It’s the ultimate cruise ship magic trick. Deborah Stone was in Palermo as Silversea’s Silver Spirit was cut in half and given a new mid-ship section in a dramatic and exciting upgrade

Silver Spirit undergoing a lengthening process © Silversea
Silver Spirit undergoing a lengthening process © Silversea

With a shower of sparks and excited applause, Silversea’s luxury cruise ship Silver Spirit was dramatically cut in half, and just 24 hours later, a new 49-ft mid-ship section had been installed so work could start on a momentous upgrading for the 2009-built ship.

As Filippo Oddo, director of Palermo’s Fincantieri shipyard, declared: “Silver Spirit will leave this yard not only longer but more beautiful and more comfortable.”

Cut in half and extended, the ship will have 34 new suites and a greater choice of restaurants when it emerges in May.

Just half of the “north of $70million” budget was spent on the extraordinary engineering feat of stretching Silver Spirit from 642.4ft (195.8 metres) to 691.3ft (210.7 metres) at the Fincantieri shipyard in Palermo, Sicily, on 10 March.

The rest of the money is being spent on a total refit of all suites, restaurants and public areas as well as fitting new fibre-optic cabling to improve guests’ wifi and in-suite entertainment facilities.

When Silver Spirit sets sail for its inaugural cruise from Italy’s Civitavecchia on 6 May, sailing to Spain with subsequent cruises around the Iberian coast to London, the ship will be even more manoeuvrable, thanks to a new stern thruster, while also being faster and more fuel efficient because of the extension’s clever design.

It took five days of painstaking care to cut Silver Spirit open as it sat in dry dock, propped up by wooden blocks, sliding pads and a hydraulic jack.

Then the two halves were pulled apart, inch by inch, guided by electronic sensors monitored from a control room filled with screens.

Twenty four hours later the new mid-ship section – “49ft of extra comfort” – was driven into place remotely on flat-top transporters with the help of more sensors before work began the next day on seamlessly sealing it up.

It’s the ultimate cruise ship magic trick, but there will be no smoke or mirrors when it comes to the new interior.

The 34 new suites include 26 Veranda suites, six Silver suites and two Panorama suites, increasing the number of guests from 540 to 608.

All the suites are being refurbished in lighter neutral colours and HD interactive in-suite entertainment screens installed, in line with Silver Muse.

The top suites will have handmade Savoir mattresses and the Belsorano Suite will be decorated with personal treasures of Silversea’s chairman, Manfredi Lefebvre d’Ovidio di Balsorano de Clunieres.

But the new dining options are equally exciting; increasing from six to eight restaurants, there will be 974 seats available at dinner for the 608 guests, meaning no waiting for a table – ever.

Pizza restaurant Spaccanapoli – named after a Naples street known for its pizzerias – will be introduced after its success on Silver Muse, with new main restaurants Atlantide for steak and lobster and Indochine for Asian fusion.

The Star Restaurant will be replaced by Silver Note, a tapas-style supper club with live jazz and blues; while the existing sushi restaurant Seishin, French dining room La Dame, poolside The Grill – where you can cook your own meat, fish and vegetables on a grill stone at your table – are being retained and enhanced.

Silver Spirit’s popular Italian restaurant La Terrazza also stays and will be enlarged, with space for 90 to eat outside and 188 seats in total.

Other new public spaces include Silver Muse’s hugely successful Art Café for coffee and cake, art exhibitions and evening cocktails.

The Dolce Vita will be an elegant piano bar and the Observation Lounge on deck 7 will house the library in a cosy corner while the casino will replace the outdated internet space on deck 7.

The Zagara Spa, a huge hit on Silver Muse, will also be replicated on Silver Spirit; the gym will get new machines and a dedicated outdoor aerobics area while the main pool will be lengthened.

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