Silversea’s ship-splitting feat

By Jon Murrie

As shipyard theatrics go, it was an impressive show. Beneath the rugged peaks of western Sicily in the ancient harbour of Palermo, Silversea Cruises last month heralded its latest cruising evolution with a spectacular feat of engineering.

The line’s eight-year-old Silver Muse, a 36,000-ton luxury vessel with capacity for 540 guests, was sliced in half before onlookers at the Fincantieri shipyards and separated into two parts like a vaudeville magician’s assistant.

The next day, local dignitaries and industry guests returned for a sequel performance, in which a new 15m section of ship weighing 1,000 tons was manoeuvred through the drydock upon computer-controlled rollers and eased into the middle of the ship as neatly as a book being returned to a shelf.

It was the highlight of a process costing more than US$70 million that will lengthen the ship to 210m and add 34 new cabins. Coming with an end-to-end interior upgrade, it will boost the ship’s capacity to 608 guests and allow the introduction of four new restaurant concepts.

Construction of the new section began in October and work to strip the ship’s interior started as it sailed towards Sicily from the Middle East in February. The act of slicing the vessel took just four days, and work is now underway to re-join the ship’s segments and complete the interior fit-out in time for its hand-back on 1 May.

In just over six months — and after 450,000 hours of labour — Silver Spirit will have been taken to a new level of luxury in what Silversea’s chief marketing officer Barbara Muckermann says will be an emulation of the line’s flagship Silver Muse, launched last year.

“Silversea is the leader in the luxury and expedition sector — we have a market share of 19.2% and we’re the biggest player in the market,” Muckermann told guests at the shipyard.

“It’s fundamental for us on one side to always consider our current customers… but also to start working towards a product that can more and more intercept the desires of the baby-boomers, who will be our customers of tomorrow.”

 

While existing guests preferred intimacy, Muckermann said increasing numbers of baby-boomers were expecting greater variety in their cruise offering.

“Luxury is really about choice. That’s why we’re increasing the number of restaurants, we are increasing the variety of cabins to be able to accommodate all of their desires, and through the addition of ships we will increase the range of itineraries we can offer at the same time,” she said.

Mirroring Muse, the revamped Silver Spirit will dispense with its main dining room in favour of two new fine dining restaurants, Atlantide and Indochina. They will be joined by two other Muse-inspired additions, Silver Note and Spaccanapoli, as well as an Arts Cafe that doubles as exhibition and performance space, and four existing restaurants.

New cabins include six Silver Suites, 26 Veranda Suites and two Panorama Suites, while a redesigned Balsorano Suite will be the ship’s pinnacle accommodation, fitted with items chosen by Silversea Chairman Manfredi Lefebvre d’Ovidio di Balsorano de Clunieres.

Even the ship’s pool has been sliced in two and extended, increasing from 30m2 to 40m2.

Guests will get their first look at the extended Silver Spirit on 6 May when she commences a seven-day cruise from Rome’s port of Civitavecchia to Barcelona.

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