Last updated: 01:00 PM ET, Thu March 31 2016

Why Fleet Maintenance is So Important for Cruise Lines

Cruise Line & Cruise Ship | MSC Cruises | Jason Leppert | March 31, 2016

Why Fleet Maintenance is So Important for Cruise Lines

Photo courtesy of MSC Cruises

As the cruise industry grows at an accelerated pace and new ships come out almost bimonthly, it remains crucial that cruise lines maintain their existing fleets to ensure quality and feature consistency across their entire product lineups. While most are up to the task, there is still room for improvement. After all, there’s nothing worse than being aboard a gleaming white new-build in a port and looking across at a shabby rust bucket.

Shining Stars

There are some cruise lines that don’t have to make a special point about refurbishment plans because they are regularly on top of their fleets with great attention to detail. How can you tell? Take a stroll along a ship’s promenade deck and look upon the lifeboat machinery and exposed bulkheads above. If they are in immaculate condition, then you are on a finely maintained ship. These are some of the first areas where rust begins to show through and where any disregard is evident.

MSC Cruises is one that clearly dedicates time and money to keeping their ships in tip-top condition, especially when you see crew members constantly painting davits and keeping grease stains at bay. Another is Crystal Cruises with its pristine white-washed hulls, and if its efforts to not merely paint over rust but meticulously wash dirt off its riverboats are any indication, Viking Cruises’ expanding fleet of new ocean ships will be right up there with the best. Disney Cruise Line also gets an honorable mention with only a few exceptions of wear and tear.

Fleet Overhauls

Putting their money where their mouths are also companies that schedule major fleet enhancement programs to bring their existing ships up to a level as closely in line with their newest ones as possible.

Norwegian Cruise Line is one, spending $400 million on its Norwegian Edge rollout of refurbishments and introducing fresh features from its latest Breakaway-class to better the overall guest experience brand-wide. It’s corporate cousin, Regent Seven Seas Cruises, is doing the same thing at a cost of $125 million to ensure its current ships are up to snuff with its new Seven Seas Explorer when it launches.

READ MORE: Carnival Cruise Line’s Carnival Inspiration Set to Receive Makeover

It’s not yet anticipating any new ships, but currently in the process of overhauling its entire fleet to be prepared when it does is Azamara Club Cruises. Its pair of ships are former Renaissance Cruises vessels, so any chance it gets to differentiate from the original design is helpful for the line to develop its own identity. The Azamara Journey has already completed its remodel, and the Azamara Quest is just beginning its now. The pair will emerge as a polished template for the brand’s future.

One at a Time

Other cruise lines announce their refurbishments one ship at a time, with some additions implemented in more of a patchwork. Carnival Cruise Line has been improving its ships with Fun Ship 2.0 features for years such that they are less consistently applied fleet-wide, but not every ship can physically accommodate every newly introduced venue. The best example of a complete makeover is the line’s Carnival Sunshine, which seemingly managed to cram it all in.

Royal Caribbean International follows a similar formula as in the case of the recently refurbished Liberty of the Seas. Besides its scheduled maintenance revitalization, the ship received some of the line’s latest attractions, namely water slides. As cruise lines discover new formulas that work for future ships, it becomes clear to them that their existing ships can sometimes apply them sooner. In fact, the Liberty’s Perfect Storm trio of water slides previews the water park complex that’s soon coming aboard the new Harmony of the Seas.

READ MORE: Sneak Peek: Norwegian Cruise Line’s Refurbished Pride of America Emerges

In the premium category of cruise companies, Holland America Line is spending $40 million dollars to upgrade the suites across its Signature-, Vista- and R-class vessels, and its overarching brand enhancements include the new Music Walk entertainment venues aboard the Eurodam and Oosterdam in addition to the forthcoming Koningsdam. Similarly, Celebrity Cruises' Celebrity Infinity and Celebrity Summit were recently upgraded with new restaurants and rooftop terraces. Plus, Cunard Line’s Queen Mary 2 is going in for a major overhaul befitting the vessel and arguably the flagship of the entire Carnival Corporation.

In terms of basic maintenance, it appears that the larger the fleet, the more difficult it is to keep up with fresh paint and the like long before new attractions arrive, but it’s important to remember longterm that the newest ships and newest features are only as good as the rest of the fleet is capable of supporting the brand overall. So, here’s to cruise lines keeping enough in their coffers to always give some love to their oldest as well.


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