Information on cruise ship construction and design and how cruise ships are built. Learn what is the cost of building a cruise ship, where are cruise ships built, which are the major cruise ship builders/yards and building companies. Plus some other ship building stuff and fun facts, like who built the Titanic ship, who built the most expensive cruise ship in the world, who built the most expensive yacht in the world, who is responsible for making the best cruise vessels of the world. This survey is integrated with our cruise ship engines-propulsion-fuel and cruise safety articles.
The actual cruise ship building takes 2 to 3 years (the design plans are usually started a year ahead). Shipbuilding takes place in specialized facilities called shipyards. The cruise ship hull is designed by the shipyard, while the interiors and all the special features are designed by architects. Shipbuilders (also called shipwrights) do shipbuilding, as well as ship repairs, both services being also referred to as "naval engineering". The reverse process (dismantling of ships) is called ship breaking/demolition. The world's biggest ship breaking scrap yards are in Pakistan (Gadani), India (Alang), Bangladesh (Chittagong) and Turkey (Aliaga).
Cruise ship construction and design
Cruise ship building process involves numerous complex research and testing procedures. The cruise ship design company (which work is also called naval architecture) analyses and provides solutions to meet the Marine and Shipbuilding Industry's requirements, submitting the basic and detailed designs, ship equipment designs and production drawings to the shipbuilding company. The design firm also provides engineers with analysis, simulations, diagnosis, manufacture, repair and other data by using the latest CAE (Computer Aided Engineering) technology. The ship cabins manufacturer is able to design and produce various types of ready-to-install ship cabins and bathrooms for virtually all passenger ships - big and small, luxury, ferries, Ro-Ros, research, etc. The ship builder also hires a company to provide the so called "Lifecycle Services", pertaining mostly to the industry's rules and regulations. Some of these services are retrofitting and refurbishing, and keeping regular updates regarding new rules and requirements.
It's a common modern practice big cruise ships to be built of pre-made huge sections. Entire multi-deck segments are built at another place, transported or slipway to the shipyard and lifted into place. The sections often feature even pre-installed equipment, cables, pipes and other components - it saves a lot of shipbuilding time, and it surely saves lots of money. This technique was used for the first time in the construction of the Cunard's Queen Mary 2 ship (2002-2004) by the French "Chantiers de l'Atlantique" company. Next photo shows a pre-made section for the Symphony Of The Seas ship construction.
The ice-going cruise ships building is so expensive as to hull strength and engines power, that the best option is to buy an unfinished vessel or to refit an existing Ice-class ship (often an ex navy vessel), like the case of the Regent Seven Seas Navigator ship. Constructed as a naval support ship and strengthened for navigation in ice, the Navigator ship's hull was purchased from the former USSR (now Russia), while its superstructure was finished later at the T. Mariotti shipyards in Genoa, Italy.
Next YouTube video shows the Aqua Mekong river cruise ship construction (time lapse).
Cruise ship design
This is an amazingly detailed cruise ship design infographic showing what is what and where on a typical cruise passenger vessel. Note: Click on image to enlarge, backspace/back button to return to the article page.
Marine design solutions for cruise ships are truly amazing and unique, using the latest innovations, technologies and materials to ensure difference from other existing passenger ships. Special on-board features, such as the Royal Caribbean ships' rock-climbing walls, ice-skating rinks, surf simulators, wave pools and the 9-deck high Zip-line are an irresistible temptation and a true allure for all the ship vacation fun fans. As to the common features, all big passenger ships have a several decks high Atrium, at least 3 huge swimming pools, a Spa-Fitness complex, a grand casino, a library, duty-free shops, 2 huge capacity main restaurants, a grand theater, a disco, kids and teen areas, numerous bars and lounges, and all new big ships feature an open around-ship Promenade. As to the biggest of all - the Allure and Oasis ships - each of them has 2,706 cabins - nothing short to a floating resort.
Cruise ship interior design
What about cruise ship interior designs? An example is SMC Design, which was appointed by Cunard Line to lead the development of the interior spaces aboard Queen Mary 2, in preparation for her major refit in 2016. Cunard's flagship had a multi-million 25-day extensive refurbishment (May 27-June 21, 2016) that boasted new interior designs. The most iconic liner in the world opened the next chapter in her illustrious career. The announcement of the designer company followed the news that QM2 will gain 15 brand new single cabins and additional 30 Britannia Club rooms during the refit. The popular onboard kennels were expanded in order to cater for the high demand this extraordinary facility already attracts.
SMC Design was established in 1994. The based in London design consultancy specializes in maritime sector. SMC Design's team has worked on many cruise vessels - from small yachts to some of the biggest ships ever built. It also has a working history with Cunard ships, leading previous refits of QE2, Cunard Princess and Cunard Countess, while also being involved in its current fleet design: Queen Victoria, Queen Elizabeth and Queen Mary 2. Andy Collier, SMC Managing Director, was part of the launch design team of QM2 at the beginning of the Century. She was then the first Atlantic liner being built for more than 35 years.
