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Operators focus on boosting the onboard experience

This article was originally reported by  Rebecca Gibson in the Spring/Summer 2016 issue of International Cruise & Ferry Review.


Multiple cruise lines are taking steps to enhance the guest experience onboard their ships. Here we chart some of the top trends for 2016.


Over the past few months, various cruise operators have invested millions in refitting vessels and forming partnerships to significantly enhance the onboard experience for guests. 
 
Some are focusing on overhauling their culinary concepts, such as Ponant, which has partnered with the Ducasse Conseil catering centre run by Alain Ducasse Enterprise. Others have prioritised connecting guests to the destinations, such as Paul Gauguin Cruises, which has enlisted the help of the Wildlife Conservation Society to develop activities related to marine science and wildlife conservation in the South Pacific and beyond.   
 
Several cruise lines have partnered with renowned cultural organisations. Costa Cruises, for example, has contracted Rome's Santa Cecilia Conservatory to bring live recitals to Costa neoClassica until May 2016, while Royal Caribbean International has extended its DreamWorks Animation agreement to cover newbuild Harmony of the Seas. 
 
Royal Caribbean has also joined with China's Imperial Palace Museum to bring traditional Chinese artwork to a second newbuild, Ovation of the Seas. The museum will help to curate the ship's interior décor and art programme, providing signature pieces from its collection for onboard displays, auctioning artwork created by its in-house artists and organising expert lectures. 
 
Similarly, Holland America Line and the Rijksmuseum in the Netherlands will showcase reproductions of famous Dutch artworks onboard its cruise ships, starting with Oosterdam this April. Guests will also be able to participate in Rijksmuseum-guided presentations and workshops in a dedicated art space, and view videos about the museum's collections via in-cabin TVs.
 
Meanwhile, other operators are turning to technology. This January, Celebrity Cruises deployed Accenture's interactive technology solutions to digitise the customer experience, while Costa Group invested 1 million to roll out Pepper, the world's first humanoid robot capable of reacting to human emotions, on Costa Cruises and AIDA Cruises ships by summer 2016. Similarly, Samsung is to provide all guest- and crew-facing technology onboard MSC Cruises' seven Meraviglia- and Seaside-class ships, from TVs in the cabins to specialised medical equipment.
 
In addition, hospitality technology provider Intelity has equipped every penthouse on Crystal Cruises' Crystal Esprit with a touchscreen tablet to enable guests to access real-time itinerary information, make shore excursion and dinner reservations, access Press Reader, and even control the temperature of their stateroom. A fleetwide Intelity app also allows travellers to receive information about their vessel, itinerary or programming once they have made a booking on any Crystal ship.
 

Reimagining the fleet

Already this year, Holland America Line has overhauled Eurodam, while Royal Caribbean International's Jewel of the Seas, Cunard Line's Queen Mary 2 and AIDA Cruises' AIDAcara are to undergo multimillion-dollar refurbishments in the coming months. Many other lines are investing in fleetwide enhancement initiatives including:  
 

Regent Seven Seas Cruises

Regent Seven Seas Cruises is to invest US$125 million to extensively renovate most of the public spaces and completely redesign all suites onboard Seven Seas Navigator, Seven Seas Voyager and Seven Seas Mariner in March 2016, late 2016 and spring 2017 respectively. This will ensure every ship is at the same standard as Seven Seas Explorer.
 

Tauck

Tauck is to reconfigure over half of its European river cruise fleet by 2018. Swiss Emerald, Swiss Sapphire, Swiss Jewel, Esprit and Treasures will each be enhanced with larger cabins and a second dining venue, while the overall passenger capacity will be reduced. The first two will be renovated by spring 2017 and the others will undergo identical transformations before 2018.
 

Princess Cruises

Princess Cruises has introduced several new initiatives as part of its US$450 million multi-year 'Come Back New Promise'. These include an expanded shore excursion and onboard activities partnership with Discovery Communications, new menus and restaurants designed by restaurateur and chef Curtis Stone, installing Princess Luxury Beds designed by 'sleep doctor' Michael Breus in every stateroom by 2018, and introducing The Salty Dog Gastropub, which was developed with chef Ernesto Uchimura. 
 

Norwegian Cruise Line

Norwegian Cruise Line's new US$400 million Norwegian Edge initiative will see the line significantly update its ships, overhaul its dining concepts by partnering with culinary experts, and enhance its two private island destinations over the next two years. Central to the programme are extensive guest-facing and technical enhancements to seven ships by 2018.

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