Captain Marco Fortezze and Passenger
Services Director Peter Hollinson talk
about transforming thier ship.
Richard H. Wagner
In January 2009, Princess Cruises took the Caribbean
Princess out of service for three weeks in order to do a
massive revitalization project. Considering that Caribbean
Princess was just shy of five years old at the time and was a
popular ship, this was a bold move. Two people who were
intimately involved with the project were Captain Marco
Fortezze and Passenger Services Director Peter Hollinson. I
sat down with them and asked them to share their thoughts
about the project.
Caribbean Princess is a unique ship. She is based on a
design that was first introduced with the Grand Princess in
1998. Princess then built two more ships in Italy to the Grand
Princess design and two in Japan to a slightly modified
version of the Grand’s design. With Caribbean Princess, the
design was changed to include an additional deck. As a
result, she is sometimes referred to as the first of the Super
Grand-class ships. Subsequently, Princess has built three
more ships beginning with Crown Princess with the
additional deck but with a somewhat different interior and
exterior configuration than Caribbean Princess. As a result,
Caribbean Princess is as Mr. Hollinson pointed out a “bridge
between the Grand and Crown class.”
The Reason Why
Caribbean Princess has been a very popular ship since the
day she was delivered, consistently sailing at or near
capacity. Then, why spend millions of dollars to change her?
Doesn’t that go against the old adage: “if it isn’t broke, don’t
The answer appears to be competition. “My perception is
that five years in the life of a cruise ship in this day and age is
quite a long time. Things develop so fast in this industry,”
Indeed, in the last five years, the world’s shipyards have
produced a steady stream of new ships with new features and
amenities. Thus, to stay in the first tier of the market,
Caribbean Princess needed to change.
The impetus for change came not just from other brands but
from within Princess itself. As noted earlier, since
Caribbean Princess was delivered, Princess has built three
new ships. While they were built to a similar design, they
have features that Caribbean Princess did not. “Crown
Princess and Emerald Princess were so popular that even
before they delivered Ruby Princess, the company realized
that if this ship were to be as popular as it was at the
beginning, it would have to offer similar amenities. People
having the choice of the Crown, Emerald, Ruby and the
Caribbean would say why go on Caribbean Princess if we
could go on a very similar ship and have added amenities.”
Preparing for The Project
The revitalization project was the result of several years of
planning. “All those departments ashore got together – -
Marine, Technical, Hotel - - and drew up plans well in
advance. There was a project manager, one of our technical
superintendents Steve Story. It was a combined effort from
all departments but there was one project manager looking
after all the contractors,” Hollison noted.
Most of the work was done by outside contractors, all of
whom lived onboard Caribbean Princess during the
revitalization. Workers were constantly coming and going
throughout the project as the need for their specific skills
arose and as their tasks ended.
This did not mean that the project was a three week vacation
for the ship’s crew. Since the ship was housing and feeding
the contractors as well as its own crew, “the cabin stewards
were doing their jobs, the waiters were doing their jobs and
the cooks were doing their jobs,” Captain Fortezze
explained. “The engineers were busy doing the engine
repairs and maintenance that we usually do during a dry dock.
We were very busy cleaning the ship. There was a team of
people to clean the ship 24 hours a day. All of the garbage
was collected, put in skiffs and taken off the ship. To keep
the ship secure and safe, there was a crew working as the fire
watch, walking around the ship to make sure everything was
“The nice part of a dry dock is that you see everybody helping
each other.” Differences in rank and department are largely
ignored. “Everybody works together. You see a waiter and a
cabin steward doing something together.”
For Captain Fortezze, the mornings and often the afternoons
were spent in meetings coordinating the work. Between
meetings, he would walk around the ship to see how the work
was progressing. “You would see large progress from
morning to afternoon, afternoon to evening.”
The bulk of the work was to be done in a dry dock in Freeport
in the Bahamas. However, because the ship was only
scheduled to be out of service for three weeks, time was of
the essence. Thus, the work began in San Juan, Puerto Rico
where the ship completed her last cruise. “As soon as the last
passenger had disembarked the ship, the ship was completely
covered up with plastic in order not to ruin the carpet and
anything else that was around. Some areas were completely
closed off to protect them even better. Everybody was
working on the changes already. We arrived in dry dock with
most of the team onboard for the revitalization. The process
was long - - 24 hours a day.”
The centerpiece of the Crown-class ships is the Piazza. This
is the area at the base of the multi-story central atrium and is a
combination entertainment, dining and drinking venue. During
the day and evening, different acts appear in the central area.
