Applying ‘wow factors’ and ‘revenue streams’ to modernise the fleet
The cruise interiors industry is booming, with 127 newbuilds on an orderbook that stretches to 2027 – which is also stimulating the drive to refurbish current cruise ships.
Royal Caribbean hotel refurbishment consultant project manager Stephen Fryers told the audience at Cruise Ship Interiors Expo in Miami he had “never seen an orderbook that looks so far into the future”. And he noted that not only does it consist of standard cruise ships but also expedition cruise ships. Of these new cruise ships, 98 are expected to be delivered by 2020. This orderbook is worth US$68Bn.
These newbuilds are also driving upgrading work on the world’s current cruise fleet.
Mr Fryers adds “It is about repurposing vessels – spending huge sums of money to modernise vessels to keep them current with newbuilds and also allowing cruise lines to open up new markets.”
Mr Fryers carried out development work for Royal Caribbean’s Navigator of the Seas’ US$115M modernisation, which took place in Q1 2019.
This large upgrade includes a new waterpark featuring the Blaster, the cruise line’s first-ever aqua coaster and the longest waterslide at sea, which offers a two-person raft that propels riders through more than 243 m of hills, drops and straightaways, even extending over the side of the ship. On its counterpart, Riptide, guests lunge headfirst down what Royal Caribbean says is the industry’s only headfirst mat racer.
It also includes the first blow dry bar at sea, a reshaped pool area giving it a Caribbean feel and a Splash pad for young children. Other additions include:
Mr Fryers tells Passenger Ship Interior & Refurbishment Review “You need something that attracts people, especially families, as Royal Caribbean is family based. If you don’t have these features, these families might choose to go to Disneyland or Universal instead – to get them onto a cruise you need a close equivalent.
“The water park is another feature that will attract new people to it.”
Mr Fryers says “There are two major things when you carry out a modernisation – the wow features and revenue streams. Wow features may not necessarily be revenue streams but adding venues like updated restaurants and new or updated bars – the cruise lines attract new revenue streams in this way.”
Navigator of the Seas was the third Royal Caribbean ship to undergo a Royal Amplified upgrade. Royal Amplified is a US$900M initiative to reimagine Royal Caribbean’s fleet through a new modernisation effort.
Explaining some of the challenges, Mr Fryers said “One of the big things is considering the stability of vessel. They are designed to certain limitations so if you add weight, you can create problems. Therefore, we do a lot of studies to ensure it will work with a ship’s stability margins.”
He says sometimes adding a ducktail will help, but in cases where this cannot be added, the focus is on removing weight and using lighter materials in the reconstructed area. Examples include lighter wall panels, ceiling materials and light fixtures.
Mr Fryers was project manager for Celebrity Equinox’s upgrade in 2019 and will be project manager for its sister ship, Celebrity Silhouette next year. One challenge with Celebrity Equinox was weight and stability – the ship already had a ducktail so other stability measures had to be taken including creating permanent ballast tanks and additional SWTD’s in strategic positions.
He says “On Celebrity Silhouette, all of the suites will receive a full upgrade as will every state room – there will be new mattresses, new bedding, new fabrics, new TVs, new carpets – all of that is being done. Public venues are being reworked and changed to new venues and others will receive an upgrade. There will be a new dedicated sundeck and lounge for the suites. There is a bit more prestige being a suite guest, they pay extra, so they get a little something extra included.”
He adds that the suites are getting a “completely different look from well-known UK interior designer company Kelly Hoppen Interiors.
“She and her team worked on Celebrity Edge, and this was received very well by guests,” he explains.
Speaking about the main challenges of carrying out a large refurbishment, he says “The biggest issue is that the time period is very tight for a drydock. Cruise lines want to do as much as possible in this period, despite being constrained by time. Logistics is one of the most important things, materials are coming on and off the ship from all over world.”
He says to deal with these challenges, Royal Caribbean books its contractors very early on. Mr Fryers explains “It is more like a partnership. Involving contractors early is a big help in avoiding issues and they can implement steps to make the logistics more efficient. Every minute in drydock is a cost.”
Snapshot CV: Stephen Fryers (Royal Caribbean)
Stephen Fryers left his native Ireland shortly after university, moving first to England before living and working in Hong Kong, Australia and Italy. At university he studied architecture and undertook post graduate studies in project management. He has been involved in the cruise industry for over 20 years working on newbuilds, refurbishment and major conversion projects for some of world’s leading cruise lines.