The Evolution of Cruise Ship Design – Other Cruise News: Noble Caledonia Goes To Three Ships – Louis Expands in France and Canada

by Kevin Griffin

The illustrations for the new MSC “Seaside” class from Fincantieri have provoked some discussion on recent changes in cruise ship design, which we examine today. Elsewhere, Noble Caledonia last week also announced that it was acquiring a third unit of the original eight-ship 114-berth Renaissance small ship class, and the third of four sister ships from the Apuania shipyard, south of La Spezia. Meanwhile, Louis Cruises is out to triple its French business to 10,000 passengers and has announced a second season for the Louis Cristal on charter to Cuba Cruise from Havana.


The Evolution of Cruise Ship Design

The recent publication by MSC of drawings of its two 4,140-berth “Seaside” class ships, to be built by Fincantieri, illustrate some interesting changes in cruise ship design. In this case, it is the relocation of the ship’s engine and funnel to the traditional midships position once more.

The new MSC Cruises’ prototype named “Seaside”

With the use of pods instead of propellers, and electric power, the absence of long propeller shafts has negated the need to have a ship’s engines aft, a trend that could be said to have been started by P&O’s Canberra in 1961, a move that was reinforced by the construction of the first modern cruise ships in the late 1960s and early 1970s.

The sole exceptions to this engines-aft trend were the Queen Elizabeth 2 of 1969, although her funnel was located somewhat aft of amidships, and the Vistafjord of 1973, both of which are today being converted into floating hotels.

The first important modern ship to show this new funnel amidships arrangement was the 2,620-berth Queen Mary 2 a decade ago, although like Queen Mary 2 her funnel is also slightly aft of amidships.

QE2 in Invergordon

Nevertheless, Queen Mary 2 was the first major ocean liner, as opposed to cruise ship, to use the pods that eliminated the need for a propeller shaft, and it was this that allowed her to become the first passenger ship in three decades to be built with funnel almost amidships again.

As to the layout of the ships themselves, slowly over the years passenger cabins have migrated from within the hull of the ship, with lounges on top, up into the superstructure, where they can easily be equipped with balconies.

Public areas and the promenade deck have in turn migrated from the top of the ship to a location closer to the sea, while the open air and pool areas are installed atop the ship.

Another trend, now being picked up by MSC in its new 4,500-berth orders from STX, is the internal promenade. As ships have got wider, it has made sense to locate more public areas, bars and restaurants internally, thus leaving outside spaces for passenger accommodation.
Royal Caribbean International has been a big believer in this concept, which it adapted from the Silja Line night ferries running between Helsinki and Stockholm.

Mariner Of The Seas – The Promenade

To a lesser extent, first Star Cruises and then Norwegian Cruise Line, whose ships, like Royal Caribbean’s, also feature inward-facing “outside” cabins, adopted the idea.

MSC’s new “Seaside” class however, point the way to narrower superstructures and more outside deck areas, including a cantilevered promenade deck with substantially more outside space, below which hang the lifeboats. Instead of having to go inside to move from one part of the ship to another, it will be possible on these new MSC ships to do so on the outside.

Providing that it can be sheltered from the elements, and the new “Seaside” ships will conform this, it would seem to be a far more attractive arrangement of public spaces, with the ship’s passengers being able to enjoy the sea.

The Pioneer in this regard is Norwegian Cruise Line, whose Waterfront design on its new “Breakaway” class ships, a quarter-mile-long ocean-facing boardwalk, preceded MSC’s “Seasides.” The difference appears to be that in addition to the Waterfront’s bars and restaurants, the “Seaside” class ships will have shops facing onto the sea.

Norwegian Breakaway: The Waterfront

It is likely that the “Seasides” will see more service in warm weather areas, while ships equipped with internal promenades prove more useful in northern areas like New York in the winter and the Mediterranean year-round. Effectively, MSC seem to have ordered two summer ships from Fincantieri and two winter ships from STX, with options for more.

Given the right weather, these new outward-facing promenades will surely prove to be a great advance since the days of the original 100,000-tonner, the 2,642-berth Carnival Destiny of 1996, where all public areas faced inwards onto the ship’s atrium.

That ship has now been rebuilt as the 3,006-berth Carnival Sunshine but even Carnival has “seen the light” of the outdoors, installing wrap-around promenade decks onto its latest cruise ships, 3,646-berth Carnival Dream and Carnival Magic.

These vessels feature wide outdoor promenade decks that include an outdoor cafe and whirlpool Jacuzzi in four places along the outside deck.

The Norway

One other trend in recent years is the reversion to two funnels again, something not seen since the Queen Elizabeth, Mauretania and the France, which of course became the Norway in 1980.

The new trend started with the 1,750-berth Disney Magic and Disney Wonder in 1998-99, which adopted twin funnels purely for reasons of nostalgia, as the ships were meant to evoke the old ocean liners of yore.

Holland America Line followed in the 2000s with six “Vista” types (the 1,848-berth Zuiderdam through 2,106-berth Nieuw Amsterdam) and will soon add two 2,660-berth “Pinnacle” class ships, while Celebrity Cruises has produced its five 2,852-berth Celebrity Solstice class ships, the last of which was delivered in 2012.

With the addition of the 2,500-berth Disney Dream and Disney Fantasy, cruise ships have now entered a size bracket where two funnels have become relatively common again. Indeed, after P&O’s new 3,600-berth Britannia and the new “Pinnacle” class ships are delivered, there will be eighteen ships carrying two funnels in the fore-and-aft mode.

It has to be added, however, that with the exception of the Disney ships, the other fourteen ships all carry their twin funnels aft and only Disney effectively reproduces the old look.


