#PortRecordBroken- Dublin Port has again broken its own record this month as the largest ever ship to dock Royal Princess called this morning which saw the massive 142,000 tonnes cruiseship surpass previous title holder MSC Splendida, writes Jehan Ashmore.
Royal Princess towering all 19 decks is the largest cruiseship (in terms of gross tonnage) to visit Dublin Port. She had cancelled a second call off Dun Laoghaire Harbour as previously reported for today and where the Princess Cruises ship instead is on her maiden call to the capital's port.
It is only a fortnight ago since the 137,000 tonnes MSC Splendida (18 decks) made maritime history in Dublin Port as the largest vessel of any type to berth albeit in reverse! She subsequently made a repeat call on Thursday just gone.
The French built MSC Splendida with 3,200 passenger (600 more on the Royal) capacity cruiseship still holds the port's record for longest cruiseship at 333m but by only 3m more than Royal Princess which too required 'reversing' astern. This was due to the confines of the turning circle that prevented conventional berthing leading into Alexandra Basin West.
Such skilful berthing procedures by going astern required pilots in advance to undergo simulator exercises in the National Maritime College of Ireland (NMCI) Ringaskiddy, Cork.
This involved a rendez-vous in central Dublin Bay as the 'Royal' approched the shipping channel and was turned by port sister tugs, one stationed off the bow, the other within feet of the transom. Also astern the cutter Camac having earlier dispatched a pilot on board the first Princess Cruises ship to exceed 1,000ft long.
To give an indication of the sheer size of Royal Princess she is 330m long, 44m (155ft) in width and draws a draught of 8.5m (28ft) same as 'Splendida'.
Having seen both massive cruiseships in Alexandra Basin West (at same berth), overall MSC Splendida seems more impressive due to her more angular stern and given she is 6m wider on the beam than Royal Princess. She has a much shorter fo'c'slle, i.e. the distance between the bridge and the bow whereas Splendida has a more graceful pronounced prow.
The Royal Princess is some 100,000 tonnes larger to her namesake predecessor which called to Dublin Port during the early 1990's. That 1984 built Royal Princess was 44,000 tonnes and one of the largest cruiseships to have docked in Dublin Port in which I was able to make a port visit and was highly impressed of the ship completed in a Finnish shipyard.
She was pioneering in that she had many cabins fitted with balconies which was trend-setting then yet now is expected on so many cruiseships.
It was not until 2004 that the port's milestone of 100,000 tonnes was broken as previously reported by the same operator's Grand Princess which really launched the benchmark and has ever since as the leadship 'Grand' class became the most frequent and largest cruiseships to call. Royal Princess design origins are a continued evolution of the 'Grand' class.
The first 'Royal' (not a 'Grand' class) was christened by the late Diana, Princess of Wales, noting Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge likewise named the current 2013 built cruiseship.
On board Features of Royal Princess
So what's onboard Royal Princess, the largest ever passenger ship built in Italy which was launched from the Cantieri Navalli Italiani yard in Malfalcone. To start off with she has a two-deck high Princess Theatre located forward with seating for 925 and all with unobstructed sight lines.
Keeping to the theme of entertainment, there's also an on board passenger participation T.V. Studio broadcasting programmes almost all-day. The broadcast can also be watched live in all 1,780 cabins of which 81% feature private balconies.
The massive cruiseship's 19 decks tower above Alexandra Basin's lighthouse: Photo: Jehan Ashmore
At that percentage, that figure is very high proportion given this mass-market ship is where Princess Cruises are offering to promote as many cabins with balconies as possible.
The social focus of Royal Princess is centred on the Piazza, a three-deck high atrium located appropriately amidships which is 50% larger than other fleetmates and boasts panoramic lifts, sweeping staircases that start from a marble floor. Also located at the ships main meeting point is the no doubt popular gelateria serving ice-creams and a seafood outlet.
Decks 5-7 is where all the main public facilities are and where three 600-seater main dining rooms are located. In addition to the operators customary Sabatini Italian Restaurent seating 120, Alfredo's Restaurant and Wheeler's Bar.
Above the passenger decks are 7 cabin decks and the top three alone cater for sporting activities where there is an adult-only pool, while teenagers have their own space. What is open to all is the SeaWalk, a cantilevered walkway on Deck 16 which juts 28ft out from the amidships superstructure.
'Route 66' on board the biggest at sea film HD screen 34ft x 20ft. Photo: Jehan Ashmore
This vertigo-inducing feature forms part of the same deck's main outdoor pool where in the evening there is a water and light show. Also located here is the largest at sea HD screen, which runs films from the giant 34ft X 20ft screen.
Royal Princess notably has a far more graceful stern than Spledida. The decks are terraced and are also in complete contrast to the 'Grand'-class as previously reported which came complete with a seemingly precarious aft-mounted Skywalker's Nightclub overlooking the stern.
The cruiseship is scheduled to depart at 7pm.