State of the Cruise Refurbishment Market

Cruise refurbishment interior

With the cruise sector seeing a 20.5% increase in popularity in 2018, it’s no surprise that the cruise refurbishment market is more lucrative than ever.

As competition between cruise lines increases and new players continue to enter the market, the world’s leading cruise lines are hoping to save time and money by revamping their older vessels. Completed in a much smaller time frame than newbuilds would be, leaning on refurbishments and refits allow cruise lines to keep up with trends and satisfy guests needs in a timely fashion. Given the pace of the newbuild order book, the cruise industry has a massive amount of existing tonnage to work with, making refurbishments a more sustainable option.

How can refurbishing vessels extend a ship’s lifespan?

First and foremost, refurbishing a vessel contributes to extending its lifespan, which is not only beneficial to the cruise line but also the industry’s efforts towards sustainability. Speaking at CSI’s 2019 conference, director of interior design & operations at Seabourn and Holland America Line My Nguyen told us, “The way passengers use space has changed over time. When we reconfigure older vessels to extend their lifespan it becomes important to develop some multipurpose public spaces, and also add cabins so as to get maximum use of the real estate”. Refurbishing vessels allows designers to incorporate multipurpose spaces, the benefits of which are numerous, from keeping spaces feeling fresh to switching up venues based on a ship’s itinerary.

As guests’ needs evolve, it’s key that a ship’s facilities continue to cater to them. Vice president of revitalisation and vessel refurbishment at Carnival Cruise Line Lisa McCabe iterated that “Guests have new needs. Maybe a spa function is different twenty years ago than it is today”. She continued, “We’re getting to introduce these new venues on older vessels”, which in turn allows old ships to become new again.

Refurbishments also allow cruise lines to experiment and alter their existing product, so the guest can receive a complete upgrade without waiting years for a new vessel to emerge.

What are the challenges facing the cruise refurbishment market?

The increasing demand for refurbishments in addition to the increase in newbuild orders is putting pressure on the same resources, from shipyards to suppliers. Despite a booming industry, resources are finite with a limited pool of talent to draw from as well as a lack of space at shipyards. There are also limited materials available to the market given the stringent IMO standards that suppliers must adhere to. Director of interior design at Princess Cruises George Scammel told the CSI audience that “there’s definitely a shortage of types of materials”, referencing specifically the limitations of products as a result of stringent industry safety certifications.

Additionally, the increased demand of refurbishment projects has seen shipyards extend their drydocking periods, with ships undergoing drydocks in June which until recently was unprecedented. Striving to keep up with cruise lines’ demand has meant the major yards have had no option but to extend their window of time in order to take on more orders, while elsewhere cruise lines are resorting to creating their own shipyards to fulfil their needs.

What does the future hold for cruise vessel refurbishment?

Luckily, new players are entering the cruise interiors industry all the time, whether they be innovative suppliers looking to provide IMO certified materials or emerging shipyards hoping to cater to a flourishing market. In 2019 alone we’re set to see as many as 25 cruise ships hitting the yards for a well-deserved refresh and the addition of several highly anticipated features. For now at least, it doesn’t look like the market’s set to slow down, but how it will deal with the lack of resources available is yet to be discovered…

Latest news...