How design firms can help inspire passenger confidence

Jon Ingleton speaks with executives from SMC Design to find out how they believe cruise ship design has to carefully adapt to reassure passengers, as ships begin to sail again

How design firms can help inspire passenger confidence
SMC Design designed the World Café onboard Biking’s ocean cruise ships

With cruise ships returning to the oceans, lines are turning to designers for guidance on how best to introduce new measures to make passengers safe. SMC Design’s managing director Andy Yuill and directors Andrew Brown and Alan Stewart share their insights.

There have been a lot of solutions being put forward as to what the cruise industry has to be doing at this time. Can you sum up where you think the market is now?

AY: From a design point of view, there will be many items and procedures which are going to be introduced. As designers, we will have to look to integrate these into a successful design. However, that should not detract from the overall quality of the design. There will just be new features which will give the guest a greater feeling of safety. The guests will feel reassured and confident in their environment, and they will get on and enjoy their experience.

AB: I think that what you want is for the passenger to be aware of the measures that are creating a safe environment, but you don’t want it to distract in any way. It needs to feel natural and organic within the design. They are there to enjoy a memorable holiday, and you don’t want there to be anything getting in the way of that. We want to enhance a passenger’s experience and have them come away from this having had a better experience than ever before. With the introduction of these new elements and processes, we should be looking at this as an opportunity to find new innovative design solutions.

What role do you think you will play, as designers, in helping your clients to find solutions?

AB: We must be careful in what is being considered because there are going to be those who see this as a sales opportunity. We have to be able to recognise where there is an investment that benefits the design and offers genuine value. It is not sustainable to develop entirely new ships based on the world as it is now, because the world is not going to be this way forever as we all collectively adapt.

There is no silver bullet in design to address the challenges of today. The solutions are going to come through a collaborative combination of design, operations and the way that programming in the space is adapted. What we’re looking forward to is facing these new challenges with operators and creating a process to find solutions to the challenges that lie ahead of us. New ideas and new ways of doing things will come out of this, that will eventually be making the cruise experience even better than it was before. I don’t think people should be daunted by it. If you have the right team and the appetite to find a solution, the solution always exists. It’s just about how willing are you to work hard and find it.

AS: Two things will happen, I think. The first is that that we will return to some type of normality. It may be different, but it won’t be completely alien to the way things have been.

On the other hand, we need to be looking at how we make a vessel with lower capacity sustainable. And this is where it comes down to intelligent planning and intelligent design. First of all, you’ve got to find solutions that make the operation of the ship cost less money. Then from a design point of view we would have to consider what those changes do to the onboard environment. For example, people go to a restaurant to experience the atmosphere. If you reduce that restaurant to 50 per cent capacity, do you lose some of that energy? We don’t know what the future will hold, but there will be solutions. We just have to find them.

So you don’t think that large-scale structural changes to a ship are necessarily the answer?

AB: You don’t then want to go on your cruise and find that it’s been torn apart when there are perhaps smarter more balanced approaches. We’ve got to be careful that we don’t overreact now when a ship is going to be delivered in three years. Companies need to be thinking further along the road and planning for the best solutions demonstrating careful judgement.

AY: I completely agree with Andrew. I’ve heard it being said that we’re going to have to take a cruise ship apart and put it back together again. While nothing’s perfect, I feel that’s far too much of a knee-jerk reaction. I think that the ships that are being built and designed at the moment will continue to work, we just have to consider that for a period of time there will be less people onboard them.

There are lots of changes that the cruise industry is making that will be invisible to passengers. Do you think guests need to feel as if more is being done?

AY: If the industry is doing everything that it can to make people safe, then I think cruise passengers will be quite faithful. I think that people who have already enjoyed a cruise will come back and be aware of what the companies have done to make them as safe as possible. They will come back because they enjoy this experience.

AS: I think it all comes down to communication. A good example is the investments made by cruise lines in recent years in sustainable design. How does a passenger know that these investments have been made? Not everyone is going to walk onboard a ship and recognise those efforts, both with sustainable design and more recent safety measures. So, cruise lines will need to communicate that message effectively from the beginning so that passengers can appreciate it.

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

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Jon Ingleton
By Jon Ingleton
10 December 2020

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