Evolving to meet guests' luxurious expectations

Cruising is back and guests are demanding more luxurious and transformative experiences than ever. To keep pace, brands must harness the power of clever interiors

Evolving to meet guests' luxurious expectations
The suites onboard Seven Seas Grandeur are reminiscent of those found in lavish residences on land

Travel is officially back.  

Most Americans (85 per cent) plan to travel in summer 2022 and nearly half say they will take at least two weeks off, according to the US Travel Association. Prices are up, too, but travellers are showing an increasing willingness to spend more for not just bigger and better holidays, but also more enriching and transformative experiences.  

Whether it’s at sea or on dry land, guests are looking for new leisure experiences and have new expectations. As we head into what will likely be the busiest year ever for travel, cruise operators will need to rethink what those new guest expectations mean for the future.  

Typically, guest journeys and experiences fall into one of three categories. The first is pure escapism. These travellers tend to be young people who want to get away from everyday life, relax and see something new. For these cruise guests, the ship is the destination and ease and comfort are paramount. The second group of guests looks for something a little more elevated in terms of cuisine, enrichment and ports of call. And the third group is looking for a transformative experience. They want to engage with their destinations on an intellectual level. They want transcendent dining experiences, as well as beautiful furnishings and spaces at every turn.  

Now, these categories are not drastically different from previous years. So, what makes 2022 different? Guest expectations are more exacting than ever. After the past two years of limited travel options, people are genuinely looking to have the time of their lives. And this leads to the second difference from years past – the heightened potential for cruise operators to move guests between the three categories. As travel continues to exceed 2019 levels, we see a lot of opportunity for operators to attract people who maybe at one time were looking for pure escapism and bring them into the second group, and bring the second group into the third. Certainly, there are many ways to do this, but design and exceptional service will be the cornerstone of that strategy.  

Design is a major differentiator between brands, but also between the three categories of guest experience. When designing staterooms, we look at every square millimetre. The space must feel comfortable, so there has to be fixtures and furnishings. But the space must also be visually comfortable; it has to feel bigger than it really is. This can be a challenging design approach, but it makes a significant difference to the guest experience. It creates spaces that make the high level of service that cruise lines offer feel all the more rewarding.  

In larger public spaces, it’s all about creating something memorable. We get involved down to the most minute details – from color palettes and furnishings to lighting levels and music – because we know those are the details that transport the guest and help our clients exceed their brand promises. 

Some of our latest work to be delivered in the coming year highlights this design approach. On Norwegian Cruise Line’s Norwegian Prima, which is scheduled to be delivered this summer, we designed the staterooms to look more like a typical hotel room than a cabin. They aren’t just physically larger; we designed them to feel more spacious and comfortable than many cruise guests have come to expect. 

Similarly, on Oceania Cruises’ Oceania Vista, which will set sail next year, we’ve designed the staterooms to feel more like residences. They are highly luxurious but still comfortable. The signature spaces are lavish, but again, they are eminently comfortable. They make it easier for crew to offer the highest level of service.  

And finally, we just finished the design for Regent Seven Seas Cruises’ Seven Seas Grandeur. Guests sailing with this cruise brand expect a transformative experience, so the ship will be akin to an exclusive resort at sea. As the last vessel in the class to be released, we had to up the ante for the design experience. The rooms will feel like opulent residences. The restaurants, particularly the reimagined version of Oceania Cruises’ signature Compass Rose venue, will be able to compete with the best dining experiences in the world. And everything will be laid out to allow crew to give guests a highly personalised experience.  

Travellers are making up for lost time and paying more to have a holiday they will remember forever. Brands and operators will have to continue to evolve to meet and, hopefully, exceed those expectations and the level of demand. Those that don’t rise to the challenge will be left on the shore. So, cruise operators must think about what can make their experience not just special but truly transformative. 

Yohandel Ruiz is a founding partner of Studio DADO  

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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By Yohandel Ruiz
27 June 2022

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