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|Seven Seas Navigator |
She is the first move by Radisson Seven Seas to become the big rival of Crystal Cruises in the 'ultra de luxe' big ship niche market
Arturo Paniagua Mazorra (September 26, 2000)
V Ships was constituted in 1962 under the name of Shipping Management, to provide ship management services to the Vlasov fleet.
Later, these services were offered to some friend owners, but in the middle eighties the growth of the company, then named International Shipping Management, led to the formation of an independent company.
So, in 1984, V Ships was born, and begun to offer its service to third parties beyond the Vlasov Group.
In those years, SITMAR, another Vlasov company, were building three new fourth generation cruise ships of 70,000 grt a piece.
The cruise industry also grew at a considerable rate year after year, and Mr. Vlasov soon perceived the need of full management services for the cruise industry.
So, he sold 50% of V Ships to the senior management in 1986, in order to give them an incentive and to separate management and activities to do with ship owning. This was a fundamental step in the company's history.
When Mr. Vlasov died on 2 November 1987, V Ships was an independent company.
P&O and Princess Cruises
Mr. Vlasov's heirs were soon besieged by offers from the famous British owner P&O, to purchase SITMAR.
The long time taken to build the Sitmar FairMajesty and the lack of leadership in the Vlasov group, implied that SITMAR had to be sold to P&O. on 28 July 1988.
The $210 million deal, headed by the P&O Chairman Lord Sterling was acknowledged as a considerable bargain which immediately strengthened Princess Cruises with three ships.
They were two old Cunarders, the Fairsea (1956) and the Fairwind (1957), and the almost new (1984), but steam powered Fairsky, which were soon renamed Fair Princess, Dawn Princess and Sky Princess, respectively.
Coming Back to Cruises
V Ships wasn't sold, and began a period of strong expansion.
Three years later, in 1990, it had 100 ships under its management.
In 1993, GE Capital purchased 20% of the group, in order to diversify its shipping investment, and gave it, at the same time, better control of its own shipping finance projects.
That year, V Ship also re-entered in the cruise management sector with the creation of V Ship Leisure, which initially managed various aspects of cruise ship operations for other owners.
With the purchase of a former SITMAR cruise ship, the Dawn Princess, which became the first passenger ship owned by the company since the SITMAR sale, V Ships was once more owner.
Today, the former Dawn Princess sails as Albatros, under charter to the German tour operator Phoenix Reisen.
V Ships Leisure has supervised and managed a number of prestigious cruise projects, including the creation of Silversea Cruises, the management in the construction of the Silver Cloud and Silver Wind, the creation of Airtours Sun Cruises, etc.
V Ship-Radisson Alliance
On March 17, 1998 the Vlasov group entered into a joint venture with Carlson Hospitality Worldwide, the parent company of Radisson Seven Seas Cruises, in order to own its new cruise ship, then christened Blue Nile.
V Ship also got the management of three other Radisson cruise ships: Radisson Diamond, Song of Flower and Paul Gauguin.
Radisson Seven Seas was created in 1994 with the merger of Radisson Cruises and Seven Seas Cruises, and is the only cruise company with vessel sailing to all continents including the polar regions.
Curtiss Nelson, president and CEO of Carlson Hospitality Worldwide, declaired the strategic plan of its company: the addition of one new ship each year for the next five years.
In August 1998, Radisson announced that the ship will be delivered as Seven Seas Navigator.
In December 1998, Radisson and V Ships signed an agreement with Chantiers de l'Atlantique to build the largest luxury cruise ship, the 50,000 grt Seven Seas Mariner, the first cruise ship fitted 100 % with suites with private balcony.
An option for a sister ship was enclosed in the contract.
Seven Seas Navigator. The origins
The rebuilding of an existing ship (or hull), into a new cruise ship was very popular in the seventies and eighties.
It was cheaper and faster than to build a new cruise ship, and there were a lot of former passenger ships to convert.
Then the market had a big expansion and the cruise ships got larger, faster and more sophisticated, and the conversion option became less attractive, due to the series construction of cruise ships, which lowered the price vessels, and the lack of available hulls to convert.
But V Ships and T.Mariotti, a Genoa shipyard, found a source of very good tonnage.
The collapse of the Soviet Union left some unfinished research and tracking ships in Ukrainian and Russian yards.
V Ships first bought an unfinished research ship from an Ukrainian yard in 1994 .
Then, she was assembled and completed, and delivered under tow to the Genoa yard of T.Mariotti.
