Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Cruising – Out with the Old, In with the New

By Jim Shaw

This year marks the end for all but a very few of the generation of cruise ships that were originally built for liner work but later converted for cruising. New Safety of Life At Sea (SOLAS) regulations have meant that most of these older vessels have now been taken out of service and sold for scrap. Among the most recent to go to Asian breakers has been Saga Rose, built by Great Britain’s Swan Hunter Shipbuilders in 1973 as Vistafjord for Norwegian America Line and now awaiting demolition in Jiangyin, China.

Already under the breaker’s torches in India is Blue Monarch, built for the liner operations of Compagnie Française de Navigation in 1966 as Renaissance and later modified for cruising by Epirotiki Line of Greece.

Another classic passenger ship under demolition in India is the 1957-built Ivory, which once operated an express liner route in the Mediterranean for Italy’s Adriatica Line as Ausonia. Demolished earlier this year were the 1962-built Salamis Glory and 1953-built Olympia, the former an ex-Brazilian coastal liner built as Anna Nery while the latter was better known in the Florida cruise trade under the names Caribe 1 and Regal Empress.

Still laying on the Indian coast is the former American-flag cruise ship Independence, once part of the American Hawaii Cruises fleet but now deteriorating rapidly in the surf with a broken keel.

New Ships
While these older ships meet their end, yet another wave of new generation cruise ships is being introduced, and more ordered, despite the lingering recession. Delivered this past summer was Seattle-based Holland America Line’s 87,000-gt Nieuw Amsterdam, completed by Italy’s Fincantieri yard at Marghera and expected to make its first world cruise in 2012.

Like sister ship Eurodam, delivered in 2008, Nieuw Amsterdam is powered by six MaK M 43 C engines with a combined output of 64,000 kW driving AC generators. A top speed of 24 knots and a service speed of 22 knots are furnished by twin Azipod drives.

The 235 meter by 32.2 meter ship differs from sister Eurodam in having an interior that pays homage to its namesake city, New York, as well as several new-style public rooms and a slightly higher passenger capacity.

Fincantieri, which has now built 14 vessels for HAL, also delivered the 2,862-passenger Costa Deliziosa to associated Costa Line this year and is building two more 114,500-gt vessels for the Italian company. Last month Fincantieri turned over the 2,092-passenger Queen Elizabeth to Cunard Line, also part of the Carnival Group. As a mark of the new ship’s popularity, its maiden voyage to the Canary Islands sold out in 29 minutes, 14 seconds.

Latest Queen
The 90,400-gt Queen Elizabeth is perhaps the most anticipated ship of this year’s crop, which has already included such vessels as MSC Magnifica, Celebrity Eclipse, Azura, Norwegian Epic and Seabourn Sojourn. The hull of the new Cunarder is based on Carnival’s Vista class and is a close sister to the earlier delivered Queen Victoria but slightly larger due to a more vertical stern. Because of this difference the largest suites at the rear of the ship have slightly smaller balconies than those on Victoria. Another external difference is a glass roof covering the games deck forward, unlike the open sports deck on the 2007-built vessel.

Although having an almost identical interior arrangement as her sister, Queen Elizabeth’s decor is different as it pays tribute to the two previous Cunard Queen Elizabeths: the original Queen Elizabeth of 1938 and Queen Elizabeth 2, retired last year and now awaiting its future in Dubai.

Besides many art deco interior touches the new Queen features a Britannia Club section in the main restaurant, a popular feature on Queen Mary 2 but not available on Queen Victoria.

Propulsion-wise the 964.5-foot by 106-foot Queen Elizabeth makes use of four MaK 12 M 43 C and two MaK 8 M 43 C diesels providing a speed of 23.5 knots through two ABB pods. Ride and maneuverability are enhanced through the incorporation of two Fincantieri Riva Trigoso Stabilizers and three Fincantieri Riva Trigoso Thrusters.

