Beauties And The Beasts

Today Scott takes command of the blog and talks about ship design………….

Do you often look at all the lovely and not so lovely (Norwegian Epic) cruise ships and

Image courtesy of Cruise Currents
Image courtesy of Cruise Currents

wonder why they look like they do, or have particular design features?

I have a few theories of my own but can’t really answer authoritatively. So I wanted to share my own ship design thoughts in the hope someone more knowledgeable might offer some proper technical insight into cruise ship design.

I’ve started to notice more and more on newer ships that the days of the wrap around promenade deck with unobstructed views may be gone. Why is this I wonder? The stroll around the promenade seems to have been something of a cruise ship and liner staple right from the early days.

Many ships do still feature splendid promenades but there are as many that either don’t wrap around fully or have obstructed views. One reason for the lack of view must be safety, which of course is rightly paramount in modern ship design. If mounting lifeboats at deck level over the side already in launch position saves lives, it is of course a very good thing and should be applauded by us all; however, it is not very conducive to an un-spoilt sea view stroll. The cynic in me also says the simple joy of a stroll around a nice promenade generates no premium for the cruise line, so why not cram more cabins in instead?!

Norwegian-Breakaway-waterfrontNorwegian Cruise Line’s latest mega ship, Norwegian Breakaway, seems to have come up with a novel promenade solution and actually has a second semi-promenade deck lined with bars and eateries. Some Carnival ships have cafes on the promenade too, but NCL appear to have literally taken it to another level.

Another area I wonder about is the bow or helipad and why you can’t get there on a lot of ships. On older ships there is of course a lot of mechanical equipment on the bow deck, but on newer ships it’s housed below deck. On, for example, Celebrity’s Solstice class vessels, I can’t see any reason why the area isn’t generally open to passengers. I’ve heard there are occasional invite only sail away parties there though.

Studying deck plans for one of the other upcoming new behemoths, Royal Princess, it P&O-Cruises-Azuradoesn’t look like you can even get around the front at all, let alone onto the helipad. There may be a valid safety or technical reason for restricting access to the pointy end, but other than in rough seas, that reason eludes me. Many ships in fact use the space for staff areas such as pools. On a recent stop in Gibraltar alongside Azura, we were treated to an impromptu display of acrobatics and theatrics by her dancers who were all gathered around the small pool and whirlpools on the bow as we set sail on Independence of the Seas.

Other design features are obviously more to do with aerodynamics or hydrodynamics. We all know why ships have big bulbous bows and duck tails (transom flaps); but why are the hotel decks sculpted in and out the way they are on many new ships? There must be a reason for it as it adds nothing to the appearance and creates sections of the ship where some balconies are overlooked, or have their fore and aft views slightly obscured. I imagine this is to do with weight and aerodynamics. If a big ship was completely slab sided, I’m guessing the huge expanse down the side would act like a giant sail in the wind, affecting stability and passenger comfort.

Channeling the wind probably improves aerodynamic efficiency a bit like the nips and tucks on the body of an F1 car. On some ships it is implemented in a more visually pleasing manner, but some do look a bit Lego like from the side as a result.

An engineering innovation that has undoubtedly helped move ship design on is the use of aluminium in upper decks. It allows taller, bigger ships to be built that are still stable and seaworthy. However, I can’t help feeling that it is the reason some new ships aren’t as sleek or pretty as their older more graceful siblings. Many ships now have big blocky structures above the bridge. It’s like having a beautiful sports car and then ruining its look with a roof rack and suitcases! The worst offender is of course Norwegian Epic.

MSC-FantasiaA technically fine ship in most respects with some amazing features and a huge beast at that too, clocking in at over 150000 GT. Therein lies the problem; she is a beast and not a beauty and all because of that big square forehead! In the quest to provide more and more accommodation and premium revenue generating spaces it seems some ship designers have overlooked basic aesthetics. It’s function over form. Back to the car analogy; Epic is a Volvo, Fantasia is a Ferrari!

One new class of ship that I do have very high hopes for is RCI’s newly named Quantum class ship. Having studied pictures of just the silhouette of the design, I can already tell Quantum of the Seas and Anthem of the Seas will look quite beautiful. They won’t be oversized like the Oasis class and appear to have some different physical attributes to the Freedoms. The designers may just have got the appearance right on this new class of ship.

The ships will of course have groundbreaking features, knowing RCI. I for one hope thatRoyal-Caribbean-International-Quantum-of-the-Seas they have acknowledged that some of us like the simple pleasures of being at sea too and have also included a proper wrap around promenade deck with an accessible helipad, along with their Viking Sea Ski Slope or Royal Blue Water Sports Marina Dock (TM Scott’s Ship Design Ltd)!

Author: Scott

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  1. Scott, I must agree with you. There are very few ships with walkaround promenades today. Only certain lines, such as Crystal and Holland America to name the obvious, have maintained this tradition. I say tradition, but in fact when ocean liners offered walkaround promenades they were divided into First and Tourist class so you couldn’t walk all the way around unless you were in First class. The loss of the forward-facing observation lounge is even worse in my opinion. They started to disappear when cruise lines started incorprating these huge show lounges into their ships’ designs, almost always in the forward end of the accommodation. Later, spas and gyms starting taking over these valuable spaces. I for one very much resent having to give up a sunny seat in a forward window to a treadmill on many of today’s ships. Every Carnival ship has a gym in the most valuable part of the superstructure, at least as fare as keeping an eye on the progress of your voyage goes. Forward-facing observation lounges are a great place to enjoy the sun, the progress and a good book – but passengers reading books are not spending money I’m afraid. Many lines still have a forward lounge right at the top of the ship, but some such as NCL have retrofitted cabins in ships such as the Norwegian Star so they’re now gone. And in some ships, such as Costa Victoria that still has a forward lounge, they now use it for children’s hour – thus ruining any peace and quiet! My prize for ugliest ship is a tie – Norwegian Epic and Pride of America. Among the best-looking, all the “R” class ships and the “Spirit” class amongst the fleets of Carnival Corp & Plc, but that is always a personal opinion. Oh, and Queen Mary 2 has both the wraparound promenade deck and a suit of forward-facing lounges – an advance on QE2 in my opinion.

  2. Thanks for the comments Tony and Marian. I’m on Celebrity Eclipse this summer, hope I get an invite to a sail away party!

    I like the way you can still get right to the pointy end on Grand class ships (i.e. Ventura, Grand Princess). The staff still get their private deck space and the passengers still get a great view from the very front. The fact that the area is covered is a bonus too for cruises in cooler climates!

  3. Echoing what Tony has already said, the area on some ships where the helipad is often is for the crew. On the Solstice class ships, you have to go through a narrow hallway, step through a doorway, up stairs, and past the private crew area to get to the helipad for the private sail away parties. There is always someone there offering assistance as they are clearly concerned that someone could get hurt on the less passenger friendly areas of the ship.

  4. Very interesting blog Scott. Agree with most of what you say but wanted to pick on a point about the ‘pointy end’. I think you answered your own question as to why passengers aren’t allowed there. Often it is the only place ‘on deck’ that the crew are allowed to go to relax. I think we passengers have enough with the rest of the ship. Lets leave the crew with their little pointy bit. 🙂

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