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Radiance of the Seas in Dry Dock

Written by: Paul Motter

I am in Seattle, having just arrived from Victoria, British Columbia, waiting for my flight home. I was just a part of a small press group who visited the Royal Caribbean ship, Radiance of the Seas, in the Victoria shipyard where it is undergoing an extensive renovation.

First, the Radiance was put into a dry dock where they the ship completely out of the water. Yes, it is possible, but it certainly isn’t easy. To all the people who get on cruise ships and wonder why it doesn’t flip over, the reason is because the ship has an extremely heavy keel, solid steel, approximately 12 feet in diameter (roughly circular), that runs the entire length of the ship along the bottom. This keel is so heavy it can to not only keep the ship upright in the water, but even keep it upright on solid land, and as long as the weight is distributed roughly evenly it will not tip over.

The before the dry dock is filled with water so the ship can enter, the dockworkers strategically place wooden blocks, about six feet long and spaced about six feet apart, along a long straight line along the length of the floor of the dry dock with the intention of placing the ship’s keel on top of those blocks. When the dock is filled with water again, the ship is tugged carefully into the dock, which is then slowly drained until the ship is partially resting on top of the blocks. At this point, the engineers carefully ascertain whether the ship is balanced enough internally to remain on top off the blocks out of the water, so they begin a system of stabilizing the shipboard components.

Every piece of material that can be moved – drinking water, oil, fuel, waste water, etc, is either eliminated, reduced or repositioned to balance out the ship. Naturally, this is a very complicated procedure which requires precise calculations. These numbers are crunched far in advance and the engineers responsible for these maneuvers usually have a specific plan in place before they even start this procedure.

Eventually, the ship is centered over the wooden blocks and all of the water is drained out of the dry dock. For as long as the dry dock is “dry” the blocks of wood that are in place cannot be moved. They will then paint the keel and the hull with water resistant paint. A newly developed paint also reduces friction as the ship sails through the water. Everything below the water line gets painted, except the spots directly in contact with the wooden blocks. Those areas will have to wait for the next dry dock to get painted. The practice is to put a cruise ship into dry dock every five years, and so the next time the ship is in dry dock they will reposition the blocks so they can paint the spots that were resting on blocks in the previous dry dock.

It takes roughly six hours to get the ship situated and balanced on top of the blocks. During the balancing operation they cannot place a gangway to allow people to get on or off the ship. It is not uncommon for the people who have to get off the ship immediately to use a crane cable to lift them off of a ship. Once the ship is safely balanced on the blocks, however, they will place a gangway so anyone can walk on or off.

This current dry dock operation and upgrade for Radiance of the Seas is costing Royal Caribbean 20 million dollars. The ship reached Victoria, B.C. on May 20 and went immediately into dry dock. On May 28 the dock was re-filled with water and ship was re-floated, but that does not mean the operation is finished. The dry dock doors were opened and the ship sailed out into the regular dockyard maintenance area where it will remain until June 10th. This is a very large upgrade with over 150 separate and individual “projects” to be completed, including adding nine new staterooms, seven new restaurants, re-carpeting and repainting the hallways and public rooms, adding flat screen televisions to every stateroom and adding a giant outdoor movie screen to the pool area.

And those are the just the things the public can see. Radiance is also receiving a brand new navigation system on the bridge, installing the newest computer technology. The crew area is acquiring a brand new Internet cafe and game room, and additional crew quarters are being built.

In addition to the seven new restaurants mentioned in the newsletter earlier this week, the ship is also getting the Cupcake Cupboard, the Britto specialty store, a new childrens’area for taking care of babies as young as six months old, and new facilities for the Royal Caribbean past passenger program, the “Crown and Anchor Society.”

Another new addition with be the digital signage, as seen on Oasis of the Seas, where guests can look up any room on the ship and actually see a screen showing them exactly what path to take to arrive there. Guests can also use these interactive screens to book restaurants and shore excursions, or show time reservations for the more popular shows. If their booking requires a “ticket” they can just swipe their magnetic keycards at the spot and the reservation is recorded on their account. They can then use their key card as the “ticket” for whatever it was they just reserved.

Radiance of the Seas, at just 90,000 tons and first built in 2001, will now have almost every attraction found on the newest Royal Caribbean vessels like Liberty and Oasis of the Seas. From the Park Cafe (New York Style deli), to the Pub, the 3-D movie theater, the Dog House and Cupcake Cupboard, Giovanni’s table, Rita’s Cantina and more. It may be an older ship, but it is going to have all of the best Royal Caribbean amenities. This will make it somewhat unique in the 20+ ship Royal Caribbean fleet as the line is just starting to add these enhancements to older ships.

The only thing it will not have is a Royal Promenade, an ice rink or an AquaTheater.

The ship has been located in the California market for most of the last seven years now, but after this current Alaska season it will relocate to Australia. Those lucky Aussies! It leaves from Vancouver on September 19 for a 10-night cruise to Hawaii, and from there it will continue on to, Australia Sydney (a 19-night cruise).

The next “regular” ship scheduled to receive these thorough upgrades is Splendor of the Seas, scheduled to spend 28 days in Dry Dock in Cadiz, Spain later this year.

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Comments

Comment from Kenneth Eden
Time June 4, 2011 at 3:44 am

See – not all ships get the scapper. Kudos to RCI for investing the money and time to properly modernize the Radiance, as opposed to scrappping her, or, moving her to a second rate off shoot of RCI.

Comment from Rob Holloway
Time June 5, 2011 at 4:04 pm

Paul
Hope you spent some time in our lovely city and we actually do about four to five cruiseships renovations a year now in those dockyards.
The great part is we also get to host all the crew and trades brought in to get these ships completed on time
As you say the scheduled are very tight and almost timed to the minute towards the end to ensure the ship can go onto to its next scheduled departure.
Cheers Rob (aka robh)

Comment from david templar
Time July 23, 2011 at 7:59 am

i am interested what are they doing to her? going on her in november

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