As we headed from Genoa Airport by taxi to our hotel, Seabourn’s lastest ship came into view, her distinctive outline visible from the hair-raising fly-overs which snake all over town.
I recognised Quest immediately because just a few months earlier I was on board her sister ship, Sojourn, for a week’s cruising in the Caribbean – and they are exactly the same.
“It does make things a lot easier,” explained Raoul Jack, project manager for Seabourn newbuilds. “It means that everyone knows exactly what they are doing and we don’t need to make any changes.”
In other words, if it ain’t broke don’t fix it, and as Raoul explains the only changes are so minor that passengers would not notice.
As a result the ship will be completed bang on time: May 31 and will start sea-trials in mid-April to hit that launch date.
It’s my first hard-hat tour and to my untrained eye it looks far from ready, but as I look a little closer I can see everything is in place: just covered in dust sheets.
Working from the bottom up, which is how the ship is constructed, I see it in all its stages of near-completion: from the lower deck cabins which just need bedding and a bottle of Champagne before they can welcome guests (oh – and handles on the bathroom doors, taken off, incidentally, to prevent the workers using the loos); to the gaps left on the stairs for the carpets to be fitted; to the pretty multicoloured lights dangling from the ceilings (known colloquially as hairy lights) which will soon be pulled up into the ceiling; and the main staircase, which just needs the scaffolding removed (see below).
When the orders for the three ships were initially placed – two at the end of January 2007 and one at the end of October that year – the economic climate was very healthy.
Things have changed dramatically since and there were no doubt times when Seabourn, which up until when Odyssey was delivered had just three ships with a capacity of 208 passengers each, must have wondered whether they had bitten off more than they could chew.
However, Odyssey and her sister have proved to be a massive success and justified the roughly £250m investment Carnival Corporation poured into each one. Quest will no doubt prove equally as popular which begs the question – will there be any more in this class?
Raoul answers: “There are no plans for more in this class. Another ship might be overdoing it. We do not want to get overcapacity…but you never know…”
I also ask him if the size of the Odyssey class could be pushed much bigger without losing what stalwart Seabourn passengers want: intimacy.
“Well if we look at Silversea, Spirit takes 550 passengers so I think there is a little room for manoeuvre.”