One of the world’s leading ship design consultancies is in talks with two lines about implementing changes to their ships that will be the blueprint for future cruising.
They predict a very different cruise experience to what we know and a massive overhaul of the industry.
AMK Architecture & Design, a Greek firm that specialises in hotel and cruise ship interiors, has worked on more than 120 marine-based projects for lines like Celebrity and Costa.
The principal architect, Anna Koustsoukosta told USA Today that the company is working on new ways to reinvent how passengers will move around and interact with the ship.
“The aim is to suggest solutions to reduce the need for touch interaction, make surfaces and frequently-touched points virus resistant and shape the layout of areas of the ship so as to enable safe and at-distant flow of passengers and crew, without sacrificing socialising, which is one of the important ingredients of the cruise,” she said.
While she could not provide a definitive timeline of when the safety upgrades might appear on the ships, she said: “Anytime from a few weeks to a few months based on the extent to which of the vessels will be modified.”
Frank Del Rio, the CEO of Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings said the relaunch of his fleet of 28 ships will involve trial and error.
“There will be fits and starts, and it will require the implementation of new protocols as we learn what works,” he said.
Cruising is all about socialising. We all eat together at the buffet, sip cocktails by the pool next to one another, and we cram into the theatre to watch the latest Broadway hits.
The world’s biggest ships like Royal Caribbean’s Symphony of the Seas can accommodate nearly 9,000 passengers and crew, while Dream Cruises new Global Dream is set to host around 10,000 passengers at full capacity.
But this, might not be realistic in the future. We could potentially see the number of passengers restricted, either by the lines of other governing bodies. We’ll see increased sanitation protocols, fewer cabins filled, less crew onboard and unfortunately (or fortunately for some), bye bye to the buffet.
Here are some of the new protocols Ms Koustsoukosta has advised:
Embarkation and disembarkation areas
AMK has suggested the following changes to the embarkation and disembarkation area, which is one of the most crowded areas.
A “sanitisation gate” at the embarkation/disembarkation area of the ship to ensure hygiene protocols are followed
Technology to limit or rid cruise ships of check-in lines
Anti-microbial carpets for public areas and cabin corridors
Automatic doors for entrance and exit points to avoid unnecessary touching
Ms Koustsoukosta said that on the larger ships, the top tier staterooms and suites will become the first preference, and interior cabins may be a thing of the past. The new development Ms Koustsoukosta has suggested is creating an enclosed space, similar to a mudroom outside the staterooms.
Like on expedition vessels, this space will be designed for passengers to be able to take off their clothing and shoes prior to entering into their cabin. And inside the cabin, she has also suggested antimicrobial carpets and fabrics could be installed and bathrooms could be modified for touch-free operation. Shower curtains would also be replaced with glass dividers.
Ms Koustsoukosta said the dining area, which is one of the central areas where passengers congregate, will drastically change. She told USA Today that table spacing could be altered to make sure social distancing practices are enforced.
Dividers could be used to create separation at times if needed.
The big kicker, which lines like Royal Caribbean and Norwegian Cruise Line bosses have also said, is that the buffet would probably disappear entirely.
“The buffets layout can also change, with more counters as a solution to avoid long queues or even offering table service,” she said.
Theatres and swimming pools
AMK told Cruise Industry News that theatres could be moved outdoors. “New open-air show theatres and disco areas, with weather-protection options, can give passengers indoor comfort and outdoor relaxation and security.”
While pools will remain an important area on your ship, the surrounding areas will be changed. There will be fewer sunbeds and deckchairs, all of which will be placed further apart from one another.
She also pointed out that people who go to the pool to cool off, can use outdoor showers and other water features to provide alternatives to mitigate pool crowding.
Ms Koutsoukosta has said the industry needs to be prepared to woo back customers. It is likely there will be increased space for medical facilities and cabins for medical crew, which are separate from the rest of the crew.
She said these areas will be separate from the rest of the ship like an isolation unit, to ensure the safety for doctors and nurses so that all health emergencies could be dealt with, while the rest of the passengers can continue on their cruise.
“All medical-related facilities can be interlinked, and (at) the same time, isolated from the rest of the ship so as to separate medical operations from the public areas of the ship.
The crew, the lifeblood of our holidays, are the people that remain on the ship, while passengers change every few days to few weeks.
Because of the potential reduction of passengers, we might see fewer crew members. While most of the crew cabins host up to four individuals, some cabins could be left unoccupied in case of emergencies and the cabins that are filled, will have a maximum of two people.
How will they do it?
While these measures sound promising, Ms Koutsoukosta said it will be easier to implement complex changes to ships that are in the initial stages of construction, it will be much trickier on exisiting ships.
“There is really a certain limitation to the extent to which one can modify them quickly and in an economically viable way. What we try to do with our clients is focus on the vital-few solutions.
“The changes that the cruise lines will make to their ships does not only improve their product offering, but it also puts them ahead of their competitors, as physical distancing, and hygiene is the new luxury.”