A luxury cruise ship has undergone an unusual $100 million operation to make it 15 metres longer in a shipyard in Sicily.

Boutique cruise line Silversea, which operates in New Zealand during summer, started work to stretch the Silver Spirit from 195.8m to 210.7m during the weekend by adding a new piece of mid-section.

The intricate procedure at Fincantieri Shipyard will increase the 36,000 tonne vessel's overall capacity by 12 per cent to 608 guests an 412 crew.

More than 500 skilled workers will spend approximately 450,000 man hours on the ambitious project, which is set to be finished on May 5 after precision cutting to the nearest millimetre.


About 846 tonnes of steel, 110,000m of cabling, and 8000m of piping will be used.
Overall dining capacity will be increased by 15 per cent and there will be an increase in outdoor seating from 200 to 266.

Barbara Muckermann, chief marketing officer of Silversea, said the project was ''ambitious''.

The all-suite ship entered service in 2009 and the lengthening was inspired by its flagship, the Silver Muse – which will cruise from New Zealand early next year. The Silver Muse was delivered by Fincantieri in April last year and is the largest of Silversea's largest ship at 40,700 gross tonnes.

The Silver Spirit with the Silversea line is in Palermo for lengtheing. Photo / Supplied
The Silver Spirit with the Silversea line is in Palermo for lengtheing. Photo / Supplied

Following the lengthening, the Silver Spirit will have a new eight restaurant configuration and outside the pool area on the sky deck will increase in length from 30 to 45m, with a bigger spa area.

Silversea cruises lay on the luxury with butlers and fine dining. A recently launched around a 140-day world cruise had suites that reportedly ranged between $88,000 and $342,000 per person.

Before Silver Spirit's arrival in Palermo, Sicily, the ship docked in Chania, Crete, where used furniture was unloaded and given to charity.

In total, 11 containers were filled with 4652 items from the ship – including sofas, chairs, curtains, computers, and more.

The donated articles will be put to use for social welfare purposes in hospitals, nursing homes, schools and other institutions across the island.

Silver Muse will debut in New Zealand waters next January, with maiden calls at Port Chalmers, Akaroa, Picton, Napier, Gisborne, before arriving in Auckland.

The luxury end of the cruise sector is growing strongly, matching the mass market attracted to megaships up to four times larger.