Extensive Refurbishment for Carnival

| Thursday, 21 Mar. 2013

Carnival Sunshine will be like a brand new ship

When Carnival Triumph went dead in the water in the Gulf of Mexico earlier this month no one was more surprised than Carnival. The line had no reason to believe its ships are not built with sound mechanical systems. To have a ship not only go dead in the water, but to also have it become such an issue that required three days to get passengers back to a safe port, was a jolt to Carnival management.

To its credit, Carnival has just announced that the first implementation phase of its fleet-wide comprehensive operational review, focused on Carnival Triumph, will also be extended to cover sister ship, Carnival Destiny, soon to be transformed into Carnival Sunshine.

Carnival Destiny is currently in the Fincantieri shipyard in Italy for the longest dry dock period ever for a Carnival ship to turn her into Carnival Sunshine. This previously-scheduled dry dock started back in February and was supposed to end in April, but it has now been extended to by 20 days so that the ship can receive the same mechanical upgrades that Carnival now plans to give to Carnival Triumph.

Two European cruises previously scheduled for Carnival Sunshine have now been canceled, with the restyled ship's new debut date moved to the later May 5 th.

Carnival Triumph originally had only one cruise canceled, but now that the damage has been assessed Carnival has announced that it will take the ship out of service until June 3, 2013, for 10 additional cruises to the one this week being canceled. Guests on the affected voyages will receive a full refund, reimbursement for non-refundable transportation costs and a 25 percent discount on a future four- to five-day cruise.

Guests on the canceled Carnival Sunshine voyages will receive a full refund, plus reimbursement for any non-refundable travel costs. Additionally, they will receive a 25 percent discount on a future cruise. The additional time out of service will allow for implementation of the enhanced operating redundancies and other measures.

Carnival Sunshine Ahead!

Carnival Destiny, soon to become Carnival Sunshine, was a game-changing ship when it was introduced in 1996. It was the first cruise ship ever put into service to break the 100,000-tons displacement mark. For a very short period of time that made it the largest cruise ship in the world.

That ship was one a favorites for its very eclectic design. It featured a very unique design by Joe farcus, especially in the jazz bar called "The Downbeat Bar" where the barstools were shaped like trombones where a person sat on the flare of the horn and tables had clarinets for legs. There was also a piano bar called "Sam's Place" that featured a wall valance wrapping entirely around the room with representational black and white piano keys. Each table in the room had a microphone so people could get up and sing solos along with the featured pianist.

The news that Carnival Destiny was already scheduled to become an entirely different ship was exciting enough, but now that we know she will also receive the same extensive mechanical upgrades the line is planning for Triumph, it means the new Carnival Sunshine will be an even better, more fun and most reliable ship.

What Kinds of Upgrades?

Carnival is planning a significant investment in mechanical redundancies for hotel services that can run on emergency power. It also plans to further improve each ship's fire prevention, detection and suppression systems.

CEO of Carnival, Gerry Cahill, said, "Our team of experts has worked virtually around the clock to rapidly determine and develop the best set of solutions … for both of these ships. Moving forward, we will have the ability to source materials and schedule improvements much more expediently, thus minimizing the scheduling impact on other vessels."

He added, "I would like to provide continued assurance that all of our vessels have fully effective safety systems, equipment and training in place. Additionally, our ships receive regular inspections from the United States Coast Guard and other regulatory authorities. The changes we are implementing are focused primarily on improvements to better support continued power and hotel services should unexpected issues arise."

Carnival Triumph operates year-round four- and five-day Mexico cruises from Galveston, Texas. Four-day cruises depart Thursdays and visit Cozumel while five-day cruises depart Mondays and Saturdays and call at Cozumel and Progreso, Mexico.

Carnival Sunshine is scheduled to operate a series of nine- and 12-day Mediterranean cruises May 5 to Oct. 20, 2013, either round-trip from Barcelona or sailing between Barcelona and Venice. The ship will sail on a 16-day trans-Atlantic crossing from Barcelona to New Orleans Nov. 1-17, positioning the vessel for a special six-day Caribbean cruise departing Nov. 18 followed by the launch of year-round seven-day Caribbean service from New Orleans Nov. 24, 2013.

Looking Forward to Sunshine!

It is always important for a cruise line to maximize the utilization of any "down time" during a ship's scheduled maintenance period, so I am very happy to hear about the attention to mechanical detail Carnival has planned for the upgrade to Carnival Sunshine.

But I am more excited about the onboard experience upgrade about to take place. It is going to bring many of the best features of Carnival's new Funship 2.0 onboard experience to the vessel. These include Guy's Burgers, the Blue Iguana Tequila Bar, a Sushi Bar and the Havana bar.

For the kids there will be a new top deck with an extensive water park and ropes course. For the adults there is an all new serenity area featuring two full decks of adult-only access with tropical bars, chaise lounges, hot tubs and a private adult swimming pool.

Several of the entertainment venues are being re-purposed allowing more areas of the ship to be used both day and night, such as the main theater and the inner promenade. This means there will be fewer rooms that go largely empty and unused for most of the day or night, and more paces to have fun 24-hours each day.

Putting this into perspective

Carnival has had a very rough stretch, but in retrospect, while the Triumph "disaster" was bad, no one was injured and most importantly, no one died. It was especially tough for a minority of cruisers onboard, specifically those booked on the lower decks where there was more waste water due to gravity. But many of the cruisers in the balcony staterooms, who had fresh air and no problems with waste water, did not fair badly at all.

Carnival Dream was also portrayed to be much worse in the media than in reality. I couldn't believe I was hearing even more reports of "poop everywhere," etc. That just was not true. Carnival assures me that there were ship's services working at all times. The decision to cancel the cruise was made in the strict interest of making the best choice possible for the people on that cruise, even though there was no immediate danger.

Only the backup generator had a problem, and Carnival chose not to take the chance of sailing, even for just two days, under those circumstances. That shows a cruise line that cares.

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