Posted by: cruise2 | 8 April, 2012

A Spate of Mid-Life Refits

by Kevin Griffin og our London office writing in cybercruises.com

We reported that Rhapsody of the Seas was at Sembawang Shipyard in Singapore for a $54 million mid-life refit, and that Minerva and Costa neoRomantica had re-emerged from theirs. In the case of Costa neoRomantica, which also received major structural modifications, the bill came to €90 million (about $118 million).

These refits usually involve tens of millions in investment per ship and many weeks in drydock to achieve them. Sometimes there are external signs of the changes, as when balconies and new decks are added, sometimes all the changes are internal as in the “Solsticization” projects at Celebrity.

Recently came news of an even more ambitious plan from Carnival Cruise Lines. Carnival Destiny, which was the first 100,000-tonner when she was launched at Venice in 1996, will be going to Fincantieri for an even bigger mid-life refit, out of which she will emerge in April 2013 with a new name – Carnival Sunshine. (Is Carnival trying to steal some thunder from Royal Caribbean’s “Project Sunshine” ships on order at Meyer Werft for delivery in 2014 and 2015?)

Costing $155 million, somewhat like Costa neoRomantica, Carnival Sunshine will get an extra deck and two new deck extensions as well as new staterooms (182 compared to neoRomantica’s 111), but unlike the neoRomantica she will not need saddlebag balconies as the Destiny class have their lifeboats installed at a lower level.

This month, the “new” 3.006-berth Carnival Sunshine will enter cruise service in the Mediterranean, departing in October for a new base at New Orleans, where she will replace the 2,974-berth Carnival Conquest. The Conquest was the first ship to be built with the extra deck that Carnival Sunshine will now have and Costa’s Costa Concordia class are sister ships. This investment is part of the $500 million FunShip 2.0 programme, which also includes more modest updates to  Carnival Liberty last year and Carnival Glory and Conquest later this year.

Features found on the line’s newest ships, including Guy’s Burger Joint, the Blue Iguana Tequila Bar, Fahrenheit 555 extra-tariff steak house, Italian Cucina del Capitano, Red Frog Pub, EA Sports Bar and Hasbro Game Show will be incorporated into the new design, as will a casual dining option in the Lido restaurant, a coffee bar, the Havana Bar Cuban lounge with Latin music and a Sunshine Bar in the atrium. Interiors will be by PartnerShip Design.

The best-known recent example of this type of work is the $140 million “Solsticization” of Celebrity Cruises’ four Millennium class ships, with the first upgrade completed on the Celebrity Constellation in 2010. Averaging $35 million per ship, Celebrity Infinity completed Solsticization in December 2011, Celebrity Summit last month, and Celebrity Millennium will complete the project when she emerges from the Grand Bahamas Shipyard in May.

The Summit, redelivered last month, received Aqua Class veranda staterooms with access to a new Mediterranean-themed restaurant, Blu. Also added was Qsine, the specialty restaurant that debuted on Celebrity Eclipse.

Also new to Summit is the Celebrity iLounge, where passengers can buy the latest Apple products, and the line’s famous Martini Bar, complete with frosted countertop, plus Cellar Masters wine bar where patrons can buy wines by the glass.

Cafe al Bacio and Gelateria have been added, along with a creperie, Bistro on Five. Suites have gained verandas, new furniture and more sumptuous appointments. Extra ocean-view and inside staterooms have also been added, and all accommodations have been outfitted with fresh carpet, upholstery and bedding, as well as flat-screen televisions.

Finally, we mentioned the Rhapsody of the Seas going to Sembawang for a $54 million makeover (see last week for the actual updates) as part of Royal Caribbean’s $300 million Royal Advantage program. Radiance and Splendour of the Seas were completed last year and after Rhapsody, they will be joined by the Grandeur and Serenade of the Seas this May and November.

And it’s not just the mainstream lines. Crystal Cruises has spent well in excess of $50 million recently on upgrading its soon-to-be-all-inclusive Crystal Serenity and Crystal Symphony.
Indeed, while new orders for cruise ships may have slowed down since the onset of the recession there is a very good market for shipyards to be updating cruise ships that are now ten and fifteen years old in order to bring them into line with their newer fleetmates.

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