Two of Australia's most anticipated arrivals, Pacific Aria and Pacific Eden, have both entered dry dock at Singapore's Sembcorp Marine Admiralty Yard where each begins its impressive 11-day makeover into all new P&O ships.
Singapore's first ever double dry dock assignment began with Pacific Eden sailing into Singapore on 25 October, closely followed by Pacific Aria on 31 October. Together they begin their side-by-side 11-day transformation into what is being heralded a game-changer for the Australian cruise industry.
The scene when walking on board Pacific Eden during the first phase of dry dock was nothing short of magical, organised chaos. Some 900 contractors began erecting scaffolding as they started remaking the ship into Australia’s next modern liner. There was noise from every direction with instructions bellowed from multiple tongues.
But through the noise and the stinging Singapore humidity, the carefully laid out plan painstakingly developed over 18 months by the P&O transformation team, began to quickly take hold and was soon off to a productive start.
P&O Cruises Senior Vice President Sture Myrmell said the 1,500-guest ships would set a new path for the local industry with stunning new features including luxe bars, a plush private dining room, a resort-style pool deck, contemporary dining including Luke Mangan's Salt Grill and some of the most spacious rooms across the fleet.
"We can't wait to introduce Australians to Pacific Aria and Pacific Eden. They're unlike anything we've ever seen in these [Australian] waters - they're stylish but relaxed, just like modern Australia, so we think local cruisers will love them." Mr Myrmell said.
"Even small touches such as lighting can make all the difference. LED lighting under seats, back lights against pictures and decorative lamps on tables add to the ambiance and mood. To do this project and continue with the P&O evolution of cruising we have taken everything into consideration."
When asked what his favourite part of the renovation was, Mr Myrmell stated that he was particularly pleased with the elevators. Certainly unique, the elevators have been transformed, each sporting an eye-catching mural with carpets reflecting classic scenes from around the world.
We also had a lengthy conversation about the chandelier made of trumpets hanging in the corner of the Blue Room and the lamp shades featured in the Lounge Room. The legs of the lamps are in the shape of duck feet - sure to be a talking point of passengers with even the contractors not able to resist taking pictures as they walked by these unique and decorative items.
I asked head designer Petra Ryberg-Bid from Tillberg Design of Sweden where the inspiration for the stylish new interior came from. "The designs were all Australian inspired. We spent weeks walking the streets of Sydney and other cities looking for Australian inspiration." Ms Ryberg-Bid said.
"We searched for how to bring the indoors, outdoors and vice versa. Australians have a strong outdoor culture and they love to spend time outdoors with friends and family. So we took that inspiration to deliver a strong cultural look and feel.
"We tried to recreate a fresh new look with that warm residential feeling along with the relaxed Aussie lifestyle which we love. For example, the fish and chip sign was inspired by a small shop we visited in the northern beaches of Sydney, which gave us inspiration when looking for how Australians live.
"What we found was lots of personality and we've tried to deliver that Australian flavour with our designs." said Petra Ryberg-Bid.
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The Dry Dock Process
At 219 metres long, Pacific Eden began life in 1993 as Holland America Line's Statendam. Pacific Aria began service the following year as Holland America’s Ryndam. Arriving in Singapore, the transformation to the sleek and modern P&O ships they are to become, began immediately.
The logistics around dry docking a 55,820 gross tonne cruise ship are formidable. The dry dock process spans 11 days with a massive 250,000 man commitment, 24 hours a day.
Each ship is being transformed with new restaurant and pool areas, over 20,000 square metres of carpet, 2,500 square metres of wall coverings, over 300 pieces of art, 2,500 pieces of furniture, 2,500 signs and more than 500 litres of paint.
Waiting in the marine yard were 70 12-metre-long shipping containers filled with an assortment of 5,000 products ranging from forks to furniture.
The Waterfront Restaurant makeover was extraordinary. For the addition of the new Italian themed restaurant Angelo's and Japanese inspired Dragon Lady, engineers extended the floor above Waterfront Restaurant with additional six metres of floor space.
The traditional buffet has been replaced by The Pantry - a made-fresh-to-order self service area with multiple cuisines available. Passengers can go straight to the meal of their choice without having to wait in long queues. The Pantry will be open all day with options ranging from Asian to Mexican, a curry house, a steak corner and more - plus a well-stocked dessert bar of course.
What About The Bill?
Dwarfing my household post-it-note style shopping list is P&O’s staggering 430-page stock order. Purchases include 47,000 new glasses for the bars and restaurants, 74,000 pieces of china and over 30,000 pieces of cutlery - all to serve the 1,500-strong guest list.
There are drawers to be filled, shelves to be stocked, walls to be decorated and loads of new furnishings to be strategically placed. And of course, two important updates; one on the engineering side and one on the service side - Australian power points in every cabin and beer taps at every bar. All this is to be installed ahead of arrival at the ships’ new home base in Australia.
The first to emerge from dry dock will be Pacific Eden when she heads to Fremantle, Western Australia on 4 November. From there, the first Australian sailing will be via southern Australia on its way to Adelaide, Kangaroo Island and Melbourne, en route to Sydney Harbour departing 15 November.
Upon arrival in Sydney, the Eden will meet up with her sister ship, Pacific Aria on 25 November. On that day, the dual naming ceremony will take place as part of a P&O five-ship spectacular.
Pacific Dawn, Pacific Pearl and Pacific Jewel will also arrive in Sydney Harbour on the same day for one of the largest celebrations Sydney Harbour has ever seen for the start of a cruise season.