The nuts and bolts of cutting and stretching a ship

MIAMI -- Ship lengthening is not a new tool for lines to update a ship’s look and add more revenue opportunities -- Royal Caribbean and Norwegian Cruise Line have stretched ships before.

But the process for the Enchantment of the Seas is unique because Royal Caribbean will insert the ship’s new section during a drydock.

One of the reasons for using a drydock is because it takes less time. “Time out of service has progressively become more expensive,” said CEO Richard Fain.

A computer simulation showed how it will work. The ship will back into the dock and a barge with the new midsection will float in.

After draining water from the dock, the ship will be cut and separated, the forward section pushed forward on skids and the midsection pushed into the space.

Then the ship will be fused back together and “ready to go,” said Kelly Gonzalez, Royal Caribbean International’s director of new-build design. The process will take about a month.

The computer simulation made stretching look easy, but it’s really complex. This ship is the largest vessel to be cut and lengthened.

And because the ship will be about 30 feet longer than one of the locks on the Panama Canal, the Enchantment’s bow will feature a “hinge” that enables the tip of the prow to flip up while the ship is in the lock.

The Enchantment’s suspension-bridge arcs above the pool deck, in particular, took time to design and refine, since the arcs are a structural piece of the ship.

Royal Caribbean hired U.K. engineering and design company Atkins, the firm that designed the sail-shaped Burj Al Arab hotel in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, to produce the design. -- R.T.