Constructing a Cruise Liner

It’s difficult to imagine the sheer scale and precision of engineering and fitting a cruise ship. Often with a population of more than many villages, hopefully after reading this, you’ll have a greater appreciation of the skill that goes into building these massive floating hotels.

Cruise Lines
Cruise Lines

Fabrication and Materials

Shipbuilding today has evolved into a high tech science. The techniques and materials that were used in the first half of the last century have become obsolete. Since 1950, ships have been constructed almost exclusively of fabricated steel or, more recently, aluminium alloys. Cruise ships, due to their massive size, have to be constructed in pieces called prefabs and assembled in dry dock before they can be launched and tested at sea.

Assembly of the Hull and Spatial Planning

Once the hull has been welded together and the ship has been evaluated for seaworthiness the fun can begin. The basic structure of a cruise ship is not much different from that of any other seagoing vessel, except the staterooms and corridors tend to be larger and the décor is definitely more lavish. Cruise ship lines are constantly competing about who can put out the largest and most opulent cruise liners.

Designed for Comfort

Is your flat at home equipped with a plush queen sized bed, whirlpool bathtub and flat screen TV? Your cabin on the cruise ship just might be, depending on who you sail with. When a cruise ship is built today no expense is spared. Unlike their predecessors in the days of old when corners were cut and the lowest bid was king, the players in the shipping industry today have learned painfully what happens when they try to save money on construction costs.

Luxuries Abound and Plenty of Places to Play

The creature comforts don’t end when you step out of your room on cruise holidays. Lounges and pools are plentiful on cruise ships, along with bars, restaurants, game rooms, and of course those romantic spots where a couple can be alone and watch the stars and the moonlight glisten off the water. Worried about sea-sickness? Even the queasiest will have a hard time feeling a cruise ship rock at all. Cruise ships are constructed using a “U” shaped hull design for maximum displacement and stability.

Modern Technology, Cell Phones, and WiFi

Just because you go off to sea on a cruise doesn’t mean you have to leave those wonderful electronic gadgets behind. In addition to flat screen TV’s in the cabins, cruise ships today also offer state-of-the-art entertainment and communications options throughout the ship. You can use your cell phone on virtually all major cruise lines and most of the modern day ships have WiFi and internet cafes where you can surf the web or do a little work while you’re on board.

Entertainment

Other amenities that may be included when a cruise ship is constructed are casinos, movie theatres, and amusement rides for children and adults. Anything that you see on dry land in the world of entertainment is usually available at sea also. Some cruises also have live shows and fireworks displays. Modern technology has made that possible. Storing or using pyrotechnics of any kind on a ship was unheard of just a few short decades ago.

Recruiting the Best in the Business

A position on a cruise ship pays well, more than that same position pays on the mainland or even on resort islands. The final stage after constructing a cruise ship is choosing the personnel that are going to staff it. For this, the industry accepts only the very best in the business. It’s not hard to be selective because anyone who works in the hospitality industry wants a dream job that takes them out to sea and pays them twice as much as what they make at home.

Expect to See Former Naval Officers

Those who operate the ship are also among the finest in their industry. Many cruise ship captains and officers are former naval personnel who have retired or completed their term of service. The same is often true of the engineers and maintenance people, many of whom have advanced maritime degrees and education. It is said that a seafarer will always be a seafarer so it’s no surprise to see sailors with decades of experience working for all of the major cruise lines.

What will the future bring?

The cruise ships of today, compared to those built in the 1960’s and 70’s, are like something out of a science fiction novel. The internet didn’t exist back then, nor did cell phones, aluminium alloys, modern pre-fabrication techniques, and many of the other elements that go into building ships today. What will the future bring? Only time will tell. One thing that is clear though is that people will continue to sail the seven seas and cruise ships will allow them to do that in safety, style and comfort.

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About the author: Sarah Van Rensburg is an avid travel writer. She covers a wide range of travel-related topics but with a focus on cruise holidays.

Inside the Engine Room of Some of the Largest Cruise Ships

The engine rooms of today that are the heart and soul of large cruise ships would be confusing and unrecognisable to the engineers and operators from the past. The big ships are still run on turbine power, but the similarities end there. Steam has been replaced by gas and diesel. The new fuel systems burn cleaner and don’t require the use of oil or coal like the steam engines of the past. Since oil has recently gone up significantly in price this also means the new ships are more economical.

