Capitalising on a captain's expertise for expedition interiors

Designers must consider how to combat extreme weather when creating expedition cruise ships

Capitalising on a captain's expertise for expedition interiors

EYOS Expeditions/ Martin Enckell

Expedition ships must be designed to withstand sudden meterological changes, says Ben Lyons

By Ben Lyons |

Expedition ships should reflect the environment they are operating in to connect guests with the scenery and wildlife outside. The polar environment is a unique element to contend with when designing ships. 

Guests need and want great outdoor spaces onboard expedition ships – some of the best expedition experiences involve being bundled up in warm clothing while standing on the deck in freezing temperatures watching wildlife or listening to the ice crunch against the hull. However, guests cannot spend long periods of time in these outdoor spaces and so they need to be designed to allow them to quickly transition from inside to outside and vice versa. After all, guests want to maximise spontaneous moments and make long-lasting memories.  

Outside areas also need to accommodate for a large number of guests and extreme weather conditions. Weather can change rapidly, with winds seemingly coming from nowhere and gusting up to 60 knots. Consequently, it is important that designers create outdoor areas that can withstand sudden meterological changes and are also appealing for guests. Designers also need to factor in the impact of the ocean. Expedition ships sometimes operate in extremely inhospitable seas, so finding a place to safely put lounges and large windows is a prime consideration.  

Having worked as a chief officer on Cunard Line’s Queen Mary 2 and as a chief officer and captain on Lindblad Expeditions’ National Geographic Endeavour and National Geographic Explorer, the safety and operational parameters of a ship are always my first consideration when helping to design or create a new expedition vessel. I have also been a freelance travel writer for more than 22 years, so I’ve experienced many ships from a passenger’s perspective. For example, I wrote this article while onboard Royal Caribbean International’s Oasis of the Seas and even on this ship, I’ve looked at many elements and thought: “Wouldn’t it be cool if an expedition ship had that?” So, my experience as both a captain and travel writer have an influence on my preference and approach to interior design. 

Of course, designers must focus on the inside spaces too, and there are a whole host of things for expedition ship operators to consider. For instance, some regions have 24 hours of daylight and in others, windows need to be completely blacked out from the outside to prevent bird strikes.  

Interior lounges should be focused on showcasing the outside world, while also allowing for the communal experiences that are so key on expeditions, such as the traditional nightly ritual where everyone gathers to recap the day’s events. Expedition ships are ultimately about connecting with the areas that guests are travelling in, and I firmly believe that this focus should be reflected within a ship’s interior design. The interiors should facilitate opportunities for guests to watch scenery and wildlife, and calming decor choices that complement, rather than compete with, the environment tend to work best.  

Our team at EYOS has collectively worked on just about every expedition cruise ship and yacht out there, so we have decades of experience in seeing which designs are successful and we have a variety of platforms in use. It can be hard for individuals who have not travelled on expeditions before to understand just how different they are to ocean and river cruises and how the ship’s design can influence the quality of the guest experience. Therefore, our collective experience and partnership with Damen Shipyards helps to prevent costly mistakes in the interior design process for cruise operators.  

Ben Lyons is CEO of EYOS Expeditions and Expedition Voyage Consultants, and a freelance travel writer 

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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