YSA Design shares its vision for the fast-changing cruise market

YSA Design shares its vision for the fast-changing cruise market
YSA Design created an immersive theatre for Holland America Line’s flagship Koningsdam (Image: YSA Design)

Strong design vision and comprehensive project management capabilities will be essential ingredients if the cruise industry is to capitalise on changing passenger demographics to ensure that vacations at sea are more than a once-in-a-lifetime experience, according to YSA Design.

This summer, the ship interior and exterior architect used its design and project management skills to complete a radical main deck conversion of a European-built ship to enable it to meet Asian cruising tastes at a Chinese yard. The Chinese Government sees cruise shipbuilding as integral to its ‘Made in China 2025’ programme. YSA Design’s participation in conversion work at a Chinese shipyard had brought timely insight into a market preparing to meet local demand, explains Anne Mari Gullikstad, CEO of YSA Design.

“The emergence of this exciting market is a driver for growth and a seismic shift for the industry, posing new challenges for ship designers,” says Gullikstad. “Through a combination of study trips and diligent research, we realised that adapting existing cruise ships for this new market involves more than simple cosmetic change. We have to strike a balance between aesthetic and functional requirements for a new audience that requires a variety of dining experiences, larger and specific retail areas, dedicated spaces for group activities, exercise and entertainment events, and a real focus on gaming arenas.”

YSA Design is one of a handful of companies that fully engages in the multi-layered world of cruise ship design, liaising with owners, architects, engineers, yards and subcontractors from concept to delivery. The company emerged after a 2016 management buy-in at Petter Yran & Bjørn Storbraaten, which has been creating innovative cruise ship designs for 30 years. In a new ‘partnership of equals’, Gullikstad works alongside existing partner Gunnar Aaserud, longstanding associates Einar Jungård, Jan Krefting, and Trond Sigurdsen and Tov Arne Svalestuen, founders Yran and Storbraaten.

“There’s a new intensity since the restructuring, but what remains unchanged is that there won’t be a generic YSA design,” Gullikstad says. “We develop unique designs for cruise ships and land-based customers, working to achieve what the client wants in harmony with the ship, passenger experience, crew needs and service delivery. That is following through to our work for ships serving Asian clientele.”

This philosophy has led the YSA Design team into areas of specialisation in developing both interior and exterior spaces. Children’s areas based on inclusive design principles, rather than segmentation, have evolved as a speciality since the company was chosen to work on Disney Cruise Line’s ships. Its approach has been sought out by other owners as cruising demographics have changed.

Gullikstad also points to the immersive theatre designed for Holland America Line’s Koningsdam, with its central stage and wraparound video canvas, and the Jean-Philippe Maury chocolate atelier onboard MSC Cruises’ MSC Meraviglia as examples of enticements that could turn new cruisers into repeat passengers.

The newly energised YSA Design is ready for growth, but Gullikstad emphasises that it will not come at a price of compromising the company’s hard-won reputation.

“One emphasis is to grow 3D modelling, where we invested in the latest hardware and software after the restructuring,” she says. “Our goal is to grow to 35-40 staff, while ensuring that experienced leaders manage every project. There is certainly no shortage of applicants. People know that what we do here is pretty special.”

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