The Latest Cruise Ship Dry Docks and Renovations

Norwegian Epic has just completed a dry dock. Seen here is the Haven Courtyard on the ship.
Norwegian Epic has just completed a dry dock. Seen here is the Haven Courtyard on the ship.

New ships float out of shipyards in a steady stream, giving cruisers exciting new vessels to explore. Fortunately, though, cruise lines also recognize that it’s important to offer the latest and greatest features and most popular line venues, even on ships that launched five, 10 or 15 years ago.

Travel Agent attended a Miami media event hosted last month by Andy Stuart, president and COO, Norwegian Cruise Line, who said nine Norwegian ships will be significantly renovated, most this year and next, and one in 2018. He cited “the quality of the experience” as critically important so the line is spending $400 million on dry-dock updates plus enhancements to cuisine and the onboard product.

Norwegian’s dry docks will be “larger, more extensive” than in the past. It’s no longer simply about replacing carpeting, painting or bedding, as in the past for most lines, but more substantive work, including adding new dining and entertainment venues now on Norwegian’s newest vessels. For example, Norwegian Dawn — slated to be updated in May in a three-week dry dock — will receive the Sugarcane Mojito Bar and the O’Sheehan’s Neighborhood Bar and Grill, replacing Shakers and Blue Lagoon. A new concept, yet to be revealed, will replace the ship’s Perry King Pub. The ship will also receive refreshed décor, updated furniture and new flooring in many eateries.

As for the rest of the fleet, Norwegian Epic and Norwegian Gem have just completed dry docks while Pride of America, which sails intra-Hawaii itineraries and delivers the line’s highest yields, is being updated this month. Norwegian Sun will be renovated this spring, and in 2017, Norwegian Spirit, Norwegian Sky and Norwegian Pearl will head to dry dock. In spring 2018, Norwegian Jade will be updated.

Elsewhere around the industry, Royal Caribbean International’s 3,634-passenger Liberty of the Seas, operating year-round from Galveston, TX, emerges this month from an extensive month-long dry dock. Newly added are 26 Panoramic Ocean View staterooms with floor-to-ceiling glass walls plus 53 additional staterooms. New venues include Sabor with Mexican cuisine; Giovanni’s Table, an Italian trattoria; and R Bar with an upscale 1960s vibe.

For thrill fans, Liberty of the Seas’ new “Perfect Storm” collection of water slides includes the racing Cyclone and Typhoon, plus Tidal Wave, the first ever boomerang-style slide at sea; a steep drop propels riders up a near vertical wall into a moment of weightlessness before a free fall. The ship’s new adult-free, interactive kids’ aqua zone, Splashaway Bay, features water cannons and geysers.

In April, Jewel of the Seas also will enter dry dock and receive new dining venues (Giovanni’s Table, Vintages and Izumi) and the new Royal Babies & Tots Nursery. Forty-two new staterooms will be added, including two-bedroom family cabins. Guests will also have Vroom fast Internet, a new bar, flat-screen TVs for guest accommodations and a large poolside movie screen, among other updates.

Majesty of the Seas will get an update in April, including the addition of Vroom high-speed Internet service, a poolside movie screen, family whirlpools, an interactive water park for kids and upgrades to the casino. However, the line won’t add certain features (including new specialty restaurants) that it had previously announced for this dry dock.

Empress of the Seas, which left the Royal Caribbean fleet several years back, is now returning this year from Pullmantur, the Spanish cruise brand, and will be sizably renovated this spring. In the last quarter of 2016, Adventure of the Seas is also set for a dry-dock update.

Carnival Cruise Lines just completed a major dry dock for Carnival Inspiration. The ship now boasts such popular brand updates as Guy’s Burger Joint, RedFrog Rum Bar, Blue Iguana Tequila Bar, Alchemy Bar and the Cherry on Top candy shop. Carnival Fantasy will be updated this month and Carnival Valor will get a makeover this spring.

Sister line Costa Cruises plans to update four ships this year. Costa Victoria was renovated just a few weeks ago, while Costa Favolosa, Costa Magica and Costa neoRiviera will each begin a two-week dry dock in November. MSC CruisesMSC Divina will enter dry dock in September for scheduled routine maintenance.

On the premium side, Celebrity CruisesSummit, the second of two Millennium-class vessels receiving updates, will emerge in mid-March with an updated Suite Class; the transformation of the Normandie restaurant into Tuscan Grille; a refreshed solarium area; and a new venue, the Rooftop Terrace, with a large, outdoor film screen and stereo surround sound.

Between now and 2018, Holland America Line will spend $300 million on brand enhancements for its fleet. Suites on all Rotterdam-, Signature- and Vista-class ships will receive new carpet and interior décor, including furniture. Plus, suite guests will find new quartz stone tops on the nightstands, desk, dresser and make-up area. Techies will appreciate the USB outlets that will be added to suite bed headboards so guests can easily recharge their electronic devices. Also new will be LED reading lights and a lighted closet rod.

