A trio of transformations for ferry operator DFDS

Steven Newbery of DFDS tells Elly Yates-Roberts about the onboard refurbishment of the line’s two English Channel ferries and the importance of improving the passenger experience

A trio of transformations for ferry operator DFDS
DFDS updated the onboard dining areas to create a fresh and modern feel

Keeping up with evolving business trends and continuing to meet customer expectations is a challenge for any business. To ensure it could do this, Denmark-based ferry operator DFDS embarked on a refurbishment project onboard its three ferries that operate between Dover, UK, and Dunkirk, France – Dover Seaways, Delft Seaways and Dunkerque Seaways. It then followed up with refurbishment projects onboard Côtes des Dunes and Côtes des Flandres, both of which run between Dover and Calais, France.  

“The central motivation for the refurbishment was quite simple; to provide our passengers with the best possible service and experience,” says Steven Newbery, onboard commercial director at DFDS. “With that, we began a major four-year upgrade programme to revitalise food and beverage outlets and create a fresh and modern feel.”  

DFDS enlisted the help of British design firm SMC Design and interior outfitters Aecor Marine and Trimline to bring its refurbishment programme to life.  

According to Newbery, the design concept was based on delivering a European-style coffee shop experience. “Colours and lighting were very important in this, so all three redesigns feature vibrant colours and take advantage of the beautiful sea views to give a more open feel,” he says.  

In line with this vision, the trio of design firms helped DFDS to create the new Lighthouse Café, a European coffee shop concept with food options including bagels, high-quality cakes, sandwiches, salads, and vegetarian and gluten-free options. Alongside the new café, DFDS carried out other major upgrades. 

“We wanted to introduce a new dining concept that brought something different to ferry travel – our new Horizon restaurant, which offers freshly cooked, made-to-order handmade pizzas, pasta and salads.”  

The Premium Lounge area has also been remodelled to bring a greater feeling of spaciousness onboard and capture more sea views. “The comfy armchairs and sofa seating, alongside the purpose-built area for coffee, pastries, chocolates and cold drinks, have really helped to create an area where families and other travellers can relax,” says Newbery.  

“The new lighting and colours that we have included will definitely deliver that big ‘wow’ factor,” he adds. “Remodelling to create a more open feel and adding seating areas next to windows has meant that everyone can now enjoy the natural light and beautiful sea views that are so unique to ferry travel. Passengers are on a journey, and we want to provide a relaxing experience onboard, where each area is unique and will appeal to different people.” 

As is expected in a project of this size, redesigning the ferries was a complex procedure. “We started by looking at the data and taking a deep dive into what our passengers were telling us,” says Newbery. “We then appointed SMC Design to help us redevelop our catering outlets and create a new look and feel across them all.  

“After finalising the design concept, we then had to strip everything back and rebuild. This was a huge job that involved a wide range of stakeholders, including the designers, our technical teams, partners at Fayard in Denmark, marine outfitters Aecor Marine and Trimline, and many others. It’s been a great collaboration all round, and we couldn’t be happier about the results.”  

Newbery is incredibly excited and proud of the improvements, which he believes will give DFDS passengers the best possible start to their journey. “These products meet the standards people want from ferry travel and allow passengers to create memories and have fun while en route to their destination,” he says. “The refit programme on these vessels has allowed us to offer something for everyone: relaxing and unwinding, grabbing a bite to eat, enjoying a freshly brewed cup of coffee or a cold drink, watching some television, or exploring all the things our duty-free shop has to offer.” 

DFDS has also been tracking the ships’ profitability and feedback from its passengers to determine whether everyone else is equally impressed with the revitalisations. “So far, we’ve seen some fantastic comments on Twitter about how good the ships look,” says Newbery. “We’ve also seen an increase in average spend per head, which tells us that travellers are responding really well to all the improvements we’ve made.”  

This article was first published in the 2022 issue of Cruise & Ferry Interiors. All information was correct at the time of printing, but may since have changed. 

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Elly Yates-Roberts
By Elly Yates-Roberts
16 June 2022

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