Shipshape Means State of the Art in Cruise Line Refits

Ice bar on Celebrity Eclipse at cocktail time
Ice bars on Celebrity Cruises

WALLACE IMMEN takes a look at ship refurbs that are adding some firsts. Here’s the lowdown on what’s coming to many well-loved ships in 2012 and beyond.

Ice bars, spa staterooms, multiple alternative restaurants, gastro pubs and wi-fi access everywhere are among the “wow” factors on new cruise ships. Designers and techies have been so inventive in coming up with the “next great thing” on newly launched cruise ships that everyone wants to experience them. So cruise lines are going on a spending spree to transform all their ships into the state of the art.

Just like hotels on land, ships regularly need maintenance and freshening, but on these ships the changes go far beyond new carpets and a fresh coat of paint and become multi-million dollar start-from-scratch re-buildings. Some require weeks in dry dock and yanking out entire decks to create new restaurants, staterooms and spas. In the process, the ship refurbs are adding some firsts that will later have to be put on their newer ships. Here’s the lowdown on what’s coming to many well-loved ships:

Dancing in a night spot on Carnival Cruises


What’s happening: The high-tech sounding Fun Ship 2.0 upgrading program has a budget that will eventually top $500 million to add more dining and entertainment options on more than a dozen Carnival ships. On every ship there will be a RedFrog Bar with craft beer, a BlueIguana Tequila Bar and complimentary dining options in addition to the new Guy’s Burger Joint. The Alchemy Bar is Carnival’s vintage-themed cocktail “pharmacy,” where Carnival’s mixologists will “prescribe” concoctions from drink menus or guests can also try their hand at mixing their own custom cocktails. The company is also partnering with funny-man George Lopez, who will become creative director for comedy clubs in all the ships and with EA SPORTS to create new sports bars in all the ships. There will also be new features and production shows developed by game maker Hasbro. All this will be added to what’s already a huge array of options on Carnival ships.

Where you’ll find it: Carnival Liberty is the first to get the facelift and it’s sailing in the Caribbean out of Miami.

Menu-tainment selections in Celebrity Cruises  Q-sine restaurants
More Q-sine menu-tainment restaurants being added to Celebrity Cruises ships


What’s happening: A $140-million program will bring features of Celebrity’s newest Solstice-class ships to earlier Millennium class ships. A group of staterooms will be turned into AquaClass staterooms, new verandahs will be added to Celebrity Suites and there will be additional ocean-view and inside staterooms. Innovative restaurants Blu and Q-sine (the restaurant with the menu-tainment iPad menus), the Bistro on Five creperie, Cafe al Bacio and Gelateria will be added. Celebrity’ Infinity is actually the first in the fleet to also receive a bedding upgrade called eXhale. Mattresses designed exclusively for Celebrity are made of sustainable natural materials and will have removable hypo allergenic, anti-bacterial covers and breathable tops to keep guests cool as they sleep. Guests in Penthouse Suites, Royal Suites, Celebrity Suites and Sky Suites can have their mattress tailored to their liking, with a range of options from extra-plush to extra-firm.

Where you find it:

Celebrity’s Infinity will sail with the new look from December 3, 2011, followed by Summit in January 2012, with Millennium getting the treatment in April and re-entering service May 12.

Crystal Serenity concern in the atrium
A quartet serenades guests at dinnertime on Crystal Serenity


What’s happening: Crystal upgrades its two ships almost continually, but it has just committed $25-million to keep its newest ship, Crystal Serenity, at the cutting edge. Both Serenity and sister ship Crystal Symphony continue to rank at the top of quality and satisfaction polls done by cruise magazines and guide books. Not resting on its laurels, Crystal has redone all of Serenity’s deluxe outside staterooms, penthouses and penthouse suites, with new floor-to-ceiling tufted headboards, cabinets, sofas curtains and pillows in addition to custom carpets. New reading lights built into the bed and an electronic door bell system make the ambience more like guests would experience at home. Dramatic transformations in the public areas include a completely new retail area. Facets, the jewelry store now looks like a jewel box with a mother of pearl wall. The Apropos boutique has become three shops, in a redesign overseen by Toronto-based II by IV Design. On deck, the Seahorse Pool area now features circular beds and plush sofas similar to ones installed on sister ship Crystal Symphony in a renovation two years ago. Lighting throughout the ship was improved, and the effect is particularly dramatic in the gorgeous ceiling murals in the Crystal Dining Room.

