Azura Arrival
The 7th April 2010 saw the start of three brand new vessels being based in Southampton with P&O's latest Grand class, and slightly modified sister to Ventura, the 116,000grt Azura.  Generally the two are the same but there are a few differences such as the tail at the base of the stern and the Movies Under The Stars screen which is very popular on their Princess sisters.  Originally, the arrival was 7am which was ridiculous.  I moaned for a week on Twitter and on the 6th it was announced it would be the 9am I'd asked for (Arcadia and Ventura were that time).  Their Twitter person also told me so I was very happy. Due to the late change, many didn't know about it.  We headed out for the 6.55am bus so we could grab a drink and some breakfast for me from Martin's then get a good spot before the fairweather's descended.  It was quite mild with a little light drizzle at that time and even the sun tried to come out through the clouds.  That didn't last long!
Several fairweather's gave up and left but as the time drew near for her to put an appearance off Calshot, the prepared ship nuts arrived!  Also the wind whipped up, rain came down and it strongly reminded me of Arcadia's arrival five years earlier!  At 8.07am there was a moving something atop one of the buildings at Calshot.  Was it???  YES!!!!!!!!!!!  Ship nuts forward!!!!  We heard her go blast mad down the end and also past Fawley.  The tugs Surrey and Sussex went down for her as well.  Meanwhile Hotspur had her engines fired up before the tugs went by but it was lovely to hear that chugging after whichever idiot knackered them.
I phoned my mum to tell her Azura was at Netley and she said she'd had a fall and there was blood everywhere.  She has terminal cancer and the tumours cause her aneamia so suffers dizzy spells.  My dad rushed home, leaving me to photo, video and tweet so apologies for the blurry photos.  They were taken one-handed.
Disappointingly, although she'd done it twice already, she was absolutely mute when nearing the dock area.  This is unusual because normally they go blast mad when they're passing the pier.
And then an absolute shock.  Was it an hallucination from the cold?  Surely it couldn't REALLY say Southampton instead of Hamilton on the stern???  No it wasn't and yes it did.  A P&O first, omitted in the earlier press releases and that day's media reports of the arrival.  I was upset when London was lost in 2005 but felt proud today.  Feel prouder if it's not a mistake and they all become ours like Cunard!
Then I had to go home to find out the situation with my mum so couldn't see her docking.  I was already later than I'd intended due to getting chatting to people, two of whom it turned out had been on the same disasterous Vision of the Seas cruise on the 8th-23rd February 2009!  (Thanks John).  So that was that and she was home, flashing her home port on her bum. But would it still be there when she had her maiden voyage five days later?  To see photos of Azura's maiden voyage, click here.

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© Patricia Dempsey 7th April 2010
Not to be reproduced without permission