Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings vice president of vessel refurbishment Colin Gant reveals how standardising the finish and style on older vessels and new ships is driving its refurbishment strategy
“There is no question that newer ships are driving refurbishment,” Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings (NCLH) vice president of vessel refurbishment Colin Gant tells Passenger Ship Interior & Refurbishment Review.
“The big focus area is making sure all ships offer the same level of comfort, luxury and modern contemporary cruise experience, whether that be on a 15-year-old ship or a one-year-old ship.
“To make it a strong brand, you do not want guests to choose one specific ship – you want them to know any ship they sail on will have a certain level of product, amenities and finish throughout the ship. That is what harmonisation is all about.”
To this end, Mr Gant is very busy with large-scale refurbishment projects across NCLH’s three brands: Regent Seven Seas Cruises, Oceania Cruises and Norwegian Cruise Line.
He singles out the large-scale revitalisation taking place across Oceania Cruises’ R-class vessels. Two of the ships have been completed, the next will be started near the end of the year and the last is being refitted in 2020.
Bringing R-class in line
“In that process we are gutting and rebuilding the guest cabins and public spaces to create a modern, contemporary design with fresh furniture and wall finishings, new stone tops, new fixtures and lighting and new USB outlets, everything you can imagine to make them relevant and in line with new ships as they come out.”
Mr Gant underlines the importance of keeping it competitive. “It is essential that the product is competitive and meets the expectations of the more discerning customers. Before the R-class design was more traditional, it was still very well kept and maintained, just not in line with what we are doing now.”
He says Regent Seven Seas Cruises ships have been upgraded over a number of years now, with all suites and public areas being upgraded. The latest to be upgraded was Seven Seas Navigator, which was completed in June 2019.
Mr Gant explains “It had already remodelled the suites in the prior drydock, but we added the Prime 7 steakhouse, based on the design of Seven Seas Explorer. Our intention is to put the same finish and style on our older vessels as the new ships.”
Over at NCL, the most recent major refit was carried out on Norwegian Joy. “This is a unique ship as it was custom designed for China. Our intention with this refit was to make it like Norwegian Bliss and Norwegian Encore and add features that are only on the newbuilds, including The Social nightclub, Cavern Club and Starbucks.”
There are of course challenges when it comes to arranging the upgrades. Mr Gant says “Major challenges are finding the resources to execute the project. Today’s environment is extremely busy. The orderbooks are long, and this ties up quite a few suppliers so you need to get ahead of the curve when it comes to the design, specifications and ordering materials so that you can approach those suppliers and outfitters.”
He explains this is important because many other cruise ship operators are trying to refit their vessels at the same time and a lot of suppliers and outfitters also have commitments to newbuilds.
“If they are not given sufficient lead times, they are not able to participate in the process, which just shrinks the pool of available support.”
Mr Gant singles out how the lean manufacturing process has been beneficial when planning drydocks and carrying out interior work. He explains that this system was first developed by Toyota as a massive revamp of its assembly lines and has been adapted by NCLH to outfit cabins.
He says “You create an assembly line process for cabins, instead of cabins moving down the assembly line, the assembly line moves down the cabins. You have production trains which carry materials and tools. They need to perform certain job functions and they only perform those set tasks as they go down the cabin line.”
He says by using lean manufacturing processes, NCLH has reduced drydock time “significantly”, since it was implemented in 2017. “Projects that used to take a month can now be done in as little as two weeks.”
Moving to current trends within cruise ship interior upgrades, he singled out sustainability.
“In terms of sustainability we recycle as many elements as we can. We have targets as to how much recycling we produce, and we try and minimise waste and donate furniture shoreside. For example, if we want to redo the gym or spa, we donate the equipment to a local community.”
He says one of the biggest trends currently is more focus on analysts’ vetting project plans. “This is happening more than ever before. The timeframe for drydocks is tighter and tighter so you need data to inform your decisions and assessments as to where you are in respect to the project.”
He sums up “This has always been available, but it has become critical to completing projects, without it you are blind.”
Snapshot CV: Colin Gant (NCLH)
Mr Gant has 15 years of experience in ship operations with a strong background in leading major cruise ship refits, drydocks, refurbishments, special projects, and day-to-day marine and technical operations. He has been vice president of vessel refurbishment at NCLH for over four years. Previous roles include director of newbuilds at Carnival Cruise Line and fleet director of its Spirit-class.