The new designs of Queen Mary 2 focus on updating her iconic art deco lines. The original Art Deco Queen Mary has been the source of inspiration with the new designs, bringing Cunard’s glamorous past into 21st Century. With new colour schemes, carpets and furniture, as well as more decorative fittings installed throughout, the design approach of the largest ocean liner in the world is set to ensure QM2 retains leading position in Cunard fleet.
New Russian cruise ship designs
In August 2016, at Lotus shipyard (Astrakhan, Russian) part of ASC (United Shipbuilding Company) the keel was laid for the 1st Russian passenger cruise ship in decades. Support for the new class of even vessel is coming from Russian Federation president Vladimir Putin, who expressed hope that this will be the first but not the last of a series of such ships.
The Marine Engineering Bureau office engineers developed the Concept PV300VD cruise ship, the first of which is to be completed within 3 years. The project belongs to Saint Petersburg team of Marine Engineering Bureau SPb, that has been working in Russia for 16 years. Its other branch is in Odessa. Such vessels were not generally built in the old Soviet Union.
The last built in the USSR, 2 river cruise ships, Soviet Union and Lenin, were built at Gorky plant in 1959-1960. Then, as with its ocean ships, the Soviet Union bought foreign-built river ships, until 1989-1990. However, these were not entirely foreign as they were created to Soviet order and developed for operation in Russian conditions. These vessels were built mainly in Austria, East Germany and Czechoslovakia. After 1990, Russian river boats were no longer built and the business was carried on for years utilising old tonnage. The same happened with the Russian passenger fleet as they were banned in North America after Russia's invasion in Afghanistan.
Today, shipping conditions in Russia are different. The new ships are planned to be “river-sea” ships. This class is needed in order to navigate large lakes. Russian river cruise ships are much more powerful than typical Danube and Rhine vessels. Dimensions for the new 310-passenger ships will be 463 x 55 feet. The PV300VD concept emerged in 2010-2015 by order of Russian Federal Marine Agency. Program's state customer and coordinator is the Minister of Industry and Trade, and completion is scheduled for 2019. The cost of a ship varies between 2.5 to 3.5 billion rubles and payback period is 5 to 20 years. 3 such ships are foreseen at the stage, though more could follow. Next photo shows the design of Vodohod's new river cruise ship project PV300VD.
Next photo combo shows the design of Mosturflot's new river cruise ship project PV300.
The routes foreseen for the new Russian ships are in season (May to October) between Moscow and Saint Petersburg, then taking travelers from Moscow to Samara and Rostov-on-Don, in the winter embarking in the Eastern Mediterranean and possibly Red Sea: for example, Rostov-on-Don-Yalta-Odessa-Istanbul-Alexandria. There are talks about navigation in Crimea, Sevastopol, and Sochi, on more interesting routes in the Caspian sea.
The newbuilds could carry about 500,000 passengers annually, of which about 100,000 foreign tourists. The number of foreigners declined by nearly a half in 2014 as western tour operators cut Russian programmes and westerners stayed away. According to the Ministry of Industry and trade, buyers of the new ship would be operators like Mosturflot (GK Sea and River shipping company), Vodohod and Orthodox. Given the high cost of the vessels, it is planned to lease them to operators. The main difference of this 4-deck ship is that it will be able to navigate not only rivers, but seas as well. The vessels will also be more luxurious than past ships and will include western amenities, such as French balconies and comfortable large suites.
Revolutionary new expedition cruise ship designs
A new contract was awarded to the shipbuilder Uljanik (Croatia) for a 10,000-GT, 237-passenger luxury cruise ship scheduled for delivery in 2018. Based on these dimensions, the new ship will be the same general size as Ponant's current fleet the latest of which, Le Lyrial, was built by at Fincantieri's Ancona (Italy) shipyard. Uljanik has not disclosed the identity of the purchaser, but new ships are also expected from Lindblad and Seabourn in 2018.
Other designs fitting this broad expedition cruise vessel category include:
STX France’s Project Ulysseas, a 145m, 200-passenger design revealed in March 2015.
Next design (by Aker Arctic) is of an expedition ship ordered by the UK-based company Polar Cruise Enterprises Ltd. The vessel has LOA length of 135.5 m, Beam 17.8 m, Draught 5.5 m, Propulsion 2x 3.5 MW azimuth thrusters, Engines 4x MAK 6M32C (2,88 MW each) allowing cruising speed 13 knots.
Knud E Hansen’s expedition ship design with 150 cabins and heavy-duty, ice-rated hull.
Ulysseas project - new expedition cruise ship design
In March 2015, the major shipbuilder STX France unveiled a revolutionary new expedition ship design named "Ulysseas". It represents an innovative idea for a small cruise ship (passenger capacity 200, ice-class hull, length 476 ft / 145 m, cruising speed 17 kn / 20 mph / 31 kmh) aimed at the expedition cruising market.