Meanwhile, guests have specialty coffees and pastries or a
drink at the International Café that surrounds the central area
on the port side. On the starboard side, there is Vines, a wine
bar that also serves sushi and tappas.
On Caribbean Princess, this area was called the Grand Plaza
and contained a bar, the shore excursions desk, the library
and the future cruise sales office. The central area had a
beautiful marble floor and detailed metal work, which cried
out to be preserved. Consequently, the workers had to
completely change one part of this space while being careful
to protect and preserve the remainder. “It was an art.”
Captain Fortezze recalls. “The space they were working in
was completely limited.”
Not only did the workers have to contend with limited space
but they had to work according to a rigorous schedule. Since
time was limited, the workers putting in a pipe to a wet bar
had to estimate how long it would take them to install the
pipe. At the end of the estimated time, another team would
arrive to install the bar itself. Putting the schedule together
and coordinating everyone’s efforts “was like a puzzle.”
The second major area of work is referred to onboard as “the
Swop.” The Grand Casino, which had been located on Deck
Six, was moved to Deck Seven and the steakhouse specialty
restaurant that had occupied the space on Deck Seven was
moved to where the casino had been. This part of the project
also included building a new shore excursions desk, a shop, a
future cruise sales office, a Captain’s Circle office and seven
new suites on Deck Six.
“They stripped it down completely to the steel and built it up
again completely,” Captain Fortezze pointed out. This was
necessary because the work did not just involve changing the
décor. A new galley had to be built on Deck Six for the new
Crown Grill. This required new water pipes and a large air
conditioning pipe to draw the exhaust away from the galley.
Plumbing and electrical work also had to be done for the new
The third major revitalization area was on the open decks.
The Crown-class ships have a luxury, adults-only area on the
top deck at the forward end of the ship that is called the
Sanctuary. On Caribbean Princess, this area consisted of a
basketball court and a jogging track.
“Everything was taken off and the entire floor was redone
with green Astroturf. The area was closed off with a barrier
and glass. There is a new gazebo for massages. Plus, we
now have all new deck chairs.”
Not wanting to jettison the basketball court altogether, the
designers found a new home for it just aft of the funnel in an
area that had been the mini-golf course. Amongst other
things, this move involved building new outdoor stairways
leading up to the new Sports Court.
Since the designers did not wish to disappoint the ship’s
golfers, a new home for the ship’s golf offerings was found in
an observatory/sun bathing area amidships. In work that has
taken place since the ship returned to service, golf nets and a
putting area have been installed on top of this area while the
ship’s computerized virtual golf course is located inside.
Dry dock periods are typically times when work is done on
the more nautical aspects of a ship and this was no exception.
Caribbean Princess had her hull re-painted. “We went down
to the steel and re-painted with a new silicon paint. What
happens with this new paint is that there is no dirt on the hull
so there is no friction with the water.” The lack of friction
means that the ship’s engines do not have to work as hard to
achieve the desired speed thus saving fuel. “Fuel efficiency
is important these days. It is very good for the optimization of
fuel and speed as well. We are not talking five or six knots,
we are talking about a knot or two maximum. But in 24 hours
one knot is a lot.”
Even with the changes made during the revitalization,
Caribbean Princess remains distinct from the Crown-class
ships. Due to differences in her physical configuration,
various features such as the Crown Grill could not go into the
same location as they are on the Crowns. In addition, she has
new features that the others do not such as the oceanview
suites. “We have done this revitalization project and we have
brought in some Crown-class things - - the Sanctuary, for
example, the Piazza - - but we have retained the uniqueness of
Caribbean Princess,” Mr. Hollinson said.
But was the revitalization project a success? “It was the first
experience for Princess with this large revitalization. It
enhanced the product. I can see the difference,” concludes
Captain Fortezze. “I was the captain before and I am very
happy to be the captain after the change. It was already a
fantastic product but since we did this the passengers love it.
It is nice to talk to passengers who were onboard before and
after. They were all happy to see the changes. It was
beautiful but now, everything is warmer, everybody says.
They have found a different atmosphere onboard. The Piazza
is always full, morning, evening, anytime you walk through.
In the casino, there is more light [because it now has
windows]. The colors, everybody feels it is much more
Cruise Ship - Caribbean Princess - Cruise Ship Feature Article -Revitalization - page 1
Above: Captain Marco Fortezze
Below Passenger Services Director Peter
Above: The central area of the Piazza.
Above: The Crown Grill.
Below: The Grand Casino
Above: The Sanctuary
Below: The Sports Court.
Above: The new Shore Excursions Desk.
Below: A new suite.
A new combination library/internet cafe
was created adjacent to the Piazza.