. How Cruise Lines are Keeping up with the Times : ROAD & TRAVEL Magazine

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Keeping it Fresh and New

How Cruise Lines Are Keeping Up to Date

The cruise industry has long sought to respond to the ever-changing vacation tastes and desires of its passengers by enhancing onboard facilities and amenities, as evidenced in the comprehensive stem-to-stern, multi-million dollar renovations routinely undertaken by the 19 member operators of the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA).

"Nothing is overlooked in our member lines' efforts to ensure that all ships - whether new to the world's cruise waters or veterans of years of ocean voyages - measure up to our guests' high expectations in terms of features, amenities and cutting-edge facilities," said Terry L. Dale, president and CEO of CLIA, the marketing organization for 19 North American cruise lines and 16,500 travel agencies - North America's largest travel industry association based on agency membership.

With 62 ships launched in the last five years, and more growth expected throughout the next decade, CLIA-member cruise lines are ensuring that existing fleet mates match the state-of-the-art standards of their newer siblings.

Among the unusual enhancements planned are expansive spa facilities featuring advanced treatment technologies, computer labs, 300-square-foot poolside movie screens, and an entire ship deck dedicated to teens.

"In addition to these out-of-the ordinary new facilities, our member lines regularly replace carpets, furnishings, linens, wall coverings, and - perhaps more importantly - they modernize mechanical, electrical and technical systems, such as fire safety apparatus, navigational equipment and waste treatment facilities," Dale said.

CLIA cruise lines have recently undertaken the following refurbishment projects:

Celebration and Fantasy were both the recipients of multi-million refurbishments. Celebration now sports a new reception area, including new carpeting, furniture wall coverings and artwork, creating a more contemporary atmosphere.

The Vista and Horizon formal restaurants are now appointed in pastel-hued décor and reconfigured to provide diners with a greater feeling of spaciousness, openness and comfort. Each of Celebration's 743 staterooms received new curtains, carpeting, wallpaper, upgraded linens, pillows and bedspreads.

Fantasy, meanwhile, has a new lobby bar and the ship's 1,028 staterooms have been completely made over in a fashion similar to Celebration's. The Forum conference facility has been reconfigured as both a meeting space and entertainment venue. Other public rooms on both ships were appointed with new carpeting and wall coverings and other such cosmetic enhancements.

Constellation is the first ship in the Celebrity Cruises' fleet to feature the line's new trademarked Bar at the Edge of the Earth entertainment concept, which features Cirque du Soleil artists in an interactive performance showcase onboard the vessel.

The venue was formerly the ship's disco. The Bar at the Edge of the Earth - defined by Celebrity as "part bar, part lounge and complete alternate reality" - also offers exotic food and beverages available exclusively in that venue.

Summit was scheduled to receive the same retrofit in late February. Both ships have also added a Cirque du Soleil boutique in the shopping area. Other additions include a dedicated Acupuncture at Sea space and an expanded High Seas Computer lab in the space formerly known as Notes.

Costa Victoria was reconstructed with 246 new balconies, which represents 43 percent of the ship' ocean view staterooms. Along with the new balconies the ship's buffet area was expanded and two panorama promenades - about 459 feet in length - were added. Costa Atlantica, Costa Europa, Costa Romantica and Costa Tropicale have received various renovations, including new carpeting, curtains and upholstery in public areas.

Costa Romantica's renovations included the addition of mini bars to all staterooms and refurbishment of the casino and arcade areas. Mini bars were also installed in all guest staterooms aboard Costa Europa; the disco was redecorated and a ramp was built in the theater allowing for better handicapped access. Similar handicapped access was also added to Costa Atlantica's disco, outside decks and selected staterooms.

No stranger to renovations, Cunard Line spent more than $130 million in the 1980s to install nine turbocharged diesel engines to replace the Queen Elizabeth 2's aging steam plant. In 1994, QE2 - as she is best known - completed a $45 million refurbishment. Last year, the venerable ocean liner underwent still more renovations, including a full painting of its hull, new carpeting and refurbishment of its decks. Other onboard enhancements included the addition of an open bar on the ship's Sun Deck.

The Mauritania and Britannia Grill restaurants were also repainted and the medical facility upgraded. Today QE2 is still the fastest and most powerful passenger ship in service and, as a result of continuous improvements to both passenger facilities and engineering, remains both luxurious and up-to-date.

