The newest superliner for P&O Cruises, Azura, touched water for the first time today in the traditional “floating out” ceremony, prior to her launch next April.

The 115,000-ton ship is taking shape at Fincantieri Monfalcone shipyard near Trieste and today saw the float out of Azura in a special two part ceremony.

Amanda Dowds, wife of Azura’s Captain, Keith Dowds acted as “madrina” or “godmother” for a symbolic ceremony in which a newly-minted two pound coin and a new euro are welded at the foot of the ship’s mast for good luck.

Azura was blessed by a priest as a bottle of Italian Prosecco smashed against the hull. The valves of the giant dry dock at the Monfalcone shipyard then opened allowing the ship to meet the water for the first time.

P&O Cruises, managing director, Nigel Esdale, said: “The float out ceremony is a significant event in the build of a new ship. Azura is designed with traditional cruise values of service and quality combined with the flexibility and choice that today’s contemporary customer expects and the high level of early bookings proves this demand.

“For Azura we’ve gone ‘back to the future’. We’re looking at how travelling at sea really should be; sophisticated, relaxing, indulgent and exciting, whilst we are also looking forward at the same time. Firsts for P&O Cruises will include an open-air cinema-at-sea, an open air spa terrace
and single staterooms.”

Azura will feature an Indian fine dining restaurant, Sindhu, the creation of celebrated Michelin starred Chef Atul Kochhar who attended today’s ceremony. Sindhu means meeting point, amalgamation or fusion, and the menu will offer a fusion of fine British and Indian cuisine with dishes such as pan-fried lobster tail in coconut milk and tamarind sauce.

TV wine expert Olly Smith has also been enlisted to help create a new wine bar and restaurant concept – The Glass House. A must for wine lovers, The Glass House menu will feature different wines recommended with each course, all served by the glass and expertly matched by Olly, who was also present in Italy.

The Saturday Kitchen star will act as consultant in the creation of the drinks menus for Azura’s other bars and restaurants and will travel regularly throughout the year to host light hearted tasting sessions in his own irreverent style.

Azura will be named in Southampton in April 2010 and depart on her maiden voyage on 12 April 2010. A 16-night Mediterranean holiday departing 5 September 2010, calling in Malaga, Katakolon, Corfu, Dubrovnik, Venice, Korcula and Gibraltar starts from £1,685* per person.