Over two days of back-to-back conference sessions, hundreds gathered to hear about the latest trends and developments in cruise interiors from 25+ industry-acclaimed speakers representing the world’s largest cruise lines, design firms, suppliers and more at the unmissable Cruise Conversations Live conference 2021.

Across seven conference sessions designed to inspire, key topics covered included sustainability, health and hygiene innovations, cruise interior design trends, and more.

In this article, we at Cruise Interiors Design Expo Americas (CSI) share our five key takeaways from Cruise Conversations Live 2021.

1. Collaboration is key to the future of the cruise industry

Cruise Conversations Live kicked off during day one of CSI with a keynote, ‘Design Leadership: We Are One Cruise Industry’. In this keynote, designers from leading cruise lines covered many aspects of designing cruise interiors, from trends to working styles. But, most importantly, they shared the value of collaboration within the cruise sector, and how this allowed the industry to persevere during the recent pandemic.

While ships had stopped sailing and the cruise industry appeared to be on hold, Dee Cooper (Virgin Voyages) discussed how behind the scenes, cruise lines were communicating and sharing best practices to help aid the industry’s strong return. This level of communication and collaboration is something that has continued.

“One of the things that I was thinking about throughout this whole pandemic was this camaraderie that began to happen between all the cruise lines. Traditionally it’s always been rivals, but all of a sudden, the industry just came together.”

Greg Walton, CEO & Founding Partner, Studio Dado
One of the key takeaways from the Design Leadership Keynote was the value in collaboration between cruise lines

2. Digital technology will drive personalised guest experiences

Yohandel Ruiz (Studio Dado), Alexander Zeitz (Virgin Voyages), and David Kopczynski (Siemens) gave plenty of food for thought in ‘Innovating the Digital Customer Experience’. One of the key takeaways was that smart technology will allow cruise lines to offer a more personalised guest experience. This is important to cruisegoers, argued David Kopczynski, who explained that “they want that personal touch. They want to feel like they are the only person on this cruise ship, or they’re the most important person.” The panel went on to discuss how cew can use data collected from guest interactions with cruise apps to bring passenger experiences to another level.

However, the personalisation doesn’t end there. Smart technologies within cabins and on cruise line apps also provide options for cruisegoers to curate their perfect experience.

3. Cruisegoers are seeking more luxury experiences

As cruise lines resume services and welcome guests back on board, it is vital to create a relaxing atmosphere. In ‘Interpreting Guest Behaviors To Design Better Interiors’, our panel of design experts representing ICRAVE Design, Teague, Celebrity Cruises & Royal Caribbean, and KCC Entertainment Design explored emerging guest behaviours, and shared how cruise lines can design their interiors to cater to these.

The panel noted an emerging desire among cruise passengers to seek extraordinary and opulent experiences. This is the result of months of not being able to travel, meaning more and more guests are seeking unique and luxury experiences where they can try something different and new, and are willing to spend more to do so.

And what is the best way to incorporate this into a design?

Audiences gained an insight into designing for emerging guest behaviours from the design experts in ‘Interpreting Guest Behaviors To Design Better Interiors’

Well, according to the design experts, luxury and privacy go hand in hand. Therefore, it is key for all forms of travel and hospitality, from cruise ships to airlines, to start introducing private spaces within these public experiences. These will provide a space where guests can retreat to and feel safe and secure.

“There’s this heightened hunger for that luxury experience, for that feeling of exclusivity, for the feeling of privacy, and I think that’s another thing that we touched on, a feeling of privacy, and we looked at this notion of really wanting to go to a public experience, but having your own private space within it, and that I think is going to continue to be a focus for design.”

Paris Swann, AVP, Architectural Design, Celebrity Cruises & Royal Caribbean

4. Sustainability should be a long-term goal for all levels of the supply chain

One key takeaway from Cruise Conversations Live 2021 was that sustainability is not just a trend. It is rather a long-term goal for the cruise industry as a whole. In the opening keynote for day two, ‘The Business Case for Sustainability’, moderator René Dupont (Hammer/Edge) was joined by Bergen Hubert (Cradle to Cradle Products Innovation Institute), My Nguyen (Holland America Group serving Princess Cruises) and Nedgé Louis-Jacques (Tillberg Design) to explore this topic in-depth. They discussed how sustainability could be achieved within the cruise industry from a variety of perspectives.

From the supplier side, René Dupont described the importance of collaborating with partners, as different clients have different sustainability needs. However, it is also important for suppliers to communicate with each other and find ways to make their products more sustainable together, Bergen Hubert noted. My Nguyen and Nedgé Louis-Jacques explained that cruise lines and designers prioritise IMO, transparency and sustainability when selecting partners. They also value suppliers that can show them the latest innovations, which they are not always aware of.

But achieving full sustainability will take time.

“You have to learn to prioritise. You cannot be sustainable 100%, but you have to start somehow and somewhere, and then you build from that […] Maybe it’s a five year plan or a three year plan, but eventually you will get there.”

Nedgé Louis-Jacques, Managing Partner, Tillberg Design

5. Health & Hygiene continues to be a key focus for the cruise industry

Health and hygiene have been a big talking point for the cruise industry over the past two years. ‘We are One Cruise Industry: Standardizing Health & Hygiene’ showed that this will continue to be the case going forward. Creating a safe and healthy environment on board is critical for confidence and guest experience. However, as James Mitchell (Norwegian Cruise Line) explained, safety measures must be designed as seamlessly as possible. These should not disrupt or take away from the onboard experience.

The panel, made up of cruise industry leaders, as well as experts in cruise safety and hygiene, also shared how the industry relied on collaboration to aid its safe and successful return. They described how cruise lines worked with local health authorities and ports to ensure safer boarding and disembarkation. Additionally, they collaborated with suppliers and other cruise lines to provide innovations such as digital musters and air filtration systems. As a result, the cruise industry has led the way for other hospitality sectors. This would not have been achieved if it weren’t for these partnerships.

“On health and safety, we are not competitive, we are collaborative and we work together.”

Captain Patrik Dahlgren, Senior Vice President, Global Marine Operations, Royal Caribbean Group
In ‘We are One Cruise Industry: Standardizing Health & Hygiene’, the panel shared that collaboration was critical for a safe return to cruising

Eager to catch the next Cruise Conversations Live? Find out more about Cruise Ship Interiors Expo America here.