Posted on Wednesday, March 27, 2013 by Peter Knego
Peter Knego visits the famed Monfalcone-based Fincantieri shipyard where so many illustrious Italian liners were “born” to witness the floating out ceremony of Princess Cruises newest ship, the 141,000 gross ton, 3,600 passenger REGAL PRINCESS.
All photos by and copyright Peter Knego 2013 unless otherwise noted.
Tuesday, March 26, 2013
Few things excite me as much as a visit to a shipyard and very few of those have a pedigree like Fincantieri’s Monfalcone-based division.
Now part of the Italian shipbuilding conglomerate Fincantieri, the former Cantieri Riuniti dell’Adriatico is where some of the most illustrious liners of all time were conceived and built. Magical vessels like SATURNIA, GIULIO CESARE, PILSUDSKI, STOCKHOLM and OCEANIC thundered down its slipways. At the entrance to the yard’s headquarters, there is an engraved steel panel showing all the liners, tankers, warships and massive modern cruise ships to have emerged from its portals.
The last liner to be traditionally launched at Monfalcone was Costa’s gorgeous EUGENIO C in 1964. After that, a giant dry dock was built and all subsequent passenger ships were floated out.
Speaking of the floating out process, at the bottom of the giant Monfalcone “altar”, the outline of our subject, hull number 6224 awaited filling in. Laid down only seven months prior, it’s 30,000 ton (weight — not gross tonnage) shell had been basically completed and was now ready to be moved from the giant graving dock to be fitted out with the machinery, fixtures and fittings that will transform it from a mass of steel into Princess Cruises’ vibrant, state-of-the-art REGAL PRINCESS.
After an espresso (always the first priority in Italy) in the offices that were once home to Nicolo Costanzi and a cabal of the greatest marine architects the world has ever seen, we donned stylish blue hard hats and were escorted to the graving dock.
The seventeen deck REGAL PRINCESS towered over us like a massive skyscraper. She and her twin sister, the ROYAL PRINCESS (which was in the fitting out basin on the other side of the yard) are the largest passenger ships ever built in Italy, measuring 141,000 gross tons, with a length of 1,083 feet and a beam of 126 feet.
Adding to her girth are the spectacular SeaWalk arcs of glass and steel that project from either side of the ship, giving her a full beam of 155 feet. More on those in the next report!
REGAL PRINCESS’ massive, angular bridge projects over the forward superstructure and extends well beyond the sides of the ship.
Photos just don’t seem to convey the awesome scale of the ship and the giant blue crane that formed her by lowering huge blocks of steel into place like so many parts of a three-dimensional jigsaw puzzle.
Hundreds of workers and VIPs were assembled for the blessing by a local priest and the “launch” by the ship’s first madrina (godmother), Carolyn Spencer Brown, editor-in-chief of CruiseCritic.com.
Carolyn is a diligent, thorough journalist that has guided CruiseCritic from modest beginnings into the cruise industry’s largest and most powerful website. She seemed genuinely excited to have been bestowed with the honor of floating out such an important ship.
La Spencer Brown sent a magnum of champagne crashing into the ship’s port bow. A long whistle blast followed (presumably from the yard, itself, since the REGAL PRINCESS had not yet been fitted with one).
REGAL PRINCESS introduces an entirely new look to the Princess fleet. Her hull design, with its particularly prominent bulbous bow and duck-tailed stern is more hydro-dynamic than the line’s prior ships, which will make her both more economical to run and a bit “greener”, due to fuel savings. Aesthetically, the team of architects that created her have given the new Princess ship a funnel similar to his design for RCI’s OASIS class and a stern somewhat reminiscent of Celebrity’s SOLSTICE class.
And yet, despite the new look, tradition reigns on with the P&O rising sun bow crest, which has been fitted to every Princess ship since the iconic British line’s purchase of then fledgling Princess Cruises in 1975. Now, of course, P&O is a sister cruise line to Princess, both of which are part of the Carnival Cruise Lines empire.
History was in the making as the Adriatic waters began their trickle into the graving dock — a process that would take two days before the REGAL PRINCESS could be towed out to the fitting basin to begin the next stage of her construction.
Likewise, our group trickled back to headquarters where we nibbled away at hors d’oeuvres and sipped celebratory champagne. While Carolyn was presented with a silver box containing the neck of the bottled used to christen the ship, I had a chance to visit with Italian ship historian Matteo Martinuzzi, who wrote a wonderful book entitled “Cantieri 1908 — 2008: 100 Anni Di Navi Monfalcone” about the shipyard in our surrounds.
All this and the day had only just begun. We would continue our time in Monfalcone with an enticing visit to the under-construction ROYAL PRINCESSS.
End of REGAL PRINCESS Float Out
Coming Next, a visit to the under-construction ROYAL PRINCESS at Monfalcone…
Very Special Thanks: Julie Benson, Karen Candy, Martin Cox, Brian Henriksen