Nova (1974–…): Season 44, Episode 11 - Ultimate Cruise Ship - full transcript

Weighing 54,000 gross tons and stretching over two football fields, the Seven Seas Explorer is no ordinary boat. Join pioneering shipbuilders as they endeavor to build the ultimate cruise ship. It will be decked with the finest gold, marble, and crystal and designed to offer guests the roomiest accommodations of any commercial cruise ship. However, engineering opulence is no easy feat. NOVA follows a pioneering team of ship builders as they embark on what is advertised to be a milestone in maritime engineering.

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NARRATOR:
With their c commanding presene
at sea,

today's cruise ships carry on
a long and historic tradition.

Long before jet planes,

ships were the only way
to travel the globe.

Today, they carry
thousands of people

and have become
a popular vacation choice.

Competition is intense,

with companies
building ever-bigger ships

to drive costs down.

But now in Italy,

a team of craftsmen
and engineers is taking on



a new kind
of shipbuilding challenge.

They are racing to build
the ultimate cruise ship--

a superliner,

finely crafted to
the most minute detail.

FRANK DEL RIO:
Well, I wanted to build

something unique, one-of-a-kind,

never to be repeated again.

NARRATOR:
But building
this record-breaking superliner

involves a series of unique
engineering challenges.

The ocean can be a deadly place.

How do you keep
hundreds of passengers safe

sailing far from shore
through violent storms

and rough swells?

And to complete the ship
on schedule,



the team must combine
time-honored tradition

with trailblazing technology.

PIERLUIGI PUNTER:
To build a ship is
a continuous pressure.

We cannot miss our target.

NARRATOR:
Inside the extraordinary race

to build the ultimate
cruise ship,

right now on NOVA.

NARRATOR:
Today in Genoa, Italy,

this team of construction
workers is starting work

building a brand new ship.

One that will present a new
and difficult set of challenges,

both technical and aesthetic.

For the team here
is constructing a cruise ship

they hope will set
a new standard.

In keeping with
maritime tradition,

a welder attaches rare coins
to the hull to bring luck...

That's a beautiful thing.

In nomine padre...

NARRATOR:
...and a priest provides
a blessing.

Engineers in this region
of Italy

have a formidable reputation.

They have been building ships
since medieval times.

But this job will present
new challenges

beyond anything
they've faced before.

The worldwide cruise market has
exploded over the past 25 years,

from under four million
passengers a year,

to over 22 million.

It's a $39 billion-a-year
industry.

Competition is fierce,
with companies building

ever-larger vessels
to drive prices down

and make cruising
more affordable than ever.

Why don't we just do
like... you know,

I'm doing a puzzle here.

NARRATOR:
But one cruise company
and its CEO, Frank Del Rio...

Just like that.

...are taking this ship in
another, more risky direction.

On deck four

we need four pieces.

My vision is very simple.

To make this the most luxurious
cruise ship ever built.

NARRATOR:
But is there a market for that?

Where many of the big cruise
ships hold

over 5,000 passengers,

this vessel,
the Seven Seas Explorer,

will carry just 750.

But they will be paying
top dollar

and their expectations
will be equally high.

They will be housed
in 375 suites.

And at the top will be
a 4,400 square-foot suite

that will go
for $10,000 a night.

Are there enough people willing
to spend enough money

to keep this venture afloat?

DEL RIO:
There is risk any time
you break barriers,

but these are calculated risks.

NARRATOR:
But this ambitious scheme is not
just a business challenge,

it's an engineering challenge

for the ship's designers
and builders.

First: luxury is heavy.

The marble and glass materials
needed to give the liner

its sumptuous feel
will add weight.

Engineers need to invent
clever ways to balance the ship

so it remains stable
in the water.

And there's another
even bigger challenge.

The ocean can be a deadly place.

Without making it too obvious,

engineers must devise
ingenious ways

to save passengers' lives

in the event of a fire
or a collision at sea.

(women screaming)

And there's a final challenge.

The engineers must meet
a tight deadline.

To fill the ship with customers,
tickets for the maiden voyage

will go on sale
before the liner is complete.

Canceling them will be costly.

That would cost us
in excess of $5 million

to the immediate bottom line,

and probably cost us
$25 million in lost reputation.

