All about the refurb

Cruise ships have been lining up like Hollywood stars for million-dollar facelifts and 2011’s trend is set to continue well into 2012.

New ships cost hundreds of millions of dollars to build, but a refurb can take an old ship and with a few million dollars have it looking and feeling like a completely new vessel in a matter of weeks – or at least, as with Hollywood stars, that’s the idea.

Refurbishments take on a number of different forms. There’s the cosmetic variety that brings shimmer and shine, like Norwegian Jade when she emerged from dry dock in December last year with a repainted hull and new carpeting throughout. Or Crystal Serenity, which in May received a multi-million-dollar makeover including completely remodelled cabins throughout and a pool deck with a fresh new design.

Then there’s the technological upgrade, whereby the pleasures and conveniences of the latest technological innovations are integrated into older vessels. Norwegian Spirit, for example, in September/October last year, acquired bow-to-stern WiFi, new flatscreen TVs in cabins and upgrades to the main theatre.

Some refurbs enable a ship to emulate its class superiors as in the case of Freedom of the Seas, which gained Oasis-class features in March 2011 with the addition of 3D movie capabilities, an outdoor poolside cinema, a cupcake venue, the DreamWorks experience and new kids’ facilities.

In some instances, a cruise line may buy a ship from another cruise line and refit it with its trademark clubs, bars and restaurants, as was the case with Royal Princess, which was bought by P&O Cruises UK last year. Renaming the ship Adonia, the cruise line sent her to dry dock in May. Her P&O makeover included the morphing of existing venues into the cruise line’s favourites, including Anderson’s Bar and the Crows Nest.

And 2012 will see much of the same, the most anticipated of which is the US$125 million-dollar makeover of Costa Romantica, which will be so extensive that the ship will be renamed Costa neoRomantica when she emerges next month. The ship’s interior will be remodelled throughout, two new half-decks with 111 new cabins will be inserted, 120 balconies will be attached, new lounges will be created and a new restaurant will be thrown in for good measure.

The number of refurbishments happening in 2012 is extensive. They include Grandeur of the Seas acquiring Oasis-class features in May; Celebrity Summit’s ‘Solsticisation’ with the addition of several Solstice-class venues this month; and in June, a revamp of the theatre, kids area and several lounges on Crystal Symphony.