Noble Caledonia Goes to Three Ships

Noble Caledonia is about to acquire a third ship for its fleet, which will give them three of the four Nuovi Cantieri Apuania-built ex-Renaissance small ships. It was only four years ago that Noble Caledonia acquired the Island Sky, after chartering her for a few years, and two years since Noble Caledonia acquired its second vessel, the Caledonian Sky, the former Hebridean Spirit.

Noble Caledonia Ltd proudly showed off its newly-acquired 114-berth small ship Caledonian Sky to the public and the trade in May 2012 in London's Docklands

Noble Caledonia Ltd proudly showed off its newly-acquired 114-berth small ship Caledonian Sky to the public and the trade in May 2012 in London’s Docklands

All three vessels can comfortably carry between 100 and 114 passengers. The ship is presently managed by Fleetpro Ocean as the Sea Explorer.

All three ships were part of the original Renaissance Cruises fleet of eight small ships that preceded the eight larger R ships. The fourth Apuania-built ship is Fleetpro Ocean’s Sea Spirit. Sea Explorer was until recently Travel Dynamics’ Corinthian, which has now been replaced by Corinthian II, the former Clelia II.

Corinthian II and Silversea’s Silver Galapagos are two of the second Renaissance quartet that were built by Cantieri Navale Ferrari. The other two have been converted to private yachts.

Said Noble Caledonia’s managing director Andy Cochrane, “We are fortunate in being able to add this fine ship to our growing fleet. The demand from the UK and around the world for voyages aboard Island Sky and Caledonian Sky has resulted with over 90% of capacity sold until early 2016, so the addition of a further vessel will allow us to meet the unprecedented demand we are currently experiencing.”

Founded in 1991, Noble Caledonia is known for expedition and small ship cruising. Its first ship, the 82-berth Caledonian Star, was operated by Noble Caledonia until 2000, and still sails today as Lindblad’s National Geographic Endeavour. Since then, growth has been steady and in more recent years has reached the point where in addition to its own fleet, Noble Caledonia charters up to twenty vessels a year.

Caledonian Sky – Island Sky – Renaissance VII

The addition of Sea Explorer will allow further cruises in Northern Europe, where she will expand Noble Caledonia’s offerings in Scotland, Norway, Iceland and later Spitsbergen. Although it was not announced, it is assumed that Salen Ship Management in Gothenburg, who manage the Caledonian Sky and Island Sky, will also manage the third ship.

Sea Explorer will join Noble Caledonia this October, although existing charter commitments to Polar Latitudes, Poseidon Expeditions and Antarctica XXI will still have to be honoured. In early 2016, following a refit, the ship will begin cruising in Scotland and beyond under her new Noble Caledonia name.
Like her sister ships, she will be equipped with a fleet of Zodiacs, allowing her to offer trips to the more remote regions for her 100 or so passengers.

Caledonian Sky is sailing in the Pacific Ocean and Island Sky is in the Indian Ocean and from 2016 will spend summers in the Mediterranean. Details of Sea Explorer’s voyages will be published in October.

Louis Expands in France and Canada

Louis Cruises has appointed Rivages du Monde to represent the line in France and set an objective of 10,000 French cruisers this year. This is without a return of any of its ships to Marseilles, where until November 2011 it had based its Louis Majesty.

Louis Majesty currently sailing as Thomson Majesty

Louis Majesty

With a part shareholding in the Marseilles Cruise Terminal, Louis booked 38,000 French passengers in 2011, and as many as 50,000 in 2010, when it also had other ships operating from both Marseilles and Genoa.

The new French objective has been set very high, something that can be noted as Louis carried only about 3,000 French cruisers in 2013. Its target audience is French tour operators, particularly those serving the Greek market, as well as a number of travel agents and group operators.

Since 2011, Louis has concentrated on its historical itineraries in the Eastern Mediterranean.

At the moment, in addition to chartering two larger vessels to Thomson Cruises, Louis operates three smaller vessels, the 710-berth Louis Aura, 960-berth Louis Cristal and 1,448-berth Louis Olympia, on 3-, 4- and 7-night cruises in the Greek Isles.

Louis Cristal with Cuba Cruise’s signature flowers

Meanwhile, in the Canadian market, Cuba Cruise will offer a second season of round-Cuba cruises this winter with the Louis Cristal. The line is offering an early bird discount, with 20 percent off bookings made before July 31, 2014.

Cuba Cruise, which launched its first round-Cuba cruises in 2013/14, will resume sailing on December 22, running through to March 30, 2015. Louis Cristal will call at five Cuban ports, as well as Montego Bay, and will extend the amount of time passengers can spend on the Isle of Youth. Passengers can board in either Havana or Montego Bay.

Said Dugald Wells, Cuba Cruise president, “the feedback was overwhelmingly positive and we look forward to providing future cruisers with the same great itinerary, impeccable service, delicious food and first rate entertainment program next winter. Cuba has welcomed us with open arms and we’re not saying goodbye anytime soon.”

Louis Olympia (Ex Thomson Destiny, Song of America, Sunbird)

The ship departs Havana and travels east around the island, calling at Antilla (Holguin), Santiago de Cuba, Montego Bay in Jamaica, Cienfuegos & Trinidad and Punta Frances on the Isle of Youth. The stay on the Isle of Youth will be extended with the new season.
Given that Americans are still not free to travel to Cuba in large numbers, t is expected that Canadian passenger numbers will be up over the first season, something that hopefully will also help Louis with its Greek Isles business from that country.

Elsewhere, the Louis Aura is chartered to Brazilian operators by winter while no employment has yet been announced for the Louis Olympia, which last winter was used as a floating hotel for the winter Olympics at Sochi

(Kevin Griffin is managing director of specialist cruise agency The Cruise People Ltd in London, England. For further information concerning cruises mentioned in this article readers can visit his blog)

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