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  • Writer's pictureJason Leppert

Touring Cruise Builds with Dad

Photo by Ben Souza

One of the most fascinating aspects of the cruise industry is the actual building of its innovative ships.

I’ve now had the privilege of visiting three international shipyards, and I’ve twice shared the experience with my father who is a residential building contractor, fellow gear-head and cruise nerd.

I’ll never forget my first shipyard visit in 2012, when I went to Meyer Werft in Papenburg, Germany to see Disney Cruise Line’s then-new Disney Fantasy under final construction.

After a long three-hour drive, the ship’s majestic bow emerged mysteriously from the fog through the windshield of my transport van, marking my glorious first look.

The ship had already been floated out of the enclosed building hall for its outfitting at the adjacent dock, but we still had the opportunity to tour the entire facility. Pieces of Norwegian Cruise Line’s Norwegian Breakaway were taking shape, and a massive portion of Celebrity Cruises’ Celebrity Reflection was also erected in full height in the dry basin, completely sheltered within the huge hangar-like edifice.

Only half the ship’s length was complete as the Fantasy previously occupied the remainder of the hall. Imagine then a cross-section of the Reflection’s forward third. That’s the amazing sight we beheld.

Of course, touring the insides of the Disney Fantasy itself was the biggest treat as I had never stepped aboard a Disney ship before. I was like a kid in a candy store taking in everything (though I regretted that my dad was not there that time.)

He is a self-employed general contractor specializing in residential carpentry, and I’ve had the unique chance of growing up under his tutelage. I’ve learned quite a lot of building skills and insight over the years from him, so I had to call him immediately after the shipyard tour to share my excitement.

Thankfully, my dad has been able to tag along on my two shipyard visits since to STX France in Saint-Nazaire and Fincantieri in Monfalcone, Italy.

At the former, Royal Caribbean International showed off its Harmony of the Seas while the Symphony of the Seas was prepared behind. Also present at the yard was the building progress of MSC Cruises’ MSC Meraviglia.

At the latter, MSC Cruises presented the construction of MSC Seaside as well as the keel-laying ceremony for its MSC Seaview sister-ship. Meanwhile, Princess Cruises’ Majestic Princess was docked across the way as it received its final touches.

The two trips were a blast as my dad and I both consider them to be some of the greatest highlights in our entire cruising experience.

As builders ourselves, we fully appreciate every nuance of crafting the main superstructure and infilling it with the smallest details.

Of course, the difference in scale between a house and a mega-ship is mind-blowing. Standing below the keel of the Symphony of the Seas was a testament to the ship’s dramatic stature, not to mention one of our favorite photo-ops.

Being present for such ship births—not to be confused with berths—makes the vessels all that much more special once they eventually set sail. The Disney Fantasy honestly feels like my baby, as the first I ever saw under construction in person. And our ship family is ever growing.

I am forever grateful to my parents for originally sharing cruising with me so that I could study it from a very early age. And I’m particularly thankful to my dad for imparting so much construction knowledge over the years that I can also understand the technical workings and hardware behind the software.

Thus, it truly is an honor to now share with him shipyards all while gaining additional insight from him in the process.

Gear-heads and cruise nerds forever, dad!

This post first appeared on TravelPulse.

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