Today’s cruise ships are more like floating cities than holiday resorts. But have you ever wondered how they are built? Here, we reveal five fascinating facts about cruise ship building.
1. The lucky coin
Shipbuilders are superstitious people. They follow the “Coin Ceremony” tradition that has been around since Roman times, in which a coin is placed under the mast of a newly built vessel.
Today, shipbuilders place a coin or two under the aft keel section of a new ship as a symbol of good fortune. Imagine a 430-tonne block of ship lowered onto a freshly minted coin – just to bring good luck! That’s exactly what happened with the Quantum of the Seas.
2. Centuries of shipbuilding
Some of today’s shipbuilding companies have been building ships for centuries. For example, Meyer Werft, which is based in the quaint town of Papenburg in Germany, was founded in 1795. And the iconic Queen Mary 2 ocean liner was built by Chantiers de l’Atlantique in one of the world’s largest shipyards in Saint-Nazaire, France. Chantiers de l’Atlantique was founded in 1861.
3. Robotic precision
So how do they build a ship? First, imagine you’re in a state-of-the-art laser centre, where all it takes is the press of a button to ignite a plasma torch and you are cutting 30m by 30m plates of steel. The steel used in the hull is up to 30mm thick, and is cut and welded by enormous robotic lasers to form plates. These plates are then welded by robots to create sections of the cruise ship. Each section can weigh a mighty 180 tonnes. First to be constructed is the aft keel section, which is lifted into the dry dock building bay ready for the engines to be fitted. Each section is lifted onto the other, with a mere 1mm gap between the blocks. The precision is awesome.
4. Prefabricated cabins
The cabins of a cruise ship are prefabricated. All the interior décor, from the carpets to the bathroom fittings, are installed in a factory. The cabins are then delivered to the shipbuilding yard and slid into place inside the hull. One on top of the next, just like Lego.
5. Billions of dollars
With the most luxurious cruise ships featuring theatres, casinos, rock climbing walls, bowling alleys and even surfing simulators, it’s no surprise that you need more than a few million dollars to build a cruise ship. So how much do the world’s most luxurious cruise ships cost to build? The numbers are mind-boggling. Royal Caribbean’s Oasis of the Seas cost a staggering US $1.4 billion to build, and the latest Carnival Dream-class ships cost over US $740 million each.
In fact, building a ship from scratch is so expensive that cruise lines will spend millions of dollars just to refurbish existing ships. Some renovations have been known to cost up to a half billion dollars!
It seems they won’t miss one small coin under the keel.