P&O Cruises Australia head of design Petra Ryberg tells Passenger Ship Technology her main considerations when it comes to creating a positive passenger flow
Operational aspects, crew flow and the passenger experience are all uppermost in P&O Cruises Australia head of design Petra Ryberg’s mind when she considers the passenger flow of a cruise ship.
She explains, “The operational aspect is crucial to understand the passenger flow better. The passenger flow is constant on a ship and the programming of activities is crucial to the way people move on the ship.
“I like to start mapping out where the bottlenecks will be (there will always be some), and once you understand that, you can try to make the best of the flow.”
Furthermore, different cultures also move differently around the ship. “Some Europeans like to reserve a table before checking out the food options while other cultures prefer to get the food before sitting down – it is crucial to understand your guests when designing for the optimal experience,” says Ms Ryberg.
Another major driver for Ms Ryberg is considering crew flow. She says “Passenger flow is one aspect, but it is also important to consider crew flow in a space. The smoother the restaurant can be operated, the better guest experience at the end of the day. When a space just seems effortless and seamless, I believe you have achieved a good balance and flow.”
Passenger experience is the other major driver behind Ms Ryberg’s approach to developing passenger flow. She explains, “Everything I design I try to do with the passenger experience in mind – what will it feel like for the guest to enter this space, could we do something to make it a better experience? When you turn your focus to that, it is easier to make better decisions and easier to become less precious about certain design elements you really love but which might not enhance the guest experience.”
When it comes to planning the flow on a cruise ship, challenges need to be considered, and solved or avoided from the beginning. Large numbers of passengers, taking away the prospect of queues and keeping all customers happy are some issues that need to be considered.
Ms Ryberg comments, “3,000 people are always going to be a lot, the ship is big and when you when you balance the flow of the ship it doesn’t feel like there is that many people on board – but when you get the flow off balance there can easily be queues and waiting times. We are trying to understand the challenges to solve or avoid them to start with.”
Another major challenge is to please every guest. Ms Ryberg says “We believe every guest is equally important and we are trying to create a design and guest experience that offers something for everyone. If you feel like having a quiet night – there are options for that. If you feel like grabbing a sandwich or pizza rather than sitting down for dinner – we want to offer that option equally as much as we want to offer a high-end dining experience where you can dress up, wear your favourite heels and sit in a gorgeous environment. Personally, I like to have the different choices and create my own experience on my terms.”
Pacific Adventure: multiple options
P&O Cruises Australia’s latest cruise ship Pacific Adventure, due to debut this year, certainly has a design that offers something for all guests, with its range of varied dining options including the restaurants Angelo’s, Dragon Lady and Waterfront, as well as Luke Mangan’s popular high-end restaurant.
These options highlight the need to make operational aspects a crucial consideration for the purposes of passenger flow.
Ms Ryberg explains, “With more dining options and anytime dining comes more flexible passenger flow – it is important to keep the different venues with entertainment and alternative things to do for our guests. The design team works closely with the operational team to ensure there is a seamless transition between the venues, at the right times and by trying to offer different activities throughout the vessel, to ensure there is not just one venue that gets super busy while others are only being utilised during certain times throughout the day.”
Furthermore, there is no buffet on board the ship, which has had a positive impact on passenger flow. Ms Ryberg explains, “We said farewell to the buffet in 2015 and do not have a buffet on board any of our ships. The flow in The Pantry is more of a food court where you walk up to each counter and order what you want – this has helped massively with the queues that could form for a buffet – we no longer have that issue.”
As well as multiple dining options, creating space for multiple purposes is an important feature on board Pacific Adventure. Ms Ryberg says, “There are many venues on board this ship which creates many different opportunities. We are trying to get clever with multi-purpose use of spaces by being able to turn one venue into something different at night compared to what it is during the day.”
Pacific Adventure was a conversion of Princess Cruises’ Golden Princess.
Asked about the implications of retrofitting a vessel on passenger flow, Ms Ryberg says, “We typically don’t change the main structure of the ship when we do a retrofit – but if we do, we try to predict what consequences it will have on both passenger and crew flow. I keep coming back to it, but the operational aspect is crucial for the flow. You can control how people move around and when by your offering on board the ship – there are certain aspects you can take into consideration. Guests will usually want to have dinner between 5-9 pm, sleep between 10 pm-3 am etc, so when you start studying the schedule of what is offered on board and the opening hours of the different venues, you can start gaining an understanding of what the flow will look like at different times.
“If you notice a venue gets very busy at a certain time – is there a way to introduce another concept in another venue to help ease the capacity of the very busy one? Maybe there is another concept that would offer more value to the guest by introducing yet another option and choice? Maybe the cafe that is getting very busy in the morning could serve as a cocktail lounge at night with a portable DJ deck and some dimmed lighting?”
Trends impacting flow
Passenger flow concepts have of course evolved over the years. Ms Ryberg singles out how she believes the move to flexible dining times and the use of new technology are major trends that have helped to shape the flow on a cruise shop.
Ms Ryberg says, “Traditionally, there were fixed dining times and fixed table arrangements. You knew when guests would have dinner and you could then plan your entrainment around that. With the introduction of more flexible dining models and times, there is a need to adapt the entertainment and activities on board as well.”
On the subject of technology, she comments, “Technology affects passenger flows –take the Princess Medallion System. If you could order a drink from your sun lounger, that would affect the way people move around the space and remove the need to queue up at the bar.”
There is no doubt good passenger flow is crucial to creating a great passenger experience. Ms Ryberg sums up, “There are massive benefits for both guests and crew when the passenger flow works well – it is always annoying having to wait a long time to get to the bar or to get into a restaurant. This is where technology can become handy as well – using a handheld device when showing people to the table rather than everyone having to line up to see the mâitre d’.
“The flow concept on Adventure, where we have many options at different times, is also beneficial. You enhance the guest experience when offering more options for your guest, when they feel like it.”
Riviera Maritime Media will provide free technical and operational webinars in 2021. Sign up to attend on our events page