Queen Elizabeth II
Queen Elizabeth II

The Conversion of Queen Elizabeth II

The QE2 was launched on September 20, 1967 as a steam powered cruise ship. Twenty years later she was converted to electric diesel to prolong her sea life. The engine room still looks the same as it did before the conversion. Only the fuel system and turbines have changed. With the conversion, QE2 sailed the seas for another twenty-two years. Don’t expect any cruise offers to travel on her this year, though. In 2010 she’ll be converted to a luxury hotel and remain stationary where she is currently docked in Dubai. A high end shopping and entertainment complex will be built around her.

Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS)

The Safety of Life at Sea Act was actually passed in the United States back in 1914 in response to the Titanic disaster. In 1948 it was adopted by the International Maritime Organisation and is generally considered the current standard by which ships are measured for safety. The Act has been modified a number of times over the years with the most recent change going into effect in 2010. It is these guidelines that are primarily responsible for the change from steam to gas or electric turbine power. The engine rooms on a steam ship tended to be somewhat less safe than their diesel counterparts.

2003 Boiler Explosion on the SS Norway

SS Norway
SS Norway

The SS Norway was crucial in bringing international attention once again to the dangers of using super-heated steam to power ships. On May 25, 2003, one of the four boilers on the SS Norway exploded while she was docked at the Port of Miami, and luckily no passengers were hurt. The SS Norway was launched in 1962 (originally as the SS France) and was the longest cruise ship in the world (316 metres) until the RMS Queen Mary 2 (345 metres) was launched in 2004. While operating as the SS France she had eight boilers which provided 175,000 hp and gave her a cruising speed of 31 knots.

The Engine Room of the Queen Mary 2

Queen Mary 2
Queen Mary 2

The Queen Mary 2 runs on four 16-cylinder marine diesel engines and two gas turbines which put out a combined 67,200 kW at 514 rpm. This system is known as CODAG (Combined Diesel and Gas turbine), and has been common in naval vessels for some time. It’s considered the most economical for a ship when travelling at low speeds and has the power to help it attain high speeds quickly. Despite being 345 metres long with a displacement of 76,000 tons she is one of the most manoeuvrable cruise ships on the water today. The technology that went into the construction of the Queen Mary 2 is some of the very best ever used on a cruise ship.

The Power of Oasis of the Seas

Oasis of the Seas
Oasis of the Seas

Oasis of the Seas, at 360 metres long, is the largest cruise ship to ever be launched. Her sister ship, Allure of the Seas will be joining her in 2010, making the Queen Mary 2 the third largest cruise ship in the world. It is powered by six marine diesel engines that put out 97,020 kilowatts (130,110 hp) which is used both to propel the ship and provide electricity to its passengers and entertainment facilities. The Oasis is also the first cruise ship to utilise Azipods instead of long screws with propellers on them. Azipods are propellers mounted to tubes which turn, making rudders unnecessary.

The Future of Cruise Ship Propulsion Systems

When you enter the engine room of one of today’s large cruise ships you’ll be surprised at how clean and advanced they are. The technology that goes into constructing a cruise ship today is like nothing that has ever been used on sea-going vessels before. What comes next? With the current record holder at 360 metres it’s unlikely that the ships will get much bigger. Propulsion systems are more powerful and economical now but there’s no doubt that they can be improved. As the techniques used to build ships and the fuel systems utilized by the rest of the world advance there will unquestionably be changes in the cruise ship industry. The next few decades should be a new “Golden Age” for the 21st Century much like the 20’s and 30’s were in the 20th.

About the author: Sarah Van Rensburg is an avid travel writer. She covers a wide range of travel-related topics but with a focus on cheap cruises.

How to Experience Jamaican Culture on Your Cruise

A cruise is perhaps the best way to travel in an area like the Caribbean. Stopping at beautiful islands such as Jamaica or Aruba is a delightful ways to experience new locations and cultures, all while enjoying the comforts of a floating hotel room. Travellers won’t need to unpack daily or rush to make flights and trains, but can instead spend the time between destinations relaxing, enjoying upscale cuisine or having fun! On a cruise to Jamaica, it is important that those on cruise holidays remember to soak in some of the local culture during the time onshore. The island nation boasts friendly locals, delicious authentic cuisine and a rich heritage. Here are some ways to experience the culture of Jamaica on your cruise:

Plan in Advance: Rather than arriving on the shores of Kingston or Montego Bay without any knowledge of the area, spend a little time preparing for what to expect when you arrive. Decide what you want to explore and enjoy, and make a brief itinerary for the highlights you don’t want to miss. This way, you will be sure to get a chance to see the places and sights most important to you.

