From the tranquil decks overlooking beautiful turquoise seas, visiting exotic islands and enjoying fine dining and first class entertainment, cruises are the holiday of choice for many travellers.
But do these intrepid explorers ever pause to marvel at the feat of engineering that has created their luxurious floating hotel? How exactly is a cruise ship made?
Building a cruise ship generally takes between 2-3 years, from the design stage to launch. As with all large ships, cruise ships tower above the water, carrying between 2,000 and 5,000 passengers depending on their size, so need some clever engineering to keep them afloat. Initial designs, including confirmation of ship size, the number of passenger cabins and required amenities, are translated into scale models which are tested in huge pools of water, called basins.
A lot of care is given to the design of the shape of the hull to ensure that the ship remains safe in rough seas and difficult conditions. A wide hull helps to spread the weight of the ship and to keep it stable and steady in the water, while extra-strength steel in a double-hull form aims to prevent any serious damage that might sink the ship.
To prepare for the unlikely event that both the hulls are breached, there are a series of bulkheads within the ship that ‘compartmentalise’ any water taken on board, ie they keep the water within a contained area within the ship to prevent the water spreading, tipping and ultimately sinking the ship.
Cruise ships are normally built in a dry dock (which is later flooded to move the ship to open water) or on dry land (and launched down a ramp into the water). Various different components of the ship are constructed, such as the decks, bulkheads, pipes, bolts, ventilation ducts and electrical cable runs etc, which are then put together in large panels and then transformed into the ship itself, almost like a giant jigsaw puzzle.
Large engines power the ship’s propellers to move the ship forwards to its destination. Due to the shape of the hull and the corresponding resistance of the water, these ships tend to be generally quite slow but given the ship’s purpose this is not usually an issue. Older ships had diesel engines, whilst modern ships tend to have either gas turbine or diesel electric engines. Whatever the engine used, cruise ships need a considerable amount of fuel.
Once the basic structure is in place, a great deal of time and effort is spent on the design and layout of the ship’s interior. Amenities such as a swimming pool, miniature golf course, climbing wall, cinema, bars and restaurants have to be placed, as well as the partitioning of the various cabins and function rooms, and finally the décor and overall interior design of the ship.
The perception of cruises is one of luxury and decadence, and the interior of the ship reflects this accordingly. No expense is spared in fitting out the ship with beautiful designs, exquisite panelling, luxurious carpets and flooring, and the best lighting and artwork. Some vessels such as the Ventura cruise ship are still traditional in their style, but recently there has been the emergence of ‘themed’ cruise ships to suit every taste – Disney, Hawaiian, Las Vegas, fantasy, myth and legend to name a few.
As soon as everything is in place (all structures and fittings) then rigorous testing has to take place – the electrical systems, plumbing systems, ventilation systems and security systems among others. Once these have been deemed to be in a satisfactory working condition, then the final stage is the sea trials. The ship is taken out on the sea under real-life conditions and observed closely to make sure there is nothing malfunctioning and that everything meets the safety requirements. Finally, if everything is deemed to be in order, the ship is released to the cruise company and becomes available for holidaymakers to book their idyllic getaways on.