The gradual evolution of passenger ship design from ocean liners to cruise ships frequently generates passionate debate between Ocean Liner aficionados and the Cruise Ship confraternity.
However, an ancillary subject that deserves attention relates to imaginative projects that appear and grab the headlines every now and again. One such (unrealised) project, which was suggested in 1998, was for a 200,000- ton floating city, The Saltire, which would house 7,500 people. The foremost British (Scottish) designer of these next-generation cruise ships was John McNeece, who unveiled an initiative, a futuristic “Cruise Bowl” project. McNeece believed that for too long the cruise industry had been driven by engineering, rather than marketing.
According to him, most cruise ships remain true to a tradition stretching back almost 100 years, from which he felt they should now break free. McNeece’s vision, and that of designers like him, was quite different. ‘If the industry is to realise its full potential,’ he said ‘marketers must set the challenges for designers, engineers and shipbuilders to follow.’
Meeting the challenges that McNeece and his US counterparts foresaw would change the nature of the cruise market. If they were right, the cruise ship of the future would be a destination in its own right, rather than just a luxurious means of transport. The new generation of ships would be designed not to take passengers anywhere in particular, but to bring them together and entertain them, or provide them with unrivalled business facilities. Essentially a massive floating venue, the Cruise Bowl, was the result of market surveys McNeece conducted in Europe and the US to find out what a younger generation of passengers want from a holiday.
At 427m long, with a beam of 360m and capacity for 12,000 people, it would be a 500,000gt vessel.
Passengers would be ferried to and from the craft on a pair of satellite vessels, themselves large in comparison with many conventional cruise ships. On board the Cruise Bowl, they would attend sporting events such as tennis matches or basketball, or go to rock concerts, ceremonies and award evenings.
‘The typical shipboard holiday has remained unchanged for years,’ said McNeece. ‘You get a holiday on a ship with some entertainment thrown in. What we are proposing with the Cruise Bowl is something completely different, in which guests are attracted to sporting events, concerts or conventions, and the cruise becomes an add-on.
‘Instead of taking a rock band or orchestra on tour to several different venues, the Cruise Bowl would travel round the coast and host events in different parts of the country.’This cruise ship of the future would also break new ground in the use of novel lightweight materials, construction techniques and propulsion systems.