How DFDS is transforming its D-class ferries to offer a modern, comfortable, passenger experience
DFDS has started its three-year upgrade programme of public spaces across its D-class ships to improve passenger experience.
The redesign started when the first Dover-Dunkirk vessel entered drydock on 7 January 2019, with the remaining two following shortly afterwards. The £1.8M (US$2.2M) investment, equating to £600,000 (US$730,000) per ship, saw the relaxed food and beverage outlet revitalised to create the Lighthouse Café, a fresh and modern European coffee shop experience.
The project will continue over the next three years and will expand to include a £180,000 (US$220,000) investment and upgrade to the Horizon restaurants on board the Dover-Calais fleet.
Choice and comfort
DFDS on board commercial director Steve Newbery highlights the importance of improving customer experience. “DFDS has improving passenger experience at the heart of its strategy over the next three years. We recognised the D-class was a little old fashioned. Travellers in 2019 want a great experience not a poor experience. We also recognised that ferry travellers using our services once or twice a year do not really understand what they will experience on ferries. We wanted to introduce familiarity with offers that travellers can compare to a European high street offer. This way it’s easier for them to understand what we have on offer and they can compare pricing to what they are used to.
“It’s also important for travellers to have a choice which also lets them explore the ferry by moving around it. We hope to achieve fantastic ferries with spaces that are comfortable but also offer good quality food and beverages including fresh food which is extremely important to our passengers.”
This year, DFDS stripped the aft of the ship and introduced its Lighthouse Café, a European coffee shop concept that serves sandwiches, freshly made salads, “high quality” cakes, “fantastic” coffee and alcoholic beverages. “We have created a fantastic space that is modern and has clean lines,” Mr Newbury notes.
“We have also introduced an extra door from the stairwell that leads to and from the car decks which makes an altogether less stressful experience and passengers have both port and starboard sides of the ship to wait for the car decks to open. Previously this was a tight space on the starboard side only,” Mr Newbury explains. “Passengers can get settled quicker than before which removes the stress out of their journey.”
The changes were made in drydock this year and it took about 10 days to transform each ship.
Over the next two years DFDS has plans to refit the Premium Lounge. Mr Newbery says “We recognise that we can do better and have looked at our own success on the C-class premium lounge, taken cues from airline lounges and will introduce a new Premium Lounge to the D-class ships.
“We will also remove the rather dated Bistro offer on deck eight and refit it with our Horizon offer which has freshly cooked pizza, pasta and salads. This has received great reviews on the C-class where we trialled it on our two Cote Ships.”
Mr Newbery says the refit will also include new seating areas and “bring the passenger in touch with the sea and surroundings”.
He adds “The layout will make full use of the great panoramic views in this area of the ship and create a relaxed comfortable travel experience where you can eat fantastic fresh food.”
He singles out the benefits of this refurbishment programme, which he says are “clearly in three areas”:
The design was completed by SMC Design, and Trimline carried out the outfitting. Trimline previously refitted the interiors on the DFDS C-class ships. The company commented that during phase one of the programme, which took place in Dunkirk, it worked closely with SMC Design to give the ships a “fresh and modern look”. Phase one saw Trimline remove everything aft of and adjacent to the shops on both port and starboard sides. This included seating areas, port and starboard serveries, flooring and toilets. It also installed new tables, chairs, flooring, lighting, serveries, toilets and bulkhead finishes.
Commenting on the selection of SMC Design and Trimline, Mr Newbery says “SMC Design understands what we are trying to achieve, and they have done a fantastic job creating a unique design.”
He adds “SMC have worked with DFDS for years, they really understand our DNA and what our values are. They also understand we want to build brand awareness, provide modern offers that will appeal to all European travellers and the UK market. SMC listen and we give them the freedom to explore different designs.”
Trimline carried out the refit using wood, aluminium and other modern materials. Furnishings were supplied by Trimline and are “extremely robust but very comfortable to sit on during the crossing,” says Mr Newbery.
“By making passengers more relaxed and comfortable they will enjoy the travel experience more and feel relaxed to explore the rest of the ship.”
He adds “Trimline has a reputation for quality work completed on time and that is important as having a Channel ferry offline is extremely costly and we must ensure we keep to the schedule for our customers.”
Indeed, he says the biggest challenge is the time the company has to complete the work. “I have a team that plans these refits right down to the last detail up to eight months in advance.”
DFDS is carrying out and planning further interior upgrades across its fleet. It is upgrading the C-class ships, in preparation for its new ship Cote D’Opale, which arrives mid- 2021. “This will give us a first-class fleet operating on two routes from Dover to France,” says Mr Newbery.
“We are also planning changes on the Newcastle-Amsterdam Route. We have just introduced a new menu to the North Sea Bistro which raises the bar of quality food in ferries, giving a high-class a la carte experience to our passengers.”
Snapshot CV: Steve Newbery (DFDS)
Steve Newbery is responsible for onboard commercial activities on all cross- Channel ferry routes from Dover, France and North Sea Ferries UK to Holland in his role as onboard commercial director. He is responsible for food, beverages and retail on these ferries. He took on the role in March 2018. Previously he was food, beverage and retail manager at Center Parcs, but after 3.5 years of continuous profit growth and building a strong team across retail, food and beverage, he decided to leave to take up a new challenge with DFDS Seaways. Prior to that, he was at The Sprit Group from 2000 to 2008.