How project managers lead the way to success

A good project manager has an essential role to play in cruise outfitting projects, guiding a team to meet overall objectives and turn great design into successful projects by ensuring work is completed on time, within budget and in a sustainable way

How project managers lead the way to success
Herget has made efforts to select more sustainable materials across her cruise projects

By Daniela Herget |

Managing a cruise project requires a lot of background knowledge of the industry, from International Maritime Organization regulations to maintenance requirements and onboard operations. Designers who don’t have this kind of specific knowledge can end up finding out that the beautiful design they’ve created can’t be built or maintained efficiently onboard the ship, or maybe discover that their preferred materials aren’t allowed onboard in the first place. 

This is why project managers are essential. We work very closely with owners and designers to help them make a compliant, functional, sustainable and aesthetically pleasing design, and, depending on the designer or owner’s preference, we often write the specifications from their design renderings and drawings.  

A great project manager needs to be a strong leader and decision-maker, who has extraordinary organisational skills, technical expertise and effective communication skills. It’s also important to be cool under pressure and possess highly tuned stakeholder management skills. I’ve been called in several times to troubleshoot a design project with a short deadline, and it’s vital to remain calm in those situations to align the different perspectives of those involved and get the job done on time and within budget.  

It is important for a project manager to develop a good plan and then stick to it as much as possible. These types of cruise projects are so complex, particularly because they involve people both from the interior and technical sides, that everything needs to be planned out ahead of time and coordinated to avoid disruption. For example, my interior team can’t work in the corridors when another team is working there on the cabling in the ceilings. As the project manager, I need to make sure that everything is included in the plan. It also helps to be somewhat clairvoyant to foresee possible challenges around the corner this enables me to create contingency plans. If a change is unavoidable, effective communication to the entire project team is key!  

Planning is especially crucial for the approach I take on my projects, and this is demonstrated on the successful Lean Interior outfitting methodology I developed for this purpose. We took inspiration from the Lean manufacturing of a car assembly line and translated it into a cruise context. Instead of the car moving through the factory, it’s a group of workers moving through the cabins, which I call ‘the train’. These workers will have the same task in every cabin and move on to the next one approximately every 20 minutes, doing the same thing as they move through each of the cabins. Streamlining the process with highly repetitive tasks throughout the project reduces the amount of time and materials wasted while also removing a lot of stress and complication. This makes the work highly efficient in quickly delivering high quality work and ensures there is flexibility to face unexpected problems. I call it proactive problem solving. 

A project following the Lean methodology will also use just-in-time delivery for materials, which means that materials are only delivered when they are needed rather than being stored for several weeks onboard the vessel. Typically, materials will arrive between one and two days before they are used and stored in a location onboard that I call a ‘supermarket’. The logistic team working onboard go and pick the materials they need from there, while another logistics team keeps it constantly supplied. Nobody is running around in areas where they’re not supposed to be, which helps to reduce disruption and keep people focused on their tasks.  

This methodology makes planning more reliable and reduces waste, especially onboard the largest ships. I developed it together with Royal Caribbean International with the first Oasis-class vessels refurbishment in mind, because making a mistake on a vessel of that size could mean that you need to go back through thousands of cabins to fix issues. That does not only create a lot of waste in time of labour and material but also makes you fall behind and lose oversight. I have been called to troubleshoot such projects and that is something you would always like to avoid!  

MSC Seascape

One of Herget’s latest projects has been onboard NeoNyx Cruises’ Goddess of the Night

Sustainability is a subject very close to my heart. Good project management should allow time for more sustainable design choices to be made. Optimisation is in my DNA as a project manager, and optimising the environmental footprint of a project has been one of the biggest challenges over the past few years. I have felt a responsibility to make use of more sustainable materials ever since working on my first refurbishment, when my client had to dispose of furniture from over 1,000 cabins but we were unable to donate any to people in need in the country due to tax reasons. As an ambassador of the Sustainable Maritime Interiors Declaration, I feel committed to not only talk about but also continuously and proactively take action to work towards sustainability and circularity in the cruise interior industry.  

I am especially proud to specify over 30,000 square metres of Radici Bloom carpet for my recent refurbishment project onboard NeoNyx Cruises’ Goddess of the Night, which is the pioneer vessel to sail with this circular carpet. The carpet is made using Aquafil’s Econyl regenerated nylon, which is manufactured from fishing nets, old carpets and industry plastic. It was simple and fun to design the carpet with the designers using an online tool, and if the owner decides to make a change in the future, the carpet can be returned to the manufacturer of the yarn and recycled to make a new carpet, making it a truly circular product. Specifying a product like this with the end of its life in mind shows that project managers are capable of making refurbishment and newbuild projects more sustainable.  

Daniela Herget is the owner of Cruise Quality Consult

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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