What does a cruise ship get for $155 million and 10 weeks in drydock?
In the case of the Carnival Destiny, a new identity. Carnival Cruise Lines took the 17-year old vessel and essentially recreated it. The ship got a three-deck adults-only area; 182 new staterooms; completely redone spa; eight new dining spots; a variety of new outdoor places for fun, exercise and recreation; seven new bars; and décor and design changes throughout the ship.
And a new name. The makeover was so far-reaching that the ship was renamed the Carnival Sunshine.
It was the most extensive refurbishment in modern cruising. But it was hardly the only one. This year, at least 17 ocean-going ships from U.S. lines will spend time in drydock, getting everything from new paint and bed linens to new decks and water parks. As with Carnival Destiny, makeovers are becoming more extensive as technological advances make it possible.
On Carnival Sunshine, some of the additions were Fun Ship 2.0 changes that are already in place on five other Carnival ships new bars, eateries, interactive games and entertainment. But the makeover also cut into the structure of the ship, increasing its guest capacity from 2,642 to 3,006.
Two factors came into play, said Gerry Cahill, Carnivals president and CEO. The Fun Ship 2.0 enhancements we had been introducing across various ships were proving hugely popular with our guests. At the same time, Carnival Destiny, which was built in 1996, was due for a major renovation. So we decided to embark upon a complete makeover of the ship that would enable us to implement all of our Fun Ship 2.0 innovations and essentially create a new vessel at the same time.
An example of the extent of this refurbishment is the main show lounge. Based on a study of guests and how they move in and around the ship, Carnival recognized the vessel did not need a huge show room. So the designers creatively redesigned the space, a three-deck room that seated about 1,200. They eliminated the lower level by adding a new floor/ceiling not an easy thing to do reducing the seating to about 800. They also made it a multi-purpose room: After the last evening show, the crew takes away the chairs on the new lower level and turns it into the Liquid Lounge disco, curtaining off the dance floor, making it seem like a private club. It was very impressively done, and on a recent cruise, the floor was packed with dancing guests.
The space occupied by the original lower level now houses 40-plus staterooms, which mostly match the décor and content of older but refurbished rooms in the same categories, although some of the new rooms have mini-bars that the older rooms do not. Thus the rehab made the show lounge more effective and increased revenue opportunities at the same time.
In most cases, cruise ship refurbishment takes the form of new carpets, upholstery, new furniture, maybe wall-covering or new linens. This kind of work has to be done regularly in order to keep ships looking fresh.
In the past, some lines literally cut their ships in half and added cross-sections of staterooms and other facilities, primarily to give the ship more accommodations to sell.
But now, advances in ship-building technology have made it easier to make extensive changes, often while the ship is in its regular drydock rotation. And given the high cost of building a ship from scratch even a pricey makeover of a ship thats five to 20 years old can be more economical.