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Making Ships Bigger: Hull Of A Job

Let’s say you own a cruise line and the smallest ships in your fleet have become, in this age of giant cruise ships, just too small. So you’re faced with a competitive choice. You sell them and hope when the euros or dollars settle, there are enough of them to help finance four bigger ships.


You cut them in half and make them bigger!

That’s what MSC Cruises is doing with four Lirica Class ships, the oldest and smallest on its fleet of 12. MSC already has four new ships on order but obviously felt the Lirica sisters Sinfonia— all built between 2001 and 2004 and all equipped to carry about 2,000 passengers — needed to be replaced…or enlarged.

So, at the Fincantieri Shipyard in Italy (the Armonia, Sinfonia, Lirica and Opera) will be cut in half and have a new section inserted in the middle — balance is, after all, important — and then put back together. The new section increases capacity by 193 cabins and costs about $55 million per ship, all of which apparently makes economic sense.

The process has already begun, with the Sinfonia. These are two of the MSC photos and there are more, plus the video, at www.dailymail.co.uk., the London newspaper’s website, Sinfonia-1along with a brief video about the process. This isn’t entirely new — you can find a YouTube video of the same thing happening to the Norwegian Crown, and there hash’t been a ship of that name for almost eight years.

Even so, it’s a fascinating procedure. It takes 10 weeks, plus another couple for sea trials, so the “new” Sinfonia isn’t expected back in service until the end of March.

It gives a whole new meaning to refurbishing a ship, doesn’t it?

Today at portsandbows.com: Change of mind about theme cruises

Carnival Glory
7 nights
June 6, 2015
Miami (return): Cozumel, Belize, Roatan, Grand Cayman
Inside: $649
Cost per day: $92

Oceania Ships Have The Same Look Now

Two years ago in the Mediterranean, we were fortunate to be on the Oceania Riviera for one of its first cruises, with a stop in Barcelona for the christening and official naming ceremony. This is a smallish ship by ocean-going standards — just 1,250 Rivierapassengers — and, by any objective cruiser's estimation, the Riviera is one beautiful ship.

It is a sister to Marina, Oceania's first new-build. Before that, three ships that performed for other lines made up the Oceania fleet.

And this year, it's their turn.

Earlier in the week, the last of the three — the Regatta — came out of dry-dock looking more like her prettier, younger sisters. While beauty is always in the eye of the beholder, and while there's only so much you can do with an old body (we speak from experience), when somebody spends $50 million on ships that are already "nice" you can assume they're going to look more like they belong to the same family.

The Regatta was the first ship for fledgling Oceania Cruises, 11 years ago, along with the Insignia. Both were known as "R ships" from bankrupt Renaissance Cruises. Two years later, along came the Nautica, another former R ship, and that was the fleet until RivieraMarina arrived, squeaky clean and new, in 2011.

This is the second time the Regatta has been refurbished in three years and most of its new look has to do with cosmetics…isn't that always the case? It also features a couple of popular and proven Marina and Riviera additions: Baristas coffee bar and the Terrace Cafe. That's the same treatment the Nautica and Insignia both received before they emerged from dry-dock last month.

When the Riviera arrived in 2012, it was from the same Fincantieri Shipyard that delivered Marina. About the same time, Insignia was being leased to Hapag-Lloyd Cruises for two years, probably for financial reasons. She returned last month and Oceania again became a five-ship fleet, but won't likely stay that way for long.

Plans are in place with Fincantieri for two more new ships.

If the Marina and the Riveria hadn't been so popular, that wouldn't happen.

Today at Phil Reimer's portsandbows.com: Quantum of the Seas and entertainment

Norwegian Sky
4 nights
September 15, 2014
Miami (return): Grand BahamaNassauGreat Stirrup Cay
Inside: $179
Cost per day: $44

In The Sunset Of A Celebrity's Life

When the end is near, as Frank Sinatra used to croon, how do you make sure you go out in style…with a flair? Maybe you get a facelift to capture (or try to) the days gone by. Maybe you put your best foot forward, for as long as you can take steps. Maybe you polish off that bucket list.

It's really no different with cruise ships.

The Celebrity Century is the current case in point. She's the matriarch of the fleet. Nobody is older. In fact, nobody's even close. Her end is near. She's had the facelift and the "plastic surgeon" — named Fincantieri — made it an extensive one, bringing the Century up to Millennium Class in the shipyard's most thorough Centuryrefurbishment ever. That enabled her to put the best foot forward before being sent off into the sunset.