So an expensive proposition
that we won't let happen.

NARRATOR:
In Italy, it's the job

of engineer Pierluigi Punter
to deliver the ship on time.

PUNTER:
I am very proud to be in charge
of this project.

Several thousand people
will be involved,

but I will coordinate
all the activities,

from the starting of the design,
up to delivery.

I hope to survive.

(chuckles)

NARRATOR:
The pressure is on Pierluigi
and his team

to turn these sheets of steel
into a finished ship.

To deliver the ship on time,

Pierluigi has a detailed
and ambitious plan.

He will build his ship,
piece by piece, in a dry dock,

installing the engines
and machinery as it goes.

To save time, he must
simultaneously construct

a large section of the vessel
in another shipyard,

making sure
it will join up perfectly

to the rest of the ship.

Then the shipyard will build up
the decks to complete the hull,

put in the cabins...

...fit the windows,

and install
the navigation equipment.

To ensure it all works,
they will test everything

in a series of sea trials.

And finally complete
the interiors of the cabins

and public areas.

It's like building
a floating city,

and they only have 18 months
to do it.

Stage one.

The team needs
to cut and weld together

more than 12,000 tons of steel
to assemble the liner's hull--

the structure around which
the rest of the ship

will take shape.

To build the hull in time,

the team will employ
an ingenious technique.

In the past, ships were
constructed from the bottom up--

a bit like building a house.

Only once the hull was finished,

did they install
the ventilation,

electrical cables, pipes
and machinery.

But this method was slow,

too slow for today's
competitive environment.

PUNTER:
To build a ship
is a continuous pressure.

We have a penalty
on the contract

about the delay on delivery.

NARRATOR:
So to build the Explorer's hull,
Pierluigi is using a technique

developed in Japan in the 1950s,

made possible by the invention
of bigger, stronger cranes.

Workers will first assemble
the steel plates

into sections one deck high,
building them upside-down

to make it easy
to install the pipes, cables,

and ventilation as they go.

Cranes will then flip the pieces
over and join several together

to form a megablock.

It will take 53 megablocks
to construct the Explorer.

Once each block is complete,

giant cranes will lift it
into position.

Using this "megablock" method,
the team can work

on many parts of the ship
at the same time,

speeding up production.

ch megablock
begins life in a giant bath.

Here, a computer-controlled
plasma cutter

cuts the steel to shape.

The machine's nozzle fires
a 30,000 degree Fahrenheit jet

of superheated gas towards the
steel at 20,000 feet per second.

This melts and cuts the steel
underwater,

which keeps it cool
and prevents distortion.

But the next critical job
must be completed by hand.

250 skilled welders
join theieces together

to form each megablock,

with welds as strong
as the steel itself.

It takes about four weeks

to build each
of the 53 megablocks.

This method of construction
is fast, but not fast enough

for the schedule.

So Pierluigi has a plan
to speed up construction.

PUNTER:
We decided to build

part of the ship
in another shipyard

to reduce the production time,

and to take advantage of the
capacity of the two shipyards

at the same time.

NARRATOR:
While the shipyard in Genoa
is building most of the vessel,

a large section has been
assembled 400 miles away

at a second yard
in Castellammare di Stabia.

This shipyard sits in the shadow
of Mount Vesuvius.

It has been building ships
for hundreds of years.

Over the last eight months,
the workers here have assembled

11 megablocks to form this
200-foot section of the ship.

Now they face
a daunting challenge.

They must launch their section
into the sea.

A tug will then tow it up the
coast to the shipyard in Genoa,

where welders must attach it
to their section of the vessel.

If the plan works,
it will cut eight weeks

off the construction schedule.

Before they launch the section,

surveyor Antonio Vairo
must carry out one final check.

For the last eight months,

he has been measuring
the dimensions of this section.

ANTONIO VAIRO (translated):
We are measuring the length
of the section

to verify that it matches
the plan's dimensions.

NARRATOR:
This section must be
within a quarter of an inch

of the planned size, or it won't
fit onto the rest of the ship.

(translated):
It is essential, because
if what they've made in Genoa

and what we've made here
do not match,

this will cause
serious problems later.

NARRATOR:
The shipbuilders here
are also concerned

about launching this section
of the liner,

because sliding it down
this slope into the sea

is a risky maneuver.

