Posted by: cruise2 | 31 August, 2011

Of Boats and Balconies

by Kevin Griffin writing in

With the news that Costa Cruises will be adding two decks and balconies to Costa Romantica in a €90 million rebuild, another ship will lose her good looks for the sake of a few more balcony cabins that can be sold for a higher fare.
Costa will join the ranks of Carnival Cruise Lines and Holland America Line in detracting from the appearance of their own ships to make them more profitable. And the reason for this is that most of these ships have been built along the old style of having their lifeboats installed on a high-up boat deck in the style of the traditional ocean liner.

When Costa, added balconies to its Costa Victoria, a newer ship, she had a lower Canberra-style boat deck, nearer to the main deck level as opposed to higher up. (In 1961, P&O’s Canberra became the first major liner to have her lifeboats installed at this level). This effectively meant that “clip on” balconies could be added to  Costa Victoria at levels above the lifeboats without affecting their operation in any way. The same was true of Celebrity Century and her near sister ships Mein Schiff and Mein Schiff 2, ex-Celebrity Galaxy and Celebrity Mercury. These alterations have all been aesthetically pleasing and in fact could be said to have improved the appearance of the ships involved.

But Carnival Corp & PLC has the problem that many of its ships are of an older design that is not easy to convert. Carnival’s eight Fantasy class ships and  Costa Classica and Costa Romantica were all built in the old style, with lifeboats atop ship like the original Queen Mary. The only spots where clip on balconies can be added is in areas of the hull where there are no lifeboats installed above.

Thus we have the Fantasy class, now in the course of conversions that will add 98 balconies to each ship. Many of the new balconies are around the stern of the ship and in particular areas, such as amidships, where there are no boats above. The first ship to be thus converted was Carnival Sensation, in January 2009. Because of this, only 24 new balconies could be added amidships (plus extensions to twelve existing balcony cabins) where there were no boats, but another 74 were installed at the aft end, clear of the lifeboats.

This has lead to an appearance totally different from all other balcony conversions to date, but will almost triple these ships’ balcony cabin inventory from the existing 54.  In fact, once the same is done with all eight Fantasy class ships, Carnival will have added 784 new balconies to its fleet, but at what cost? Late last month in Key West, two of the unconverted Fantasy class ships, Fantasy and Imagination, managed to strike stern-to-stern. Luckily, neither ship has yet received the 74 stern-end balcony cabins or someone might have been hurt.

Meanwhile, Holland America’s four Statendam class ships and near-sisters Amsterdam and Rotterdam do have lower lifeboat decks, but spaces above these boats had already been given over to as many balcony cabins as possible, they had to do something else. Carnival designers came up with a way to clip half a dozen balconies on to each side of Holland America’s Statendam and Rotterdam class ships at the forward end of the superstructure. The first ship to receive this treatment was Veendam, which was fitted with extended stern accommodations as well as her new clip-ons in 2009.

To show just how valuable these balconies are,  Veendam’s bridge wings had to be extended so her officers could see around the new balconies. Installing sliding doorways into cabins that are located along the promenade decks also created new so-called “Lanai” cabins. Holland America ships are also receiving new balcony cabins in new accommodation blocks being added aft.

In the case of  Costa Romantica, Costa will add two decks above the bridge and, seemingly influenced by Carnival Corporate Shipbuilding, will add three decks of clip-on balconies on each side amidships where there are no lifeboats. Another fifteen balconies will be clipped on below five existing balconies on each side of the ship, adding thirty clip-ons and of course there will be balconies in the two new decks above. Her passenger capacity will be raised from 1,697 passengers to 1,800 and her balcony count rise from ten to 86.

As part of the transformation, windows with a view will be added in the forward part of the superstructure but it seems these may be dedicated to the Samsara Spa, a wellness area with gym, thalassotherapy pool, treatment rooms, sauna and Turkish bath. There will also be fifty Samsara Spa cabins and six spa suites as well as a restaurant for passengers in Samsara accommodations. A new wine bar will offer 100 labels and a selection of cheeses from around the world, while a coffee bar will serve sweets.

A new show lounge bar with a dance floor and cabaret and a nightclub are also included in the plans. Almost as if in apology for the exterior changes, the interiors will be the work of Tillberg Design of Sweden and Syntax of London, “with a view to giving the ship an elegant, sophisticated and refined atmosphere.” This is a change for Costa as Joe Farcus has been doing its recent ships.

The result, the “new” ship, to be renamed Costa NeoRomantica, will be a somewhat top-heavy looking vessel with balcony saddlebags amidships. She will no longer be one of the best-looking classical cruise ships afloat – nowhere near in fact. The San Giorgio shipyard in Genoa, a subsidiary of T Marriotti, has been charged with the work, which begins in October, and in February 2012 she will re-enter service on 11-night cruises to the Canary Islands. It is to be presumed that the Costa Classica may be similarly converted in time.


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