In the Century's case, the sunset is Dubai…and other exotic ports within reach. Nobody knows if Dubai was on the Century's bucket list but Celebrity's guessing it was, and nobody knows this old ship better than the Celebrities. She's been one of them for almost two decades since another shipyard, Meyer Werft, brought her to life in Germany in 1995.

So between now and semi-retirement — which is sailing under the banner of Croisieres de France, a distant cruising cousin — the Century will take her loyal passengers along for her victory lap. Some will go from Singapore to Dubai. Some will go through the Suez Canal and on to Rome. Some will spend almost a month on the old ship…and make the whole trip from Singapore to Rome.

Then it will be springtime of 2015, time for the Century to move on and turn the page in an era. She was Celebrity's first ship and the flagship for the class that bears her name. In her day, she was among the best lookers anywhere.

But when the end is near, isn't that the way it is for humans, too?

Celebrity Reflection
7 nights
March 15, 2014
Miami (return): San JuanSt. ThomasSt. Maarten
Inside: $599
Cost per day: $85

Royal Princess Preview for Writers

There are lots of times lots of us would like to be where Phil Reimer is, and this week is one of them.

Phil is Canada's pre-eminent cruise writer and, after a short stop on the river in The Netherlands and on the edge of St. Mark's Square in Venice, he was off to see the princess…the Royal Princess, that is.

When they're still in the shipyards, as the Royal Princess is (Fincantieri), they're like celebrities who are not at their best — no visitors allowed. Trade secrets must remain secret until her big day arrives. The exceptions are select cruise writers — such as Phil — who are invited for a sneak preview soon before the ship goes public. That happens in June, in Southampton, and between now and then the Royal Princess will spend her days being primped and primed for the inaugural.

The Royal Princess has been seen in public. In August, at her float-out she was the background for the introduction of her Godmother, which Princess calls her "madrina" in paying tribute to her Italian heritage. The ship already has her own page on the Princess website, with artistic renderings revealing all that's attractive about her. And she is, of course, available for booking, although her first four cruises are sold out and you won't be able to sleep on her now until July 5.

Meanwhile, the writers/photographers will provide the latest look and feel about the biggest ship in the Princess fleet. Reimer's reports are available at portsandbows.com and in Postmedia newspapers across Canada in about 10 days' time. As you read this, he's probably combing her decks looking for the highlights…and looking down through the glass floor of a walkway that extends 28 feet over the sea on the top deck.

Now, wouldn't you want to be there?

Norwegian Sun
7 nights
May 27, 2013
Anchorage, Hubbard Glacier, Icy Strait Point, Juneau, Skagway, Ketchikan, Vancouver
Inside: $429
Cost per day: $61

New Kind of Magic at Disney

While Mickey Mouse is the epitome of agelessness — he looks pretty much as he did in 1928 except for more color  — even Disney can't prevent the aging process.

At least, not with ships.

The first Disney cruise ship ever built, the Magic, is going in for a little facelift. Now 14 years old, or about a third of the way through a cruise ship's lifespan, the Magic is scheduled for refurbishment next summer. Since it will be in Europe at the time, it's safe to assume it will return to its place of birth, the Fincantieri Shipyards of Italy.

The Magic carries 2,700 passengers. While hardly a cruise giant in today's fleets, it's 80 feet longer than the Titanic was and has been a workhorse in Disney's fleet, which has grown by three ships since the launch of the Magic.

There are no clues yet as to what the extensive changes will be to the ship, other than that Disney is known for the creation of "firsts" in the industry. It was the first ship to play a portion of "When You Wish Upon A Star" from the ship's horn, and the first to be manned with yellow lifeboats, rather than the traditional orange. That's not only traditional, but was legal until Disney obtained permission to paint them a color that's consistent with the old guy's brand.

The old guy…Mickey, who has been around 83 years without refurbishment.

Royal Caribbean Vision of the Seas
14 nights
October 5, 2012
Fort Lauderdale: Cartagena, Panama Canal, Puntarenas, Puerto Quetzal, Puerto Vallarta, Cabo San Lucas, San Diego
Inside: $849
Cost per day: $60

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