In 1907 another Italian shipyard
proudly launched its new ship,

the SS Principessa Jolanda.

She slid smoothly into the sea,

and then promptly capsized.

The shipyard had somehow
neglected to install

any stabilizing weight
in the bottom of the hull

to lower her center of gravity.

To prevent their section
from capsizing,

the workers here have built it

with a heavy double-bottomed
hull...

...and installed water and fuel
tanks low down,

to ensure that the vessel
will be completely stable

when launched.

Workers cover the slipway
with a thin coating of wax.

Then a layer of grease
to make sure

that the section of ship doesn't
get stuck.

The stage is all set
for the next day's launch.

8:00 a.m.

Three hours to launch.

MAN (on speaker):
Tre, due, uno.

Via!

NARRATOR:
A team of workers starts driving
wedges under the keel.

The aim is to lift the ship
just enough to free it

from its supporting pillars
so it can slide into the water.

UMBERTO VIANELLO:
The point of hammering
the wedges

is to transfer the ship's weight
on the central sledges.

In this way it will be
much easier

for us to remove
the side pillars.

They will lift the ship
less than one inch.

It's 10:20.

We are going to remove
the last two pillars

and so we're almost ready to go.

NARRATOR:
Half an hour before launch,

workers remove the wooden props
supporting the hull.

(cheering)

The last things holding the ship
are six steel claws

that will be released
by hydraulics.

When the string is cut
to smash the bottle,

this weight will also drop,

opening a valve that will
release hydraulic fluid,

retract the claws, and launch
the section of the ship.

(man speaking Italian
over loudspeaker)

NARRATOR:
Following ancient tradition,

a godmother launches
every vessel to bring it luck.

Madrina,
in nome di Dio.

Taglia.

(applause)

(cheering and applause)

(cheering and applause continue)

NARRATOR:
There's no engine or rudder on
board this section of the ship.

So the team is counting on
165 tons of chains

to slow it down and stop it from
ploughing across the harbor

and smashing into nearby boats.

(applause)

The weight low down in the hull
keeps the section upright.

(horn blowing)

VIANELLO:
It was a very positive day.

We had the weather on our side.

Now we have a sunny day,
so everything was good.

NARRATOR:
Tugs must now haul
this empty section of hull

around the coast to Genoa.

If all goes well,
it should take about four days

to cover the 400-mile distance.

(horn blowing)

The challenge of figuring out
how to propel

the Seven Seas Explorer
when it's completed

lies with marine engineer
Gianpiero Lavini.

LAVINI:
One of our main targets

is to get a very, very
comfortable vessel,

completely silent and free
from any kind of vibration.

NARRATOR:
The vibration must be low enough
to qualify the vessel

for a standard known
as comfort class.

To power the Seven Seas Explorer
through the water,

four massive eight-cylinder
diesel engines

will drive four generators.

These will supply electricity

to two nine-megawatt
electric motors

that will turn
two huge propellers,

pushing the ship forward
at over 20 knots.

The design of the ship's
propellers is critical.

If Gianpiero's team
gets it wrong,

the ship could vibrate
violently.

LAVINI:
When you are at sea,

if you have any type
of troubles,

you cannot take any action

because you cannot
modify the propeller.

It's absolutely impossible.

So you'd have to know
everything in advance.

NARRATOR:
In 1907, during the sea trials
of the Lusitania--

at that time
the world's biggest ship--

the vibration was so bad,

they had to strengthen
the interior

in a failed attempt to stop it.

When they investigated,
they discovered that the problem

came from the ship's propellers.

When a propeller rotates,
it can create areas

of very low pressure
on the back of the blades,

causing water to form bubbles
of water vapor

in a process called cavitation.

When the bubbles burst,
they collapse in microseconds,

sending powerful shockwaves
through the water

onto the ship's hull.

This creates uncomfortable
vibrations

for people and objects on board.

Cavitation is the worst enemy
of a propeller designer,

because it is the main source
of noise and vibration.

So I'm not satisfied until
I have removed every bubble.

NARRATOR:
To keep the Seven Seas Explorer
from vibrating,

Gianpiero must minimize
the cavitation

on the propeller blades.

The simplest way to do this is
by slowing the propellers down.

This reduces the area of low
pressure that causes bubbles.

