Cruise ships are mostly seen at their glamorous best, but there comes a time in every ship’s lifecycle when it’s time to scrape off a few barnacles.
Business Insider toured Royal Caribbean’s Voyager of the Seas as it underwent a 32-day bow-to-stern rejuvenation at Singapore’s Sembcorp Marine’s Sembawang shipyard.
Up to 3,000 people, from marine engineers to construction workers, crane operators, tradesmen, cleaners, crew and labourers worked around-the-clock, gutting and re-building the 138,000 gt vessel at a cost of $80 million.
All up, Royal Caribbean is spending $250 million to upgrade four of its fleet this year.
Workers either remain on site during the job, living in self-contained apartments, or nearby villages. Even the ship’s crew were there to assist, bunking in their onboard quarters during the refurbishment.
A Sembcorp spokesperson told Business Insider this was the first time a cruise liner had docked at the shipyard, which has the biggest dry dock in Asia.
“This is the only shipyard with facilities capable of meeting the demands of an ocean liner this size,” she said.
On top of the refurbishment, Royal Caribbean added a range of new features and amenities to appeal to Australia’s growing love affair of ocean cruising.
Floor-to-ceiling virtual reality displays have been fitted to interior staterooms, while a 12 metre-long surf simulator is now on top deck. There’s also an outdoor cinema screen and 3D movie theatre, an ice skating rink, plus three new restaurants.
Voyager of the Seas arrives in Sydney this week, as part of the 2014/2015 cruise season, sailing Australian and New Zealand until March. With the ability to carry 3,840 passengers, it’s the largest cruise ship to service Australia.
There are 3-day sampler cruises next year in January (from $671 pp, twin share) and February (from $649 pp, twin share).
Here’s a look behind the scenes at what happened during the refurbishment.
Workers live both on-site and in local villages and ride bicycles to and from work as well as using them to move quickly around the enormous shipyard.
Tugs are used to maneuver large vessels in and out of the shipyard. Many have firefighting capabilities, allowing them to assist in emergencies.
The multinational workforce is offered workshops on parenting and marriage There are excursions for children, sports and weight management programmes.
Sembawang Shipyard is a 86-hectare site on Singapore's north coast. It's a specialist in niche markets such as passenger ship conversions, repairs and upgrades.
3000 people were needed for the 32-day refurbishment: marine engineers, construction workers, crane operators, tradesmen, cleaners, crew and labourers.
Digital way-finders have been installed around the ship to help guide passengers during their cruise. The touchscreen signage is updated daily with all the onboard activities.
The 3-storey, opera-themed main dining room seats 1,920 passengers (more than half the total ship's capacity). When in Australia, it's officially the country's largest restaurant.
La Scala theatre's show stage was renovated. The 1350-seat horseshoe-shaped design is modeled after the famed Milan opera house. It's as sophisticated as Broadway, with its own stage and orchestra lifts.
People love to use the ship's numerous glass elevators, which means they're usually quite busy and sometimes slow to call. Take advantage of the stairs if you can.
The adults-only pool area, the Solarium, is a great escape from kids. The finished version has sun decks, spas and a dedicated bar.
The view across the shipyard. The area, which faces the Johor Strait, actually started life as a pre-war British naval base in 1938.
A quick coffee break. The workers on Voyager of the Seas came from Singapore Malaysia and Europe among 50 different nations.
There are 4 pools, including the Solarium adults-only retreat, 6 whirlpools, the Vitality Spa and a fitness centre.
Voyager of the Seas was built at Kvaerner Masa-Yards in Turku, Finland and sailed her maiden voyage on November 21, 1999.
A new feature in some interior staterooms is a virtual balcony. The floor-to-ceiling screens show what passengers in ocean-view rooms see, in real-time, via cameras on the side of the ship.
Floor-to-ceiling wrap-around windows feature in the brand new panoramic ocean view family staterooms. The rooms are situated at the bow of the ship and are quite spacious at around 26 sq m.
The new panoramic staterooms are designed to attract families and younger travellers to Australia's growing cruise market.
Skips were hoisted on and off the top deck, carrying tonnes of rubbish, new materials and equipment. The shipyard generates around 40,000 tonnes of waste per year and practices sustainability and recycling.
The 12 metre-long wave simulator, located on the top deck, has stadium seating with awesome wipeout views. It's included in the cruise cost.
There's always room to bust-a-move in many of the bars, which have been rebranded. The old Champagne Bar is now R-Bar, Aquarium Bar is The Tavern, La Boheme Dining Room was renamed Sapphire Dining Room, Vault nightclub was replaced by the restaurant Giovanni's Table, and there's also the new Diamond lounge.
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