MEIN SCHIFF 4 Delivered

by Kalle Id

The latest newbuilding for the German market, TUI Cruises’ MEIN SCHIFF 4 (literally ”My Ship 4”), was delivered to her owners from what is now the Meyer Turku shipyard at noon on 8th May 2015. MaritimeMatters’ Helsinki Correspondent Kalle Id visited the ship before she left the shipyard for Germany to start her maiden season.

MEIN SCHIFF 4

Length: 294 metres/965 feet

Breadth: 36 metres/118 feet

Draught: 8 metres/26 feet

Speed: 21 knots

Gross tonnage: 99 500

Passengers: 2 790

Crew: 1 030

All photographs copyright © 2015 Kalle Id.

TUI Cruises official website: tuicruises.com

Kalle Id’s ship blog: kships.blogspot.fi

The MEIN SCHIFF 4 at the outfitting quay of the Turku shipyard. Notice TUI Cruises' trademark calligraphy-style hull markings.
The MEIN SCHIFF 4 at the outfitting quay of the Turku shipyard. Notice TUI Cruises’ trademark calligraphy-style hull markings.

TUI Cruises was established only in 2009, as a joint venture between Germany’s travel giant TUI AG and Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. Although TUI chose to partner with RCCL on this venture, the company did have previous experience of running cruise ships, as they also own Hapag-Lloyd Cruises and Thomson Cruises in the UK. The TUI Cruises product was from the start planned as different from that of their long-established German-market competitors AIDA Cruises, with TUI offering an all-inclusive premium product. TUI Cruises was an immediate hit, and the two ex-Celebrity Cruises ships used to start the venture were joined in 2014 by the first newbuilding MEIN SCHIFF 3, which is now joined by the MEIN SCHIFF 4.

First impressions: the Waterkant bar on deck 4.
First impressions: the Waterkant bar on deck 4.

The Turku shipyard in southwestern Finland has done through a series of changes during the past few years, culminating in a change of ownership when the yard was sold to Germany’s Meyer Werft last year. The MEIN SCHIFF 4, although a sister to the MEIN SCHIFF 3 delivered last year, was the first ship delivered under the new ownership as the Meyer Turku shipyard.

The Waterkant bar hosts a large cutaway model of the MEIN SCHIFF 4, showing many of the areas normally out of bounds for passengers. Notice the impressive sulphur scrubber installation below the funnel; this allows the ship to operate in the Sulphur Emission Control Areas in Northern Europe and North America without the need to use expensive low-sulphur fuel.
The Waterkant bar hosts a large cutaway model of the MEIN SCHIFF 4, showing many of the areas normally out of bounds for passengers. Notice the impressive sulphur scrubber installation below the funnel; this allows the ship to operate in the Sulphur Emission Control Areas in Northern Europe and North America without the need to use expensive low-sulphur fuel.

Along with other journalists, I was treated with a comprehensive tour of the brand-new ship, under the guidance of Meyer Turku’s Berndt Lönnberg.

One of the specialities of the MEIN SCHIFF 4 and her sister is the Klanghaus concert hall on deck 4, which features electronic acoustics-enhancing technology that allows the acoustics of the room to be altered to resemble the acoustics of various famous venues around the world.
One of the specialities of the MEIN SCHIFF 4 and her sister is the Klanghaus concert hall on deck 4, which features electronic acoustics-enhancing technology that allows the acoustics of the room to be altered to resemble the acoustics of various famous venues around the world.
The TUI Bar on the second level of the ship's atrium is one of the trademark spaces on TUI Cruises' ships; all four have one.
The TUI Bar on the second level of the ship’s atrium is one of the trademark spaces on TUI Cruises’ ships; all four have one.

For the most part the MEIN SCHIFF 4 is a copy of the high successful MEIN SCHIFF 3. Many of the older ship’s successful features, such as a two-storey concert hall (Klanghaus), a main dining room divided into various sub-dining room serving different cuisine styles, an indoor pool complex as well as a 25 metre (82 feet) outdoors pool, and a glass ”diamond” located at the aft of the ship, giving light to a multi-storey restaurant and bar complex.

The Atlantik restaurant complex in the aft section of the ship is an impressive three-level space, with the different restaurant areas decorated in different styles, reflecting the cuisines served.
The Atlantik restaurant complex in the aft section of the ship is an impressive three-level space, with the different restaurant areas decorated in different styles, reflecting the cuisines served.
The Schau Bar on deck 5 is essentially the top level of the Atlantik restaurant complex.
The Schau Bar on deck 5 is essentially the top level of the Atlantik restaurant complex.

