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Innovation boom for passenger ship interiors

Tue 13 Nov 2018 by Rebecca Moore

Innovation boom for passenger ship interiors

Passenger ship interiors are flourishing, with one of the strongest cruise ship orderbooks ever coupled with a refurbishment drive to bring ships up to scratch making a rich backdrop for interiors.

And there is a growing focus on interior design in the ferry market, with ferry operators increasingly keen to raise interior standards in new vessels and refurbish current vessels. 

I think the fast-growing expedition sector is having a strong impact on innovation within the interior design of cruise ships. The first cruise ship of Ponant’s Explorers-class, Le Lapérouse is a strong example of innovation. It was delivered in June this year and includes the ‘Blue Eye’ underwater lounge, the first-of-its-kind in a cruise ship. See page 10.

The new expedition cruise ships from SunStone Ships are also important for cruise ship design, being the first cruise ships to be built in China, opening the doors to many others being built there. But a major obstacle is the shipyard's gap in knowledge on the technology and hotel side. See pages 8-9.

The cruise owner has brought in European and US companies to combat these challenges. Tomas Tillberg Design is in charge of the interior design and Finland-headquartered Makinen is the interior outfitter.

Tomas Tillberg Design chief executive Tomas Tillberg told me, “For them to build a cruise ship is not daunting from a technical or steel point of view. There is little or no experience with the hotel side – our job is to bring that to the shipyard.”

China Merchants and other Chinese shipyards can build large and complicated tonnage including tankers. Once they add the specific hotel, cruise design and technology knowledge needed, they will win many cruise newbuilding contracts.

The refurbishment trend is also a major focus for cruise ships, driven largely by new ships pushing cruise ship operators to update and standardise their fleets to avoid unfavourable contrasts between old and new vessels.

Carnival Cruise Line is particularly active in this regard, and alongside upgrading the interiors, is adding cabins. Our interview with Carnival Cruise Line senior director of hotel refurbishment Lisa McCabe discusses this in detail. See pages 4-6. Adding cabins is a major trend for cruise operators, and one I believe will continue to grow, as adding cabins allows cruise operators to monetarise underused areas and it is far cheaper to add accommodation to a current ship than build a new one.

I think this trend is also having an impact on innovation as adding cabins has a knock-on effect on the rest of the interiors leading to increased dining options and entertainment venues to meet the needs of an increased headcount. Compensating for the additional weight of the extra cabins also increases the focus on using light and energy-efficient materials.

Innovation within the ferry sector is really beginning to ramp up, and a good example is The Fjord’s Future of the Fjords, which took inspiration from aeroplane interiors to keep weight down, focused on passenger flow to boost revenue and on an interior style to emphasise sightseeing (see pages 13-14). The Fjords’ chief executive Ralf Sandvik said he was influenced by the importance of interior design due to his background in ferries. I think the emphasis cruise operators have on interior design is beginning to be strongly felt in the ferry sector, and this trend will continue.

The innovation being seen in the cruise ship interiors sector has finally been given a global platform – the only global event to focus exclusively on the interiors for the cruise sector has been launched and Passenger Ship Interior & Refurbishment Review is excited to be part of it as a member of the advisory board. Cruise Ship Interiors Expo will take place on 18-10 June 2019 at Miami Beach Convention Center and will cover the entire cruise ship interiors supply chain.

The cruise interiors industry has been given a voice, and I am sure joining up so many different parts of this sector will lead to even more innovation.

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