Kevin Douglas, director of newbuildings and fleet design for Royal Caribbean Cruises , is consumed by thoughts of fire.

As the current director of the revitalization of Royal Caribbean's Majesty of the Seas, he rarely gets off the ship, partly because of his endless concern about the possibility of fires, the biggest risk to the Majesty as it undergoes a radical revitalization at the Grand Bahama shipyard in Freeport, Bahamas.

But the possibility of shipboard fires is not the only thing that keeps the British national awake at night. Douglas is also preoccupied by the myriad calamities that can happen when the safety of 947 workers and 986 crewmembers is at stake, when hundreds of containers of material and garbage need to be accounted for and handled correctly, and when $36 million of work needs to be completed in under one month. 

Such is the life of the men and women in charge of the slew of major cruise ship renovations being done lately. Even as Douglas grapples with the terrifying thought of what would happen if the shipyard workers went on strike during this renovation, he is on the phone with Pullmantur and Royal Caribbean executives discussing the upcoming refurbishments of the Celebrity Zenith and soon-to-be Celebrity Journey.

While most people only get to see the before and after product of these massive undertakings, Royal Caribbean invited a group of 15 travel agents for a glimpse of the Majesty in the midst of being completely torn apart.

On Jan. 24, the group of agents, all high producers for the Majesty, donned hard hats and steel-toed shoes to witness Day 12 of the refurbishment of the 15-year-old vessel. Scheduled to be completed as of Feb. 5, the ship will reenter service on Feb. 12.

The agents were treated to the rare occasion of standing under, and being able to sign with permanent marker, the ship's dark red hull before the dry-dock slip filled with water for a float-out. They were given tours by Eric Lewis, project manager of Majesty of the Seas Revitalization -- and someone who really never gets off the ship -- and Douglas himself.  

Agent Uf Tukel, of WMPH Vacations in Delray Beach, Fla., spoke for many of the retailers when he walked onto the ship and wondered aloud, "how in the hell are they going to get all that finished in two weeks?

"It looks like they have a long way to go," he said. "But you know they'll hit their deadlines."

Indeed, the ship appeared to be years from completion, full of tons of refuse, exposed wires, dust, containers, exposed floor where carpet once was, and graveyards of old workout equipment and furniture. There was little resemblance to any functioning cruise ship interior.

But according to Douglas, the refurb is on schedule, precisely because of the meticulous organization of manpower, equipment and supplies that began six months before the dry-dock.

"We have to have the men, the materials, and the information in the same place, or it isn't going to happen," he said. "If you don't feed the monster, it won't get finished."

The Majesty has a Liberian container ship and the Atlantis II, the research vessel that launched the first exploration of the Titanic wreck in 1986, for company.

In many ways, the Majesty is functioning as it always has. Much of its crew of waiters, cooks, stewards, pursers and officers -- all in uniform -- are still aboard. But their guests are contractors and laborers, all living onboard, eating in dining areas and hanging out at the one bar that is kept open and where only "dry-dock dollars" are accepted.

The contractors are Finnish and were flown over to work at Grand Bahama, rather than losing an entire month sailing the ship to Finland and back. That and the fact, Douglas pointed out, that it's "bloody freezing there this time of year."

Walking through the ship, Douglas explained that the most challenging areas of conversions were outdoor spaces being converted into indoor ones, such as the Windjammer Marketplace. An area that needed only tables and chairs suddenly needs Freon lines for air-conditioning, insulation, fire-detection devices, drainage and so forth.

The agents brought aboard were excited that a ship revitalized to that extent would enter the short-itinerary market.

"I can't wait to see her," said Kimberly Gray, of Travelport in Dunedin, Fla. "It's a fantastic addition to the three- and four-day market to spur interest among new cruisers. This will differentiate the product from its competitors."

Geoffrey Silvers, president of Viva Voyage in Hollywood, Fla., agreed.

"The visit to the shipyard totally redefined the meaning of ship revitalization to me," he said. "I envisioned seeing updated carpeting, furniture and bedding. I never envisioned seeing all of the public areas demolished. It will be a completely new ship with many of the amenities of the newer vessels."

What to expect

The Majesty is the third Sovereign-class ship in the Royal Caribbean fleet to be refurbished, after the Monarch of the Seas in 2003, and the Sovereign of the Seas in 2004. 

The dining rooms are being overhauled and will be renamed the Starlight and Moonlight rooms.

The Windjammer is being totally rebuilt, and will go from the traditional Windjammer to a two-level, indoor/outdoor Windjammer Marketplace on Decks 11 and 12 that will house Royal Caribbean's new signature restaurants: Sorrento's Pizza, the Compass Deli and Johnny Rockets, all upstairs. The original Windjammer on Deck 11 is connected by an atrium and staircase.

Cafe Latte-tudes, a coffee shop, and the new Freeze ice-cream shop, sporting a toppings mix-in concept similar to that used at ice cream chain Cold Stone Creamery, will take over the former Beauty Shop on Deck 5. 

Royal Caribbean's Latin-themed watering hole, Bolero's, will serve mojitos in a sunken bar that will be handicapped accessible. The casino is being revitalized with new carpets, window coverings and a refurbished bar. 

The spa and fitness centers will be relocated from Deck 10 to Deck 9 and will feature a new SpaBar, with technology that can suggest skincare and skin products (all of which can be purchased onboard) for all skin types. The spa will have 10 more treatment rooms and a teeth-whitening area.

The ship's staterooms are being totally rebuilt and will boast new furniture and fixtures; all will also have Wi-Fi access, flat-screen TVs and bathrooms with new hardware. The cabins will get the enhanced bedding being installed fleetwide on Royal Caribbean vessels.

The Majesty will also have new and expanded conference and meeting centers with high-tech multimedia systems for enhanced audiovisual presentations.

To contact reporter Johanna Jainchill, send e-mail to [email protected].

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