But this would also slow down
the ship.

So to compensate, they will
make the propellers larger

and add more blades.

These larger, slower-spinning
propellers

will exert the same power,

but should drive the Explorer
through the water

without vibration.

The ship's propellers are being
cast from bronze at this factory

in the Netherlands.

The task requires
extre precision.

If workers here don't reproduce
Gianpiero's design

to a fraction of an inch,

the propellers could
still generate vibrations.

They feed his plans
into a computer that will

carve a mold in sand
bonded with resin.

RALPH MOOLENAAR:
We are able to accurately
create a shape

by the grinding
of the sand mold,

and all the material
that is not needed is cut away

so that we get the precise shape
that we want it to be.

NARRATOR:
From the resin-bound sand,

the machine must first carve
the base of the mold.

Then make six blade-shaped
pieces to form the top,

leaving a propeller-shaped gap.

Workers will place this mold
in a steel frame,

add a system of tubes
to pour in the molten metal,

then cover it with sand
to prevent the top of the mold

floating when they fill it.

The foundry will cast
the propeller

from a special bronze alloy--

a mixture of copper, nickel
and aluminum.

MOOLENAAR:
The alloy that we use

is actually called
nickel-aluminum bronze,

and it's very
corrosion-resistant

and it's a strong material

so it's quite suited
for ships' propellers.

NARRATOR:
But the size of the special
propeller creates problems.

MOOLENAAR:
This is a big propeller.

It weighs, when cast,
about 30 tons.

NARRATOR:
To avoid serious imperfections,
they must fill the mold

in one continuous pouring.

But this propeller
needs more bronze

than their largest ladle
will hold.

MOOLENAAR:
What's special for this project
is that we use two ladles

at the same time to make sure
that the mold is filled at once.

NARRATOR:
Using two ladles speeds up
the pouring process,

helping ensure that
when the mold is broken open,

the propeller will contain
no serious imperfections.

Once they start pouring,
there's no going back.

It takes less than three minutes
to cast the propeller,

but it will take three weeks
for it to cool and harden.

Only then will they know
if the propellers will be ready

for their installation
in four months.

But right now
at the shipyard in Genoa,

workers are anxiously awaiting
the hull section

from Castellammare.

PUNTER:
Today is an important day.

We are going to join
the two big sections.

As soon as the section coming
from Castellammare arrives,

we close the gate
of the dry dock

and we start to empty
the dry dock.

NARRATOR:
Pierluigi won't rest easy until
he knows that the two sections

are perfectly joined.

We don't have the plan B
because only the A can exist.

(laughing)

NARRATOR:
But bringing them together
in this narrow dock

will be a challenge.

The dock's width restricts
the size of tug they can use

to pull the section in.

And gusts of wind blowing
on the vessel's large surface

exert a powerful force,
making it difficult to control.

(men shouting in Italian)

The tugs struggle

to wrangle the flailing
3,300-ton section of ship

through the tight entrance.

Once they've placed the section
safely in the dock,

the workers close the gate.

Now they must align
the two sections precisely

to make sure the ship
is straight

before they're welded together.

The first stage
is to start the pumps

to lower the water in the dock.

As the water drains,
they will first winch

the smaller section
into position.

It sits three feet lower
in the water

than the newly arrived section,

because it contains
the ship's heavy engines.

As the hull drops,
divers will guide

its marker pegs into sockets
fixed to the dock floor.

Once it is firmly in position,

the team will winch in the
section from Castellammare,

line up its marker pegs,

and let the draining water lower
it precisely into place,

ensuring that both sections
are perfectly in line.

Lowering the first section
into posion is the easy part.

(man shouting in Italian)

Lining up the new section
from Castellamare

will be more difficult.

Four diesel-powered winches
enable them to maneuver it

with precision.

Steel guides lead it
into its approximate position.

But guiding the marker pegs
into place underwater

needs an expert eye.

A diver will help the team
line it up precisely.

(man speaking Italian)

They restart the pumps
to lower the second hull.

This will be
the moment of truth.

Will the two sections fit?

(man speaking Italian)

The diver shows them
they are out of alignment.

(speaking Italian)

After some maneuvering,
the alignment is looking better.

Now it's in place.

NARRATOR:
It fits.

