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BLOG: The Curated Cruise - Designing Immersive Experiences at Sea

Have you ever questioned what characterizes the perfect experience for your guest? Have you ever wondered how to deliver that emotional souvenir your guests will remember forever? We recently sat down with the RWS Entertainment Group team of designers and creatives to answer these questions and more as they discuss the 11 Attributes of Creating Memorable Experiences at Sea.

Shawn McCoy, Senior Vice President of JRA – Part of RWS Entertainment Group collaborates with a team of designers who have created the world’s top themed destinations – from theme parks and water parks to retail environments and culinary experiences, including Universal Studios, Ferrari World Abu Dhabi, World of Coca-Cola and LEGOLAND®. He was joined by his colleague Damien Gray, Senior Creative Director at RWS. RWS Entertainment Group is the leader in producing live experiences in the leisure and attractions industry with a client list that includes Holland America Line, MSC Cruises, Disney Cruise Lines, Iberostar Hotel & Resorts and Six Flags. Together, JRA and RWS have created the world’s exclusive full-service provider of award-winning attractions and experiences. When it comes to a project, they can dream it, design it, create it and operate it – all within a single team.  They call it “One Company, Endless Possibilities."

The most memorable experiences at sea are:

  1. Thematic: The theme serves as the foundation of the story and provides an overarching description and definition of the guest experience: from where it starts to where it ends. We look at how the theme is engaged with the marketing message, truly creating the experience before the guest even embarks, carrying this thru port of call destinations, ultimately leading to the cruise experience itself, but most importantly leaving guests with that emotional souvenir they will remember forever.
  2. Story-driven: Here we create engaging narratives, unique environments and memorable characters. Onboard a cruise, we create multiple stories that underscore our chosen theme, and it is important we tailor stories that meet the needs of various ages and demographics. While we create stories and influence the guest experience, we also want the guest to be able to “choose their own adventure,” ultimately creating stories of their own.
  3. Innovative: Break the rules! Be bold, surprising, first-of-its-kind…defy expectations. The first trait of many memorable attractions is that they are innovative in their concept, design or execution. They may break the mold entirely, offer a new twist on existing concepts or technologies, or employ emerging technologies to create new types of visitor experiences. 
  4. Immersive: Create worlds where guests become part of the story. Develop worlds that combine food, beverage and retail experiences, truly transporting guests to a multi-sensory world. Our goal for the guest is to create a return on experience, but in developing truly immersive environments we are providing additional return on investment for you. If a guest feels like they are in a different space, they are more likely to stay for another themed beverage or purchase that branded item they can’t get anywhere else.
  5. Shared and Social: Many cruise guests are traveling with friends or family… so it is important we create shared experiences that are designed around core activities. This approach will also allow interactions between cruise-goers and create additional bonds. Experiences that are designed to be shared often create lasting memories and also lead to a shared social media post, creating brand awareness and the ultimate fear of missing out.
  6. Personalized: Everyone wants to feel like a VIP, so the ability to curate a custom experience is important, from elevated in-room experiences to excursions… but to raise the experience even more, curate it with a theme! Perhaps there are hidden treasures throughout the ship that engage with individuals as they walk by or an RFID wand that creates that a magical movement for a child. Personalization is perfect, when combined with moments of surprise and delight.
  7. Flexible: With a typical cruise lasting 5 – 7 days, it is important that the experiences vary… but did you think of how you can repurpose spaces on the ship to create various nights? Perhaps each evening the lounge transports guests to a different decade or celebrates art in a new way. This technique not only allows you to maximize value for spend, but it also keeps the overall experience fresh and encourages nightly visitations.
  8. Varied: Speaking of variation, it is important we develop a menu of experiences that meets multiple ages, demographics and cultures. The best attractions are those that offer guests a wide variety of experience types, ensuring that guests of all interests and ages are engaged — from passive displays to interactive experiences, high-tech environments to peaceful respites.
  9. Interactive: Engaging the mind and body will entertain and educate guests throughout their cruise journey. The natural inclination is to lean on technology, but with health and wellbeing at the forefront of peoples’ itineraries, even tech-free fitness can be an excellent form of interactivity. It is an important to create a well-balanced combination of technology and physical experiences that encourages guests to interact with the environments we create.
  10. Emotional: Combining the above attributes will connect with guests emotionally to create a lasting memory. Like a good book or film, the most memorable attractions evoke a wide range of emotions.
  11. Sensory: Sensory information, most notably smell and taste, is inextricably linked to the making of memories. What better way to remember the magic of a cruise experience then than through inventive food and beverage? Destination-based or thematic menus pair masterfully with entertainment, creating an immersive experience that guests taste for themselves. Or the meal can be performance in and of itself through plating, techonology, and performance-based service.

If we curate a memorable journey that leverages all of the eleven attributes, we can raise the guest experience at sea, no matter the destination. 

If you would like to learn more, join Ryan Stana, CEO of RWS Entertainment Group and cruise industry experts as they discuss the future of cruising in Seatrade’s Cruising Innovations Theater at 11:00 am on Wednesday, 29th March.