An Innovative Way Forward: Silversea CEO Roberto Martinoli Introduces Silver Nova
As President and CEO of Silversea Cruises, Roberto Martinoli enjoys the many aspects of his job. But as a career naval architect and mechanical engineer, he makes no secret of his lifelong passion for the shipbuilding process. “Whenever I can put on my boilersuit and hardhat, and dive into this side of the business, I feel at home,” says the executive.
Fittingly, since taking over his current role at Silversea in 2016, Martinoli has overseen the delivery of four ships. And now he’s leading the way for the luxury line’s most ambitious newbuild: Silver Nova. Set to debut in the summer of 2023, the vessel will become the first in the fleet’s Nova Class of ships. What’s new? It will feature a bold asymmetrical design and horizontal layout that emphasizes spaciousness and creating a seamless, unobstructed connection between the ship and its surroundings. What’s more, the ship will be powered by a trio of sustainable power sources, including a fuel cell system, battery technology and dual fuel engines using liquefied natural gas (LNG) as the main fuel. This new hybrid technology means Silver Nova will be the first luxury cruise ship free of local emissions at port, cementing Silversea’s long-standing commitment to the environment and the communities it serves. “In a word: she’s a gamechanger,” adds Martinoli.
After recently attending the ship’s steel-cutting ceremony in Meyer Werft’s shipyard in Papenburg, Germany, Martinoli shares with us deeper insights about Silver Nova’s innovative features, how she will enhance the guest experience and what it means for him to herald this new era for Silversea.
Why is the shipbuilding process so special for you?
It’s in my blood. My grandfather, Federico Martinoli Sr., was a naval architect involved in shipbuilding throughout his life. He was born on a small island off the coast of Istria, in present-day Croatia, and studied naval architecture in Vienna back in the days of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.
At the end of World War I, he became a consultant to the Italian government for the reorganization of the Italian shipyards, and he settled in Genoa in the 1930s, where he worked as the managing director of the shipyard in Sestri Ponente. That shipyard eventually became the Fincantieri shipyard that built Silver Muse. In fact, the delivery of Silver Muse (in 2017) was very emotional for me because of the family history and because I also christened my first grandchild on board the ship on the day of delivery. My father was a naval architect and marine engineer as well. It’s a family tradition that my son, my cousin, my nephews and I have followed. In the past I’ve built and supervised the construction of many ships. My job has now changed a little bit. But during the pandemic, many of our colleagues couldn’t travel so I went a few times to Papenburg to inspect mockup cabins and attend meetings with the yard. So, whenever I have the opportunity, I love to do it.
Why was Meyer Werft chosen?
It’s a great shipyard, with great tradition and great quality. It’s a very reliable partner; Royal Caribbean has been building many ships there, and also in Meyer’s yard in Turku, Finland. Certainly Meyer is one of the top shipyards and it had the right slot availability that was working for us. We have two firm orders; there’s Silver Nova that will come in the summer of 2023 and then we have her as-of-yet unnamed sister ship, scheduled for April/May of 2024. Then we have the two options, and each newbuild is a year apart, so every year we can have one new ship delivered, all as part of what we’re calling the Nova Class.
What makes Silver Nova, and the Nova Class, stand out?
In terms of the design alone, we are taking a giant leap forward. For the first time in our cruise line’s history, we will have a ship with an asymmetrical design. This was done in order to enhance the spaciousness of the indoor and outdoor public spaces. The pool deck is a great example: Instead of having an enclosed swimming pool in the middle of the deck, the pool will be open to one side of the ship, therefore providing a more generous open area with unobstructed views.
Our vision for the Nova Class is one of openness, of seamless connection to the sea and the ship’s destinations. So we are bringing all the structure – all the stiffness that sustains the structure of the vessel – is being brought inside and almost all of the outside is glass. In all the suites and public spaces you will have huge glass surfaces that eliminate visual barriers, providing more communication from the inside to the outside. Even the elevators on portside and starboard side will have glass walls overlooking the ocean.
And the ship’s horizontal layout is another first?
