Passenger Boats: From small cruise ships to tour boats, industry has a good year

Two ends of the passenger vessel spectrum: Top, Chesapeake Shipbuilding’s 220-foot vessel American Star; above, a 65-foot whale watcher from Island Boats of Jeanerette. La. (Courtesy of American Cruise Lines/Courtesy of Island Boats)

The non-ferry segment of the passenger vessel industry continues to build a wide variety of vessels, highlighted by a new overnight cruise ship delivered in June.

“The industry is definitely expanding as new owners come in and existing companies expand their fleets,” said John Groundwater, executive director of the Passenger Vessel Association, a trade group.

“We continue to be busy with projects ranging from private megayachts to smaller (Subchapter) T boats,” said Andy Lebet, vice president of DeJong & Lebet, Naval Architects of Jacksonville, Fla.

American shipbuilders construct very few overnight cruise ships, but one exception is Chesapeake Shipbuilding of Salisbury, Md., which has built several small ships for American Cruise Lines, of Haddam, Conn. Its most recent delivery is the 220-foot American Star, with 50 cabins for 100 passengers. The vessel joins a fleet of four, also built by Chesapeake; American Spirit, a similar-size vessel, was delivered in 2006.

With a draft of 6.3 feet, these vessels can go places larger cruise ships can’t. The company conducts voyages of six to seven days from Maine to Florida, with longer cruises of up to 14 days on repositioning trips.

American Star has 50 staterooms on three decks. Space includes a dining room that can accommodate all passengers at a single seating. There are four large lounges and an open top deck for games or relaxation.

In the hull, a pair of Caterpillar C-32 engines develop 1,400 hp each of propulsion power. Gears, by ZF, spin a pair of 48-inch-diameter pitch propellers; speed is 14 knots. Steering is electro-hydraulic, by Ko-belt. A 200-hp Thrustmaster in the bow helps with docking in small ports.

Electrical generation for ship’s power and hotel load is handled by two Series 60S MTU gensets rated at 250 kW each and a 1,660-kW Onan unit. The vessel has a watermaker to supplement the 15,000-gallon freshwater tank in the hull.

American Cruise Lines has two vessels on order, slightly bigger than American Star, at 130 passengers each. Deliveries are scheduled for 2008 and 2009.

On Puget Sound, All American Marine of Seattle has been building vessels for excursions and whale-watching in the Pacific Northwest and Alaska.

Among its newbuilds is the 149-passenger Hoku Nai’a for Paradise Cruise Ltd., which will offer excursions off Oahu, Hawaii. The all-aluminum Teknicraft catamaran is 65 feet by 23.5 feet. Delivery was in July.

The company also delivered the 83-foot-by-29.2-foot Aialik Voyager, another Teknicraft cat, to the Kenai Fjords National Park. The 149-passenger vessel will be used on eco-tours out of Seward, Alaska.

Power comes from a pair of Caterpillar C-32 engines each generating 1,400 hp, with a cruising speed of 27 knots and a top speed of 30.

All American is also building a 65-foot tour vessel for the Tennessee Aquarium.

Other recent deliveries include Tall Ship Majestic, a three-masted schooner for Voyager Cruises of Mystic, Conn., from Freeport Shipbuilding of Freeport, Fla.;  Katie Underwood, a 70-foot passenger catamaran that will run between the Georgia mainland and Sapelo Island, from Geo Shipyard of New Iberia, La.; and Wendella, an 80-foot tour boat for Wendella Sightseeing of Chicago. The builder was Blount Boats, of Warren, R.I.

By Professional Mariner Staff