Old cruise ships get extreme makeover

It’s part of the normal process of maintenance, taking a ship out of water from time to time to do things they just can’t do while in operation. That can include anything from scraping the hull, normally under water to replacing worn carpets. Recently, ships going into what is called “dry dock” are having some additional features added that reflect a changing demand by consumers.

Most recently, Norwegian Cruise Line’s Norwegian Sun came out of a 12-day dry dock where it received a bunch of new features. A focus on enhancements to the ship’s public areas, suites and restaurants added a Brazilian steakhouse, updated décor in all 33 of the ship’s luxury suites, improvements to the kids area and yes, replacement of carpets and wall coverings in public areas.

“We have a company-wide commitment to ensuring our ships are in excellent condition. Therefore, Norwegian Sun is the first of three ships this year that will enter dry dock for enhancements, along with several that will take place in 2012,” said Kevin Sheehan, Norwegian Cruise Line’s chief executive officer.

Other lines go through similar makeovers, adding features made popular by their newest ships to older models in an effort to keep them relevant. Sometimes, lines will borrow ideas from competitors too.

%Gallery-113908%Norwegian Epic’s solo studios were such a hit that Royal Caribbean is adding some to one of their older ships, Radiance of the Seas, during a makeover of sorts. Norwegian made headlines with single guest accommodations when it debuted Norwegian Epic last summer. Solo cruisers have long been an under-served market. Cruise lines base pricing on double occupancy and solo cruisers often pay double the per person rate.

Other lines have made significant investments in their existing fleets too. Carnival Cruise Line’s recent “Evolutions of Fun” program added Carnival “WaterWorks” Aqua Park and Serenity adults-only retreat, redesigned main pool area and new casual dining choices. Holland America too joined it with their $525 million Signature of Excellence upgrades, with enhancements to cabins, pool decks with their own version of the popular adults-only retreat and entertainment options featuring new on-board enrichment programs.

Celebrity Cruises is another great example of how sailing older ships does not mean you miss out on all the new features. Popular new Solstice-class ships have unique new features that have been added to older ships on their own makeovers. Some of the new updates include adding a signature venues “Tuscan Grille” steakhouse as well as the “Bistro on Five” and a popular ice-topped Martini Bar plus a new Cellarmasters wine bar, complete with the “Enomatic” state-of-the-art wine serving system allowing guests to select wines by the glass, at the touch of a button.

“All of our new venues and attributes are designed to enhance that all-important feeling of getting away and fully enjoying every aspect of Celebrity’s upscale on-board experience.” said Celebrity’s President & CEO Dan Abrahan.

Look for other lines to add new-ship features to their existing fleet too. As new ships sail, cruise lines are closely monitoring the performance of new features as well as comments by guests. You can bet if something is popular on the latest, greatest ship at sea, you’ll see it on an older ship sometime soon.

New-ship features added to existing cruise ships

Want to go on the newest cruise ship but having a hard time justifying the premium price they sometimes demand? The cruise lines hear you and are adding features from the newest ships on older models that are often much less expensive to sail.

New features on new cruise ships are something we almost just expect to happen. The latest, greatest ship coming out always has the very newest and innovative attractions and reflects what we want out of a ship. Royal Caribbean International introduced the world’s largest cruise ship, Allure of the Seas in 2010 but has not forgotten the rest of the fleet. Throughout 2011, the line is adding new features to older ships. Here’s a breakdown of what’s coming up.

On Oasis of the Seas, twin to Allure and not all that old, they’re adding the Dreamworks Experience animated characters as well as a 3-D Movie theater.

Down one class in size to Liberty of the Seas, starting January 30th, that one too will have the Dreamworks Experience and a Broadway hit, Saturday Night Fever:The Musical. Add on a 3-D theater here too as well as The Cupcake Cupboard made popular by Oasis-class ships and Vintages Wine Bar plus a Royal Babies and Tots Nursery.

Sister to Liberty, popular Freedom of the Seas sailing from Port Canaveral will have all that plus a BRITTO Gallery starting March 27. No need to get off the ship in the Caribbean for shopping, this one has it all right on board.

Older ship Radiance of the Seas will add new specialty restaurants Park Cafe, Giovanni’s Table, Samba Grill and Rita’s Cantina in the Summer and get new interactive flat-screen televisions in staterooms plus the Touch-screen signage made popular on Oasis-class ships that helps guests navigate the ship.

Splendour of the Seas
will see probably the biggest change. Royal Caribbean is adding 100 balcony staterooms and more inside and oceanview staterooms too. New specialty restaurants and special lounges for Diamond-level members of the line’s Crown and Anchor past guest club plus an exclusive Concierge Lounge for guests booked in suites.

Technology is front and center too on Royal Caribbean with iPod/iPhone docks in each cabin.

It’s not just Royal Caribbean either. Carnival Cruise Lines recently added their popular Punchliner Comedy Clubs, SuperStar LIVE karaoke, huge LED screen Seaside Theater and more to most ships and the popular Chef’s Table dining experience to the entire fleet. Older ships have gone through a $350 million Evolutions of Fun adding Carrnival Waterworks, Adult Serenity areas and more.

Over at Princess Cruises they may not be pumping out the new ships line other lines (although they do have a couple in the works), but they’ve been busy with a keen focus on quality and an evolution of their on-board product with some pretty cool new features.

The Sanctuary is a secluded spa-like setting complete with massage cabanas, light meals, and signature beverages provided by “Serenity Stewards” assigned to the area. For a minimal charge, guests can reserve space in the Sanctuary for the day and be treated to chilled face towels, music via the area’s MP3 players or Evian water atomizers. Tip: when you get on board, RUN to this place and reserve it for the entire cruise.

The Ultimate Ships Tour takes guests deep into areas of the ship normally off-limits on a 2 to 3 hour journey through the ships engine control room, medical center, print shop, laundry, photo lab, bridge and other crew-only areas of the ship. A$150 per person fee is a bargain for those interested in seeing just what makes a ship work

Even the Room Service Menu was recently revised, enhancing the standard menu with hearty fare such as Chili Con Carne, Baked Lasagna, Moroccan Vegetable Crock Pot with Pita Bread and more served 24 hours a day.

Princess added a Pub Lunch Enhancement for Longer Voyages offering more traditional British dishes, served on days at sea with items like Chicken Curry, Steak and Kidney Pie, Bread and Butter Pudding and more

Up-To-Date on technology is on all the ships too with flat-screen TVs and each ships atrium has Wi-Fi Internet access as do all passenger staterooms.

Something super fun they have is called the Bon Voyage Experience.Princess now makes it possible for friends or family to register from 120 days prior to sailing for a short visit on the day of embarkation in select ports of call. For a fee of $39 per person, guests enjoy a nice taste of on board life including a four-course dining room lunch with wine, a ship tour and souvenir photo. Additionally, the $39 fee can be applied towards a future cruise within 3 months of their ship visit.

The only problem I can see with that one is that you have to get off the ship and say good-bye to your friends as they sail off into the sunset.