If you’re a regular visitor to our blog pages, you’ll no doubt have read a story or two about cruise ships getting makeovers and refits while in dry dock. But what does this mean? What happens? Does a ship have to enter dry dock even if it’s not receiving a new look? Here’s a look at what goes on.
What is it?
A dry dock, sometimes referred to as a drydock, is just what it sounds like; a floodable basin which the ship can sail into, which can then be drained once the ship’s in so it then rests on a dry platform, where it can be worked on. As well as being built this way, ships are maintained and repaired while in dry dock.
How does it work?
Much in the same way as a canal’s lock system. For obvious reasons, the dry dock will always be located close to the sea or body of water which the cruise ship usually occupies and will be flooded to the same level as this water, so that the ship can be safely floated in and positioned on the platform. Once the ship’s safely in, the gates of the dry dock close and the water is let out, leaving the ship raised above the now dry floor of the dock, ready to be worked on.
It depends. Even if a ship is not scheduled for a revamp, it will need to go into dry dock, just as you would service your car regularly to ensure everything’s running smoothly. Newer ships only tend to dry dock every three to five years, while older ships are in need of a little more TLC and enter dry dock every two years. During a scheduled maintenance dry dock, the ship’s hull is inspected and cleaned and sometimes repainted, while the vessel’s propellers and thrusters are also checked. If the vessel is scheduled for a makeover, it will stay in dry dock longer as the more cosmetic work is done. During this time, ships can have all their public areas redecorated and be fitted out with all-new features and even stateroom configurations, during more intensive overhauls.
What about the crew?
If you’re a crew member, it’s usually up to you what you do during a dry dock. Most cruise lines will allow you to disembark for the duration of the dock, but this will be at your own expense. As most routine dry docks last for around two weeks, this could work out OK if you want to turn it into a holiday. However, there’s also the option of staying aboard, albeit on a minimal salary, as many of the day-to-day tasks you’d usually undertake don’t apply when the ship’s in dry dock. Duties if you do decide to stay aboard include cleaning, fire duties and staffing the bar to service the contractors working on the ship. Speaking of contractors, there will be a lot of them about, so crew members staying aboard are usually restricted as to where they can be on-board during dry dock.
By Simon Brotherton