The impact of freestyle cruising on Norwegian Cruise Line’s ship interiors
“Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) initiated freestyle cruising and this has been instrumental in designing the interior of our ships,” says Norwegian Cruise Line senior director, architectural design newbuilding, Jeffrey Parns.
Mr Parns tells Passenger Ship Interior & Refurbishment Review, “Since I started at NCL, freestyle cruising has been the main thrust of the company’s culture. It allows passengers to create their own experience when on board our ships. They have choices in shore excursions and the flexibility to select when and where they dine. We have also developed our entertainment offerings following the same philosophy, giving people multiple options in entertainment, including the day and time they want to experience our shows.”
Another area where NCL has been a driving force is late night entertainment. “We created activities that extend late into the evening. In the past, there used to be little to do on board after 10 pm. For example, there might have been one late night bar open. Now we have created versatility at night, where there are still one or two show lounges open with entertainment continuing past midnight as well as multiple late night bar options.”
This drive to create availability of night time entertainment influenced the design of NCL’s three-storey atrium, the ships’ hub. Within the atrium is a two-storey LED wall which is “very popular and showcases ports of call, activity schedules and passenger information along with providing a focus for some of the late night entertainment options”, Mr Parns says. The atrium bar is adjacent to the LED wall and there are different passenger participation shows presented during the week, taking place in the atrium. “These shows draw passengers out of their cabins in the evenings,” says Mr Parns.
It is important to balance consistency with creating something unique and different on the newbuilds. He explains, “We try to make passengers feel comfortable when they are vacationing on different classes of ships. For example, we create signature dining areas on every vessel. The name of the venues might change but the food offerings are the same quality and style. We try to give passengers similar options. For example, our Cagney’s Steakhouse and Teppanyaki Restaurants are fleet wide.”
But he adds “While the overall design layout of the ships is consistent, we do want to encourage frequently returning passengers and draw in new guests. To accomplish this, we create diverse novel experiences in the newbuilds.”
Mr Parns highlights another trend that, over the years, has impacted interior design. “Onboard revenue generated from ship-board experiences that we can sell, while with the older tonnage it was more about ticket sales.”
Successful mall philosophy
Mr Parns highlights the philosophy he applies to his design. “The theory I use in my design is very similar to a successful mall. You put your major generators – the theatre and restaurants – on opposite ends of the mall. All your ‘mom and dad’ stores are in the centre so that when people come in, they flow through the boutiques. In a mall, purchases are impulse driven – you go to a certain shop and want an evening gown. You do not like what they have and head off to another shop at the other end of the mall. The only way to get there is walking through other boutiques where you might, for example, buy accessories.
“I implemented this same philosophy on all public decks. Basically, you do not want guests thinking that every dining area is a destination. You make the whole deck a destination, through creating activities throughout the deck. You try and ‘salt and pepper’ your entertainment areas with the bar areas and with your eateries. You are creating a city environment.”
Mr Parns cites a major influence for his philosophy from his studies in urban planning and sociology and the book The Death and Life of Great American Cities (1961) by writer and activist Jane Jacobs. His designs highlight the importance of diversification. “You want to give passengers choices, concentrating on passenger flow. If you are successful applying this to each vessel, you elevate the guest experience.”
He sums up “Our chief directive is to provide a guest experience that is second to none and that is what the NCL programme is designed to do.”