Where you’ll find it: The changeover is complete and Crystal Serenity will be doing a world cruise from January through May 2012.

Golden Lion pub on Queen Mary 2
The new look of the Golden Lion pub on Cunard


What’s happening: The venerable line’s flagship Queen Mary 2 has installed 18 square miles of new carpeting, curtains and beddings in upgrades of all staterooms. The British-themed Golden Lion pub gets a complete redesign featuring a more country club feel and the warmer colors and seating found in sister ships Queen Victoria and Queen Elizabeth. The Queens Grill and Princess Grill restaurants have new lighter carpeting and the commodore club got upgraded with new white leather furnishings. In addition, theres a new look to Sir Samuel’s coffee and wine bar and the Veuve Clicquot Champagne Bar.

Where you’ll find it: Changes will all be made by Dec. 7, 2011 in preparation for the Queen Mary’s eighth birthday in January 2012.

Fresh look of Seven Seas Mariner penthouse
Fresh look of a Regent Seven Seas penthouse


What’s happening: Regent’s Seven Seas’ Signature Initiative goes beyond physical changes. Seven Seas Voyager was the first of three ships to get $20-million renovations that include new carpeting, curtains and balcony furniture as well as adding iPads in penthouse and higher suite categories. The changes include expansion of the Compass Rose and La Veranda restaurants, and changes in menus that will emphasize the regions the ship is visiting. Regent Seven Seas has also expanded its amenities for guests in higher-level suites, including discounts on premium wine and liquor purchases. Effective with the summer 2012 season, the new slate of amenities will be offered to guests in categories E and above on Seven Seas Mariner (beginning April 2, 2012) and Seven Seas Voyager (beginning April 16, 2012) and category D and above on Seven Seas Navigator (beginning May 30, 2012). Wine and liquor has always been included in the cruise fare, but guests in the higher cabin categories will receive 25 per cent off premium wine and liquor purchases, such as Dom Perignon champagne, and 10 per cent off pre- or post-cruise hotel or land packages and Regent Choice shore excursions. Other additions are an upgraded pre-cruise luxury hotel package; priority on-line reservations on included shore excursions; priority online reservations in the specialty restaurants Prime 7 and Signatures; and 15 minutes of free phone calls and 60 minutes of free Internet access per suite

Where you’ll find it: Seven Seas Mariner got the new features in April of 2011, Seven Seas Voyager emerged with its new features in September and Seven Seas Navigator will complete the trio in May of 2012.

Royal Caribbeans Splendour of the Seas in Santorini
Royal Caribbean


What’s happening: The success of the line’s vast new Oasis-class floating worlds led to plans to add many of the popular features on previous RCI ships. Splendour of the Seas has just had an extensive revitalization that doubles the number of dining options previously available to guests. Many of the new venues were first seen on Oasis of the Seas and Allure of the Seas. Among them are the Asian Izumi restaurant; a signature steakhouse, Chops Grille; the Boardwalk Dog House hotdog counter; the Park Café deli-style restaurant and the Chef’s Table. A new a la carte menu in the main Viking Crown Lounge will include choices like Kobe beef sliders, Asian tempuras and soft shell crab at additional charge to the standard menu. In addition, the refit added balconies to 124 staterooms and computer technology and wi-fi access was upgraded.

Where you’ll find it: The refit is part of a long-range $300-million program of “Royal Advantage Revitalizations” that will see Rhapsody of the Seas get the same treatment in March 2012, Grandeur of the Seas in May, 2012 and Serenade of the Seas in November, 2012. Six other ships are slated for upgrades in 2013 and early 2014.

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