After less than eighteen months, she was rebuilt as the cruise ship Minerva, under a four year charter with Swan Hellenic, a P&O subsidiary.
In order to maintain the tight delivery schedule, V Ships was able to use much of the existing mechanical equipment, such as steering gear, shafting and main engines.
The Blue Sea
In the summer of 1997, V Ships bought a second nearly finished vessel, on this occasion from a yard in St. Petersburg and then towed to Genoa.
The goal was to create a five star cruise ship from the hull of an oceanographic unit.
The socalled Blue Sea project was more ambitious than any other conversion work carried out by T.Mariotti.
First, the yard demolished the four existing decks above the main deck, and cleared all that was inside the hull.
This operation was difficult, and took more time than originally planned: all the propulsion equipment installed, some insulations, the sonar equipment, etc. were broken up.
Later, the ice breaker hull was rebuilt: the stern was largely modified to become a twin-skeg one, capable of accommodating two larger propellers, and the bow profile was reshaped.
The two bow thrusters were retained, as well as the steering gear. A lot of research work was done on the propeller blades to reduce propeller inducted vibration and noise levels.
The ship was fitted with new propulsion engines, generators, shafts and propellers.
The contractual speed was 21 knots, and required more propulsion power than any other T. Mariotti conversions.
Seven new decks were additionally built, giving the new ship a total of 12 decks.
This caused some concern regarding visibility, and to overcome any problems, the three taller decks were made of high tensile steel.
The fact that Radisson was involved in the project meant a gradual changes in the construction and so the ship was delivered two weeks later to her owner.
But the T. Mariotti conversion was an outstanding achievement, and the owner saved six to seven months respect to a pure newbuilding vessel.
Her External Shape
The Seven Seas Navigator is a vessel of unmistakable aspect.
Her tall silhouette, plenty of balconies, is a sore sight.
She looks like a smaller version of the square block fashion cruise ships of today.
The fact that some balconies are built into the hull, below the forecastle deck line, and having a square stern, to provide maximum deck area and better propeller efficiency, don't help to improve the ship line.
Also, the forward edge of the Seven Seas Navigator's superstructure is located excessively overhead the bow, and this fact gives her also an awkward appearance, in spite of her design.
In the midship section of the superstructure, around the atrium, the balcony decks are interrupted. In other ships, these spaces are finished with glass in some or in all the decks, creating spaces that look interesting.
In the Seven Seas Navigator, steel plates close this sector.
The consequence is the lack of natural light in the atrium, which is very dark and on the outside it gives a sense of an unfinished ship.
Some people think that her appearance is a consequence of her small length: the new Europa has almost the same GRT and capacity, but her hull is 30 meters longer.
As a consequence, she looks smoother and sleeker.
The positive aspect of the Seven Seas Navigator is her funnel which was inspired, in the stack, by the old Italia of 1967 (she sails today as The Sapphire) and crowns the aft superstructure.
The Seven Seas Navigator main architects were the Norwegians Yran and Storbraaten and they draw inspiration from contemporary designs of the 1930s.
Apart from their design works on larger cruise ships, they are the most famed specialist in the field of small cruise ship design.
The Sea Goddess duo, the Seabourn trio and the Song of Flower were designed in their Oslo studio.
They also cooperated with T. Mariotti in the building of the Silver Wind and Silver Cloud, and this fact is reflected in the layout of the Seven Seas Navigator, which follows the vertical segregation layout of the Silversea duo.
Decks 5, 6, 7, 10 and 11 have cabins in the bow and public facilities amidships and aft, whereas decks 8 and 9 are wholly used for cabins.
Exterior facilities are found on the higher decks, whereas afternoon and night spaces are located on decks 5, 6 and 7.
The Seven Seas Navigator lacks an accessible boat deck and this fact means that all the open deck spaces are on the top decks.
This is a negative aspect in a ship which is used in scenery voyages such as Alaska glaciers and Panama Canal locks.
So, most passenger opt for a cabin with the balcony.
The seven deck atrium is a novelty for a ship of this size.
It is located forward of amidships, and has the advantage that the passengers embark throughout one of her two lower decks (5 and 6), whereas the reception desk is located on deck 6.
For passengers this means an easy orientation on board.
The atrium has three semipanoramic elevators, and some special stairs built inside in her three lower decks, which are fitted to facilitate the vertical movement between the public areas.
There are also two stairs, located forward (port and starboard), which reach all passenger decks.
On her three higher decks, the atrium has a glass bulkhead aft, which is the only source of natural light and the only possibility to see the midship pool from the elevators.