Disney Wonder added three new age-specific venues that appeal to the varied interests of adults and teenagers. The ship's interior and exterior areas were also refurbished. Sister ship Disney Magic underwent similar renovations more than a year ago. Aloft, a teen center blends a trendy coffee shop ambiance with that of a college dormitory with overstuffed couches and chairs. Cove Café lets adults relax with magazines, watch television or access e-mails and enjoy light fare, gourmet coffees and specialty drinks.

Diversions, another new adult public room, is themed as an evening sports pub featuring plasma TVs and a host of adult activities like board games and karaoke. Other Disney Wonder enhancements included the freshening of tile work, carpets, wood decking and the reupholstering of furniture.

Crystal Cruises invested $12 million in Crystal Symphony with a completely new Feng Shui-designed spa and fitness center, an expanded Computer University @ Sea program and a brand-new Vintage Room.

Other areas that underwent complete refurbishment include The Crystal Dining Room, The Library, Photo Shop, public restrooms and all penthouse and penthouse suite accommodations and staterooms. Crystal Harmony was the recipient of an earlier multi-million dollar overhaul that included the addition of expansive new spa facilities; the construction of a Connoisseur Club, a cigar and cognac lounge; and remodeled public areas from stem to stern.

The Crystal Spa & Salon and Fitness Center was entirely reconstructed with the principles of Feng Shui and increased by 430 feet. The ship's Galaxy Lounge and Palm Court also received cosmetic facelifts.

Holland America Line has dedicated $225 million to its fleet-wide Signature of Excellence initiative, which features enhancements to every aspect of the cruise experience - including accommodations, five-star dining, service, enrichment programs and activities.

Enhancements to the ships include new state-of-the-art public spaces and luxurious amenities in every stateroom. Other Signature of Excellence highlights include the innovative new Culinary Arts Center, the new Explorations Café that is powered by The New York Times and upgraded youth facilities including The Oasis, a new teens-only deck.

Signatures of Excellence improvements have been completed on Ryndam, Zaandam and Prinsendam. (Prinsendam, which attracts a more mature audience, did not receive expanded youth facilities or and Explorations Café because of space considerations.) The entire fleet will have enhancements in place by fall 2006.

An alternative to a traditional cruise, each Norwegian Coastal Voyage vessel is a unique combination of first-class cruise ship and a working ship carrying local passengers and cargo to 34 ports, ranging from fishing villages in the Lofoten Islands to the Art Nouveau town of Alesund and bustling cities like Trondheim.

The ships sail along the picturesque 1,250 coast of Norway, providing a lifeline to small villages and towns on the route. The company, which boasts 11 ships, has upgraded facilities on several vessels.

Two Jacuzzis have been added to the Millennium-class ships' MS Midnatsol and MS Trollfjord; and the Contemporary ships' MS Nordnorge, MS Nordkapp and MS Richard With. MS Nordnorge has also added an Internet Café as well as a newly enhanced161-square-foot suite.

Norwegian Sea received multi-million dollar renovations that included the refurbishing of the signature restaurant Le Bistro, the addition of the Pasta Café, new carpet and upholstery and a range of architectural enhancements in granite and wood.

Norwegian Star completed a multi-million dollar facelift, a highlight of which was the addition of decorative artwork - a burst of colorful stars and streamers - to the ship's hull. Other changes to the ship included the addition of a 1930s-style Cagney's Steakhouse and a 10,000 square foot state-of-the-art casino.

The Teen Club was transformed into the Pearl Martini Lounge and the Karaoke Circus became the Carousel Bar and Nightclub. Pride of Aloha completed a multi-million dollar refurbishment and is now the first ship in nearly half a century to fly the U.S. flag.

MSC Melody and MSC Rhapsody have undergone significant refurbishments. MSC Melody's $10.5 million renovation included the addition of new teak deck wood and refurbishment of the swimming pool and Riviera Terrace area. New upholstery and carpeting has been installed in corridors. All 532 cabins and bathrooms have been renewed with new furniture; cabins on the Oceanic Deck now sport new carpets, curtains and coverlets.

The curtains in the Galaxy Restaurant on the Bahamas Deck have also been replaced. In addition to general maintenance of the decks and swimming pool and carpet replacement, MSC Rhapsody's 275 staterooms have been refurnished and now also feature new carpets, curtains and accessories; 356 bathrooms were also refurbished. The buffet area and discotheque were remodeled, as was the Top Sail Lounge.

