New Ship Finds Rocky Seas Engine Problems Force Rhapsody of Seas into Drydock

By Arline Bleecker The Orlando Sentinel | St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO), September 14, 1997 | Go to article overview

New Ship Finds Rocky Seas Engine Problems Force Rhapsody of Seas into Drydock


Arline Bleecker The Orlando Sentinel, St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)


IT SEEMS that even in the cruise industry, God giveth and God taketh away. Less than a week after basking in its buyout of Celebrity Cruises, finalized July 30, Royal Caribbean International was forced to announce an unanticipated dry-docking of one of its own new ships.

Rhapsody of the Seas, which debuted in May, had been dogged by engine propulsion problems from day one - actually, since before day one. The culprit: a malfunctioning starboard engine that had vexed this ship even before its inaugural. Rhapsody has been operating with reduced power, but the line anticipated that the reduced speed necessitated by the engine problems would not affect the ship's schedules. At the end of July, however, the ship missed a port of call in Skagway because of the problematic engine. The ship enters drydock this weekend to replace the engine and is expected to return to regular service Oct. 5.

The unplanned drydocking of Rhapsody necessitates cancellation of two Hawaii cruises, one scheduled for this weekend and another Sept. 24. Passengers booked on the canceled cruises will receive a full refund, plus a $500 per-cabin credit on a future cruise if taken by Dec. 31, 1998. If you're booked on either cruise, have your travel agent call Royal Caribbean, or call Royal Caribbean at (305) 379-4731, Ext. 4895. As for Royal Caribbean's acquisition of Celebrity and what this might mean for cruisers, it's too early to say. But this isn't keeping industry bigwigs from buzzing. Royal Caribbean purchased Celebrity for $500 million in cash and stock and is assuming Celebrity's $800 million debt. The talk about this, the biggest deal in cruise industry history, mainly concerns how Royal Caribbean plans to position its former competitor. The line has staunchly maintained its intention to operate the two companies as distinct brands, similar to the Carnival/Holland America alliance. "Two brands will enable us to deploy vessels and attract customers on an increasingly global basis," said Royal Caribbean chairman and CEO Richard Fain. However, skeptics are not in short supply, and many travel experts are quick to point out that Royal Caribbean has been positioning itself as a one-brand alternative ever since dumping Admiral Cruise lines some years ago. And when Royal Caribbean Cruise Line changed its name last year to Royal Caribbean International after more than 30 years, it clearly indicated the company's desire for greater reach. At the time, the line explained its name change this way: "We want to de-emphasize the cruising element, emphasizing ourselves as a relevant vacation alternative." In fact, many observers say that managing the two lines as one brand would be far more advantageous to the cruise line. The two lines, in some ways, are similar. They deliver similar levels of amenities and operate in similar markets, with some overlap in itineraries. Both cruise the Caribbean, the Panama Canal, Bermuda and Alaska. There are some differences as well. Celebrity, a particularly well-regarded line, offers larger cabins and a somewhat more luxurious cruise. It is chiefly known for its food. The buyout will add five ships and 8,200 berths to Royal Caribbean, whose fleet will include 20 ships and 38,000 berths by the year 2000, including five vessels on order. …

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