This article first appeared in the Spring/Summer 2015 issue of International Cruise & Ferry Review. To read other articles, you can subscribe to the magazine in printed or digital formats
From offering multiple cuisines to recreating the latest land-based restaurant trends, Mark Kansley explains how Norwegian Cruise Line seeks to impress its customers.
How does Norwegian Cruise Line’s range of restaurant options address demand onboard?
The restaurant choices are designed to offer a wide variety of dining options based on research, trends and surveys with our guests. The variety ranges from casual to buffet to fine dining, from pub fare to steak houses, from Italian to Asian. The goal is to provide choice and variety to all tastes and preferences. The restaurants are designed to offer equally high-quality complimentary dining options and focused speciality dining options. Guests have full choice of reservations and walk-ins, replicating the experience they would have in a land-based vacation. All restaurants are designed to accommodate peak demand and guest preferences throughout the cruise. This all fits in perfectly with our goal of giving guests freedom and flexibility while onboard to customise their vacation to their needs.
How does the layout of the ships affect the success of various eateries?
Ships today are designed around the guest experience. First comes the requirement of how many restaurants, what kind of restaurants and what capacities are required. Then the ship will be laid out accordingly, together with other experiences such as bars, entertainment, shopping, casino and activities. Basically the experience will be designed first, which will drive the layout of the ship. Restaurants are destinations within the layout of the ship, but are usually prominently located and easy to find. We have found that our 678 Ocean Place, with three interconnected decks – on both Norwegian Breakaway and Norwegian Getaway as well as coming soon to Norwegian Escape – is the perfect layout for successful food and beverage operations.
What are the biggest trends you are keeping tabs on regarding the food & beverage offering onboard your ships?
The focus is the trends in the land-based restaurant industry, dining culture, successful restaurant concepts and chains, consumer behaviour, and up-and-coming chefs. Most guests have very little reference to what other cruise lines offer in terms of dining or lack the opportunity to try and compare. So, in order to meet and exceed expectations, we need to create experiences which are based on the reference points of our guests, which are their favourite land-based restaurants, whether it be a restaurant chain or their small neighbourhood restaurants. We also focus on general food trends, what are the most ordered items on the menus in restaurants today, what consumers purchase, such as kale or brussels sprouts or pork belly locally sourced.
What key aspects do you look for in the design of a restaurant?
Restaurants and dining are a multisensory experience. We start with an initial idea of what this restaurant should be. Let’s say Italian. What kind of Italian? Southern, Northern, American-Italian, casual or more formal, full service or quick service? Once we have designed what the experience should be like, then we will design the concept to bring it to life. Again, every sense counts – what you see, smell, taste, touch, feel and experience. This means we design every detail, from the decorative designs to tables and chairs, chinaware, glassware, uniforms, service style and sequences, background music, lighting, menu design and presentation, special features such as a dessert cart, a pizza oven, an open kitchen or a performance area. Nothing is left to chance. And then of course there is the food, which is the hero of the restaurant at the end of day. Everything else around it is designed to support the food & beverage in service and ambience.