Compared to the hundreds of millions of dollars and years it takes to design and build a new vessel, refurbishment projects can be one of the quickest and most effective ways for cruise and ferry lines to give their fleets and brands a refresh, reinvent the passenger experience and generate more revenue.
A specialist in both refurbishment projects and newbuilds, UK interior design firm SMC Design knows exactly what it takes to meet operators’ expectations. Having built a reputation for being reliable, cost effective and delivering truly impressive results, SMC has been the trusted designer for many recent newbuilds (you can read about the company’s work on Norwegian Getaway in the Spring/Summer 2014 issue of International Cruise and Ferry Review) and has seen a healthy surge in the number of refurbishment projects on its books as more cruise and ferry lines seek to revitalise their fleets and breathe new life into their brands. Projects range from full vessel refurbishments through to smaller area conversions, where lines look to introduce popular features and areas from other vessels to the wider fleet, both to enhance the passenger experience and make better use of public spaces.
A typical cruise or ferry ship refurbishment may take up to a month to complete. Being able to work to tight timeframes is, therefore, essential, as Andy Yuill, the design firm’s joint managing director, explains: “Refurbishment work is much faster, so we have to be far more flexible,” he says. “We have to be prepared to work closely with contractors to resolve problems on site. Despite the pressures involved, on the flipside you do get to see the results very quickly. Everything about the whole process is faster.”
In many ways, because of how fast paced refurbishment projects tend to be, they can also be more challenging. “Refurbishment can be harder to manage because of the unknown issues that may crop up,” explains Andrew Brown, senior designer and project manager at SMC Design. “If something happens during the process, you have to work quickly to come up with a solution while staying within budget.”
Earlier this year, SMC Design was called upon to lead a revitalisation project for Red Funnel Isle of Wight Ferries. The line appointed the marine design agency to refurbish the interior of its car and passenger ferry Red Falcon.
“Red Funnel came to us wanting to dramatically improve its onboard experience,” says Brown. “Rather than just being a mode of transport, it wanted Red Falcon to offer guests an enjoyable, memorable journey.”
SMC Design was charged with coming up with the overall interior design and concept. “Working from the client’s brief, we made an initial proposal and then began to refine it following a series of presentations to the company’s marketing executives,” adds Brown. “We then went on to produce a series of visuals, which evolved into fully rendered interior visuals and detailed drawings that were used to promote the redevelopment project. One of our key aims was to create spaces that could accommodate a diverse group of passengers – from lorry drivers and families to festival-goers – so the interior had to be flexible and versatile, yet cohesive. For example, the A deck is geared more towards families, so it has flexible seating, hard flooring and wipe-down furniture. Another area is styled more like an airport business lounge and is targeted at the older demographic as well as professionals, for example.”
One key objective SMC Design had to achieve was to maximise onboard space and provide a range of seating options. “The existing layout had a lot of fixed furniture, which wasn’t an efficient way of using the space,” says Brown. “We proposed a mix of airline-style seating and tables and chairs in the dining areas. We developed a series of visuals to demonstrate how the layout could cope with fluctuating capacities.”
UK-based marine interior design and refit firm Trimline was tasked with bringing all the designs to life. Having been given a set budget and tight timeframe to work within, SMC Design’s effective partnership with the firm was key to the project’s success. “We knew exactly what type of materials we could afford to use and if we were finding ourselves going over budget at any stage, then we refined our design proposal and worked with Trimline to come up with alternative solutions,” says Brown. “Red Funnel provided us with an excellent brief. Our cooperation with them and Trimline allowed the project to run as smoothly as possible and deliver something we can all be proud of.”
Looking ahead, SMC Design is hopeful that it will partner with Red Funnel on future refurbishment projects, including potential work on the other vessels in the line’s Raptor Class, as well as the Red Jet high-speed ferries. “Everyone is over the moon with what we’ve achieved with Red Falcon,” says Brown. “When you look at what they had before, it’s such a transformation. Red Funnel now has a modern, comfortable vessel that caters for all of its passengers’ needs.”
This article appeared in the Autumn/Winter 2014 edition of Cruise & Ferry Interiors. To read other articles, you can subscribe to the magazine in printed or digital formats.