September 12, 2003
Austal cruise yachts now in service
The 74-passenger sisters are the first examples of Austal Ships' new Cruise Yacht product line, so-named because they provide passengers with the most desirable features of a private motor yacht experienceat a price more in keeping with traditional cruising.
"Tu Moana" and "Tia Moana" were purpose-designed and built by the diversified Australian shipbuilder for Bora Bora Cruises. They offer seven day/six night cruises from the island of Bora Bora and beyond to the calm lagoons of neighboring islands of Taha'a, Raiatea and Huahine.
With super yacht exterior styling by the Austal design team, the 69 metre monohulls have interiors developed by Austal in conjunction with Bora Bora Cruises and Tillberg Design and are a harmonious blend of modern and traditional, European and Polynesian.
The final result clearly differentiates the Austal cruise yacht product from the megaships that are found in the mainstream cruise markets.
Each cruise yacht has 37 spacious guest cabins, all featuring private ensuite facilities and stunning views through large picture windows. The 16 square meter cabins incorporate the interior decor and designer features that guests would expect to find in a four or five star hotel.
Modern fixtures such as large, bulkhead mounted flat screen television monitors, DVD players and satellite telephones are complemented by the classic elegance and warmth of richly colored timber veneers and trim details.
In addition, the cabins are all individually climate controlled and incorporate other practicalities such as large clothes closets, writing desks, minibar, personal safe and under bed luggage stowage.
To provide accommodation flexibility, most cabins can be swapped between twin and double berth configuration. This is particularly important given the tremendous potential for whole-yacht charters by incentive, conference and other groups--a market that Bora Bora Cruises is already pursuing with success. Families are also catered for, with four cabins on the main deck being fitted with an extra child's bed that doubles as a settee.
Located on main deck and easily provisioned from large dry, refrigerated and freezer stores on the deck below, the galley is comprehensively equipped with commercial kitchen quality appliances so that all passengers can be served in a single sitting.
Further aft and featuring large windows so that diners can maintain their connection to the spectacular surroundings, the restaurant is arranged around a central, granite-topped buffet unit beneath which there is ample storage in timber veneer faced cupboards. Layout flexibility means the restaurant can cater equally well for couples on romantic getaways, medium sized parties of friends both new and old, and larger settings for corporate and other groups.
Complementing the main restaurant is a covered outdoor dining/relaxation area on the aft deck. This consists of a sweeping cushioned lounge that curves around a series of pedestal tables and chairs. As with all external passenger areas the deck is covered with a synthetic teak flooring that provides the look and feel of timber without the cost and maintenance. The laced canvas sails used to line the deck overhang above are an equally attractive and practical solution.
Stairways either side of the lounge curve down to the aft swim platform and watersports marina which houses two tenders, a fleet of sea kayaks, snorkeling equipment and outdoor furniture that can be taken ashore to allow the entire guest complement to enjoy meals on the beach.
Austal's Sales and Product Development Manager, Glenn Williams, says this highlights another attractive feature of cruise yachts--ease of access to the water for swimming, diving and other water activities while the vessel is at anchor.
"On a cruise ship, if you want to swim you either head to a pool which is just like a pool ashore, or queue for a bus or transfer boat to take you to the beach," he says. "In contrast on an Austal cruise yacht guests can simply dive into the sea and later easily reboard the vessel via the swim platform to enjoy a refreshing drink at the bar. What's more the shallow draft means the yachts can approach close to shore enabling passengers to swim ashore to explore."
An onboard fitness center islocated on the main deck just forward of the central foyer and reception area, where the floor is adorned with Polynesian motifs such as turtles. The curved staircase leading to the deck above blends function and art, with a mosaic tiled feature wall providing a backdrop to the stairs themselves, which incorporate stylish frosted glass stair treads highlighted by concealed lighting.
In addition to 14 passenger cabins, the upper deck includes indoor and outdoor public spaces both forward and aft.
Pride of place on the foredeck belongs to a four-person spa with a jade marble finish and set in an upstand that repeats the mosaic tile finish found elsewhere onboard. Either side of the spa are built-in lounges, while a centreline door through the forward bulkhead leads into a dedicated reading room.
Running the full width of the superstructure and overlooking the spa lounge, the reading room seats 12 in comfort in a mixture of armchairs and double sofas. In addition to a selection of books, passengers are provided with self-serve tea and coffee and have access to internet connections.
At the opposite end of this deck is an enclosed lounge bar and entertainment area that opens out onto an al fresco sitting area. Together these spaces can seat a full passenger load, with table and chair arrangements inside and out, fixed lounges outside and bar stools and sofas inside. The bar itself has a timber veneer front and stone-look top, and is equipped with a full range of bar equipment including under counter refrigerators, glass washer, ice cube dispenser and espresso machine.
The forward section of the bridge deck houses a modern wheelhouse, aft of which are two comfortable cabins for the senior officers. Twenty-four passengers can also sleep and relax in comfort in the 12 cabins on this uppermost accommodation deck, which also features extensive outdoor deck area.
The sun deck provides magnificent views around the horizon, and is certain to be one of the most popular areas onboard. A series of teak outdoor lounges are arranged forward on either side, while an eight person spa is partially shaded by a canvas sail.
Between the twin stacks and protected from above by a distinctive aluminium wing is the bar. Like the spa, this is faced with mosaic tiles while the bar top is lacquered teak. Five stainless steel stools face the bar, which also serves a separate shaded sitting area with curved lounges and tables on the aft section of the deck.
Each of Bora Bora Cruises' vessels will operate with a total of 37 crew-- one for every two passengers.
The bulk of the crew accommodation is located in the forward section of the lower deck, with 32 crew housed in a mixture of four and two berth cabins, and separate double cabins for the First Officer, Cruise Director and Chef. Other facilities on this level include a laundry, ship's office and the crew mess, which is served from the main galley on the deck above.
The machinery space houses twin MTU diesels, each of which drives a fixed pitch propeller to give cruising speeds up to 14 knots. The electrical load is handled by three diesel generator sets. A 100 kW bow thruster is fitted to enhance maneuverability--important when working in lagoons, around reefs and close to shore.
The key to safely accessing these cruising grounds is the shallow draft of the aluminum monohulls, while bilge keels and active fin stabilizers ensure that comfort is maintained during the four short ocean crossings in each itinerary. These transits are typically undertaken in the very early hours of the morning, enabling guests to enjoy sunrise in the tranquillity of a new lagoon.
Austal believes Cruise Yachts are a logical way for operators to develop markets that are not part of the mainstream cruising scene. According to Glenn Williams that may mean providing guests luxury at a premium ticket price or running more affordable cruises.