The main reason for the Ulysseas project is that currently, the expedition cruise market uses mostly second-hand vessels. Unique for this new ship design is the excessive usage of glass (in all public areas) and the French balconies (false balconies) on all passenger cabins. Every passenger-use facility on the new vessel features floor-ceiling windows. There will be an unique forward-located observation lounge for 360-degree views.
The Ulysseas ship's aft-section is an STX-patented design for saving energy. This is a movable duck-tail, which position depends on cruising speeds and weather conditions. The vessel will be powered by two 2.5 MWT azipods (rotating at 360° Azimuth thrusters), with four diesel-electric generators and one scrubber. This cruise ship design also features a helipad (helicopter landing pad), a helicopter storage space (inside the ship), zodiac boats for ship-to-shore operations.
Cruise ship building vs ship refurbishments
Unlike the scheduled cruise ship refurbishments, major refits may include even a cruise ship lengthening, like in the case of Royal Caribbean ship Enchantment of the Seas lengthened in 2005 (see the photo below). The Enchantment ship lengthening cost ~ US$55 million, it was a process of cutting the ship in two and inserting a whole new 73 ft (22 m) 3,500 tons midsection, pre-built at the Aker Finnyards.
The month-long dry-dock at the Keppel Verolme shipyards (Rotterdam, The Netherlands) resulted in adding 151 brand new cabins, a 50% bigger Pool Deck area, a new kids area, a teen center, several new bars and lounges, an expanded main dining room, a new specialty restaurant. This "refurbishment cost" record was recently beaten by the CCL line and the US$155 million Carnival Destiny refit 2013 producing a brand new ship named Carnival Sunshine!
The average cost of building a cruise ship is around US $450 for mid-sized vessels and up to $800 million for bigger cruise ships. These prices, along with the current economy status force many cruise lines to hold off from building new ships - the biggest expense of all. As a rule, all new cruise ships on order/currently under construction are by contracts signed years ago when the dollar had a good rate.
Cruise ship building prices are high enough to not meet the return requirement. Even the mighty Carnival Corporation (the largest cruise company in the world) puts its ship building plans on hold. Royal Caribbean is one of the few companies continuing to place orders for new ships - and not any ships, but the ever largest, the most innovative, the most expensive in the world. Still, most passenger ship lines are trying to keep their current fleet fresh and good looking. Two of the best examples are Holland America with its $450 million SOE program for ship renovations, and Carnival investing over $250 million to fully refit and refurbish 8 of its oldest vessels.
Next YouTube video shows the MS Balmoral cruise ship refit (time lapse of the vessel's extension / lengthening done at Blohm+Voss shipyard (Hamburg Germany).
Cruise ship builders / building yards
The following data is closely related to our Shipbuilding companies survey. Following links below are all outgoing (to the companies' official websites).
- STX Europe (ex Aker Yards ASA), the Eurepe's largest shipbuilding company. Founded 2004, a subsidiary of STX Corporation (South Korea). STX Europe ship building yards:
- STX Finland Cruise Oy - the Kvaerner Masa-Yards (ex Wartsila) in Helsinki and Turku, and in Rauma.
- STX France Cruise SA - the ex Chantiers de l'Atlantique (St Nazaire) and the yards in Lorient.
- (Romania) STX OSV Braila SA, STX OSV Tulcea SA.
- In Germany
- Meyer Werft (Papenburg), founded 1795, since 1997 together with Neptun Werft (Rostock) is part of Meyer Neptun Group.
- Aker MTW Werft (Wismar), now part of STX
- Bremer Vulkan (Bremen), bankrupt
- Schichau Seebeckwerft (Bremerhaven), founded 1988
- Lloyd Werft (Bremerhaven), established 1857, now part of Fincantiery
- Blohm & Voss (Hamburg), founded 1877, currently a subsidiary of ThyssenKrupp Marine Systems.
- In Italy
- Fincantieri Cantieri Navali Italiani S.p.A.
- Ancona shipyards (Ancona)
- Marghera shipyards (Venice)
- Monfalcone shipyards (Gorizia)
- Sestri Ponente shipyards (Genoa)
- Trieste shipyards (Trieste).
- T. Mariotti S.p.A. (Genoa), a mega-yacht construction yard.
- Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (Nagasaki shipyards, Japan), founded 1934, a core company of the Mitsubishi Group), the largest defence contractor in Japan and the world's 25th largest.
The following YouTube timelapse video shows the Japan-made AIDAprima cruise ship construction process.
Where are cruise ships built?
Meyer Werft (Germany)
STX Europe (France, St Nazaire yards)
STX Europe (Finland)
T Mariotti (Italy)
who built the world's largest yacht?
While high fuel prices and the economy stagnation are a damper for the passenger ship building industry, they are actually attracting new cruise travelers because of the industry's value per price indices and total costs of alternative vacations. Well, folks, there's nothing in this world like a ship cruise vacation, and you know it!
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