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It took two years and 400 million US Dollars to build Jewel of the Seas. The construction of modern cruise ships is a mostly European affair as only a few shipyards have the know-how and technical facilities to accept such a massive logistic challenge. One yard that is very highly regarded in the industry is family-owned Meyer Werft, located in Papenburg in the northwestern corner of Germany.  

The Meyer family have been building ships in Papenburg since 1795 and the hi-tech yard now employs 2,500 people., Bernhard Meyer, current managing partner of Meyer Werft, is visibly proud of "his" Jewel of the Seas as he addresses his guests just before the ship is taken to sea for the first time.

And I can fully imagine his pride when you consider the challenges that had to be overcome in order for the yard to build such huge ships in the middle of German farmlands.  At 2:15 am on Sunday, April 4th, the lines are cast and amidst deafening sounds of the ship's horn and the applause of hundreds of shore side spectators, Jewel of the Seas slowly moves backwards to the narrow lock that leads to the muddy river Ems.

It seems ridiculous to want to take this floating mammoth out through what seems no more than a ditch in the middle of the night, but the guidance of two pilots and the aid of two tugs make that we manage to get through the first hair-raisingly narrow part without problems. All in all, the river transit takes 16 hours of stern-first sailing.

Despite the wet and windy weather conditions, well-wishers can be seen lining the river banks everywhere, with the ship's horn greeting them almost continuously. With only a few feet to spare, we pass the odd bridge before getting to the wide river estuary where the mighty ship turns around and tests her sea legs before docking at the Dutch port of Eemshaven. It is here on April 22nd that Bernhard Meyer officially hands over Jewel of the Seas to Royal Caribbean International. And is given a cheque of US$ 400 million in return...

May 24, 2003: Jewel of the Seas under construction

Jewel of the Seas at Meyer Werft in Papenburg

Almost ready for the sail down the river Ems

May 24, 2003: Jewel of the Seas under construction

Jewel of the Seas at Meyer Werft in Papenburg

Jewel of the Seas at Meyer Werft in Papenburg

Many people come and see Jewel of the Seas in Papenburg

Slowly we leave Jewel's place of birth
Passing the Jean Berhaus Bridge at Leer

Tricky backwards manoevring

Almost ready for departure from Papenburg

Wellwishers everywhere!
Crowds at the Ems Barrier near Emden

German guests disembarking by tender at Emden

 

All photos and text: 2004 Bart de Boer - www.ShipParade.com

This Cruise Review was first published on May 30th, 2004