Cruise issue

Major makeovers for older cruise ships



 Here are the highlights of what other cruise lines are doing:

Celebrity Cruises: Celebrity has put $140 million into “Solsticizing” its older ships to include the popular elements from the Solstice-class ships: AquaClass accommodations; more staterooms and verandahs; Apple iLounges; a new beer lounge in what used to be a cigar bar.

Crystal Cruises: The line’s Extreme Makeover program comes to almost $120 million in recent years, including the changes to Crystal Symphony when the entire Lido Deck was redesigned, including covering an existing pool to add more deck space. A $17 million redesign of Crystal Serenity scheduled for this fall includes changes to the indoor/outdoor Trident Grill, Tastes Restaurant and the Lido Café.

Disney Cruise Line: This fall Disney Magic will get a new thrill ride, adult entertainment area, family dining area and, for its guests ages 3 to 12, a completely redone Oceaneer Club.

Norwegian Cruise Line: Pride of America is getting 24 new suites, four studio staterooms and four more inside staterooms; Brazilian-style steakhouse; flat screens in all rooms and more as part of a $30 million upgrade.

Oceania Cruises: In Early 2014, three older ships will undergo $50 million in upgrades including new bathrooms in the biggest suites, a makeover of the Terrace Café, and addition of a coffee bar.

Paul Gauguin: The line put its new acquisition, the renamed Tere Moana, into drydock, where balconies were added to eight of the ship’s 45 staterooms. The $7 million dollar renovation, including floors, floor covering, furniture and more is massive relative to the size of the ship.

Princess: A $30 million refurbishment of Sun Princess, based in Asia, includes a new atrium with international café; new sushi and seafood venue; and a makeover of its Lotus Spa. Coral Princess and Grand Princess are also being refurbished this year.

Regent Seven Seas: This fall Seven Seas Voyager will get a lot of work done: new teak on all balconies, marble in the atrium, an eclectic assortment of original artwork in public spaces.

Royal Caribbean International: Four ships are being revitalized this year. In 2014, the company will will revamp five Voyager-class ships, adding up to 80 new staterooms per ship.

Seabourn: Each of its new larger ships gets four new large suites with really big verandas, cleverly utilizing the mostly blank deck space above the spa area.

Windstar: The current three-ship fleet got an $18 million renovation program including the addition of AmphorA, a new fine-dining restaurant. Extensive work will also be done on each of the three ships Windstar is buying from Seabourn.

Carnival Sunshine

 These changes were made to the Carnival Destiny, which was then renamed the Carnival Sunshine.

New staterooms: 182 additional staterooms, including 95 spa staterooms with upgraded features and amenities. All existing staterooms and suites received extensive makeovers.

New dining spots: Guy’s Burger Joint* – Guy Fieri goes to sea; Cucina del Capitano* – Italian food, family style; Pizzeria del Capitano – 24-hour pizza; BlueIguana Cantina* – custom-made burritos and tacos; Fahrenheit 555* – classic steak house; ShakeSpot – milkshakes and floats (adult versions available); Bonsai Sushi* (opens in September); The Taste Bar* – appetizers; Ji Ji Asian Kitchen (new to the fleet).

New drinking spots: RedFrog Pub*, RedFrog Rum Bar*, BlueIguana Tequila Bar*, EA SPORTS Bar*, Alchemy Bar*, JavaBlue Café, The Library Bar*, Havana Bar.

Redesigned or redecorated rooms: Sunset and Sunrise dining rooms; Liquid Lounge (now two decks instead of three); lobby and atrium; casino (more tables and slot machines); Piano Bar 88 (now in its own dedicated space); Cloud 9 Spa and Salon; Limelight Lounge (home to the Punchliner Comedy Club Presented by George Lopez); Lido Marketplace; Ocean Plaza (multi-purpose entertainment zone


Serenity: Three-deck high, adults-only retreat with pool, whirlpool and waterfall

SportSquare*: Ropes course, mini-golf, table tennis, foosball and pool tables

WaterWorks*: 40 interactive water features including three huge slides

Carnival’s Seaside Theater: Outdoor movies and other programing

*Fun Ship 2.0 addition

Special to the Miami Herald

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, Carnival’s 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 that’s five to 20 years old can be more economical.

The work on the Carnival Destiny/Sunshine “was the most significant and complicated re-construction undertaking we have ever attempted,” Cahill said. “A new ship, which requires construction of the hull and all the needed machinery and equipment, is substantially more expensive. For example, Carnival Breeze, which entered service last year, had a final all-in cost $740 million.”

Other lines are making big changes as well.

Royal Caribbean International will revamp five Voyager-class ships, adding up to 80 new staterooms per ship, starting with Navigator of the Seas in January. “We’re able to do a lot more work in a shorter period of time,” said Lisa Lutoff Perlo, executive vice president of Operations. “We need to go back and modernize and update the older ships to keep them relevant.”

Celebrity Cruises’ Solstice-class ships were so well-received that since 2010, the company has spent more than $100 million adding some of their most popular features to four older ships. The Millenium-class ships got spa-inspired AquaClass staterooms, several new restaurants and bars, a new iLounge, with Mac iBooks, and other upgrades.

