Building a Cruise Ship

If You Build It, They Will Cruise

What it takes to build a ship.

By Kari Reinikainen

Have you ever looked around a cruise ship and wondered, “How in the world do they build this?” From the lighting and the plumbing to the logistics and the sheer size, it’s hard to imagine where one would even start. The construction of a major cruise ship is a technically demanding task, but it also requires highly skilled project and financial management teams.

The Business of Building
Three European shipbuilding groups — Fincantieri in Italy, Meyer in Germany and Finland, and STX in France — dominate the market. Each has decades of experience in cruise ship building as well as the chains of suppliers and contractors in place who play a big role in the successful completion of today’s highly innovative cruise ships.

Meanwhile, six major cruise line companies— Carnival Corporation & plc, Royal Caribbean Cruises, Ltd. (RCCL); Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings (NCLH); Genting Hong Kong in the Far East; MSC Cruises, which is headquartered in Geneva; and TUI Cruises in Hamburg — dominate cruising’s newbuild order book.

The way ships are built has changed quite a bit over the past five decades. When the cruise industry was in its infancy in the late 1960s, nobody had much experience as to what kinds of ships should cater to middle America. Consequently, they relied on outside help. Knud E. Hansen, the Danish naval architects and consultants, designed the first duo of Norwegian ships, and Wartsila, the Finnish engineering group that, at the time, was also a shipbuilder, offered RCCL a design based on the 1967-built overnight ferry, Finlandia.

Today, everything is very different. The major cruise shipping groups know their customers. This means it is the cruise line, rather than the shipyard, that sets the pace in the design process and selection of equipment, although cooperation with the shipyard continues to play an important role.

The Construction Process
The initial steps to building a cruise ship is when designers use software that enables them to produce three-dimensional drawings and images of the planned vessel. These digital drawings are also useful later on, when the ship comes due for a refit, as it’s easier to find….

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Photos: Royal Caribbean International


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