(2:15 p.m. EDT) -- It took two godmothers to christen a small cruise ship that's big on history. But in the end, two Champagne bottles successfully smashed against Azamara Pursuit's hull after AFAR Media's Ellen Asmodeo-Giglio and Travel Weekly U.K.'s Lucy Huxley pushed identical black buttons to send the bubbly flying, at the official naming ceremony in Southampton on Tuesday.
Cruise director Tony Markey kicked off the events, welcoming the godmothers along with Richard Fain, chairman of Azamara parent company Royal Caribbean Cruises Limited, and Larry Pimentel, president of Azamara. Reading Scottish Pipe Band performed. Godmothers Asmodeo-Giglio, executive vice president and chief revenue officer of AFAR Media, and Huxley, editor-in-chief of Travel Weekly U.K., are both longtime figures in the travel journalism world.
Pimentel presented the godmothers with "Beacon of Hope" statuettes to commemorate the occasion, and an oil painting the two of them, unveiled at the ceremony, will hang onboard Pursuit. He also said choosing godmothers was easy.
"I wanted elegance, style and professionalism," he told Huxley and Asmodeo-Giglio, "and you two very much represent that. ...
"You have made this world a better place, and as godmothers, you will also make this ship a better place."
Huxley and Asmodeo-Giglio both thanked Azamara and expressed excitement over being selected.
In unison, the godmothers said, "We name this ship Azamara Pursuit. May God bless her and all who sail on her." Then, they pressed the buttons as the screen behind them showed the live action, culminating in the bottles breaking, a traditional sign of good luck.
Azamara Club Cruises announced in September 2017 it was buying P&O Adonia from the cruise line's parent company, Carnival Corporation, and rebranding it Azamara Pursuit. The ship sailed its final voyage as Adonia in February 2018.
Azamara started the two-and-a-half-month refurbishment in the Bahamas, where it received mechanical upgrades and exterior painting. Then, it took a 14-day journey (with 120 crew onboard) across the Atlantic Ocean, ultimately ending up in Belfast, where it underwent a wet dock to address "hotel upgrades"; 650 men and women participated in renovating the spaces, attacking things like changing carpet and furniture.
When it emerged, Pursuit had 351 cabins and a number of suites, including the line's spa suites. (At double occupancy, it holds 702 passengers.) Pursuit's sister ships, Azamara Journey and Azamara Quest, hold 690 passengers at double capacity. To make room for the new cabins on Pursuit as well as a hip-yet-comfortable lounge called The Den, Azamara removed the casino and reconfigured the guest relations area. And while Pursuit is the newest ship in the brand, it's not wholly different than its fleetmates.
"We tried to maintain some amount of consistency with the sister ships," Chief Operating Officer Carol Cabezes said at a news conference earlier in the day.
Pursuit features plush carpets in neutral tones, bright spaces with windows adding plenty of natural light and stone and wood surfaces. The vessel has an open atrium highlighted by a high glass ceiling and glossy black iron filigree railings. It also features an art collection that highlights the works of unknown artists from around the world, curated by Michael Loveland.
The ship debuted in 2000, when it sailed under the defunct Renaissance Cruises brand as the eighth and final ship in the fleet's R-Class. Along the way, it sailed twice as P&O Adonia and had a brief stint as voluntourism brand Fathom's flagship, also called Adonia. Azamara Journey was the sixth in the R-Class, and Quest was the seventh, so the trio have virtually identical superstructures.
Pimentel said the addition of a third ship to the fleet gives itinerary flexibility to a brand well-known for its commitment to destination immersion. The ships are small enough to get into ports that large ships can't reach, and a third vessel gives Azamara the ability to get to new ports for the brand. Pursuit, for example, will head to South America, which Pimentel says is unique for Azamara. It will visit 60 destinations its fleetmates aren't visiting this year.
Echoes Michael Pawles, director of deployment and destinations, "When you look at  and , Azamara is visiting a lot of places it hasn't visited before."
That includes a South Africa cruise in 2020 that has a five-day land option so passengers can experience safaris.
"Our homeport is the world," Pimentel said.
Pimentel also took time to praise the crew onboard Pursuit and around the fleet, saying that the company couldn't do the things they do without them.
Under the RCCL umbrella, Azamara is joined by sister brands Royal Caribbean, Celebrity and Silversea, which joined the family early this summer. Like Azamara, Silversea has a fleet of small ships, though the focus is split between expedition cruising and all-inclusive luxury. Pimentel and Fain said they think the mix of brands that creates a well-rounded that addresses any cruisers need.
With three ships, Azamara is the smallest of the four brands, but Pimentel compares his cruise line with the little engine that could.
"I feel we've created a brand with purpose," he said.
--By Colleen McDaniel, Senior Executive Editor