Designing a premium onboard experience

Rebecca Gibson explores the crucial role interior design plays in helping passenger shipping operators to elevate the guest experience onboard their vessels

Designing a premium onboard experience

What defines a premium cruise experience? For some guests, it is sailing onboard a ship with elegantly designed suites, expansive spas, and lounges and restaurants with striking artwork and opulent furnishings. Others find luxury in personalised services and amenities, or in high-quality entertainment and world-class cuisine.

In this feature, we ask senior cruise line executives to share how their brands are creating compelling luxurious experiences that will delight guests and turn them into loyal brand ambassadors. We also invite some of the key players from the cruise interior supplier community to explain how passenger shipping operators can use their high-quality products and services to support premium design goals.

Making luxury accessible to all
Costa Cruises aims to deliver a budget-friendly premium cruises experience by outfitting its ships with luxury furnishings and offering high-end entertainment and cuisine

For centuries, Italy has been renowned for its impressive architecture, fine craftsmanship, pioneering fashion and transportation industries, its strong culinary traditions and much more. As a company with proud Italian heritage, Costa Cruises aims to celebrate this by creating ships and onboard experiences that have all the hallmarks of a luxury Italian vacation, but are accessible to guests with every kind of budget. To achieve this goal, we invest a lot of time, money and effort into designing impressive onboard spaces, outfitting our vessels with high-quality furniture and furnishings, creating authentic Italian and Mediterranean cuisine, and producing great entertainment. Costa Smeralda, our newest flagship, provides the perfect example.

Designed to serve as an ambassador to Italy, the vessel boasts an overarching design concept created by Costa’s creative director and hospitality designer Adam Tihany. His aim was to deliver an exclusive experience of journeying through Italy via the perspectives of four design architecture firms, Jeffrey Beers International, Dordoni Architetti, Partner Ship Design and Rockwell Group. Interiors have been enhanced by high-end materials, furniture, soft furnishings, lighting and other accessories made by some of Italy’s most prestigious designers and product manufacturers. They include Alessi, Molteni&C, Roda, Flos, Rubelli, Dedar Milano, Dorelan, Kartell, Poltrona Frau and others. These products can be found throughout the ship, so guests are surrounded by luxury wherever they go.

Tihany also created CoDe, the first-ever design museum at sea. Exhibits feature hundreds of pieces of furniture, fashion items, art, miniature motorbikes and trains, and many other iconic artifacts that showcase Italy’s influence on the design world over the past 60 years. Guests can visit the museum for free to learn about everything that makes Italy beloved worldwide, and to develop a deeper appreciation for how the story of Italy is conveyed through the interior designs and onboard offerings across Costa Smeralda.

Similarly, all our ships feature carefully curated mixed-media art collections, which comprise both original pieces custom-designed for Costa and reproductions of famous artworks. For example, Costa Luminosa’s atrium features a magnificent bronze ‘Donna Sdraiata’ (‘Reclining Woman’) statue by Colombian artist Fernando Botero, while Costa Deliziosa’s atrium is home to a gilt bronze version of Italian artist Arnaldo Pomodoro’s ‘Sphere Within a Sphere’ sculpture. Typically, artwork of this calibre is exclusively displayed behind glass in expensive museums and is inaccessible to many people. However, our guests have a unique opportunity to walk around an extensive floating gallery for free every day and personally interact with the pieces. This brings the joy of art to new audiences of all ages.

Another crucial component of any premium cruise experience is the food and beverage offering. Drawing inspiration from Costa’s heritage and the destinations we visit, our expert chefs create menus featuring a wide variety of simple Italian and Mediterranean dishes made from the finest fresh ingredients. Specialist equipment allows us to make elements such as authentic Italian pizza dough and gelato from scratch onboard the ships, elevating our cuisine to the standard of dishes offered in some of the world’s renowned dining establishments. High-quality dishes are available in every onboard dining venue, rather than being limited to our speciality restaurants. This allows every guest to experience fine dining and fully explore the culinary heritage of the Mediterranean region, regardless of their budget.

