For cruise travelers around the world, mega ships transport them from port to port and country to country in elegant style. And with the popularity and affordability of cruising bringing travelers from more than just the Boomer generation, building new ships might seem the natural solution to a demand for the cruise lifestyle.
But it’s not. Several international ships have undergone resizing “surgeries” that expand them by up to 50 feet.
How? By cutting them in half.
The expansion process involves slicing the ship into two pieces that are then rolled apart and putting the new section of the ship in between, where the pieces are then welded together. A final coat of paint prevents travelers from noticing that their ship was once split in half.
Silversea Cruises, a Monaco-based company that overs cruises all over the world, is currently giving the Silver Spirit such an expansion. The Silver Spirit is undergoing a facelift at the Fincantieri Shipyard in Palermo, Italy, and at its completion will measure nearly 50 feet longer than its current length. The ship currently measures just over 642 feet in length and will emerge from its transformation measuring about 692 feet long.
The project cost about $100 million and employed more than 500 workers for about 450,000 man hours. The renovation has used about 26,500 feet of piping, nearly 361,000 feet of cable and nearly 850 tons of steel.
One hundred million dollars might seem like a lot of money for a renovation, but when you consider that it costs three to 10 times that amount to build a brand new ship from scratch, the number seems much more affordable.
As for the increasing number of cruise aficionados, here are some hard numbers that fuel the need for bigger ships: the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) offers that cruise passenger numbers rose 68% in a decade, from 13.1 million in 2004 to 22 million in 2014.
Silversea is making this upgrade so that the Silver Spirit will match the luxury of the company’s flagship Silver Muse, which launched last year. It’s scheduled to relaunch in May and will offer seven-day cruises between Civitavecchia (Rome, Italy) and Barcelona, Spain.
“Witnessing these breathtaking phases of the Silver Spirit lengthening project has filled us with pride and excitement,” said Barbara Muckermann, chief marketing officer of Silversea. “The lengthening and refurbishment of Silver Spirit will replicate the modern elegance of our latest vessel to make for a more luxurious traveling experience.”
The pre-built extension will increase the ship’s capacity by 12 percent by creating more public space and enhancing the vessel’s facilities. Specifically, eight restaurants will be added, 34 new passenger suites will be added, the pool deck will be expanded, and outdoor seating will be expanded. The ship will also feature an expanded sky deck and a new outdoor aerobics area as well as a weight room, a spa, and additional public spaces.
Another benefit of the extension process? Donatable goods. The company notes that it has donated 11 containers of couches, chairs, computers, and more to schools, hospitals and nursing homes in Crete.
It’s not the first ship to undergo an extension at the Fincantieri shipyard. In 2015, the cruise line MSC commissioned four ship extensions that cost $227 million, a much more cost effective solution than building four new ships.