Carnival Breeze
Looking well beyond the current economic slump, Carnival has ordered another three ships from Fincantieri for other brands of its group, with the first to be a sister to Carnival Cruise Lines’ Carnival Dream, delivered last year, and its yet-to-be-completed sister, Carnival Magic, floated out of Fincantieri’s Monfalcone yard in August for delivery next spring. The Monfalcone facility will also build the latest 130,000-gt Carnival ship, which is priced at $738 million and will be delivered in 2012 as Carnival Breeze.

Gerry Cahill, President and CEO of Carnival Cruise Line, said the newbuilding will have the same outdoor layout as its sister ships, including a promenade running the whole of the ship’s external perimeter. However, the 3,690-passenger cruise liner will feature a larger number of deluxe ocean view staterooms with two-bathrooms and more cabins with five berths in response to growing family requirements.

Propulsion will be provided by six 12-cylinder Wärtsilä 46 engines in a diesel-electric configuration, with each generating set having a rated output of 12,600 kW at 514 rpm driving twin shafts for a service speed of 22.5 knots.

Princess Prototypes
The second two ships to be built by Fincantieri will be for the Los Angeles-based Princess Cruises brand. These will be twin 141,000-gt vessels due for delivery in the first quarters of 2013 and 2014 as the largest vessels ever built for Princess. To cost approximately €155,000 per lower berth to build, the twin 3,600-passenger capacity ships will be new prototypes for the Carnival Group, thus could be followed by additional vessels of the same class for other brands of the Carnival fleet, similar to what has happened with the Vista class.

Preliminary plans disclose that all sea-view cabins on the new ships, to represent 80 percent of all passenger accommodation on board, will have private balconies while the main entrance halls, wellness centers and restaurants will be larger than those found on current Princess vessels and will feature a more luxurious décor.

AIDA Order
For its Europe-based AIDA Cruises brand, Carnival has returned to Germany’s Meyer Werft for another “club” style cruise ship, a concept that is popular with younger European travelers. The 71,300-gt vessel is the seventh ship ordered for the German cruise operator in the past six years and is expected to cost about €150,000 per lower berth to build. It is scheduled to enter service in the spring of 2013.

Design-wise, the 2,192 passenger newbuilding will follow the similar-sized AIDAsol, set to debut in April 2011, and an as-yet-unnamed sister ship, due for completion in mid-2012. These ships will make use of diesel-electric propulsion systems consisting of four MaK 9 M 43 C diesel/generator sets feeding two electric motors driving shafted propellers for a service speed of 21.8 knots.

“With growth that is outpacing other regions of the world, expanding our European brands continues to be a priority for us,” said Micky Arison, Carnival Corporation & plc chairman and CEO. “This new AIDA ship will build upon the brand’s leadership position in the fast-growing German-speaking market, while offering a unique onboard experience preferred by its clientele.”

Celebrity Celebration
Carnival competitor Royal Caribbean has been taking delivery of a number of new ships for its Royal Caribbean International and Celebrity Cruises brands, with the latter accepting the Celebrity EclipseCelebrity Eclipse from Germany’s Meyer Werft in April. The 1,850-passenger is the third vessel in the company’s $3.7 billion Solstice Class fleet, which will see number four, Celebrity Silhouette, completed by Meyer Werft next year.

Like its sister ships, the 122,000-gt Celebrity Silhouette will measure 1,033 feet (314.8m) by 121 feet (36.8m) and accommodate 2,850 passengers served by a crew of 1,500. Propulsion will be provided by four Wärtsilä diesel/generator sets delivering power to two 20.5MW Azipod drive units to give a top speed of 24 knots.

On their upper decks these vessels feature Celebrity’s unique “Lawn Club,” a half-acre of real grass that requires constant attention, perhaps reminding passengers of what they are missing at home. The Celebrity fleet will gain its fifth yet-to-be-named Solstice class ship in 2012.

World’s Largest
Another Royal Caribbean brand, Royal Caribbean International (RCI), expects to inaugurate sailings with its new Allure of the Seas from Port Everglades, Florida in early December. Measuring 1,181 feet (360m) by 154 feet (47m) the 225,282-gt, 16-deck vessel will carry 5,400 passengers (double occupancy) in 2,700 staterooms. Although similar in layout to sister ship Oasis of the Seas, introduced last year, Allure of the Seas will feature some interior differences. These will be brought about by agreements signed earlier this year with DreamWorks Animations, Chicago The Musical, and pop culture icon Romero Britto. Under the agreements “Chicago” will become the ship’s signature entertainment show during the evening hours.

