So you want to supply your product for the cruise lines. Experienced designers and ship owners are often asked about their number one piece of advice for suppliers hoping to get started in cruise. Their response? Do your homework. But what does ‘doing your homework’ entail? Three of the leading names in cruise sat down with Toby Walters of Cruise Ship Interiors Expo to discuss their top tips and expectations for suppliers hoping to get into cruise. George Scammell, Director, Interior Design & Operations Princess Cruises & Holland America Line, Antonio Di Nenno, Architect Director MSC Cruises and David McCarthy, Marine Development Director AD Associates each gave a vital glimpse behind their decision-making process and guided listeners to valuable resources.
One essential takeaway from the conversation was that cruise lines and cruise interior designers are absolutely interested in doing business with new-to-cruise designers. As George Scammell said, technology is changing all the time, which drives the need for cruise lines to specify new products for their vessels. Antonio Di Nenno also highlighted that a new-to-cruise company with only one product for cruise was not a drawback because, ‘it may be the one that we want’.
For suppliers that know their product is the next ‘must have’ for cruise but are asking themselves, ‘how do I supply to the cruise lines?’, read on. We’ve got your essential guide to doing your ‘cruise homework’.
Know the needs
One of the top recommendations from cruise ship owners and designers for would-be suppliers is to get on board a cruise ship themselves. Even experienced hospitality suppliers can learn a lot from simply being on board. This is especially true for those hoping to supply to river cruise and expedition cruise lines as each have unique requirements. For example, river cruise vessels are significantly smaller than their ocean counterparts, while expedition cruises venture into extreme weather conditions which can put their materials under unusual strain with the added challenge of being unable to readily access replacement components and repair supplies.
Although cruise lines and designers are willing to help new-to-cruise suppliers with the specification process, any company that arrives with an understanding of the regulations and their implications stand to gain a huge advantage over their competitors. George Scammell said, “I think it’s on the company to understand what the regulations are and that their products are meeting those regulations. And specifically IMO, IED and understanding what those things are and how to go about getting those items certified so we can actually utilise those.”
Antonio Di Nenno highlighted too that it’s not as simple as knowing which regulations your product needs to meet. Companies that are not already certified should also factor the certification process into their costings and timeline as the process is not always simple. Be sure that you can show your potential cruise clients that if you are not already certified, you have a realistic timeline and budget for being so.
Learn your target market
Like any subsection of hospitality, the cruise market is not simply one demographic. If you are approaching a cruise line then they will want to know that you can demonstrate a strong knowledge of their target market. Are you aware of the average age of their customers? What does their current fleet offer and what distinguishes them from their competition? Are they a family brand or an ultra-luxury brand? Any cruise line or cruise interior designer wants to work with somebody that understands their priorities and needs as a brand.
If all of this sounds like it could be useful, but you don’t know where to start then David McCarthy suggests looking into classification societies. These societies oversee products being certified for use at sea, and specifically for cruise. They have large banks of data, lots freely available on their websites, to help you get started on your efforts to ready your product for use at sea. David suggests looking into Lloyd’s Register, RINA, Bureau Veritas and DNV GL. He also recommends using other associations: for the UK, BCFA, and NEWH in the US. Use networks and bases of information.
A proven record
If you have already supplied to the hospitality market, you may be wondering what you can show from your existing body of work to impress the cruise lines. The discussion between the two cruise line leaders and the cruise interior design head turned to what attributes they hoped to see from their suppliers. One topic on everyone’s lips was timeframes. Timelines are strict for newbuild but often painfully tight on refurbishment, so ship owners and designers rely on suppliers with, in George Scammell’s words, ‘a proven track record of being able to make your deadlines’. David McCarthy echoed this sentiment, saying that from a designer’s point of view, a supplier’s ability is an ‘extension of what we promise to our clients’, so they need to have the confidence that their suppliers are able to see that promise through.
Stay tuned to Cruise Conversations to hear more on the crucial conversations by the industry leaders: