ENCHANTMENT OF THE SEAS American cruise ship supersized in Dutch engineering operation
ROTTERDAM, Netherlands (AP) -- Instructions for adding 151 cabins, swimming pools, water fountain, restaurants, two suspension bridges and a bungee-trampoline to a giant cruise ship:
1. Slice ship into two.
2. Insert new midsection.
3. Weld pieces together.
Engineers in Europe's largest port did just that to lengthen the 916-foot cruise ship Enchantment of the Seas by nearly 8 percent, to 989 feet long.
Project director Harold Linssen said the two-month job actually wasn't as easy as 1-2-3.
"This is the first time a cruise ship of this size is being extended in such a short period of time," he said against the din of grinding metal and hoisting cranes.
"The ship will grow to 81,500 tons and the parts will be realigned with an accuracy of 10-15 millimeters (about a half-inch) to be welded together again."
At around $54.5 million, the price tag of the addition was less than a tenth of the cost of buying a new ship with similar features that Royal Caribbean International wants to take advantage of the growing popularity of luxury cruises, especially among young people.
In 2004, nearly 10.5 million people took a vacation cruise, an increase of nearly 40 percent from 2001, according to figures on the Cruise Lines International Association's Web site.
Jaye Hilton, a spokeswoman for Royal Caribbean, said the makeover of the company's Enchantment of the Seas was intended to cater to the needs of younger travelers who want more from a high seas vacation than tanning on the deck. The average age of passengers on Royal Caribbean's 19-ship fleet is 42, compared to an industry average of 50, she said.
"The experience of the ship will be completely different," Hilton said. "There will be a jogging track that takes you over suspension bridges and the first bungee-trampolines at sea."