With long waits for new builds, current ships get new cabins

Image result for cruise ship renovations

MS Enchantment of the Seas refurbishment/lengthening in 2005

By Tom Stieghorst |Jul 30, 2018.

Ship renovations are big business and getting bigger as cruise lines face long waits at shipyards to build new vessels.

Celebrity Cruises recently announced it will spend $500 million, up from an original target of $400 million, to modernize its fleet and harmonize it with the new class of ships coming, beginning with the Celebrity Edge.

The Edge is coming in November. There are three more copies coming in 2020, 2021 and 2022. So there’s no lack of new capacity for Celebrity. But if it is interested in adding more, getting space at a shipyard is increasingly competitive: major slots already being booked into 2027.

Likewise, at sister-brand Royal Caribbean International, there are newbuilds lined up, starting with the Spectrum of the Seas in 2019. But like Celebrity, Royal is also on a renovation tear. It has budgeted $900 million to upgrade 10 ships over the next four years, but it wouldn’t be surprising if the end amount of its Royal Amplified program is closer to $1 billion.

The first of those ships, the Independence of the Seas, received a total of 107 new cabins in the process of its renovation, which ended up costing Royal $110 million. In addition to a big block of cabins added above the gym, Royal squeezed a few more cabins here and thereby converting areas from other users.

For example, Royal got rid of a cigar smoking venue, moved the library into the former cigar lounge and then carved four cabins from the old library space.

The Mariner of the Seas, the next ship to get amped up, got a $120 million makeover for the short cruise market out of Florida, raising its capacity from 3,114 to 3,344 at a drydock in The Bahamas.

By adding cabins during drydock, Royal Caribbean is swelling its overall fleet capacity in an under the radar way. It is also taking advantage of the availability of renovation shipyards around the world, which although busy, are not as busy as the European yards where ships get built from scratch.

Some of the new entrants that are clogging the shipyard order books, such as Viking Ocean Cruises and Virgin Voyages, are not much competition for drydock space because their ships are all either under construction or are too new to need much work.

So look for the established cruise lines to do more quiet capacity expansion as they upgrade their ships along the way.

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