At the same time, the first Britto Concept store at sea will be opened on Allure. The store will be located in the vessel’s Central Park area and will feature a unique Britto sculpture to provide passengers with a family photo venue. Throughout cruises, DreamWorks Animations will provide a number of its celebrity characters on board, including Shrek, Fiona and Puss In Boots of the “Shrek” series. Like Oasis of the Seas, Allure of the Seas will operate alternating Western and Eastern Caribbean seven-night itineraries out of Port Everglades.

Disney Dream
Following very quickly after the inauguration of RCI’s Allure of the Seas will be Disney Cruise Line’s new Disney Dream, which is due to set sail on its maiden voyage from Port Canaveral, Florida in late January. To be two decks taller than the cruise line’s existing Disney Magic and Disney Wonder, the 128,000-gt newbuilding will measure 1,115 feet by 121 feet and will accommodate more than 4,000 passengers. It will incorporate the talents of associated Disney Imagineering and will carry a water coaster, the “AquaDuck”, on its upper decks. At the same time the ship’s main dining rooms, the Animator’s Palate restaurant, will transform into an undersea wonderland during dining hours.

Also on board will be a number of elaborately-themed children’s spaces, while adults will have their own separate nighttime entertainment district. In addition, passengers booking an inside stateroom will still get a view, thanks to another cruise industry first by Disney, the camera-driven “virtual porthole.”

Propulsion of the vessel will be more conventional, utilizing three 12-cylinder and two 14-cylinder MAN 48/64CR engines linked to two 19-megawatt Converteam propulsion motors to drive twin props for a speed of 22 knots.

Norwegian Epic
A major cruise ship delivery this past summer was Norwegian Cruise Line’s 155,873-gt Norwegian Epic, completed by STX’s St. Nazaire shipyard in France. The 19-deck, 1,080-foot (329.5m) by 133-foot (40.5m) ship had experienced several problems during construction, and faced a minor mechanical fault on its maiden voyage, but was able to cross the Atlantic in early July to be christened at New York City by entertainer Reba McEntire. The new vessel then moved to Miami to take up a series of regularly-scheduled alternating seven-day Eastern and Western Caribbean cruises that will last until next May when it will reposition to Europe to operate a series of seven-day Western Mediterranean cruises from Barcelona, Spain.

Norwegian Epic makes use of a diesel-electric system for a cruising speed of 22 knots, with the system incorporating six MaK engines driving twin shafted propellers through high-torque density-induction motors fed by PWM converters. The diesels, manufactured by Caterpillar Motoren GmbH & Co KG in Germany, meet DNV Clean Design requirements and rely on a low cylinder rating to decrease fuel consumption and CO2 emissions.

Yet to place a ship on the Pacific Coast is Switzerland-based MSC Cruises, not as well known as some of its competitors but now ranked as the world’s fourth largest cruise line. It is also a division of the Mediterranean Shipping Company, the world’s second largest container carrier. Earlier this year MSC finalized its order for a new 1,751-cabin cruise liner from STX France’s Saint Nazaire yard that will cost approximately $575 million to build. To be christened MSC Fantastica, the vessel is due for delivery in the late spring of 2012.

Prior to this order the Swiss company had placed its most recent ship, the $547 million MSC Magnifica, into service as its fourth “Musica” class vessel. The 93,330-gt Magnifica features 22,000 square meters of public area and has been fitted with a Magrodome retractable roof to make its main pool area accessible in all weather conditions. Like most of MSC’s other vessels, Magnifica has been working in the Mediterranean this year but the firm’s third Musica class ship, MSC Poesia, has been offering cruises from New York City to New England/Eastern Canada and will switch to Port Everglades, Florida this month to provide a number of Caribbean cruises, all at highly competitive rates.