Newry.ie

It was a day to hold their heads high for management and staff of MJM Group as they proudly showed the media the end product of their latest and quite possibly their greatest project, the multi million pound refit of the amazing Azamara Pursuit Cruise Ship at Belfast Harbour.

Captain Carl Smith, Azamara Pursuit with Brian McConville, founder, MJM Group. Photograph: Columba O'Hare/ Newry.ie
Azamara Pursuit Captain, Carl Smith on board with Brian McConville, founder, MJM Group. Photograph: Columba O'Hare/ Newry.ie

The £150M Azamara Pursuit with a capacity of nearly 800 passengers and 400 crew has been completely transformed and renewed in the four month refit, a historic first for MJM. It's the first time a cruise ship owner (Royal Caribbean Cruises) has awarded complete project management responsibility to just one organisation.

Azamara Pursuit at Belfast Harbour. Photograph: Columba O'Hare/ Newry.ie
Azamara Pursuit at Belfast Harbour. Photograph: Columba O'Hare/ Newry.ie

Speaking of how the project came to be MJM founder, Brian McConville said "We've had an amazing trip this last year going out to Miami. We met up with the senior team, the directors in Royal Caribbean. We negotiated this contract - very very difficult"

The negotiations resulted in MJM becoming a preferred partner, an external partner of Royal Caribbean. "This is really really working well for us, so much so that we now have a pipeline of work thanks to Royal Caribbean and Azamara." Mr McConville added.

"I want to say this has been huge for me personally, this journey, this trip, bringing this all together, bringing it to Belfast. We had the opportunity, we did look at other places, Belfast wasn't the cheapest option

"We wanted to bring the ship, for 35 years in business, we wanted to bring it to Belfast. We had great support from our partners with Royal Caribbean, so eventually we got the ship here and I believe it is history in the making to get this vessel here"

Speaking of a test sailing this week, Gary Annett, CEO, MJM Group said "We have had a wonderful couple of days aboard the ship, trying out and testing the facilities and we can all say we had a very good time. We managed to get to the Isle of Man yesterday, Captain Carl Smith's home town"

On board Azamara Pursuit were from left Gary Annett, CEO, MJM Group; Jonathan Guest, CEO, Harland and Wolff; Captain Carl Smith, Azamara Pursuit; Richard Twynam, MD, UK and Ireland, Azamara Club Cruises and Brian McConville, Founder, MJM. Photograph: Columba O'Hare/ Newry.ie
On board Azamara Pursuit were from left Gary Annett, CEO, MJM Group; Jonathan Guest, CEO, Harland and Wolff; Captain Carl Smith, Azamara Pursuit; Richard Twynam, MD, UK and Ireland, Azamara Club Cruises and Brian McConville, Founder, MJM. Photograph: Columba O'Hare/ Newry.ie

Azamara Pursuit Captain Carl Smith started with Azamara in September 2007, spent a year on Azamara Journey and has spent the last ten years on the Azamara Quest. "I have to tell you when I left that ship in January, there were tears. I really really didn't believe that we could create an atmosphere on board a ship that would anyway close approach the atmosphere on board the Azamara Quest and the Azamara Journey.

"It's taken us four months of hard work and sweat and cover-alls and dirty hands, but we've got to that situation now. We've got 400 crew on board, we've been working hand in hand with Brian's team from MJM for the last 4 months and it's been fantastic co-operation both ways. It's been a pleasure and a privilege to watch. I've been at sea for 28 years, I've done many of these refits, and I've never yet been involved in one that didn't involve raised voices during the morning meetings. We haven't had a single raised voice in 4 months. It really has been fantastic co-operation so I'd like to thank Brian and all of his team from MJM."

Newry.ie asked Brian McConville how does it make him feel as part of a Newry Based Company competing with the best in the world to get a contract like this to which he quipped "Well if you weren't recording me I'd say we are the best in the world, It's everybody else who is watching our space!"

Fine dining on the Azamara Pursuit! - MJM founder Brian McConville in one of the refurbished restaurants on board. Photograph: Columba O'Hare/ Newry.ie
Fine dining on the Azamara Pursuit! - MJM founder Brian McConville in one of the refurbished restaurants on board. Photograph: Columba O'Hare/ Newry.ie

The MJM founder added "I have to say and I'm not an emotional guy, but the ship leaving and Captain Smith pulling six blasts on the horn as we let the ropes go and we moved out, two nights ago to go to the Isle of Man, I was almost overwhelmed of what me, my team, the MJM team, and I can tell you there's no other team like it in this world.

Concluding he added "It's about the team. It's about putting hard working decent people together, that everybody stands up and backs up each other to make it happen. That's what you actually need to make this a success."

Richard Twynam, MD, UK and Ireland, Azamara Club Cruises showed the visitors around the ship's suites and staterooms, the spa, two luxurious spa suites with every spa facility possible, a massive gym, although it wouldn't be the place us folk at Newry.ie would be heading to every day, The restaurants and bars on board, looked much more inviting!

Brian and Connie McConville, MJM, on board the Azamara Pursuit in Belfast. Photograph: Columba O'Hare/ Newry.ie
Brian and Connie McConville, MJM, on board the Azamara Pursuit in Belfast. Photograph: Columba O'Hare/ Newry.ie

Exploring the marvelous rear deck of the ship Mr Twynam asked visitors to close their eyes for a moment "It's New Years Eve, the suns setting, you're moored off the the Copacabana, the fireworks are just starting and this is your spot" not a difficult thing to do in today's balmy temperatures although opening our eyes and confronting the reality that if we really really wanted to 'push the boat out' so to speak, the best suite on the ship would set us back a cool £20K+, for a wee fifteen day cruise around Japan complete with your own butler of course..... Aw well back up the road to beautiful Newry - Rio will just have to wait till the numbers come up!

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