How DFDS is giving its ferries a new lease of life

Teun-Wim Leene tells Michele Witthaus about the €10 million refurbishment project the ferry operator completed onboard both King Seaways and Princess Seaways in early 2024 

How DFDS is giving its ferries a new lease of life


The Explorer’s Kitchen restaurant was one of several public spaces DFDS upgraded on King Seaways and Princess Seaways

By Michele Witthaus |

King Seaways and Princess Seaways, both of which operate on DFDS’s ferry route between Newcastle, UK, and Amsterdam, Netherlands, were extensively renovated during a €10 million ($10.8 million) project in January and February 2024. The scope of the refurbishment included all cabins (close to 1,000 in total), the Explorer’s Kitchen restaurant, elevators, hallways, and the addition of new door lock systems. The project was planned and executed by DFDS, interior design firm SMC Design and interior solutions provider DeRossi Marine, and carried out at Remontowa shipyard in Gdansk, Poland. 

“Our recent investment in cabin upgrades and the addition of new door locks stems from a deep commitment to address customer feedback, enhance passenger satisfaction and elevate our net promoter score,” says Leene. “Feedback from our frequent customer satisfactions surveys highlighted that our customers were happy with the quality of our onboard offerings, but our cabins were outdated and needed refreshing. 

“By revitalising our cabins and public areas, we aim to elevate our customers’ travel experiences. Both King Seaways and Princess Seaways have undergone a remarkable transformation, with nearly 1,000 cabins refurbished and upgrades to select public areas and restaurants.” 

How will the revamp affect the passenger experience onboard these ships? “When stepping aboard our DFDS vessels sailing the Amsterdam-Newcastle route, our customers will have an entirely new experience,” says Leene. “We’ve crafted new, modern and fully refurbished cabins tailored to meet evolving customer preferences. In addition, we’ve installed fresh furniture and carpets, upgraded light fixtures and added USB charging ports. We’ve also revitalised the public areas, restaurants and bars, ensuring that our customers embark on their journey aboard a vessel that is not only fresh but also significantly more contemporary.”  

DFDS has also successfully improved the environmental sustainability of both the vessels and its operational practices during the project. “Throughout the refurbishment process, we prioritised the selection of materials to ensure longevity for our vessels,” explains Leene. “A notable decision was the installation of LED lights in all cabins, as a measure to lower energy consumption. Furthermore, we’ve invested in a better waste management system. All cabins are now equipped with waste separation litter bins.” 

DFDS LED lights cabins lower energy consumption

DFDS installed LED lights in all cabins, as a measure to lower energy consumption

He is quick to add, however, that the brand’s dedication to sustainability goes beyond surface-level improvements. “Currently, we’re in the final stages of a design study for two next-generation vessels that will redefine travel between the Northeast and continental Europe. If all goes according to plan, these vessels, which are expected to be operational by 2029, will not only enhance passenger comfort but also establish new benchmarks for sustainability and operational efficiency.” 

SMC Design and DeRossi Marine were the two main partners on the King Seaways and Princess Seaways project. “SMC Design spearheaded the design plans, leveraging its expertise gained from working with various ferry and cruise companies,” says Leene. “DeRossi Marine, a long-standing key partner of DFDS since 2011, played a pivotal role in coordinating external contractors crucial for project completion. The company has been instrumental in numerous vessel renewal projects, working closely with DFDS on over 20 projects across multiple routes.” 

Andrew Watkins, commercial experience manager at DFDS, remarks: “What I love most about refits like this is the transformation. We start with a product that our customers have known for years; we break it down and take it back to its very beginning and grow a new experience. It’s very motivating to know that when we close the door and walk away on the last day, our customers will be walking into a fresh and exciting experience.” 

Leene pays tribute to the many people who worked on the revitalisation of the two ferries. “The success of the refurbishment owes much to the contribution of our onboard crew and approximately 150 specialists, including painters, carpet fitters and plumbers,” he says. “Their dedication and expertise were pivotal in executing every aspect of the refurbishment process, working tirelessly seven days a week to adhere to the demanding project schedule. These partners were selected for their extensive experience in the field and their understanding of our operational needs.” 

Looking to the future, he says: “Since 2015, DFDS has had a partnership with SMC Design and together, we’ve crafted a design narrative for over 10 vessels. This collaboration is set to continue as we work towards creating a standardised DFDS look and feel to be implemented across the fleet. Our goal is to ensure a consistent DFDS experience for passengers, regardless of the route they embark upon.”   

This article was first published in the 2024 issue of  Cruise & Ferry Interiors. All information was correct at the time of printing, but may since have changed. Subscribe  for FREE to get the next issue delivered directly to your inbox.  

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