How Design Impacts Guest Experience

Guest experience in design
Image credit: Franklin & Franklin

It’s no secret that a cruise line’s primary goal is to provide cruisegoers with the holiday of their dreams. Differing from the land-based hotel experience, cruise vessels are expected to come fully equipped with everything a guest needs to make that dream come true, including unmissable destinations, luxe interiors, and state-of-the-art cuisine and entertainment. Although, there may be port stops along the way, oftentimes guests will have to keep themselves busy onboard during sea days, with some cruises (we’re looking at you, Viking Ultimate World Cruises) having as many as 30 days out on the ocean.

Forming a cohesive guest experience means uniting interior design, customer service, and onboard services and technology. Although the cruise technology market may be booming, interior design is arguably the most vital aspect. When it comes to picking a hotel, what factors would you take into account? I’m guessing the quality of suites and public spaces is high on your list. The same goes for cruise holidays.

With competition on the rise and new players entering the industry, it’s vital cruise lines provide the very best experience they can. In the UK alone, 76 per cent of consumers say that having a positive customer experience with a brand is more important than the product itself, highlighting just how vital it is to provide a well-rounded experience onboard. Additionally, studies show that providing an exceptional guest experience can increase a cruise line’s chance of retaining customers and fostering brand loyalty.

But what makes a good guest experience onboard a cruise ship? Read on to discover the ins and outs of providing state-of-the-art guest experience through interior design.


Brand consistency

Whatever cruise line a guest opts for, whether it’s Saga Cruises, Celebrity, NCL, or something else, there’s probably a reason they’ve done so. While price may be a primary factor for some, it’s also likely that they looked at that cruise line’s brand and decided it was the right fit for them. Each cruise line has its own unique audience and target demographic, which it’s key that the design reflects. Speaking in a session at CSI 2019 in Miami, director of interior design and operations at Princess Cruises George Scammell commented, “There’s more and more focus on branding as you’re having to differentiate between all the different cruise lines.” Cruise lines hoping to attract a younger audience might make use of more contemporary design features and take more risks – as we’ve seen Virgin Voyages do with its debut ship Scarlet Lady – while Carnival Cruise Line will provide interior décor that caters to the entire family, from small children to their grandparents.

But just because interior design needs to align with a cruise operator’s branding, doesn’t mean they can’t reinvent themselves from time to time. Recently, Saga Cruises saw its interior design refreshed by award-winning design agency SMC Design onboard its Adventure and Discovery (pictured above) vessels to great avail. Just last week, the design agency’s art branch garnered SMC a nomination for bespoke cabinetry/installation at The Design Awards.

Personalisation is paramount

Personalised experiences are continuing to grow in popularity, with cruise lines striving to create interiors tailored to their target audience. A new report by Deloitte showed that guests want to be engaged in a “personalised, authentic, and attentive way”. It also showed that guests want to be “known”, meaning they want the cruise line to recognise them as a returning guest, including their preferences and needs. As such, providing great guest experience also means continually updating your interior design to suit your audience and their ever-evolving needs and wants.

Prioritising wellness spaces

With hundreds and, more often, thousands of guests to look after for days and weeks on end, prioritising wellness spaces is vital, especially given the ever-increasing trend towards consumer consciousness, focusing on health and vitality.

“We are seeing new trends. For example, an experience beyond just mere sightseeing; wellness and restoration; the younger generation is wanting more Instagrammable experiences; people are looking for conscious and meaningful travel; and more and more access to exotic locations.”

Newton d’Souza, associate professor, Florida International University

Just recently, Miami-based design studio Studio DADO undertook a major spa project in the form of a refurbishment with Carnival’s Sunrise ship. Speaking on the project, founding partners Jorge Mesa and Javier Calle commented: “When designing spas at sea, we focus on the flow, transitions and sightlines between the different spaces within the spa, to make sure the guest experience is a seamless and memorable one.”

Functional art

In addition to the composition of the room’s furniture and furnishings, design studios often look to artwork to provide both beauty and function. Speaking with CSI in April 2019, founder and creative director of art consultancy firm ArtLink, Tal Danai told us: “Using artwork to ‘direct traffic’ is an easy and effective solution to the confusion that is a well-known initial effect of shipboard life, especially as the new ships increase in size”. In fact, according to Tal “Feedback shows that guests often find their way back to their stateroom by finding ‘their’ artwork”. The contribution of art when designing a seamless guest experience should not be underestimated.

Whether it’s creating seamless transitions, relaxing wellness spaces, or using art to direct traffic, plenty of design factors contribute to creating the perfect onboard guest experience. What do you think designers ought to take note of? Let us know your thoughts on our official LinkedIn page!

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