Savour the Flavour: Jamaicans are proud of the unique and delicious cuisine, so be sure to enjoy it at one of the many authentic restaurants. There are countless dining options, many of which are international fare suitable for tourists. While they are often tasty, try to have at least one meal which offers a more traditional meal. Try the local staple of ackee and salt fish, or perhaps the popular and well known jerk chicken, flavoured with distinct spices. For dessert, have a fresh mango in the summer months, or gnaw on a piece of local sugar cane for a truly unique sweet after your meal. For a local drink, try the Red Stripe Lager or a mixed drink featuring Jamaican rum.

Historical Landmarks: For a chance to better understand the history and heritage of the Jamaican people, a visit to few of the major historical landmarks is a great idea. Depending on where your cruise departs, there are many options to visitors. In Kingston, head to the Bob Marley Museum, 17th century pirate haunt Port Royal, or even the National Gallery of Jamaica. In the popular port of Falmouth, you can can walking tours of the historical districts, better understanding the colonial environment of the island, and admiring the older architecture. While the beaches are a highlight of the island, the colonial heritage is also an important part of what shaped the nation.

Meet the Locals: Whenever possible, brach out and do your best to talk to some of the local Jamaican residents. Not only will it allow you to glimpse into their culture, but it is a great way to realize just how friendly the locals truly are! English is spoken fluently, although some visitors may need to learn to understand the colloquial phrasings used by many. Be sure to introduce yourself to those you meet on your cruise and your time onshore in Jamaica.

Click here for great deals and offers on a Jamaica cruise and cruise deals 2012.

Films That Inspire Travel

For many years, travellers have taken inspiration from the big screen, and with the amazing locations used in the top new releases as well as classic films, it’s no surprise that films make people want to travel. Below are three top films that inspire travel.

on the beach
Image by mikebaird

The Beach

First up is the Beach. Based on a novel, this Danny Boyle film was filmed on the popuylar holiday island of Koh Phi Phi. This film stars Leonardo Di Caprio and Tilda and features a backpacker searching for paradise, something most people can probably relate to. With stunning images of the clear blue sea and the sand beaches, it’s no surprise this film makes people want to grab their passports and book a couple of Thailand Flights!

Shirley Valentine

Another film that is said to have encouraged British consumers to jet off abroad is the classic film, Shirley Valentine, a tale about a middle-aged woman enjoying a passionate holiday romance in Greece. Originally a play, this film sees its main character, a liverpudlian housewife; fly off to Greece with her best friend, leaving her husband behind with nothing but a note on the kitchen table. This classic tale of self-realisation and awareness has no doubt inspired hundreds to live life in the moment.

Roman Holiday

Set in Rome, this classic love story features the beautiful Audrey Hepburn playing a character called Ann, who is a European princess on a diplomatic trip to the Italian capital. She flees the borders of a palace and makes friends with an American journalist who ends up spending the day with her pretending he isn’t aware of her princess status. Make sure you don’t miss the scene at the mysterious Mouth of Truth, it’s bound to make you smile.

A Little Romance

This film will make you want to get online and book some cheap flights to Europe so you can visit the three main cities featured; Paris, Venice and Verona. The story follows a wealthy American girl who moves to Paris and falls for a poor French boy. When they hear that a kiss under the Bridge of Sighs in Venice will make seal their bond, the couple head to Italy in search of eternal love. The amazing views of Europe will inspire you to get out there and travel.

The Gods Must Be Crazy

Africa

If a trip to Africa has never really appealed to you, you should most definitely watch this film. It’s a touching tale about Bushmen who live in a small village in the Kalahari Desert. They discover a Coke bottle that somebody has thrown out and this newfound object fills the residents with curiosity. They are can’t seem to work out what it could have been used for and so the chief is convinced it’s a gift from the gods that must be returned.  With a few great characters such as a foreign school teacher and a lumbering scientist alongside some stunning scenery, this will make you want to get on the first flight to the mighty Africa.