But this atrium hasn't the magnificence of those found on bigger ships. It hasn't any public space inside and the passenger flow and orientation is not any better.
It is like big stairs and give the ship a shopping mall feeling.
Why place an atrium in a de-luxe ship?
I think that her designers tried to obtain the sense of size and spaciousness found in larger ships (like in the Crystal duo), but on a 20,000 GRT ship an atrium perhaps could not be placed.
The Compass Rose Restaurant
The Compass Rose Restaurant is traditionally located amidship, in the lower passenger deck.
The main galley is located aft, under the theater.
It's a full width, 'open seating' 'open time' restaurant, with windows on either side.
It's decorated in red and blue tones, with a floor made of a mixture of materials: a central parabola of marble, with blue carpet and wood in the perimeter.
The courtains are red, with a lot of art works between the windows, but the ceiling decoration is very plain, in metallic plates with only a gondola shaped sculpture with indirect light.
Also, it has eight pillars.
I enjoy the indirect lighting and the very confortable chairs, with armrests.
This room hasn't the height found in other cruise ships, even in smaller vessels, and I found it plain and noisy.
But the food is spectacular in quality and presentation, and the service is very good as well, in a ship with a no tipping policy.
The Portofino Grill
The Portofino Grill, located on deck 10, aft the pool, is a popular choice for food and the spectacular sights offered through the stern picture windows.
It has dual function: it works as a buffet in the day time, and as an alternative restaurant in the night, offering Italian cuisine.
The Italian chef has his own galley in the port section, and the passenger area has three sections: the starboard section, opposite the buffet line, the aft area, and a teak decked open area.
Here, the decoration is in blue, and the ceiling is once again very plain, with only a blue circle in the aft section.
There are a lot of natural plants, which give a gay ambience.
The mirrors in the entrance corridor are not a good choice. But overall it is a nice room, and the menu is very good too.
The Show Room
The two deck huge Seven Seas Lounge is the Seven Seas Navigator show room, which seats all passengers and has excellent sightlines.
It has a slopping floor, fitted with very long seats, with blue and violet upholstery and wooden armrests, and a small glass table every two meters.
This lay out could work better with a central corridor so passenger can move better.
There are also wing balconies fitted with low tables and splendid armchairs.
The stairs between the two levels have also a very beautiful design, as well as the upper entrance, made in marble, with a splendid circular lighting device.
The ceiling is painted blue, with halogen and fibre optic illumination, but it could have been improved if the sound equipment had been built-in.
There is a bar in the lower level, under the amphitheater section.
This space lacks a revolving stage and other advanced technology systems.
But the passengers on in this type of ship want low key entertainment, which doesn't need sophisticated installations.
But overall it is the better theatre found in the luxury segment, with the exception of the Crystal fleet.
The other public rooms are located forward of the theatre, on decks 6 and deck 7.
This layout is a consequence of the arrangement of the lifeboats and makes good use of the space with obstructed view.
On the lower deck are found the quiet spaces such as the library, card room, and so on, whereas the casino and boutiques are located on deck 7.
Both decks have a splendid central corridor, with curvilinear glass wall and marble floor, that simplify the access to the different spaces and which also works as meeting and conversation point.
Between these decks Yran and Storbraaten designed a splendid stairs, located in the centre of the corridor.
The small library and the card room are located starboard, and were designed as a unit, with the same blue tapestry, square modulated ceiling .
The small library has a lot of books, magazines and video tapes, with leather armchairs of traditional shape and two pcs with e-mail service.
The card room is larger, with blue upholstery chairs and a lot of tables. It can be divided in two parts for small group meetings.
It looks unfinished, with the walls almost empty, but with splendid light and notable roominess.
Connoisseur Club is located opposite, it is a small and intimate space designed with the intention to match the Seabourn Sun's Oak Room, or the Michael's Club established in the Celebrity's fleet.
But the result is not very good.
This wooden decked and panelled space has some of the characteristics found in the former rooms (a fire place, big leather armchairs, a humidor to enjoy cigars, etc.), but the Connoisseur Club lacks the strong atmosphere that other hardware add, such as art works and forniture.
Forward is located the nautically themed Navigation Lounge, one of the best decorated places on board, plenty of curvilinear shapes in sofas and glass ligthing.
Also, it has wood covered panels and pillars, a beautiful bar and comfortable sofas and armchairs.
Forward is the ample reception area, with a beautiful marble floor.
Here a cruise consultant sells your next cruise !
On deck 7 is located the Casino, too large for a ship of this size, with four black-jack and two roulette tables, and lot of slot machines.
