July 22, 2024

Flex Tech

Innovation in Every Curve

Riviera – Lead Stories Brand

Set to launch in September 2025, Brilliant Lady is the fourth and final vessel in the Virgin Voyages’ Lady fleet.

Designed and constructed with a focus on energy efficiency and sustainabilty, the cruise ship has some key differences when compared with its sister cruise vessels, as it has evolved based on the learnings provided by the three previous ships. 

Fincantieri merchant ships division senior vice president newbuilding and after sales Daniele Fanara says, “Building Brilliant Lady, Fincantieri focused on several key considerations. Foremost among them was environmental sustainability. We aimed to reduce the ship’s environmental impact through innovative technologies and sustainable practices. Another crucial factor was energy efficiency; we implemented systems designed to maximise efficiency and minimise fuel consumption. Additionally, passenger comfort and safety were paramount. We strived to ensure the highest standards of comfort and safety, creating a superior experience on board.”

Mr Fanara explains that Brilliant Lady’s main difference compared with the trio of previous ships is its ability to transit the Panama Canal. With a beam measuring 38 m, it can fit through the new Panama Canal locks, but he points out, this is not just about size. “The first three Virgin vessels have superstructure overhangs on Deck 7 aft and lifeboat placements that make them noncompliant with the canal’s requirements. For Brilliant Lady, we designed a davit system to move the lifeboats inboard during canal transit. This necessitated modifying the balconies on Deck 8 midship, furthermore the overhang on Deck 7 aft was removed entirely.”

The ship has also built on the learnings acquired from the first three ships. Mr Fanara says, “Each ship we build teaches us valuable lessons, and Brilliant Lady is a testament to this ongoing learning process. We improved energy systems and propulsion efficiency based on feedback from previous operations. The ship’s design has been optimised for better hydrodynamics and fuel efficiency. We’ve also incorporated insights from crew and passenger feedback to enhance onboard systems and amenities, making the experience even better.”

Brilliant Lady’s propulsion system is designed for efficiency and reliability. It includes four diesel-electric generators that combine diesel engines with electric generators to power the main switchboard. The ship also features two 360° rotating POD thrusters, enhancing manoeuvrability and efficiency. The propulsion layout is highly redundant and reliable, aligning with Safe Return to Port requirements. 

Mr Fanara sums up, “This design ensures fuel efficiency, superior handling during docking operations, and overall operational reliability.”

Turning his attention to the hydrodynamic hull, he says, “Achieving a hydrodynamic hull for Brilliant Lady involved extensive use of computational fluid dynamics (CFD) simulations to optimise the hull shape for minimal water resistance. We conducted thorough scale model testing in towing tanks to validate our designs. These efforts allowed us to iteratively refine the hull design, resulting in reduced drag and improved fuel efficiency. A hydrodynamic hull is essential for smoother sailing and better performance, underscoring our commitment to blending advanced technology with thoughtful design.”

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Hydrodynamic hull: Fincantieri conducted scale model testing in towing tanks to validate its designs (source: Virgin Voyages)

A major energy-saving feature is an energy production system of approximately 1 MW, which uses the diesel engine’s waste heat. Mr Fanara explains, “To maximise fuel savings, Brilliant Lady features Climeon’s heat power system. This system harnesses low-temperature waste heat from engine cooling water to generate clean energy. It comprises six modules, each producing 150 kW, culminating in nearly 1 MW of electric power generation. This impressive output is partly due to the use of reverse osmosis for freshwater production (in place of the evaporators), allowing more waste heat to be utilised effectively.”

Brilliant Lady is equipped with numerous other environmentally friendly and energy-efficient technologies. For example, it meets Marpol Annex IV Tier III requirements with an exhaust gas cleaning system featuring a selective catalyst reducer for NOx reduction and a scrubber system for SOx reduction. Advanced waste management systems on board ensure efficient segregation, recycling and treatment, minimising environmental impact. Energy-efficient LED lighting throughout the ship reduces power consumption. 