There are also differences; for instance, in place of the Meerleben (”sea life”) seafaring exhibition on deck 4 onboard the MEIN SCHIFF 3, the MEIN SCHIFF 4 offers a more conventional bar – but with a large cut-away model of the ship, illustrating various areas of the ship that are off-limits to the passengers, such as the engine room, main galley and sulphur scrubber system. On the technical department the ship is somewhat unusual in that she is not equipped with azimuthing thrusters but with conventional propellers and rudders. In an arrangement similar to the Turku-built Viking Line ferry VIKING GRACE (the subject of an earlier Ferry Tale by yours truly), the propellers have five fixed blades, optimized for the ship’s normal running speed. Based on my experience of the VIKING GRACE, this arrangement makes the ship almost entirely free of vibration and propeller noise.

The Abtanz Bar is a combined night club and disco on deck 5. According to Berndt Lönnberg, this space presented a particular design challenge as there are cabins directly above it. However, very little noise carries over to the cabins above thanks to an innovative soundproofing design.
The Abtanz Bar is a combined night club and disco on deck 5. According to Berndt Lönnberg, this space presented a particular design challenge as there are cabins directly above it. However, very little noise carries over to the cabins above thanks to an innovative soundproofing design.
The standard balcony cabins are nicely furnished, though their overall appearance is perhaps a bit pale when compared to the other parts of the ship.
The standard balcony cabins are nicely furnished, though their overall appearance is perhaps a bit pale when compared to the other parts of the ship.
The Spa & Meer wellness complex spans two decks. Compared to the MEIN SCHIFF 3, on the MEIN SCHIFF 4 there are more treatment rooms and larger Finnish saunas.
The Spa & Meer wellness complex spans two decks. Compared to the MEIN SCHIFF 3, on the MEIN SCHIFF 4 there are more treatment rooms and larger Finnish saunas.
The Blauer Balkong (”blue balcony”) up on deck 14 is a similar concept to the Seawalk on Princess Cruises' ROYAL PRINCESS and REGAL PRINCESS – except that the Blauer Balkong is outdoors and its floor is made entirely of glass.
The Blauer Balkong (”blue balcony”) up on deck 14 is a similar concept to the Seawalk on Princess Cruises’ ROYAL PRINCESS and REGAL PRINCESS – except that the Blauer Balkong is outdoors and its floor is made entirely of glass.

After the tour of the ship, during which the official handover ceremony was performed, the assorted journalists were gathered in the Diamant Bar aft on deck 5 (beneath the ship’s distinctive glass diamond). After drinks and nibbly things were circulated around, Wybcke Meier of TUI Cruises, Jan Meyer of Meyer Werft (note the different spellings) and Harri Kulovaara of Royal Caribbean made short speeches. According to Mrs Meier, TUI Cruises’ popularity continues to grow at a fast pace; the MEIN SCHIFF 4’s maiden season is almost sold out, and advance bookings for next year’s MEIN SCHIFF 5 are also at an extremely good level. Dr Meyer meanwhile was glad to tell us that Meyer Werft had taken over full ownership of the Turku shipyard just a few days earlier, and that the family shipyard will invert further on the yard in the coming years. According to him, the MEIN SCHIFF 4 is also even more energy efficient than her older sibling. Finally, Mr Kulovaara complimented the long working relationship between Royal Caribbean and the Turku shipyard (RCI’s Voyager, Freedom and Oasis classes having all originated from Turku). Kulovaara also added that in his opinion, the MEIN SCHIFF 4 is the best ship (to date) he has participated in designing.

Jan Meyer, Wybcke Meier and Harri Kulovaara pose for a group shot.
Jan Meyer, Wybcke Meier and Harri Kulovaara pose for a group shot.

After the speeches, I grabbed a quick word with Doreen Kuempel, the MEIN SCHIFF 4’s cruise director, to clear up an issue that I have wondered about for some time: can passengers who do not speak German sail on TUI Cruises’ ships? The short answer is yes. All crew members speak English in addition to German, the restaurant menus are bilingual and all important announcements are made in both English and German. English-speaking passengers are common onboard particularly during the winter seasons, when many TUI ships are based on Valletta, Malta in the Mediterranean. Naturally the onboard entertainment is geared towards German tastes and the language of the entertainment is German. To be honest, after seeing how superb the MEIN SCHIFF 4 is on the inside, I don’t see the language barrier as a problem.