This large Casino reflects the American origin of almost all Seven Seas Navigator's passengers.
The boutiques are located on both sides of the corridor.
The Seven Seas Navigator has two observation rooms: the Vista Lounge, facing forward on deck 12, and the Galileo Lounge, facing aft on deck 11.
The Vista Lounge, semicircular in shape, is in the same location as the Stella Polaris Lounge on the Seabourn Sun.
A solarium, as well as the radar mast are located forward, which means that some views are obstructed.
The glass hasn't any sun protection, such as curtains, etc; the fan-coil covers don't look very good and the panels are very plain.
The wicker furniture and the natural plants are the positive aspect of the lounge.
Furthermore, this room looks unfinished, and it lacks a bar.
Near this area there is the well equipped gym and the beauty center.
The Galileo Lounge doubles as night club and it is fitted with picture windows from floor to ceiling and has a soft decoration.
It houses forward in the port side a big wooden bar and a marble dance floor and piano aft.
The outside section has a splendid teak deck fitted with wood furniture.
The carpets are in blue tones, whereas sofas and arm chairs have cream upholstery.
Personally, I found the decoration light, mainly the ceiling, for a night club, but the roominess and light found here are exceptional.
But this space has some vibration, even in port.
The Open Decks
The Seven Seas Navigator has a lot of exterior space (1,800 square metres) but only a part of the open decks are fitted with high quality teak, whereas artificial grass is used on the upper deck maybe for stability reason.
This means, on rainy days, this deck is almost flooded because the grass retains water.
The swimming pool is located amidships on deck 10, with two jacuzzis aft.
As the swimming pool created big waves it was redesigned and retiled in the occasion of the March 2000 dry dock.
The lido area around is ample and well planned, and very well protected against winds.
Forward the pool is located the Pool Bar, whereas the Pool Grill, which serves fast food and grilled chicken or fish, is found aft.
Both wooden and circular in shape. All the pool furniture is plastic made, with green cushions and cloth covers, except the tables and chairs near the grill, which are wood made.
The best feature of this ship are, without doubt, her suites.
They were designed by Yran Stroonrbateen, and are very spacious, well designed and nicely commissioned, with lots of wood and splendid fabrics.
The outboard separate living area has a mini-bar, a table with a sofa and two chairs, and a large desk.
The sleeping area has two beds, a television and a video, a walk-in closet and a couch.
The two areas can be screened, as well as the living zone and the balcony.
The marble bathrooms are particularly well designed, and have both bath and shower, and enormous closet space.
Accommodation on the Seven Seas Navigator is provided for 490 passengers in 245 suites, all are outside and 90% with a private balcony of 5 square metres.
The balconies have a teak floor, all with real railings, but without the screen that separate them.
So, it is possible to chat with your neighbour.
This was the first all suite cruise ship in the Radisson fleet. Each suite ranging, without balconies, from 28 square metre to 109 square metre and the last one have separate bedrooms.
They are very quiet and the cabin service is available on a 24-hour basis.
Also the corridor between the cabins are very ample, with a very plain decoration.
The Seven Seas Navigator has a Wartsila mechanical propulsion plant unlike other modern cruise ships which use instead diesel electric propulsion system like the small Radisson operated Paul Gauguin.
Four 8L38 main engines, with a total output of 21,120 kW, give a trial speed of about 22 Kt., over a knot faster than the owner's requirements.
There are three auxiliary engines, also Wartsila made, of 2,120 Kw each. The two bow thruster have a total output of 1,000 kW.
The life on board
I think this ship was the first step in the strategic policy of Radisson Seven Seas: to become the big rival of Crystal Cruises in the 'ultra de luxe' big ship niche market.
So I think that the Seven Seas Navigator must be compared with the Crystal duo and not with the yacht like ultra de luxe cruise ships.
I think that a cruise on this ship is as good as on a Crystal ship, and for several aspects it is better.
But the Seven Seas Navigator has smaller public spaces than the Crystal duo, one pool instead of two, one alternative restaurant instead of two, etc. and many people like the extra space and more options found on Crystal Harmony and Crystal Symphony, which haven't atriums...
The Navigator has the qualities which distinguishe her operator: the extraordinary level of service on board, splendid itineraries and more space than one would ever need, but I was quite disappointed by some aspects and the atmosphere is gloomy, without personality.
I think that her operator (and crew) will improve in the following years reaching the levels found in the older and smaller vessels of the Radisson fleet.
For further information: Radisson Seven Seas Cruises