Original Run Date: May/June 2007
Older Ships Gain Razzle-Dazzle with
New Features, Venues and Amenities
This snazzy new lounge called Luxe was created during the Crystal Symphony's recent drydock refurbishment in Norfolk, VA.*
By Anne Kalosh
Some people gravitate to new things – the latest model car, trendy gadgets, trophy wives. So it is with cruisers who turn up their noses at older ships. Only the latest and greatest will do.
They’re missing some fine vessels and, counterintuitive though it seems, some intriguing innovations. Cruise lines are investing hundreds of millions of dollars to keep their assets in mint condition. They’re retrofitting the latest amenities introduced on their newest ships – and sometimes adding features that aren’t available elsewhere in the fleet.
Century Dazzles With A New Look
When Celebrity Cruises sent the 1995-built Century in for work last year, the ship emerged with a cool concept – the first ice bar at sea. The Martini Bar sports a counter of ice-cold stone and a liquid wall that’s frozen into a crystalline surface. Liquor bottles are displayed in a block of ice.
Century's revitalization last year created a new Ice Bar gives that's now a a chic new venue that's always packed with guests marveling at its icy look and creative martinis.*
Century’s $55 million drydock overhaul also added 314 verandas and an Italian specialty restaurant. Teens got their own X-Treme lounge with a juice bar, dance floor and video arcade. The AquaSpa was expanded too.
Century sails four- and five-night cruises from Miami during the winter season. It's worth a look if you’re considering a short get-away. The ice bar alone will wow you.
Proof of how much an overhaul can accomplish is viewable on the exterior of Celebrity's Century. This older ship has been brought into the modern era with 314 new balconies.*
Fantasy-Class Updates Create More Fun
In another major project that will add at least two attractions not found on its other ships, Carnival Cruise Lines is updating the eight Fantasy-class vessels of the 1990s. Firsts for Carnival will be water parks for kids and Serenity deck retreats for adults.
Those are part of a $250 million program the "Fun Ships" line calls Evolutions of Fun. The expanded outdoor recreation areas will first be added to the 2,052-passenger Inspiration and Imagination during fall dry docks and to other Fantasy-class ships in 2008 and 2009.
New pool deck zones are just one of many new features being installed on all Fantasy-class ships over the next few years.*
The new pool deck zones are just one aspect of extensive refurbishments to these vessels that began in 2005. They stretch from remodeled staterooms and suites to the addition of New York-style delis in the Lido restaurants, an overhaul of the spas and the rollout of nine-hole miniature golf courses.
Elation now boasts many new features including a nine-hole miniature golf course and an expanded fitness center.*
Emphasis is being placed on youth facilities. The Fantasy-class ships are enlarging play areas for the Camp Carnival program, and teens are getting their own Club 02. For the first time on any Carnival ship, 12- to 14-year olds will have their own space, still under development.
Many enhancements have already been completed on Carnival’s Fantasy, Ecstasy and Fascination, and partially executed on the Sensation, Elation and Paradise.
Passengers seem to approve. Carnival’s Ecstasy, extensively refurbished last year under the Evolutions of Fun initiative, just earned the company’s annual award for highest passenger ratings across the 22-ship fleet. That’s a glowing recommendation for this 1991-built vessel.
Ecstasy sails year-round from Galveston on four- and five-night cruises to Mexico. Other Fantasy-class ships operate from southern U.S. ports such as Miami, Fort Lauderdale, Port Canaveral, Tampa and New Orleans.
A More Full-Featured Majesty
Majesty of the Seas has recently received a major makeover, adding a new Johnny Rockets, Cafe Latte-tudes and a host of other upgrades.*
Royal Caribbean International is another cruise line known for keeping its older vessels ship-shape with what it calls “revitalizations.” The latest was carried out on Majesty of the Seas in January.
Fifteen years have passed since Majesty was minted, and it was time to “have a little work done.” That meant nipping, tucking and enhancing with some of the attractions from Royal Caribbean’s younger ships. They include the Latin-themed club Boleros, a Johnny Rockets burger restaurant and a Café Latte-tudes brewing Seattle’s Best Coffee. Also added, for teens, were a nightclub, Fuel, and a lounge, The Living Room.
The new Latin themed nightclub concept, Boleros, was recenty added to Majesty of the Seas.*
An existing area that changed dramatically was the Windjammer Marketplace. This casual dining venue now has more buffet islands, plus a pizzeria and a deli.
In another big change, the Majesty Day Spa and ShipShape Fitness Center were moved to a new deck and enlarged with more treatment rooms and a relaxation area.
After more than $36 million of work, Majesty of the Seas looks as youthful as when I sailed on its maiden voyage in 1992. (I wish I could say the same for myself.)
The ship operates three- and four-night Bahamas cruises from Miami year-round. Similar work was completed earlier on sister Sovereign of the Seas, which cruises from central Florida’s Port Canaveral.