The line's Regatta and Insignia have undergone significant renovations over the last several years and are due for still more this year. Both ships feature new pool decks with new teak decking, new swimming pools and spas; all new stateroom bedding and accessories; new teak verandas; renovated spas; new teak deck furniture and new multi-million dollar art collections.

The ships' lobby and Martini Bar have been outfitted with new furniture, as have decks, staterooms and suites. Regatta and Insignia's veranda staterooms on decks seven and eight will receive refrigerated mini bars and DVD players in April 2005.

Insignia's Toscana restaurant was gutted and redecorated last year and Regatta's Toscana will undergo the same procedure in April. Nautica will undergo similar renovation during her three-month dry-dock in the fall.

Grand Princess was outfitted with a new "Movie Under The Stars" outdoor film screen before it began its inaugural sailing schedule out of Galveston, Tex., late last year. The 109,000-ton ship was retrofitted with a 300-square-foot, state-of-the-art poolside movie screen, which was first introduced on the 116,000-ton Caribbean Princess.

Grand Princess brings to Galveston other popular shipboard features, such as a Sterling Steakhouse, as well as many of the amenities that have made the ship a favorite of passengers - such as an Italian trattoria, Asian-inspired spa, ScholarShip @ Sea enrichment program and a variety of dining and entertainment options.

Grand Princess will sail out Galveston through April 9 and then reposition to the Mediterranean and Greek Isles. Separately, all Princess ships now feature wireless "hotspots" for Internet access.

Monarch of the Seas' extensive renovations were custom-designed for the West Coast market, where the ship is positioned on three- and four-night Baja Mexico cruises. Spa facilities were expanded and several facilities include, were added. Sovereign of the Seas' renovation also included the addition of Boleros and a sit-down coffee and ice cream shop and three teen-only areas.

Enchantment of the Seas, meanwhile, is being stretched with a 73-foot midsection that will add 151 staterooms and a number of indoor and outdoor public areas, including suspension bridges, an overhanging bar with panoramic views and bungee trampolines.

Renovations will be completed by July. All Royal Caribbean ships have been retrofitted with the line's signature rock-climbing walls.

Silver Cloud and Silver Wind, Silversea's 296-guest all-suite ships, completed major dry dock refurbishments at Italy's T. Mariotti Shipyard. Silver Cloud's last major renovation was in April 2004, and Silver Wind's was May 2003.

Suite enhancements include new sofas, chairs, tables, vanity stools and headboards, as well as new bedspreads, draperies and artwork. The ships were also the recipients of maintenance makeovers that included the installation of new carpet in suites and public areas.

Public area enhancements include a new Champagne Room, a wine and cigar room; Saletta, an alternative gourmet dining venue; an expanded Fitness Center, relocated to the Observation Deck; a new Tranquility Room, offering guests a quiet place to relax between spa treatments; a new Internet Point, featuring six private computer workstations; and a refurbished library.

Windstar invested more than $6 million in its three sailing yachts. Wind Surf's main lounge received a facelift that included reupholstered furniture, refinished tables and floors. An updated Terrace Bar on Wind Surf's Star Deck has been transformed into an indoor-outdoor gathering area and is the new spot for the line's "Cigars Under the Stars" program with a high-tech humidor and flat screen TV for sports viewing.

Wind Spa and the Owner's Suite also received facelifts. Wind Star and Wind Spirit's Veranda Café was redone with new floor plans, glass walls and furnishings and a new outdoor awning increasing the covered dining area.

Both ships now feature new seating areas in public rooms, new art and permanent food stations in pool bar areas. Guest accommodations have also been modernized.

Enhancements will be added to all three Seabourn ships during scheduled dry-docking late this year and early 2006. The line has been proceeding with some refurbishments on board during regular cruising over the past year.

Carpets in suites and public areas have been replaced and chairs and couches reupholstered on a rotating basis. During the dry-docks, the Veranda Cafe casual alternative dining venue will be extensively reworked, including convertible screening of the buffet lines used daily to enhance the indoor portion of the venue for dinner service.

For the outdoor portion, a new canopy will be installed to eliminate the lashed seams that hinder its use during inclement weather. A flat-screen television and DVD player will be added to the entertainment options in all guest suites.

(Source: Cruise Lines International Association - CLIA)

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