That’s another element that emphasizes openness and spaciousness, which is the recurrent theme in the design and architecture of Silver Nova. Currently, all of our ships have the passenger suites on the forward side half and all of the public areas on the aft. This is the way smaller ships were built, for a number of reasons, among others noise insulation, being away from where the engine rooms are, etc. But technology has evolved to the point that those issues are not there anymore. And in fact all the modern vessels are built in a horizontal design.
And the concept of spaciousness is intimately aligned with the transparency of the glass, so you have both cabin and public spaces throughout the length of the ship, you don’t have the separation forward and the aft. This is more conducive to enjoying the ship’s public spaces and socializing. And this is key for the Silversea experience, as it benefits all the dining areas, bars and public areas, including our culinary program, Sea and Land Taste (S.A.L.T.), with its dedicated venues, and the Otium Spa. I believe that with the horizontal layout, the venues with take these great onboard programs to the next level.
How will the ship address Silversea’s commitment to sustainability?
With Silver Nova and the Nova Class, we are making a significant investment to safeguard the environment. The ship’s hybrid system is an incredible setup, and will give us the opportunity to be on fuel cell while in port, operating with absolutely zero local emissions. To give you a sense of it, the biggest fuel cell system ever installed on a ship before was like 200 kilowatts, and ours is 4 megawatts, so its 20 times as big as any existing installation today. Aside from the fuel cell and the battery, Silver Nova will also run on liquefied natural gas (LNG), which is the most environmentally-friendly fuel that is available today, so this is another big advantage. And in terms of energy efficiency, this vessel is going to be 40% more efficient than any other vessel on our fleet.
How does the emphasis on sustainability coexist with Silversea’s commitment to delivering an ultra-luxury experience?
Luxury doesn’t prevent us from being conscious about sustainability. For sure, with time the bar is continuously raised, and I have to say our net promoter scores continue to trend up quite consistently as we’ve been paying a lot more attention to sustainability. And as passenger satisfaction goes up, we can deduce that the two things are more than compatible. Of course it’s all a process and a significant investment, but it pays back.
Silver Nova is also set to have the largest guest capacity of the fleet. Why is that?
The ship will have capacity for 728 guests, with a crew-to-guest ratio of 1:1.3, which is very generous. Currently, our largest ship (Silver Spirit) carries 608 guests. The reason for that enhancement is to accommodate the great sustainability features – specifically the hydrodynamically-optimized hull and propulsion design – which calls for a bigger hull. And when you build a bigger hull, you can also build a few more suites, but still very much staying in line with our standards. And the suites are going to be spectacular; very spacious, very efficient and very well designed, in keeping with the modern look of the ship. The verandas will feature all-glass balustrades so nothing obstructs your view of the destination or the ocean. With a total of 13 categories, Silver Nova offers the largest choice of suites in Silversea’s history– including the 123 m2 (1323 ft2) Otium Suite. I’m very happy with what we’ve seen and I’m sure it will be a great success.
How do you think guests will react to the new look and features?
It’s definitely a little less classic, which is most evident when you look at the ship from the outside. But we are in the year 2021. Design changes, it evolves. The most important part is the content, and in the content side we made incredible progress – horizontal layout, asymmetrical design, glass walls, the way we build the suites. The ship will have a built-in artistic quality that makes it much more interesting. So I think (our guests) will be absolutely thrilled. But more importantly, our team will always uphold the luxury values of Silversea that are very much in line with the expectations of our guests.
Where will Silver Nova sail first?
The ship will be delivered in Germany, so her maiden voyage will take place in the Atlantic coast of Europe sailing from Southampton to Lisbon. Before that we’ll certainly do something in Hamburg, which also happens to be my favorite German city! We’ll likely do our first shakedown there.
And I’m very pleased that we’ll offer the maiden voyage out of Southampton. We didn’t have the chance to do any inaugural cruises in the U.K. and it’s such an important market for us. It’s a great opportunity to showcase all the features of Silver Nova.
What destination do you think best suits Silver Nova?
Silver Nova’s sustainability features make the ship especially relevant for all the remote and smaller ports where limiting the environmental impact is critical. But she’s perfect for any destination. At Silversea we visit so many interesting places, and Silver Nova is going to be a great vessel to discover them.