Mingling in the Diamant Bar.
Mingling in the Diamant Bar.
The delightful Cafe Lounge is aft and below of the Diamant Bar, actually under the titular ”diamond” itself.
The delightful Cafe Lounge is aft and below of the Diamant Bar, actually under the titular ”diamond” itself.
The Surf & Turf is one of the MEIN SCHIFF 4's three specialily restaurants. Compared to the MEIN SCHIFF 3 the restaurant has more outdoors seating (the weather was a bit too cool to use these), with some of the outdoors tables having integrated grills.
The Surf & Turf is one of the MEIN SCHIFF 4’s three specialily restaurants. Compared to the MEIN SCHIFF 3 the restaurant has more outdoors seating (the weather was a bit too cool to use these), with some of the outdoors tables having integrated grills.

After the mingling, the assorted journalists and executives were treated to lunch at Surf & Turf, one of the MEIN SCHIFF 4’s few extra-charge restaurants. Here I must give extra points to the company for offering meat, fish and vegetarian main courses… although it must also be said that the vegetarian dish (which had a name I cannot pronounce and thus promptly forgot) suffered from the usual problem of vegetarian options in restaurants: it had not proper protein source to replace the meat/fish, consisting of just vegetable and bread. The natural flavours of the ingredients came through nicely, but overall the dish was somewhat lacking in taste – this, according to the others in my table, was a problem with the other options as well. The food was far from bad, but it was not as good as it could have been.

Surf & Turf starter: Chicken terrine. It was rather good, but by unfortunate association it reminded of a rather terrible chicken sandwich I had eaten en-route to the ship.
Surf & Turf starter: Chicken terrine. It was rather good, but by unfortunate association it reminded of a rather terrible chicken sandwich I had eaten en-route to the ship.
Vegetarian main course. I'm still not sure what this dish was named.
Vegetarian main course. I’m still not sure what this dish was named.
If the previous dishes did not quite hit the spot, the dessert was perfect. I particularly enjoyed the sorbet, which had a very interesting combination of tastes. I could not quite put my finger on what it tasted like, other than being very good.
If the previous dishes did not quite hit the spot, the dessert was perfect. I particularly enjoyed the sorbet, which had a very interesting combination of tastes. I could not quite put my finger on what it tasted like, other than being very good.

Having finished the meal with delicious white chocolate and sorbet dessert, it was time to leave the ship. Previously during the day we had been unable of visiting the ship’s theatre due to a crew function being held there; Berndt Lönnberg kindly let myself and one other interested journalist take a look at the theatre and photograph it.

I'm glad I had the chance to see the theatre, as it is utterly gorgeous.
I’m glad I had the chance to see the theatre, as it is utterly gorgeous.

The MEIN SCHIFF 4’s theatre pretty much sums up my feelings on the entire ship: the design is an understated, functional modernism that is far removed from the Las Vegas -style vagarities favoured by many cruise lines in the English-speaking market. It’s also right up my street and in all honesty, on the inside the MEIN SCHIFF 4 is probably the most attractive cruise ship I have visited.

The MEIN SCHIFF 4 enter service on 22nd May with a three-night cruise from Hamburg to Kiel. On 5th June she will be officially named in Kiel by the German swimmer Franziska van Almsick.

I'll leave you today with a tribute to the great Peter Knego: A totally random MEIN SCHIFF 4 theatre carpet shot.
I’ll leave you today with a tribute to the great Peter Knego: A totally random MEIN SCHIFF 4 theatre carpet shot.

End of MEIN SCHIFF 4 delivered.

Special thanks to: Olli Tuominen, Berndt Lönnberg and Doreen Kuempel

Kalle Id

Kalle Id

Kalle Id, MaritimeMatters' Helsinki correspondent, is a Finnish maritime historian, photographer and journalist, with a Master's Degree in history from the University of Helsinki. His early-age exposure to ferry travel led to a lifetime fascination with passenger ships, both the cruise ferries of his home waters and the cruise ships and ferries of further afield. Kalle maintains his own ship photography blog at kships.blogspot.com. Contrary to the popular belief, he writes under his real name.
Kalle Id
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