More new features for suite guests include binoculars, in-cabin coffee/espresso machine and a TV system with free movies on demand, plus complimentary mimosas with room service breakfast. Oosterdam will enter dry dock in April, followed by Nieuw Amsterdam, Westerdam, Zuiderdam and Noordam throughout the year. In 2017 and beyond, Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Volendam and Zaandam will receive the updates.

SHARE by Curtis Stone aboard Ruby Princess
SHARE by Curtis Stone aboard Ruby Princess

Princess Cruises just completed dry docks on Ruby Princess, Emerald Princess and Coral Princess. In April, Sun Princess will receive a major dry dock, including SHARE by Curtis Stone, his first restaurant at sea. SHARE’s signature feature is a communal table designed to encourage sharing of a freshly prepared meal amongst friends and family. The table is illuminated by hand-blown glass pendants. SHARE diners will also discover low-backed banquettes upholstered in Chesterfield tufted leather and curios from Chef Stone, including his photos and travel souvenirs.

Since technology is so important to guests, Azamara Club Cruises is focused on technology revitalization in its January dry dock of Azamara Journey in the Bahamas. In what it calls “Reimagine Azamara,” the line transformed the vessel from bow to stern with new, contemporary décor, state-of-the-art spa and spa suites, expanded dining and entertainment offerings as well as a modern technology program to keep guests plugged in. For example a new Pervasive Wi-Fi system will provide better onboard Internet connections at faster speeds and from anywhere on the ship.

Staterooms now have improved interactive TVs with a menu of new options, including movies on demand, live TV channels, security info, lecturer schedules, lowdown on upcoming ports, weather updates and the ship’s navigation. Guests can also book Land Discoveries shore excursions. Menus will also be offered on the interactive TV system and room service can be ordered for those wishing to “dine in.”

On Deck 4, Azamara Journey’s new Inspiration Center provides help with planning the guest’s next voyage and learning about destinations to which Azamara sails. An interactive portal (98-inch touchscreen) features a world map; guests touch tiles to view videos, photography, destination information and day-by-day itineraries. The Living Room & Drawing Room now feature interactive tabletops for social media surfing, sending of digital postcards, drawing their own “art” or creating doodles in the Scribble app.

“As someone who stays connected no matter where I am in the world [as do guests], having technologies like Pervasive Wi-Fi and interactive TV are a must,” says Larry Pimentel, president and CEO, Azamara Club Cruises. “As our ships undergo major upgrades from bow to stern, we looked at all of the physical luxuries as well as the services and amenities we provide.” Azamara Quest also will receive the new amenities and updates during an April dry dock in Singapore.

Queen Mary 2 will add 10 additional kennels to its onboard pet facilities.
Queen Mary 2 will add 10 additional kennels to its onboard pet facilities.

Cunard Line’s flagship, Queen Mary 2, will undergo a 25-day dry dock refurbishment at the Blohm+Voss Shipyard in Hamburg, Germany this summer. Significant updates will be made to the accommodations, including the Britannia Club Balcony Staterooms; 30 more of those will be created. In addition, 15 Britannia Single Staterooms will be added on Decks 2 and 3. The Queens and Princess Grill Suites and Restaurants will also be sizably renovated. QM2’s Kings Court will receive a fresh, new layout and new interactive guest experiences. The Todd English restaurant will be replaced by The Verandah restaurant. The Carinthia Lounge will replace the existing Winter Garden on Deck 7.

In addition, 10 additional kennels will be added to the ship’s onboard kennel, the only one of its kind at sea, so more guests will be able to take their dogs on the transatlantic sailings between Southampton, UK and New York.

Regent Seven Seas Cruises will spend $125 million on a fleet-wide refurbishment program that begins with Seven Seas Navigator this spring. The two-year investment includes significant fleet-wide renovations of most public spaces and a complete redesign of several categories of suites. Seven Seas Navigator will emerge essentially a brand new ship with many spaces taken down to bare steel and then designed and furnished.

The updating work will touch several suite categories, the lounges, library, casino, boutiques, reception area and other spaces. In the casino, the high-top gaming tables with high-stools will be replaced with normal-height gaming tables with chairs. In the suites, the 90s look wooden built-ins will be replaced with more modern dark wood furniture and built in, with marble surfaces and so on. The signature restaurants Compass Rose and La Veranda are also part of this renovation effort.

In April, Windstar CruisesStar Pride will receive additional updates; the ship had been partially updated when it joined the Windstar fleet last year. The Amphora dining room, lounge, movie screening room and other areas will be renovated. Oceania CruisesMarina and Crystal CruisesCrystal Serenity will also both go into dry dock in May. SeaDream Yacht Club updated SeaDream II in late 2015 with SeaDream I to follow in April. Seabourn Cruise Line has scheduled Seabourn Quest for a dry dock in April, while Silversea CruisesSilver Wind and Silver Whisper will enter dry dock later this year.

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