Floating palaces take off

HENDERSON shipbuilder Austal Ships is targeting the boutique cruise market to achieve growth and offset the global downturn in its core fast ferry business.

Austal’s general manager special projects Ian Biner said the shipbuilder would market designs for luxuriously appointed cruise vessels catering for between 100 and 150 passengers.

Despite the spectacular performance of the cruise liner industry over the past 15 years, travel agents report higher inquiries for more intimate cruises on smaller vessels. This presents a big opportunity for Austal.

Austal designed a series of Concept Ships – or cruise yachts – that allowed cruise operators to visit destinations inaccessible to big ships.

The concept ships represent an evolution from the 80 passenger, 60 metre Rivage St Martin operating for the past year in the caribbean.

One of these new conceptions was a $50 million, 21 knot capacity, 76 metre catamaran designed for coastal cruising, which came in either a four-star, 130 passenger or a five-star, 98 passenger con-figuration. The vessel had a higher than average capital cost but this would be offset by the reduced maintenance of her aluminium structure and extraordinary fuel efficiency.

Passenger amenities included restaurant seating for 134, two retail spaces, a library-writing room, a pool and bar, a water sports platform, sundeck, viewing platform and observation bar.

Another design was for an 18.5 knot, 74 metre, four-to-five star 70 passenger ship which offered the look, feel and ambience of a luxury motor yacht.

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