A modern ferry experience for modern travellers

DFDS uses passenger feedback to ensure that its ships offer the types of onboard venues that will meet and exceed expectations

A modern ferry experience for modern travellers
Large tables in the Horizon restaurant make the venue an ideal place for groups of friends and families to enjoy light meals together

Today, many travellers regard the ferry journey as more than just a way to get from A to B; they view it as a key part of their holiday because it offers them the opportunity to relax, refuel and have fun in comfortable surroundings while travelling to their final destination. Consequently, they expect bright and modern environments with a similar shopping and dining experience to the one they would find in big shopping centres or airports. Open space is now equally as important, and our new designs really maximise this.

DFDS aims to bring this modern world onto our vessels, while also enabling guests to make the most of the fact that they’re at sea. However, before we design any onboard spaces, we must first understand what our passengers want. Everyone has a different idea of what constitutes a perfect onboard experience – some people want to socialise with fellow travellers, some want to enjoy food and drinks, and some simply want to unwind in a quiet space. We aim to create spaces for all these groups on our ships.

All six ships on our routes between England and France have the same main onboard concepts, which include the Lighthouse Café, Horizon restaurant, Seven Seas Buffet, the Sea Shop and Road Kings, our dedicated space for commercial drivers, which has a restaurant and a lounge area. However, they also have their own unique features. We work with UK-based interior design firm SMC Design to focus on route-specific design to help unlock the full potential of the fleet.

Based on feedback from our passengers, we’ve introduced three big upgrades on our Dover to Dunkirk ships to enhance key areas. One new space is the Premium Lounge, which was developed in response to passenger requests for an open space with more expansive sea views. Here, passengers can relax in comfortable armchairs and sofas, or head to a purpose-built area to enjoy pastries and beverages. Another is the Relax Lounge which caters for travellers who want a peaceful environment to unwind or sleep.

The final new venue is the Horizon Pizza Pasta Salad concept, which was first introduced to rave reviews on the Dover to Calais route and is primarily aimed at families or those wanting a lighter alternative to a full restaurant concept. Horizon has fast become popular with passengers and it’s now my favourite space on our Channel ships. The open and relaxing decor, the seating with sea views and the freshly cooked food all come together to create a truly fantastic venue that makes me smile every time I walk in. We’ve truly brought the high street experience to the sea and raised the standard of ferry travel. The same main concepts and colour schemes will be introduced onboard our new ship, Côte d’Opale, which will replace Calais Seaways on our Dover to Calais route in summer 2021 and also have an exclusive shopping area. The ship will offer more space, more choice and a unique travel experience.

While much of our design work focuses on catering to passenger demand, we must consider practicalities such as safety and maintenance too. More than three million people travel on our vessels each year, so we need to use high-quality and hardwearing materials and furnishings that can be cleaned and repaired quickly and easily. This is particularly important on our Dover to France routes, where we offer more than 50 sailings per day and have tight turnaround times in the ports. Keeping these ships in top condition year-round is challenging, but we achieve it by carrying out a technical service and deep clean and freshen up the passenger areas onboard each vessel annually.

Delivering the best possible onboard experience for our passengers is at the heart of everything DFDS does and we’ll continue to improve the ships – both on our Channel routes and elsewhere in our network – so they meet and exceed the high standards modern travellers demand for many years to come.

Steve Newbery is the commercial onboard director at DFDS

This article was first published in the 2020 issue of Cruise & Ferry Interiors. All information was correct at the time of printing, but may since have changed.

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By Steve Newbery
31 August 2020

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