Both sections of the hull
line up precisely.

Once they are welded together
to form a single vessel,

it will be time to install
the propulsion system.

In the Netherlands,
the propeller has cooled

and been released from its mold.

Now workers must grind its
blades to their precise shape.

MOOLENAAIR:
They have different tools
to grind away the material.

They start
with the coarse grinder,

and afterwards they will
get to the finer grinders.

NARRAT:
These grinders are equipped

with tough aluminum
oxide cutting heads

that shave off a thin layer
of bronze on each pass.

MOOLENAAIR:
There are marks
on the propeller blade

of how much material
needs to be removed.

It's a few millimeters.

NARRATOR:
Over a period of four weeks,

the grinders will remove about
one ton of bronze

from the propeller.

It's highly skilled work.

Any unwanted bumps
left on its surface

could cause the ship to vibrate.

And if they damage it,
making a replacement

from scratch will take months
and delay the maiden voyage.

While work continues
on all stages

of the ship's construction,

across the Atlantic Ocean,
in Coral Gables, Florida,

another team is rushing
to design the fittings

for the liner's high-end cabins
and common spaces.

Yohandel Ruiz
faces his own challenge.

Luxury items, like stone floors
and marble walls, are heavy.

YOHANDEL RUIZ:
Weight is one
of the biggest concerns

we have on board a ship.

So you try to put
the majority of your weight

in the lower decks.

If you're doing stone floors
you would limit the amount

that you will use
on the upper decks,

just to prevent the ship
from listing.

So as you go higher on the ship

you tend to use lighter,
more airy materials.

NARRATOR:
But Yohandel will have his work
cut out for him.

The most expensive suites
on the vessel,

full of stone and marble,

will sit right
at the top of the ship.

They must make sure they don't
jeopardize its stability.

If they put too much weight high
up, it could lead to disaster.

In the summer of 1915,
the SS Eastland

with 2,500 passengers on board,
was about to set off

for a pleasure cruise
on the Chicago River.

After the Titanic disaster
three years earlier,

government legislation
had required the ship's owners

to install more lifeboats
on the main deck.

Unfortunately, the extra weight
of the boats made the Eastland

top heavy and unstable.

Before leaving the harbor,
it rolled over and capsized.

844 passengers and crew died.

At the ship builder's
headquarters in Trieste,

Michele Moro must keep
a detailed inventory

of the weight of every object
on board the Explorer

and where it sits on the ship.

We have here inside,
about 20,000 items recorded.

NARRATOR:
From lifeboats to bathtubs,
pianos to plates.

This is the description
of the item,

this is the position
of the deck.

We have the quantity.

This is the kilos.

NARRATOR:
A computer plots the location
of every object to calculate

the stability of the ship.

To position the most expensive--
and heaviest--

suites high on the ship,

Michele has figured out
they must cut tons of weight

from elsewhere.

Instead of the original vision
of glass balconies,

Designers must use
lighter steel railings.

The ship's funnel, or chimney,
will no longer be steel

but an aluminum alloy,
which weighs half as much.

But that's still not enough.

Yohandel needs to find a way
to slim down the furnishings.

RUIZ:
What we decided to do,
use a honeycomb system,

similar to what
I'm holding here.

So half of the panel will be
a marble or a granite,

and then it'll be backed to
a honeycomb made up of aluminum.

And it'll keep it very light
and airy.

As you can imagine,
52 suites times a lot of marble

equals a lot of weight.

So making small changes,
including this,

we've been able to reduce
the weight quite significantly.

NARRATOR:
With the calculations complete,
over 1,000 workers in Genoa

are now racing the clock
to finish the ship.

In the space
of four-and-a-half months,

cranes winch the mega blocks
forming the upper decks,

and the aluminum funnel
into position.

42 mega blocks are in place,
leaving only 11 to install.

It's beginning to look
like a ship.

To deliver the vessel in time,
eight months from now,

work on the ship
reaches a fever pitch.

Inside, the steel labyrinth of
the hull pulses with industry.

Teams of electricians,
fitters, and mechanics

cram nearly every space.

Power supplies
fill the dockside.

More than 40 miles of cables

feed electricity
to the welders on board.

Underneath the ship's hull,
engineers are gearing up

to fit the starboard propeller--
the second of two.