(Editor's note: Readers might also check out our Royal Caribbean Page; click on the topic in the bottom right column. Freelance writer Roberta Sandler, a repeat cruiser on Majesty, has just sailed on the ship post-makeover and offers her perspective.)
Delivering More Magic
Disney Wonder, also based in Port Canaveral for three- and four-night jaunts, is a sprightly eight years old but already received its first modernization late last year. The work followed a similar multimillion-dollar upgrade of Disney Magic.
Disney Wonder is shown in a Norfolk, VA, drydock last year -- in the midst of a major makeover.*
Why pour money into these relatively young vessels? Disney Cruise Line President Tom McAlphin told me his line courts an upscale family market and always wants its ships to look totally new.
Disney Cruise Line's President, Tom McAlphin.*
That’s exactly how I would describe Disney Wonder after a cruise following its dry dock. Everything is fresh and sparkling.
One of the most eye-catching additions is a jumbo movie screen that rises above the family Goofy Pool.
During the drydock work in Norfolk, VA, a jumbo electronic screen -- for the latest entertainment offerings -- was added above the Disney Wonder's Goofy Pool.*
The Mickey Pool, for toddlers and young children, also has been enlarged with interactive fountains and splash zones. Inside the ship, the Oceaneer Lab for kids ages 8 to 12 has gained a computerized bridge simulator that shows what it’s like to navigate into port.
For adults, the Vista Spa and Salon got a major facelift. Three spa villas were added. Each consists of an indoor massage area and an open-air shower, whirlpool tub and Balinese day bed. Passengers are served tea and fruit as they relax on the day bed of each villa’s private veranda.
I splurged on a massage at one of the spa villas. It was among the most blissful experiences I’ve ever had on a ship.
Disney Wonder, sleek and sassy on the outside, is now upgraded with interior razzle-dazzle features to "like new" condition, following a drydock overhaul last fall.*
Staying Luxuriously Ship-Shape
When it comes to maintaining youthful good looks, there’s extra pressure on luxury ships. Because luxury cruisers are so discerning, lines like Crystal Cruises are continually investing to stay current.
The 1995-built Crystal Symphony just completed a $23 million drydock visit that was much more than a spit and polish. Like the other ships I’ve mentioned, Crystal Symphony emerged with new public spaces. Also, the staterooms were transformed.
Pampering staterooms on Crystal Symphony now feature Rubelli fabrics, Murano glass bedside tables and 20-inch LCD flat-screen televisions. Baths boast new clear glass sinks.*
Now emulating a stylish boutique hotel, the staterooms are appointed with Rubelli fabrics, Murano glass bedside lamps, leather headboards with LED reading lights and 20-inch LCD flat-screen televisions. Bathrooms were reconstructed with oval glass sinks on granite countertops.
Tiffany Deck, housing most of the ship’s entertainment spots, enhanced with new colors, construction and mood lighting. Walls surrounding the Starlite Club were knocked out to give a new round bar center stage in an open area with ocean views.
Crystal even knocked out walls surrounding this new Starlite bar to give patrons ocean views.*
A new nightclub, Luxe, is the height of chic with polished aluminum Philippe Starck bar stools and glass Bizzaza mosaics. The upgraded boutiques look like something you’d find on Rodeo Drive.
A number of Crystal Symphony’s worldwide itineraries start or end in Miami. They include a fall voyage originating in Montreal and several winter Panama Canal and Caribbean cruises.
Other lines sailing from southern ports that rigorously refurbish their ships include Holland America Line, Oceania Cruises and Regent Seven Seas Cruises – to name just a few.
The Bottom Line
The year a vessel was built isn’t always indicative of what kind of experience you’ll have onboard during your vacation. It also isn't necessarily a good barometer of how up to date the features are.
With lines investing heavily to keep their fleets fresh, most everything old is new again.
For More Information
Carnival Cruise Lines: 888-227-6482 or www.carnival.com
Celebrity Cruises: 800-647-2251 or www.celebritycruises.com
Crystal Cruises: 866-446-6625 or www.crystalcruises.com
Disney Cruise Line: 800-951-3532 or www.disneycruise.com
Royal Caribbean International: 866-562-7625 or www.royalcaribbean.com
Anne Kalosh is a Miami-based journalist who has been covering the cruise industry for national and international publications for 25 years. She is the U.S. editor for Seatrade Cruise Review and Seatrade Insider. Kalosh got hooked on cruising when, fresh out of college, she signed on with Royal Viking Line as a shipboard newspaper editor sailing the world.
*Photos of Carnival, Celebrity, Crystal, Disney and Royal Caribbean ships and new features are owned, copyrighted and used with permission of those lines. Two photos of Disney Cruise Line drydock construction are by Anne Kalosh and used with her permission. All rights reserved. Please do not link to nor copy these photos. Thank you.