The quest to deliver ideal interiors for Costa Group's cruise ships

Rebecca Gibson asks Christian Schönrock to share the secrets behind the company's interior design strategy

The quest to deliver ideal interiors for Costa Group's cruise ships
AIDAnova's Rossini Bar and Restaurant has booth seating to offer an intimate dining experience

This article was first published in the 2019 issue of Cruise & Ferry Interiors. All information was correct at the time of printing, but may since have changed.

Nothing provides a holiday experience like a cruise on a ship, says Christian Schönrock, vice president of Newbuilding at Costa Group. “What other holiday gives you the chance to immerse yourself in nature, breathe in the sea air and watch the sun set over one picturesque city and wake up as it’s rising over another?” he asks. “Being on a ship is magical and we want to bring this experience to everyone with our ships.”

Indeed, Schönrock’s mission is to offer a personalised cruise experience to each and every guest. “By creating multiple venues, we are able to satisfy the needs of different passenger demographics and target groups. We want our ships to be a platform that offers guests everything they need to have the best possible time – whether they want a quiet relaxing cruise, or one filled with non-stop entertainment and adventure,” he says. “Thanks to the large size of our ships, we have the space to incorporate play areas for young families, indoor and outdoor sports facilities for those who like to stay active, spas and wellness facilities for guests who want to relax, bars and theatres for those who want to party, multiple dining venues to suit everyone’s gastronomic preferences and so much more.”

However, regardless of the number of elements onboard its ships, Schönrock says that it’s crucial that Costa Group’s guests do not feel overwhelmed. “Although our ships seem huge from the outside, and accommodate many people, we want our guests to feel as though they are at home while they are onboard – both in their private cabins and in the public spaces,” he explains. “Our atriums, for example, are designed to feel like cosy living rooms, while our many restaurants are configured in such a way that they recreate that intimate feeling of dining with friends and family at home. It’s this feeling of ships being designed just for our guests that keeps them coming back to us time and time again.”

To achieve these goals, guest input is absolutely fundamental to the design process. “When building a new ship we analyse all the feedback from passengers and crew to identify what aspects of our current ships and onboard offerings are working well – and which elements could be improved – and we also explore what design, entertainment, dining and other trends are popular in the market,” Schönrock says. “This gives us a great foundation for designing the platform for our upcoming ships because it means we can include the old favourites that will keep our loyal guests happy, but also unleash our creativity to bring some exciting new innovations that will surprise and delight them.”

Top management, the architect and the wider team then come together to build on this feedback and to develop the entirety of the ship, taking into account the overall flow of passengers and materials, the location of staircases, different entertainment spaces, the restaurant areas and cabins. “We make it a priority to optimise space for passengers,” Schönrock says. “If we know how many passengers we will have then we can accurately predict how many restaurants we’ll need and the space required for communal areas. We like to get the most out of our space, so we’ll often turn a daytime restaurant into a nightclub in the evening. The beach club is a perfect example – during the day you can relax there – you can have breakfast, lunch or snacks. In the evening, however, it is livelier, and takes on a new atmosphere.”

Just as much thought is paid to the outfitting process. “Safety is always the key priority when we’re designing and outfitting our ships, so we only use high-quality, marine-grade materials that have been certified by the International Maritime Organization and comply with all other industry requirements,” Schönrock says. “Lightweight, compact materials are particularly important on a cruise ship and we have established relationships with a number of preferred suppliers.”

Schönrock believes that these relationships are just as crucial as those he has with the architects. “You do not start to design a ship and come to a point when you need a nice foyer; everything needs to be established in parallel. Our tight schedules mean that, once we sign the contract with the shipyard, there is no room for change. We need to have established designs in place as early on in the process as possible.”

Sustainability is another key consideration for Schönrock. “We have to think about not only the impact of the ship, but the whole industry. From a starting point, the steel we use is quite sustainable and can also be reused when the ship is scrapped. But we’re also very aware of how much energy is being used to produce and transport the materials we use. We have to be careful that everything we use is sourced as locally as possible. It doesn’t make sense to buy an environmentally-friendly carpet from Australia, for example, and ship it to Europe for a ship’s dry dock.”

When all of these considerations come together, Schönrock says the feeling is like no other. “I am especially proud of AIDAnova, the last ship we delivered,” he explains. “All of the different elements worked in harmony with one another. Customers really liked the ship too – they really struggled to pick a highlight! We had lots of feedback to say guests instantly felt at home on the ship, so it delivered everything we set out to achieve and more.”

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Rebecca Gibson
By Rebecca Gibson
Friday, June 21, 2019