The History of Cruise Holidays

Cruise Holidays

The idea of travelling to warm climates in the winter and cooler climates in the summer is not new; it has actually been around for centuries. Arthur Anderson, one of the founders of Peninsular Steam Navigation Company (now P&O Nedloyd), first suggested the idea of touring Scotland and Iceland in the summer and the Mediterranean in the winter. That was in the 1830’s. For the next seventy years Peninsular would build their company holdings with cargo and mail contracts, making the right decision in conflicts around the world where they had to take sides and building a reputation as an industry leader in the shipping business.

Cruise Holidays

The Dawn of the Twentieth Century

Arthur’s idea didn’t become popular until after the turn of the century, and then only with the rich, but it did eventually catch on. In 1900, the Prinzessin Victoria Luise became the first ship built exclusively as a cruise ship and in 1904 Peninsular offered the first cruise holiday program on a first class only basis. By 1920, despite the loss of the Titanic in 1912, the cruise ship industry was going full steam. Transatlantic cruises were most popular but cruise holidays in the Mediterranean and Caribbean were available.

The Golden Years (1920’s and 30’s)

The roaring twenties and the decade immediately after which preceded World War II were the Golden Years for the luxury cruise industry. The Caribbean and Mediterranean were wide open and ports like Havana, Miami, and Beirut always had a cruise ship in port and passengers taking advantage of “cruise and stay” packages that were being offered by Peninsular, Cunnard and other lines that were coming into existence at the time. Competition was healthy but cruise holidays were still something only the rich could afford.

The Blue Riband Award

In the 1860’s, the transatlantic shipping industry created an award for the ship that could cross the Atlantic in the shortest time. The award became the sole property of the cruise ship industry in the 1930’s when it traded hands between the French ship Normandie and the British Queen Mary. The Queen Mary held it from 1938 to 1952 with a top speed of 31 knots per hour, an amazing accomplishment at the time. Speed was also a necessity for cruise ships, both for protection and because many of the new lines to come into being in the 1930’s doubled as mail carriers.

The 1950’s and Competing with Air Travel

Up until 1950, cruise ships were not only vacation options; they were the primary mode of transportation between continents. After World War II this began to change. The aeroplane had been tested in battle and was accepted by both commercial and private entities that needed a faster way to get to their destination. This growing popularity made aeroplanes a more affordable option also as increasing demand and competition drove prices down. Cruise ships became vacation destinations and the lines that offered cruise holidays became more creative with their vacation packages.

The 1960’s and the Founding of Royal Caribbean

The 1960’s saw two major events in the evolution of the cruise ship industry. The first happened in the middle of the decade when Peninsular Steam Navigation Company absorbed a company called Orient Steam Navigation Company, changing their name to P&O. P&O would later go on to merge with Carnival Cruises in 2003. The 1960’s also saw the founding of Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines in 1968, the current owners of the world’s largest cruise ship Oasis of the Seas. Mediterranean Shipping Company (MSC), owners of the ill-fated Achille Lauro, and Norwegian Cruise Lines also entered the cruise ship industry in the 1960’s.

Vacation Packages, Mass Media, and Cruise Holidays

After a decade that saw the end of conflict in Southeast Asia, long petrol lines, and economic uncertainty, the 1980’s were welcomed worldwide as a time when the world could change. The internet had just been developed but wasn’t available to the general public, but television was reaching every home and the cruise lines took full advantage. Putting together “vacation packages” and “cruise holidays” that were developed from the old “cruise and stay” deals of the 20’s and 30’s, all of the major players in the industry hit the airwaves with appeals to the common people for the first time.

The Modern Family Vacation

Cruise holidays are now one of the top choices for the modern family vacation. Cruise ships are available in all shapes and sizes and go to destinations around the world. The Caribbean is popular as is the Mediterranean, but cruises up north to Scandinavia and Alaska are also fully booked by passengers who have no fear anymore of ice or water hazards. The technology has improved, the ships are larger and sturdier, and the amenities on board will make anyone not want to go home. Arthur Anderson, if you’re out there somewhere, thanks for the idea. Cruise holidays are finally available to all.

About the author: Sarah Van Rensburg is an avid travel writer. She covers a wide range of travel-related topics but with a focus on cruise holidays.