The cruise ship interiors industry can be challenging to navigate for newcomers, even those who have extensive experience in the hotel industry. The certification is different, the timelines are different and it can feel like you have a lot to learn before you can even get started. However, although the cruise ship interiors industry can feel like a closed book, buyers are crying out for new ideas and new products that will continue to give them the edge over their competitors. Here, we reached out to three experts with decades of experience between them. They represent some of the biggest players in the cruise interiors industry, from essential certification to high level buyers and decision makers.

The Certification Company

Graeme Hyde from Lloyd’s Register has a front row seat to the kind of early mistakes that companies make when preparing their product for the cruise ship market. For cruise lines, certified products are not an optional extra. Simply put, products and furnishings are not allowed on their ships unless they are certified or made entirely from a material exempt from certification. The average time it takes to get certified is 3 months and the cost can be a significant monetary investment. However, without your product being tested and certified, it’s not entering the cruise market.

Companies operating in the hotel sector may be familiar with some tests. However, speaking at Cruise Ship Interiors Design Expo Americas, Graeme Hyde warned on what he saw as the key pitfall from newcomers trying to get into the industry:

‘A key newcomer pitfall is reliance on other testing that they’ve done. A carpet manufacturer that wants to get into the business will have done tests in labs previously, sometimes a long time ago. They think that the tests for hotels are applicable to cruise ships. We can’t accept this test, so they have to do retests.’

He advised on the best practices for newcomers,

‘Engagement with the class societies is a really good start.’

The Design Studio

Helena Sawelin is Partner and Business Director for Tillberg Design of Sweden (TDoS), one of the cruise ship interior design industry’s preeminent design studios. There are many routes to being specified in the cruise industry but being on a design studio’s maker’s list is one of the most coveted outcomes for suppliers in the industry. Once your company has made it onto a design studio’s maker’s list, your products will be among the designers’ preferred picks for future cruise projects.

No two design studios are the same. It is important that you learn the needs and requirements of any design studio that you seek to work with. Helena identified that TDoS’ top priority is sustainability. In particular, they are looking to identify partners who have adopted a circular economy model. Suppliers who offer maintenance and repair services, or who take back their materials at the end of the product’s lifecycle, will be ‘on the priority list’ for TDOS. Helena said,

‘We are pushing our suppliers to be better in sustainable thinking, and to be part of the circular economy. We know there is a carpet manufacturer that is already taking back the carpets. If others have this kind of taking back system that would be fantastic. Then you get a better economy for the cruise owner as well. We are trying to find a supplier that has circular economy thinking.’

The Cruise Line

Cruise lines are the ultimate decision makers in the cruise ship interior design industry. Their in-house teams of expert designers and architects will manage the project, working with design studios, outfitters, shipyards and suppliers to bring their vision to life. This process takes an average of five years from concept to completion for newbuilds and around a year from concept to completion for refurbishment projects. Some cruise lines will opt to keep certain aspects of the design process in-house and suppliers will have direct contact with in-house design teams. Commonly, suppliers will undergo a complex process to make it onto a cruise line’s makers’ list involving in-depth legal checks.

Dee Cooper, Senior Vice President of Design & Customer Experience at Virgin Voyages identified patience as one of the key attributes a new-to-cruise supplier can possess.

‘For new suppliers I would say one top tip is to have a little bit of patience. These ships take five years when you’re creating a brand-new ship and a sister ships series. We need to hear your ideas and you need to explain your ideas to us but they can take a little bit of time to ferment and come through our system for us to action them into service.’

Dee continued the call for new ideas from new suppliers.

‘The other top tip would be listen to our problems. We want the industry to move forward and sometimes we get stuck in doing it the same old way. Helping us coming up with new systems of manufacture and materials that are more robust but still beautiful is really important, as well as hitting the different price points. So, patience and challenge us!’

The Summary

To sum up this advice from the experts in the know, here are three things that new-to-cruise suppliers can do to create the strongest possible launch into the market:

  • Acquire the right product certifications and be aware that non-marine certifications will not apply
  • Research the buyers you would like to be involved with to learn how to get to the top of their priority list
  • Know the cruise interior specification timelines and prepare your strategy accordingly.