, travel partners, investors, and honorary guests, as well as former president of Holland America Line Orlando Ashford, who is now an executive chairman at Azamara Cruises.
Godmother Beth Santos is an entrepreneur, recognized for founding and leading Wanderful, an international collective of more than 45,000 female travelers and content creators who support one another to grow the travel industry.
“Travel is about a mindset, not a destination,” Santos said during her remarks. “After two of the hardest years on record in travel, and the cruise industry, this ceremony is about giving purpose and a path forward for this new ship, but also for us.”
Santos spoke about her mission to make travel both impactful and equitable for all travelers, a mission that Cabezas shares. “Travel is an education. Beyond new cultures, it teaches us humility, patience, resourcefulness, and gratitude, among its many virtues,” Cabezas said during the ceremony. “And it teaches us a lot about ourselves along the way.”
Despite the glamor of the event, 702-passenger Onward is still the ship Azamara loyalists know and love — an R-Class vessel most recently known as Pacific Princess. Loyalty was a buzz word throughout the christening, with Cabezas thanking loyalty guests for allowing Azamara the privilege of hosting them on its ships time and time again. Guests Jean Robert and Francine Page joined executives on stage, having sailed a total of 580 nights on Azamara’s three other ships.
During the christening, I sat next to Pat Forrest, an Azamara cruiser from Laguna Beach, CA who has sailed more than 50 cruises with the line and was joining Azamara Onward for its maiden voyage. When I asked what attracts him to the brand, he replied, “Their delivery of the cruise experience; the destinations and itineraries, but above all the service and the crew.”
About $60 million later, Azamara Onward has all the signature spaces of the other three ships in the fleet, as well as the addition of one new venue and more suites.
The iconic library on Deck 10, with its muraled ceiling and cozy fireplace, is now the Atlas Bar. While we know that Azamara guests enjoy their quiet nooks, there are still plenty of those onboard; we feel the space is put to good use, proving to be an extremely popular hangout by night on our sailing with an inventive cocktail list and modern yet relaxed decor.
Due to its original layout, Deck 8 is entirely all suites on Azamara Onward, where half of the staterooms on the other Azamara ships consist of balcony cabins.
Azamara Onward was purchased by private equity firm Sycamore Partners in 2021 very shortly after announcing their stake in Azamara Cruises, and its complete refurbishment has been a monumental undertaking. In the months spent getting the ship ready for guests, Azamara faced the challenges of a global pandemic; supply chain shortcomings; and the war between Russia and Ukraine, where many contractors and crew who typically participate in ship renovations are located.
The vessel is also older than any of the other ships in the Azamara fleet (originally built in 1999), and it sat stationary for two years, so the work to be done was significant, according to Captain Carl Smith. “Everything that you get to see, feel, touch, and experience is new; every piece of carpet, every piece of fabric.”
The ship is still finding its footing in terms of finishings — surfaces need painting and sanding, the Sanctum Spa Terrace is not yet open, the shipment of hair dryers has not made it onboard — but the guest experience remains strong.
What Azamara is known for is its fabulous itineraries with many late nights or overnights in port and its fantastic crew. Those elements have not changed. Our AzAamazing experience in Portovenere, Italy (Cinque Terre region) reminded us of what’s special about the brand; it’s not just a mode of transportation to get into the ports of call — Azamara works to really connect guests with the destination and what it has to offer.
In our case it was pizza and prosecco on a stunning stone pier, followed by live music throughout the village, which included opera singers serenading us as we visited an 800-year-old church and stopped to admire the same sea views that inspired Lord Byron (the area here is known as the Gulf of Poets).
Following an inaugural season in Europe, Azamara will bring back AzAmazing Evenings — the event we attended was a version held during the day.
The inaugural Azamara Onward sailing departed Monte Carlo on May 2 bound for Ravenna, Italy on an 11-night voyage. Testing is still required to board an Azamara cruise prior to embarkation at the pier, but mask-wearing is optional for passengers at this time.
“Onward is a nod to new adventures and the bright future ahead,” cruise director Eric de Gray told the audience during the christening. “[The name signifies] moving forward in space and time; resilience; positivity; and endless possibilities. This marks the future of the brand’s trajectory and a journey to the next chapter.”