The air conditioning and ventilation systems are state-of-the-art, featuring demand-based ventilation with UV treatment and the Halton Marvel system. Special hull coatings reduce drag, enhancing fuel efficiency, and the extensive use of variable frequency drives on electric motors further contribute to energy savings. 

There are several additional innovative features. Brilliant Lady boasts advanced safety systems, including cutting-edge fire suppression and emergency response technologies. Passenger experience is enhanced with state-of-the-art entertainment systems, smart cabins and advanced communication networks. 

Mr Fanara comments, “We use sustainable materials in construction and interiors, underscoring our commitment to eco-friendly practices. These innovations position Brilliant Lady at the forefront of modern shipbuilding, embodying our dedication to sustainability, efficiency and passenger comfort.”

Fincantieri says Virgin Voyages’ class of ships highlights progress towards achieving Goals 7, 9, 12, and 13 of the UN 2030 Agenda as part of Fincantieri’s Strategic Sustainability Plan. “Brilliant Lady exemplifies our dedication to the UN 2030 Agenda through several key initiatives,” says Mr Fanara.

“For Goal 9 (Industry, Innovation, and Infrastructure), we’ve implemented advanced technologies in shipbuilding and infrastructure to drive innovation. Regarding Goal 12 (Responsible Consumption and Production), we’ve adopted sustainable practices in materials usage, waste management and resource optimisation. In line with Goal 13 (Climate Action), we focus on reducing greenhouse gas emissions via cleaner energy sources and efficient technologies. These efforts are reflected in our compliance with Marpol Annex IV Tier III requirements, incorporating systems to reduce NOx and Sox emissions.”

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Frank Farro (Virgin Voyages): The vision for the Sailor app is for it to be a digital companion (source: Virgin Voyages)

Virgin Voyages unveils the key aims of its IT deployment

Game-changing partnerships, innovation and a focus on experience lie behind Virgin’s use of information technology.

Virgin Voyages’ progressive use of technology has been highlighted by its vice president of information technology, Frank Farro.

In a panel session at the recent Seatrade Cruise Global convention, held in Miami in April, Mr Farro unveiled the advances the cruise operator has made. But he underlined, “All [at Virgin Voyages] was about experience, experience, experience; our goal was for you to have the best vacation in your lifetime. Technology was not a driver; it was 100% experience led. We weren’t shackled down by systems and difficult processes; we are a very lean organisation. Being green field and a cloud native from the beginning was helpful.” 

Homing in on bookings, he explains how Virgin’s approach to selling cruises differs compared with other companies. “At the time, when we looked at most of the entertainment industry, the booking process was complicated and we wanted to make it simple. The objective was to make it five clicks and take away the complexity. That focus on simplicity has served us well, from a technical perspective, sometimes that simplicity can be complicated to implement but it’s a good guiding principle for us.”

Virgin Voyages has retrofitted its website with more information to cater for people who want to learn more before booking a cruise. But Mr Farro emphasises it is still simple and “we try and eliminate things that make the booking process confusing”.

The check-in goal is there should be no lines and under 60 seconds to check in. If the check in is done via the app, it only takes 30 seconds. “Everything being paperless is very helpful,” says Mr Farro. 
The company’s Sailor App is being developed still further. “The vision was for it to be a digital companion and that is still the vision,” says Mr Farro. “Version 2.0 is planned for the end of this year, and there are some “interesting features on the roadmap” that are still to be released.

Speaking about relationships and partnerships when it comes to technology, he says, “We have amazing members defining processes, and a super tight relationship with ship and onshore teams – there is not a wall between them. We do partnerships well and [our aim is to be] brilliant to do business with. We have three or four partnerships; it is all about people brought to that account. Their teams go above and beyond, and they say it feels like family. We treat partners very well and they return the favour.”

He singles out Virgin’ partnership with SES as “amazing” and a “gamechanger”.

When it comes to innovation, he singles out the importance of communication. “The easiest way is to listen to people. If your team feels comfortable enough to say, ‘I want to share something’ that goes a long way.”

He sums up, “Our culture is rich because of this and the way we hire, and the way teams interact with each other – these eliminate many things getting in the way of getting work done.”  


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