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Wellness, sustainability, crew spaces will influence future ship design

(Photo: Frederik Erdmann)
'Remember the crew,' said MSC Cruises' Trevor Young, far right. Sophisticated design can give them an amazing experience as well
Future cruise ships will not look radically different but will reflect a stronger focus on wellness and sustainability, two megatrends that are influencing product development.

As a third megatrend, their design will pay more attention to the crew, striving to create an amazing experience for the people who deliver an amazing experience for passengers.

Experts made these key predictions at the 'Ship Design and Interiors' session at Seatrade Europe. The panel featured three design experts, two senior cruise line executives and a seasoned German cruiser.

Trevor Young, newbuilding director, MSC Cruises, said the healthy facets of a cruise will be increasingly in demand, as is already the case ashore. This will encompass on-board activities and restaurants with healthy food on offer, but also extends to the vessel itself.

'The design will be the message of a healthy product,' Young predicted, a view supported by Timo Hogestraat, director design & strategy, Partner Ship Design, one of Europe's most experienced cruise ship designers.

Hogestraat said health increasingly will be reflected in ship design, and facilities like teeth-whitening services follow on this trend. Sustainability will be much in demand too, including the use of recycled materials. It's not easy to find recycled material that's suitable, and meets statutory approval, for on-board use, but Hogestraat's team is working on this.

'Recycling stimulates design,' he said, adding it is important to show and communicate this approach to the guests as well.

Young and Lars Clasen, MD of The Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection, agreed sustainability will have a massive impact in future ship design, stressing this doesn't relate to just interior design and the choice of materials, but even more to technical features.

Turning to another point, 'Remember the crew,' Young urged, adding that crew needs have often been overlooked, resulting in uninspired facilities on the lower decks. He suggested sophisticated cruise ship design can give the crew an amazing experience as well. 'If you keep the crew happy, you keep the guests happy,' Young said.

Kevin Paintin, experience design and brand consultant, 20.20 Limited, said that knowing the guest is ever critical to success in ship design. That's why lines increasingly offer multi-generation experiences— a challenging task, as the panel pointed out.

Ritz-Carlton's Clasen pointed out a multi-generation product requires space—and, thus, adequate ship size—to accommodate a wide choice of facilities plus a certain number of people to make all these places lively. This poses a challenge for small ocean-going ships and river vessels.

Another big task is when ships switch between different source markets. Those going to China, for example.

'If you move a ship from a market to another completely different market, you have to refurbish it,' Young told the Seatrade Europe session. He said lines are taking different approaches to what they consider tailoring a ship for Chinese tastes.

Hogestraat noted spa facilities in less demand by Chinese guests, while casino and karaoke are musts. Chinese also favor brighter, more lively colors than Europeans and US passengers, like red and magenta.

The panelists agreed ocean and river cruise ship design continues to take inspiration from hotels, but added that even the opposite happens. A continuous influx of 'fresh blood' for ship design teams is necessary, they said, especially young designers who haven't worked on ships.

In Young's view newcomers, ideally, should be paired with experienced marine designers to learn the statutory requirements of passenger shipping. He also considers product designers as a source of fresh ideas for future cruise vessels.

See also the report on Seatrade Europe's 'Sustainability and Green Shipping' panel.