Before it moves to Miami in October, Disney Magic will get a new thrill ride, adult entertainment area, and for its guests ages 3 to 12, a completely redone Oceaneer Club. Norwegian Cruise Line’s Pride of America is getting 24 new suites, four studio staterooms and four more inside staterooms; Brazilian-style steakhouse; flat screens in all rooms and more as part of a $30 million upgrade.

“Our industry has grown in leaps over the past decade. The advancements in design and catering to our guests’ expanding desires has challenged us to always do more and go further,” said Rick Sasso, president and CEO of MSC Cruises in the United States, which will begin homeporting a ship year-round in Miami for the first time later this year.

Cruise lines must keep their ships up to date in order to stay competitive, Sasso said. “The variety of on-board amenities and the quality of the software must be as fresh as the new generation. These vessels need to offer the experience that has become the norm and do so well into the next decade and beyond. Refitting and refurbishing is the key to the long and successful life of today’s cruise vessels.”

When Carnival Destiny was transformed into Carnival Sunshine, many of its additions were Fun Ship 2.0 changes, three of which brought land-based brands aboard: the always-busy Guy’s Burger Joint (Guy Fieri); Punchliner Comedy Club presented by George Lopez; and the EA SPORTS Bar, which is tied in with the popular video game company. Carnival has also tied in with toy company Hasbro for special at-sea versions of its popular board family games..

In addition to the other Fun Ship 2.0 standards —BlueIguana Cantina, BlueIguana Tequila Bar, RedFrog Rum Bar, Library Bar and Alchemy Bar — a new spot is the Havana Bar. The bar, already one of this traveler’s favorite bars at sea, serves Cuban coffee, pastelitos and complimentary snacks during the day but the best part is at night with several hours of Cuban music by a great live band alternating with recorded music. The nattily attired wait-staff adds to the fun.

A new addition to the fleet, not just this ship, is Ji Ji Asian Kitchen, which offers dishes from nine different Asian regions and drew unanimous raves. The food is deliciously cooked, beautifully presented and expertly served by a specially trained staff. Much of it is spicy but it can be toned down upon request. It’s not only one of the best alternative restaurants at sea but, at a surcharge of $12 per adult, it’s the best $12 meal at sea. And, for kids, it’s only $5.

The totally new “Cloud 9 Spa” has the normal range of spa and salon services but also has a thermal suite with thalassotherapy pool, a slightly-funky DIY Scrub Experience, medi-spa services (non-surgical) and a special teen program. The gym has more than 25 treadmills and dozens of other pieces of equipment. And located near the spa are 95 new spa staterooms and suites with special amenities and privileges.

For adults, the three-deck Serenity area (Decks 11, 12 and 13) has a pool/waterfall area and whirlpools. This is an exceptionally popular spot on sea days. But it picks up the loud music from the adjacent pool area so it’s not quite as serene as might be preferred.

Atop the ship, the new racing-themed WaterWorks play area includes three awesome looking slides. I didn’t indulge but a friend from the UK told me, “Climbing up to the top of the slides was scary enough but coming down, wow! Seriously fast. So much so I’m not sure why Carnival bothered to put a transparent section where the Twister extends over the side of the ship. I wasn’t stopping to admire the view!”

The ropes course, with all users securely harnessed in, drew mostly the younger set but the occasional adult ventured forth. Also new is the SplashZone kids’ water play area, featuring a 300-gallon drenching bucket.

The ship will reposition from Europe to New Orleans in November, then move to Port Canaveral in April for a variety of two- to seven- night Eastern and Western Caribbean sailings.

For fans of the old Carnival Destiny, there may not be that much left of the original ship, but they are sure to love the new facilities. There are no dotted lines to help them distinguish the old from the terrific new.

Read more Cruises stories from the Miami Herald

The Royal Caribbean cruise ship Mariner of the Seas is docked at the international passenger port in Shanghai, China.

    Global cruise lines set sail for China

    Royal Caribbean’s newest ship has attractions not usually seen on cruise liners, including bumper cars, a skydiving simulator and a glass observation capsule on a mechanical arm that lifts its passengers high into the air.

  • Travelwise

    Cruise lines offering more options for beverage packages

    For vacationers, the biggest surprise aboard their first cruise probably has nothing to do with the feel of rolling seas. More likely, the surprise will be their bar tab.

  • Cruises

    Carnival to build cruise port on Haitian island

    Carnival Cruise Lines’ corporate parent will build a new $70 million cruise ship port on the Haitian island of Tortuga, making it the seventh Carnival-owned port in the Caribbean.

Miami Herald

Join the

The Miami Herald is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere on the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

The Miami Herald uses Facebook's commenting system. You need to log in with a Facebook account in order to comment. If you have questions about commenting with your Facebook account, click here.

Have a news tip? You can send it anonymously. Click here to send us your tip - or - consider joining the Public Insight Network and become a source for The Miami Herald and el Nuevo Herald.

Hide Comments

This affects comments on all stories.

Cancel OK

  • Marketplace

Today's Circulars

  • Quick Job Search

Enter Keyword(s) Enter City Select a State Select a Category