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How a Chinese cruise ship becomes one for Americans

A ghost ship should live on.

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How a Chinese cruise ship becomes one for Americans

A ghost ship should live on. With a new exterior decor and many modifications, the cruise ship “Global Dream” is to be completed in Wismar by the end of 2024. The Hamburg insolvency administrator Christoph Morgen actually succeeded in selling the world's largest cruise ship - to the US shipping company Disney Cruise Line, a subsidiary of the Disney Group. That was announced on Thursday.

The total price Disney must pay for the ship remains confidential. It should be around 1.3 billion euros, which would be far cheaper for the US company than a completely new building of this size.

With up to 9,500 passengers and a crew of 2,500, the ship was originally intended to serve the Chinese market for the Genting Hong Kong company. After the bankruptcy of Genting Hong Kong and MV Werften in January, the Chinese is now an American. This is ensured by Germany's largest shipbuilding company. The Papenburg Meyer shipyard completes the "Global Dream" in Wismar and rebuilds it for Disney's needs.

However, the “Global Dream” will lose the record as the largest passenger ship in the history of seafaring – measured in terms of capacity on board. Disney Cruise Line plans the ship for a maximum of 6000 passengers and 2300 crew members. For the completion, several hundred employees from the transfer company of MV Werft will be taken on by a company newly founded by Meyer Werft. It is still unclear exactly how many.

For months, Morgen had been negotiating the sale of the ship with Meyer Werft and Disney. Meyer's experts analyzed the ship thoroughly - and convinced Disney to adopt it in a revised form. And how does a Chinese become an American?

"It will no longer be a casino ship, but a family ship," says senior boss Bernard Meyer. "Now we need kindergartens and many other things." In the future, the hull of the ship will be black, the superstructure will be white, according to an animation by Disney. So far, the predominantly white hull has featured a depiction of a Chinese astronaut, a taikonaut.

The conversions inside are to be extensive: Meyer Werft will convert the drive with heavy fuel oil, which was outdated even before it was commissioned, to methanol, which means that the tanks and lines in particular will have to be adapted. "We cannot convert the ship for deep-frozen, liquefied natural gas - i.e. LNG - because we cannot subsequently install LNG tanks at a reasonable cost," says Meyer. Instead, the ship will be climate-neutral with "green" methanol in the future: "We will redesign the entire ship to make it more sustainable."

Since the bankruptcy at the beginning of the year, work on the "Global Dream" has been suspended - which had not yet been christened with this name. In the summer, WELT AM SONNTAG had the rare opportunity to take a look inside the ship. It still stands today in the dry dock of the Wismar shipyard. Cable ends are neatly rolled up hanging from open shafts in the ceiling. Most of the 3,329 cabins originally planned are already on board, along with around 8,500 kilometers of cable.

But the steel is still bare and unclad, in the hallways, on the whirlpools, on the stairs. The bridge is missing the floors and the controls to steer the giant. Also the prison cell and cold room for deaths on board are not yet completed.

The playground with the tunnel slide on one of the upper open decks is unfinished, as is the luxury corner with the "Palace Private Sundeck". Extraction devices for exhaust gases are installed under the roof of the shipyard hall so that the machines can be tested. A roller coaster was originally planned to rush past the outside of the ship at a height of 60 meters. The parts for it, like many thousands of other individual parts, are still in the halls next door. Now we are checking what is still needed.

In the future, the ship is to be on the road worldwide, with a presumably focus on Southeast Asia. "Our cruise ships give us the opportunity to bring the magic of Disney to fans wherever they are," said Disney manager Josh D'Amaro in the statement on the ship's purchase. Not only the swimming pools on board have to be converted for this. Americans like it deeper because they swim in the pool while Chinese like to stand in it. But Meyer Werft knows its customers, it has sold three ships to Disney Cruise Line so far.

The shipyards in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania have built more than 2,500 passenger, merchant and special ships since the Second World War. Three of the major locations from 2016 to 2021 were united under the roof of the defunct MV Werften. In the future, submarines will be manufactured in Wismar, naval ships repaired in Rostock, and a “maritime business park” is being built in Stralsund.

The "Global Dream" will probably remain the last large passenger ship to be built in East Germany. It will no longer be the world's largest cruise ship when it sets sail for Disney Cruise Line 2025 - but in Wismar and Rostock they will always be able to say in the future that they once built the world's largest ship in the history of seafaring, at least nearly.

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