How Viking Line designs for the guest experience

Delivering a great onboard experience has always been the priority for the cruise line, and interior design has a crucial role to play in making that vision a reality, says Johan Nordberg 

How Viking Line designs for the guest experience

Viking Line

Viking Line’s ships now feature contemporary, Nordic-inspired spaces

By Guest |

During my 36 years at Viking Line, I have noted a change in the design of interiors across the passenger shipping industry. When I began my career in the mid-eighties, the restaurants and bars copied different historical styles like Rococo, Belle Epoque and others. This was done in a very detailed way and reflected the general trend across the world. 

Later the design trend was to give an impression of being in destinations like Spain, Italy, Japan or some other exotic location in the world, which was done by introducing design elements and interiors from these countries. The concept was partly inspired by Walt Disney World in Florida, where it was brought to its peak. We still find similar concepts on most cruise ships where you can visit restaurants and bars styled in different ways. 

For Viking Line, however, this development was faded out since our guests had the ability to travel to the original destinations instead of experiencing them imperfectly onboard a ship. The focus now is more on creating a general interior without copying old time styles or interiors from around the world, as we take on more of a Nordic design. 

Viking XPRS is our first ship styled like this and here we find more of a total design for the whole ship. The same design features are used in several areas but by varying colours, lighting and other elements to create a different feeling in each space.  

Our newest ship, Viking Glory, displays the same intent to create a general feeling throughout. However, our designers aimed to create different designs for different areas, while still using some general materials, detailing and furniture. This means that our guests can find areas that are to their specific taste. 

The focus for us is always on guest experience. We try to give views of the sea or archipelago from a variety of different public areas such as arcades, bars and conference areas as well as in our restaurants. This has a knock-on effect of determining that the galley, stores and other service areas are located inside the hull. Of course, wider ships make this design easier, but even in smaller ships it should be a starting point for the general arrangement design. 

We have moved public areas to top decks and cabins to lower decks in our latest ships Viking Grace and Viking Glory. We did this to provide better views and shorter transfers from terminal to and from the cabins in the beginning and end of cruise. Of course, this depends a lot on the route, but I believe this has created a more positive experience and a clearer layout for the ships. 

Viking Line

Viking Line designs its ships to allow a variety of public areas to offer ocean views, such as Viking Glory’s private dining room Fyren

Another important part of the onboard experience that design can influence is the flow of guests. Service outlets like bar and food counters and entertainment venues like stages should be located so that the guests find their way easily and congestions are avoided. Crossings between guests and crew must also be avoided, so the supply of goods to service points should be carried out without disturbing the guests as much as possible. 

By concentrating galleys, storage areas and other crew-only areas around service lifts, we can reduce time spent on moving products and other materials within the ship. The short harbour times and intensive time schedule that we work with at Viking Line demands an effective operation ‘backstage’. The large volumes of linen, food and tax-free products that have to be handled must be considered early in the design process. 

I’ve used these principles across a huge number of projects since I started in 1988. It’s very difficult to pick a favourite when carrying out more than 50 different size projects per year has been the norm. However, one of the most interesting projects that I’ve been a part of was the nightclub conversion onboard Viking Cinderella, which created what I think is the best nightclub on the Baltic.  

The original three-deck-high space created by Norwegian architect Njål Eide gave an excellent starting point for redesigning the room. We needed to ensure that guests came into the room without stopping in the entrance and blocking entry, so we chose to relocate the stage – an idea first suggested by the crew onboard. We also introduced modern LED lighting into the space, and the result in the three-deck-high space was very impressive.  

Johan Nordberg is an architect and interior designer coordinator at Viking Line 

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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