Saga and Voyages count the cost of their cruise ship dry-dock refits

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sapphire.jpgIt’s an expensive business keeping cruise ships up to date. Just ask Saga, who ran over budget on the refits to their newest ship Saga Sapphire (above) and its predecessor Saga Pearl II, which has since become Quest for Adventure. And ask Voyages of Discovery, who are currently in the final stages of planning the conversion of Voyager while simultaneously calculating what they can afford to do to improve mv Discovery.
Sapphire was originally built in 1982 as Europa for the German cruise line Hapag-Lloyd and was given a £27 million refit in 2009 while it was being operated by Croisières de France, a division of Royal Caribbean International.
Saga paid a reported £37 million for the ship and then announced a major refurbishment which reduced the number of cabins, added balconies, and included major improvements to public rooms and the kitchens. A spectacular atrium was created by removing large sections of two decks.
The work, carried out in dry dock at the Fincantieri shipyard in Palermo, Sicily, not only ran over time – causing the postponement of the inaugural voyage under Saga colours – it also cost £4 million more than the original estimate of £24 million, according to commercial director James Duguid, speaking at the European Cruise Council’s annual meeting in Brussels this week.
He revealed that work on Pearl, which was carried out at Swansea in 2009, also cost £4 million more than planned – ending up at £24 million.
questbow.jpgThat ship had started life as Astor in 1981 and when bought by Saga Shipping’s parent company, Acromas, was originally intended to be a sister for Spirit of Adventure. Plans were changed when it was allocated to replace the retired Saga Rose, but earlier this year it fulfilled its original destiny and was re-named Quest for Adventure when Spirit was sold. Complicated, isn’t it?
Duguid is also reported as saying that Saga was looking at ordering a newbuild ship to meet demand, which has been growing at about 15 per cent a year. I know it’s an ambition he has held for some time, and there seemed to be a possibility a few years ago that the company might be about to place an order with a Korean shipyard.
Nothing came to pass on that occasion, and a head office spokesman for Saga has denied there are any firm plans to expand the fleet further at this time, adding: “That is not to say we won’t.”
Voyager.jpgMaybe next time they’ll keep their plans within budget, as Voyages of Discovery are hoping to do when Alexander von Humboldt – which they acquired in 2009 – is finally converted into Voyager.
Details of the planned work were revealed in the Discovery News magazine sent to loyal customers last week. It was also disclosed that the work would be carried out in Portland, Dorset; further details are expected to be announced this week.
The 500-passenger ship was originally built in 1990 as Crown Monarch and is currently operating under charter in Turkey.
scotts.jpgVoD is planning to create public rooms named after explorers; Scott’s Lounge (above) will be the stylish cocktail bar and the Darwin Lounge will host guest speakers by day and music and entertainment in the evening. The Lookout Lounge will be enlarged to provide more window seats, and will include a piano and stage for evening entertainment.
restaurant.jpgDinners in the main Discovery restaurant (above) will be open-seating; additional venues are the Explorer Grill and the Veranda buffet restaurant (below) which will have some tables outside.
verand.jpgVoyager’s maiden cruise will be from Portsmouth to the Caribbean, taking in La Coruna in Spain, Madeira and then St Kitts, Nevis, Antigua, Martinique and Barbados (fares from £1,399). Also on offer is a 147-day extravaganza as the ship circumnavigates the South American continent, returning to Portsmouth on April 29. (Fares from £15,159).
disco2.jpgAnd as Voyager sets off, sister ship Discovery will be heading for dry dock and a welcome overhaul.
The 40-year-old vessel, originally one of the Princess Cruises Love Boats of TV fame, is a firm favourite among British passengers, who will be keen to see upgrades, but do not want drastic changes to be made.
Managing director Alan Murray says: “In specific relation to many customers’ feedback I can assure you it is not our intention to alter Discovery beyond recognition, we are just sprucing her up.”
Planning has been under way for months, and in March, Murray travelled on the ship with technical director Gilbert Rutter and a team of designers to assess what was required, together with members of the crew and an impromptu focus group of passengers.
“As you can imagine,” says Murray, “we have a very long wish list, which is continually being added to and we also take note of comments and ideas we are sent from customers.
“Against each item on our list is a set of preliminary costs; this allows us to prepare formal budgets to present to the Board. Some of the work we would like to do may have to be reduced or modified in scope, while other work may be moved up or down the list.”
Three shipyards are in contention for the dry dock, and three companies have tendered for the hotel refurbishment.
Among work so far considered is an additional dining venue, noise reduction work in the main Seven Continents Restaurant, and cabin upgrades including the installation of flat-screen TVs.
I hope they also get chance to do some repair work on the sliding roof over the pool and buffet restaurant area which, when I was on board last year did not slide, and was not entirely weatherproof.
I look forward to keeping up to date with the plans and the work on Discovery’s new blog. The ship is scheduled to be back in service with a cruise to the Red Sea on March 5.

By | 2017-06-15T15:59:46+00:00 1 July 2012|Cruise News, Cruise Ships|0 Comments

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John Honeywell is a travel writer specialising in cruise ships and cruise travel. Winner of CLIA UK's Contribution to Cruise award 2017.

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