MARCELLO GIORDANO (translated):
We have prepared
the propeller shaft

to receive the propeller, and
now we will lift the propeller

using the pulleys and start
installing it on the shaft.

NARRATOR:
The team must thread
the 14-ton propeller

onto this 120-foot-long shaft.

The propeller must sit
absolutely symmetrically

on the shaft.

If it's off-center,
when it turns,

it will cause the ship
to vibrate.

GIORDANO (translated):
The machining requires
such a high degree of precision

that we don't lk
about millimeters,

but tenths or hundredths,
of a millimeter.

NARRATOR:
The smallest impact between
the propeller and the shaft

could damage both
precision-crafted components.

GIORDANO (translated):
The final stage is without doubt
the most critical.

If the propeller gets maged
during installation

it will be a major problem
because it will take

several months to supply
a new propeller.

NARRATOR:
It takes eight hours
of painstaking work

to mount the starboard
propeller.

GIORDANO (translated):
Coupling of the propeller
with the shaft is complete.

It all went well.

Just a few more activities

and the ship will be ready
for launch.

NARRATOR:
It has taken 1,500 workers

nine months to assemble
the mega blocks,

install the electrical
and ventilation systems,

and fit two massive propellers.

Still, inside, there's a huge
amount of work to be done.

Large areas of the Seven Seas
Explorer are bare steel.

The shipyard team has just
seven months to transform

this cold, grey skeleton
into a floating palace.

At workshops in northern Italy,
teams of craftsmen are busy

manufacturing the wall coverings
and furniture.

But some luxury materials
present hazards.

One of their greatest concerns
is fire.

In April 1990, an arsonist
started a fire on board

the ferry Scandinavian Star.

The fire spread rapidly.

Poisonous smoke spread through
corridors and into cabins.

159 people died.

To prevent a similar disaster
today,

the ship is divided
into compartments.

If a fire breaks out in one,

doors automatically close
to contain the blaze.

(fire alarm beeping)

These doors do double-duty.

In the event of a collision,
they also prevent water

from flooding through the ship,
keeping it from sinking.

(beeping continues)

But there's one thing
the doors can't stop.

If a fire destroys
the control cables

running from the bridge
to the engine room,

it could cripple the ship.

On the bridge,
technicians are wiring up

the Explorer's controls,

connecting them
to the propulsion system

and to the GPS-enabled automated
navigation system,

which is accurate to six feet.

Because these wires
are so critical,

the ship is being built
to a new 2010 safety standard,

called Safe Return to Port.

Unlike older cruise ships,

every control and power cable on
the Explorer will have a backup

routed through a different part
of the vessel.

So if one network is burned out,
the ship can still sail safely

on to the nearest port.

If a fire destroys
the main bridge,

the Explorer has another line
of defense--

a back up bridge,
four decks higher up.

THOMAS PULINO:
This is the emergency
wheelhouse,

and it's closed
in a protected box,

so in case of a fire,
or a real emergency,

you can maneuver the ship
from here.

The cables that are coming here
are completely separated

to the rest of the cables
on the ship.

NARRATOR:
The maiden voyage
is just four months away,

but with so many details
to attend to

the work is falling behind
schedule.

PUNTER:
This is a luxury ship,
and we need to take care

of all the small details
of the installation.

This is the most challenging
part of the building.

NARRATOR:
To get the vessel ready on time,

Pierluigi pulls out
all the stops.

PUNTER:
We have a lot of people
on board.

Today there will be
about 1,500 people.

NARRATOR:
Workers are under
intense pressure

as they lay over 500,000
square feet of flooring.

And install over 1,800 panes
of glass.

And there's still
one final hurdle to clear.

Before the shipyard
can deliver the vessel,

the ship must pass a barrage
of tests called a sea trial.

The pressure to get underway
is now really on.

(men speaking Italian)

Three weeks later
than originally planned,

over 500 engineers
and technicians board the ship

for the sea trials.

(horn blaring)

The Explorer sets sail
for the first time.

(men speaking Italian)

Okay, thank you.

NARRATOR:
It's make or break
for Pierluigi.

Over the next three days,
his team will run tests

on every critical system
on board,

and the builders have to be
on hand to answer questions.

The person who will make
the final decision

is ship surveyor
Jean-Jacques Juenet.

