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Meyer Scores Again - Other Cruise News: Grand Princess To Lose Her Shopping Handles - Polar Star Update - Staying On Board

by Mark Tre' - "The Cruise Examiner"

While Fincantieri has had its successes with Carnival Corp & PLC companies and STX has obtained orders from non-aligned MSC, GNMTC of Libya and most recently Hapag-Lloyd Cruises, Meyer Werft last week landed its third two-ship order after Disney and NCL, this time from Royal Caribbean. Princess Cruises meanwhile gets rid of the shopping trolley handle from the Grand Princess and presents us with a ship that is greatly improved. Plus an update on Polar Star and a note on a recent UK cruise passenger poll.


Meyer Scores With Third Pair of Cruise Ships

Meyer Werft of Papenburg, Germany, pulled off a coup on Friday with the announcement of an order for the first of a pair of large cruise ships for Royal Caribbean. Apart from a raft of five ships for Celebrity, this is the third pair to be ordered at Meyer Werft recently, following two ships for Disney Cruise Lines and more recently, another pair for Norwegian Cruise Line.

Project Sunshine is the name Royal Caribbean has given to this next generation of ships, the first of which will be delivered in the autumn of 2014 and the new ship will be the fifteenth ship to be built for Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines by Meyer Werft. The yard has built ten ships for Celebrity Cruises, starting with its first newbuilding, the Horizon, in 1990, plus the four Brilliance class ships for Royal Caribbean International.

An option has also been placed for a second Project Sunshine ship for delivery in the spring of 2015. These new 158,000-ton ships will carry something over 4,100 passengers in lower berths at an overall cost per berth of €170,000 (170 thousand).

Richard Fain, chairman and ceo of Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd, in announcing the letter of intent, stated that "Royal Caribbean has worked hard to earn a reputation of offering the most innovative ships in the cruise industry and this next generation will not disappoint. While we continue our policy of keeping our newest ideas and features under wraps during the early stages of construction, I can say that I am very excited about the passion and imagination that our teams have devoted to the project. Project Sunshine builds on the best ideas of our existing ships and adds exciting new activities and entertainment concepts.

It will offer features for everyone: from grand, spectacular spaces to small intimate settings; from active, invigorating activities to the serenity of more personal space; and from a plethora of dining alternatives to a cornucopia of opportunities for families. I am also excited about the energy efficiency and environmental technologies which have been incorporated. Our existing ships are some of the most energy efficient in the world and Project Sunshine takes this one further step. Based on our over 20 years of experience with Meyer Werft, along with their compelling proposal, we know they will deliver on all of the innovations Royal Caribbean's guests have come to expect."

Of the ships previously on order for Royal Caribbean, the Celebrity Silhouette is to be delivered later this year and Celebrity Reflection in 2012. Meanwhile, Meyer Werft has just delivered the first of another pair for Disney, with the Disney Dream now in service, and Disney Fantasy to follow in 2012.

This latest announcement leaves Korean-owned STX out in the cold. For now, having lost these latest orders to the competition, it has only three new ships on order, the MSC Divina for MSC Cruises, Phoenicia for GNMTC of Libya and Hapag-Lloyd Cruises' Europe 2, just announced. STX's large cruise ship shipyards in both Finland and France now seem to be genuinely short of possible places to obtain new orders.

Fincantieri, meanwhile, continues to thrive on orders from Carnival Corp & PLC, from Carnival Cruise Lines, Costa Crociere and Princess Cruises. And to the chagrin of STX, even Meyer Werft has a steady supply of Carnival Corp orders, for its German-based Aida brand.

See The Cruise Examiner for December 6 ("Cruise Ship Orders Recommence") for further details on cruise ship orders.


No More Shopping Handle

Many have commented over the years on the Skywalkers night club on Grand Princess and some of her sister ships, and how it makes the ship look like a shopping trolley, or at best looks like a spoiler on a hot rod. But now that will be all over in a major remake of the ship that will actually give her tiered pool decks aft and allow the sun to shine on her after decks.

During the 24-day makeover this spring at the Grand Bahama Shipyard, the Grand Princess will receive many of Princess' trademark features, introduced since her début in 1998, including the signature Piazza atrium. Several new features will be also be added, including a tea lounge and library called "Leaves"; and a full-service pizzeria called "Alfredo's, as well as a steakhouse called the "Crown Grill."

A new nightclub called One5, for its location on deck 15, will be installed on the top deck to replace the shopping buggy handle. Skywalkers will be removed in a change that will significantly improve the operational performance of the ship, something that will include greater fuel efficiency.

"This is the largest makeover we've ever undertaken for any of our ships," said Jan Swartz, Princess Cruises executive vice president. "When Grand Princess was launched she was the most innovative ship at sea, and now were adding some of the later innovations we introduced on subsequent ships."

The rebuilt ship will debut on May 5 in Ft. Lauderdale, when she will depart on a Transatlantic crossing back to Southampton, where she will cruise to a variety of European itineraries.

In an interesting departure from what the other major lines are doing, Princess Cruises will in future be promoting their product as a relaxing one, and less frenetic than the likes of NCL, Royal Caribbean and sister brand Carnival. The approach will be more traditional and even the lay-out of Grand Princess's new after decks looks more traditional.

Polar Star Update

Last week The Cruise Examiner ("Bad Luck Year For Polar Cruise Ships") stated that the February 6 departure of the Polar Star would be cancelled, but since then owners Polar Star Expeditions have confirmed that it will have to cancel her last three Antarctic voyages of the season so that she can be drydocked for repairs.

She is expected to return to service by May 3 to take up of her scheduled spring voyages around the northern regions of the UK and Newfoundland and Labrador.

Stay At Home Brits Stay On Board

Last week an interesting UK poll of cruise ship passengers conducted by Cruise Compare indicated that fullyone-fifth of Brits never go ashore while on a cruise. Admittedly "the ship being the destination has taken hold," especially with ships such as Oasis and Allure of the Seas and Norwegian Epic, but other reasons given were saving money and just not liking the food ashore!

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