Ships have been ceremonially blessed or christened in some form for centuries; Queen Victoria is said to have introduced the practice of smashing a bottle of champagne against a ship's hull in 1891. For at least a couple of hundred years it's been customary for women to do the honours but in the cruise world at least, those seafaring traditions are being stretched to the max.
Two of Norwegian Cruise Line's modern megaships have godfathers: Pitbull for Norwegian Escape, Elvis Duran for Norwegian Bliss. The original cast of The Love Boat are co-godparents to Princess Cruises' Regal Princess – all six of them. Even more shockingly, Shrek's Princess Fiona is godmother to Allure of the Seas, Tinkerbell is Disney Wonder's ''fairy godmother'' and Nickelodeon character Dora the Explorer christened P&O's Pacific Explorer a year ago.
Now Azamara has announced that its third ship, Azamara Pursuit, will be christened by two godmothers in Southampton this August. One is British travel editor Lucy Huxley, the other is American Ellen Asmodeo-Giglio, from AFAR Media. Azamara chose the pair for their in-depth knowledge of travel and as representatives of two of the line's key markets – the US and Britain. Azamara says they also personify its dedication to Destination Immersion experiences, a philosophy that it is building on year by year.
In 2020, the line is adding South Africa, French Polynesia and Hawaii to its worldwide itineraries. Forty of 92 scheduled cruises will be ''country-intensive voyages'', where guests can visit numerous ports within one country and stay late or overnight in most cities. Other new moves include Land and Sea packages hosted by Micato Safaris, Christmas and holiday sailings such as New Year celebrations in Rio de Janeiro and Cape Town, and Azamara Quest's second World Journey, from Cape Town to Southampton.
Azamara's president and CEO, Larry Pimentel, said: "Our guests spoke and we listened; the addition of Azamara Pursuit has allowed us to expand our footprint across all seven continents, bringing guests to new destinations, new experiences and new opportunities."
Azamara Pursuit, which is the same 690-passenger, R-class vessel as Azamara Journey and Quest, is the first ship in the fleet to have an official naming ceremony (and godmothers). After the christening on August 28, Pursuit will set sail for an AzAmazing afternoon event in Cherbourg, France, followed by a White Night celebration where the ship's officers and crew will serve passengers a poolside banquet.
The ship will sail in the Mediterranean until November, when it repositions to the Caribbean and South America until April 2019. See azamaraclubcruises.com
THE PORT Kotor, Montenegro
WHO GOES THERE Azamara, Celebrity, Cunard, HAL, Hapag-Lloyd, MSC, NCL, Oceania, Princess, RSSC, Royal Caribbean, Seabourn, SeaDream, Silversea, Star Clippers.
WHY WE LOVE IT Sailing to Kotor through the scenic, fjord-like waterway from the Adriatic Sea is one of the many attractions of this UNESCO World Heritage-listed port. The walled fortress town dates back to 168BC, when it was founded by the Romans, and its narrow streets are lined with medieval stone houses, churches and palatial buildings.
TAKE A TOUR OR GO IT ALONE? Ships dock just across the road from the entrance to the walled city and you can easily spend a day sightseeing on foot, on your own. Stop for a coffee or drink in one of the many bars in pretty plazas or along the waterfront and if you feel like a more challenging walk, head up to the fortress at the top of the hill. It's worth taking tours to Budva, one of the oldest settlements on the Adriatic coast; Cetinje, the 15th-century former capital of Montenegro; and the village of Lastva, famous for its smokehouses and olive oil. For a non-historic experience take a tour to Lipa Cave – it has two-and-a-half kilometres of passages, underground rivers and ''halls'' of stalagmites and stalactites to explore. Views of Skadar Lake and the Kuckih Mountains are a bonus of this day trip.
MUST SEE Maritime Museum, the 12th-century St Tryphon's Cathedral and Perast and Our Lady of the Rocks, a little island accessible by local motorboat. Cat-lovers will appreciate the tiny, two-room Cats Museum.
MUST EAT Dining is mostly Mediterranean-style, with lots of fish, seafood, olives, pasta and pizza. Local Montenegrin specialties include smoked ham and cheese; try local dishes such as black seafood risotto, made with squid ink; gavice, small whole fried fish; cheese and prosciutto-stuffed pork steaks; meats that are slow-roasted in ''sacs'' (metal domes); and burek, stuffed filo pastries served with yoghurt.
NEED TO KNOW The official language in Kotor is Montenegrin but English is widely spoken.
Majestic Princess, which arrives in Sydney on September 15, will be the largest, newest Princess ship to sail Down Under – the sister to Regal and Royal Princess launched last year.
Luxury expedition expansion
In the same week Scenic announced that the launch of its first oceangoing ''discovery yacht'' Scenic Eclipse will be delayed by five months, Seabourn revealed that it has ordered two ''ultra-luxury'' expedition ships. Seabourn is keen to expand its expedition-style experiences; Seabourn Quest has sailed in Antarctica since 2013 and the line recently launched Ventures by Seabourn, a program of active shore tours offered in select destinations. The new ships will be built to PC6 Polar Class standards, accommodate up to 264 passengers in verandah suites and will be equipped with kayaks, zodiacs and two mini-submarines. Seabourn will announce more details this year and itineraries and bookings will be released in early 2019. The ships are due in 2021 and 2022. See seabourn.com
Astor sails into the sunset
After six years of cruising from Fremantle and Adelaide, Astor will sail Australian shores with Cruise & Maritime Voyages for the last time in March 2019. CMV's newly acquired Vasco da Gama will join the fleet in April 2019 and will begin its first local season in December 2019. Extend your Escape offers are available for Astor's upcoming season, when booked by August 31, 2018. Back-to-back cruises are popular with CMV's clientele and one passenger has booked nine consecutive voyages on Astor this season, according to Dean Brazier, managing director of CMV Australia. "We believe our guests keep returning because of the intimate atmosphere and personalised service on our ships, and our new offer provides the ideal opportunity to see more of Australia for less." See cmvaustralia.com