At Costa, we also work hard to deliver high-quality entertainment programmes that rival those on land. Every ship offers a plethora of all-inclusive entertainment options, ranging from full-scale theatre productions to acrobatic and dance shows, beach club parties, children’s activities and much more. We invest in new hardware and technologies, such as large screens and LED walls, to enable us to deliver the types of premium immersive experiences that will surpass guest expectations. Costa Smeralda, for example, features a three-deck-high Colesso amphitheatre with LED walls and the latest sound and lighting technology to enrich the dramatic acrobatic performances. By investing in all these little details and offering them as standard to all guests, we are able to significantly elevate our cruise experience and deliver a premium product for a fraction of the cost.

Giuseppe Carino is vice president of guest experience and onboard revenue at Costa Cruises

Onboard oasis
Crystal Cruises Crystal is committed to creating elegant ships and delivering luxurious personalised experiences for guests

Ever since it began operating with just one ocean cruise ship in 1989, Crystal has been committed to creating elegant ships and delivering luxurious personalised experiences and amenities for guests. Over the years, the company’s portfolio has expanded significantly to include the Crystal Cruises, Crystal River Cruises, Crystal Yacht Cruises and Crystal Expedition Cruises brands – yet our unwavering focus on providing a premium product that far exceeds guest expectations has remained the same. Every new vessel we add to our fleet is meticulously designed to offer our signature ‘Crystal Experience’ and we constantly collect guest feedback to enable us to fine-tune our services and onboard offerings.

The Crystal Life Salon & Spas onboard all our ships are an extension of the welcoming atmosphere and warm service that is at the heart of the Crystal Experience. All the spas are designed in collaboration with marine architects that are industry leaders in this craft. We also receive valuable input from our spa concession provider, One Spa World, which operates luxury spas around the world and on vessels sailing for other cruise lines.

One of the most important hallmarks of the premium Crystal Experience is that we provide industry-leading space ratios throughout our ships. In line with this, our spas, salons and fitness centres always offer a generously spacious atmosphere. They are also operated by well-trained teams of trained stylists, aestheticians and therapists who can cater spa and beauty treatments to our guests’ individual preferences. Meanwhile, the fitness centres boast the latest equipment and host classes and other wellness activities.

Crystal Cruises’ ocean ships – Crystal Serenity and Crystal Symphony – feature the first Feng Shui-inspired spas at sea and offer a tranquil environment designed to relax and recharge guests. Highlights of the spaces include a private canopied relaxation area on the spa’s aft deck, several treatment rooms, saunas and changing areas featuring showers with multiple jets, fibre optic lighting and special rain and mist functions.

Although smaller than on our ocean vessels, the spa and fitness areas on our five river cruise ships – Crystal Bach, Crystal Debussy, Crystal Mahler, Crystal Mozart and Crystal Ravel – are equally well-appointed and designed to offer a premium wellness experience. Each vessel has a private treatment room, a heated indoor pool, and both indoor and outdoor fitness areas. Crystal Mozart’s spa is the largest in river cruise history.

Crystal Endeavor features one of the largest spas in the expedition cruising industry. It comprises three treatment rooms, a relaxation area and separate saunas and steam rooms for men and women – all of which have exceptional views. The space is complimented by The Crystal Life Salon, which offers a full range of services tailored to both men and women.

We know that many guests consider our spas and wellness areas as a rejuvenating supplement to exploring destinations and activities when they travel. We look forward to welcoming them back onboard to enjoy this luxury experience soon.

Bernie Leypold is senior vice president of hotel operations at Crystal Cruises

Quality at sea
We asked interior designers and cruise interior suppliers share their insights on how passenger ship operators can exceed guest expectations. Below is a list of the experts who shared their perspectives with us, which you can read in full from page 63 of the digital edition of the 2021 issue of Cruise & Ferry Interiors:

  • John Hadley, Marine Director at Chelsom
  • Jason Hatfield, Owner of Hatfield Project Management
  • Alan McVitty, Founder of M Studio London
  • Luigi Portelli, Director of Sales for the Americas at Dorelan
  • Helena Sawelin, Partner and Business Director at Tillberg Design of Sweden

This article was first published in the 2021 issue of Cruise & Ferry Interiors. All information was correct at the time of printing, but may since have changed. 

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Rebecca Gibson
By Rebecca Gibson
26 July 2021