by Teresa Machan, The Telegraph, January 15, 2018
Funnels. This is what I found myself discussing in the back of a taxi in Italy late last year. My companion, a design engineer for a company based in Beaulieu, Hampshire, had been tasked with designing a funnel for the first ship in the Virgin Voyages cruise fleet, and we were headed for a shipyard in Genoa where the ship’s keel was about to be laid.
RWD are leaders in bespoke super-yacht design. Cruising, he said, was a bit of a mystery. I know precious little about funnels – it was a beneficial exchange of information.
As we sped through the Ligurian countryside in the late-November sunshine I tried to explain the nuances of cruising – the many different types of ship, the gulf between river and ocean cruising and the difference between travelling on a 2,000-passenger vessel and a 42-sail clipper ship.
I spoke of the far-flung pockets of the world where an expedition ship might take you – the crocodile-infested waters of the Kimberley in Western Australia, for example, or down the Sepik river into head-hunting territory where men who catch food with spears also carry mobile phones.
And then I paused for breath and thought: “Oh my God. I sound like an anorak.”
I’m not – a bona fide cruise anorak would know a bit more about funnels and might be able to distinguish a mizzen-topgallant-staysail from a jigger or a spanker – but as this taxi conversation progressed I was reminded of how fantastically dynamic the world of cruising is. It never stops and neither does the learning curve.
There’s always something new and innovative around the corner. A new place to visit; a different experience to be had; a “yes we can” chimerical architectural feature.
“And next year,” I told Kristian (we were now on first-name terms), “is going to be really exciting”, and proceeded to rattle on about a mobile “room” suspended over the sea and a ship with a heli-pad, a seven-seater submarine and a penthouse suite that’s larger than a tennis court.
The six-star Scenic Eclipse promises to knock spots off the competition, but first from the starting blocks this year was MSC Seaside, which set sail on her maiden voyage from Miami with the longest zip lines at sea, a 5D cinema and a “Slideboard” – waterslide meets video-game.
Celebrity Cruises’ Celebrity Edge will have cabins designed by Kelly Hoppen and a roving deck suspended from the side of the ship (a bit like one of those window-washing carriages that scale tall buildings, but much posher). The “Magic Carpet” will glide between decks – chic over-the-water cafe-cum-restaurant by day; cocktail bar at night. Etcetera.
When I showed colleagues a YouTube video, reactions ranged from: “Ooh, I could watch dolphins,” to: “It creeps me out; how do you get off?”
That’s colleagues for you.
A save-the-date for Norwegian Cruise Line’s new ship Norwegian Bliss arrived at Telegraph Towers this week, via videomail. The “Race to Bliss” features UK vice president and managing director Nick Wilkinson doing his best Jenson Button impersonation on the ship’s go-kart racetrack – a first for a cruise ship. (It’s in the diary, Nick).
Scenic, the one with the heli-pads, went old school with its save-the-date notification – a sturdy gold-embossed invite arrived in a black box lined with tissue paper. Classy.
River cruising, too, has a special launch this year. The A and the B – two black-painted ships from Uniworld aimed squarely at millennials (21s to 45s) will begin cruising the Seine in April with bunk-bed triple rooms, menus offering sprout salads and spinach power smoothies and, crucially, a pay-for-what-you-consume pricing module that sees fares from £159 per person, per day.
Ashore, Uniworld is offering activities such as “blokarting” in a three-wheeled sail-powered kart and a graffiti-art lesson in Paris. The back end of 2018 will see a fourth sailing ship join the popular Star Clippers fleet. The handsome Flying Clipper will be the largest sailing ship of her kind, a near replica of the billowing sailing ship France II, which set sail in 1911.
Back to that taxi conversation in Italy. A funnel is a funnel, is it not? “What you’re seeing when you’re on board is just casing,” Kristian the yacht designer told me. “Inside it’s a work of art.”
And there was me thinking it was just a thing up top what soot comes out of.