Jean-Jacques and his team
must certify that the ship

conforms to international
regulations and is seaworthy.

But it's completely independent
of what you have on the bridge?

One chart is here.

And one GPS is here.

JUENET:
At the end
of the building period

we will issue
the class certificate,

which will allow the ship
to sail.

And we will also issue
the safety certificate.

And this will allow the vessel
to take passengers.

Without this certificate,

the ship is just
a floating piece of steel.

NARRATOR:
They will run the tests
around the clock.

One of the first
is on the anchor.

If the ship loses power,
to stop it drifting

they must be able
to drop the anchor fast.

All right,
it goes perfectly.

NARRATOR:
They test the steering system
to check how fast

the ship can turn
if it runs into danger.

But for a cruise ship,

there is another test
that is just as critical.

For the ship to be comfortable,

it must sail
with almost no vibrations.

Has all the work designing

and making the special
six-bladed propeller paid off?

For the owner,
this will be an imrtt test

because this will measure the
level of comfort that passengers

will feel during their cruises.

So we are a little bit nervous
also because these parameters

are really important
for the owner.

NARRATOR:
Technicians must visit
every part of the ship,

and measure the vibration.

The test must be carried out

under the most demanding
conditions.

When the ship
is sailing at full speed.

This vibration sensor measures
any movement of the deck.

It needs weight to hold it
firmly in position.

As the ship sails
through the night,

they collect their readings.

In order for the ship to qualify
as a comfort-class vessel,

the outcome of this test
is critical,

as is the overall result.

After three days and nights,

Jean-Jacques Juenet
gives the verdict.

JUENET:
The measurements have been done
here during the sea trial,

They are quite impressive,
impressively good, yeah.

NARRATOR:
The Explorer passes all its
tests and is certified to sail.

But Pierluigi and his team
can't rest on their laurels.

PUNTER:
The result was very, very good.

Now we have the final rush.

NARRATOR:
In the final few weeks,

the activity on board
becomes frantic.

Hundreds of craftsmen
are racing the clock,

installing over an acre
of marble.

And 473 chandeliers.

This is intricate,
time-consuming work.

Two days before the ship
must leave the shipyard,

CEO Frank Del Rio
arrives from Miami

and finds the work
is far from complete.

DEL RIO:
I was worried the time I signed
the contract three years ago.

So, yes, I'm worried.

But we're working
through the night.

We're working double shifts.

(drilling)

NARRATOR:
They are cutting it very close.

The night before departure,
the theatre isn't finished,

and the band is on stage
rehearsing the first show.

(guitar playing notes)

But, the next morning, there's
an amazing transformation--

in the nick of time,
the ship is passenger-ready.

On the bridge,
her first captain,

Stanislas Mercier de Lacombe,
takes command.

Two, three, five.

NARRATOR:
He sets course for Monaco, where
the ship will be christened.

After 20 years at sea,
he experiences,

for the first time, a brand new
ship under his control.

(speaking foreign language)

MERCIER de LACOMBE:
The ship is amazing.

We are able to go
at nearly 21 knots

and there is basically no wake.

The maneuverability of the ship
is really nice.

A lot of power, but we just
start to know each other,

so it's a bit like a first date.

We take things very slow,
very gentle.

Hard to port.
Hard to port.

NARRATOR:
Safely docked in Monaco,
they make final preparations

to receive the first passengers.

One New York strip, medium.

One porter house, medium.

NARRATOR:
In the galleys,
the ship's 85 chefs

start preparing
the haute-cuisine meals.

In the $10,000 a night
Regent suite,

the butler sets
the finishing touches.

All is ready
for the christening ceremony.

The ship's godmother,
Princess Charlene of Monaco,

will christen the ship
with a Goliath bottle

containing seven gallons
of champagne.

I bless this ship
Seven Sea Explorer.

May God bless her
and all who sail on her.

(cheers and applause)

MAN:
Stations one and two,
we are underway.

Okay.

(horn blaring)

NARRATOR:
After three years of design,
18 months of construction,

and the work of thousands
of engineers, designers,

and craftsmen,

the Seven Seas Explorer
is finally ready to sail

the oceans of the world.

This NOVA program
is available on DVD.

NOVA is also available
for download on iTunes.