Designing for China's Great Cruise Leap Forward
The intense study of guest preferences among Chinese cruisers has called for some profound thinking at YSA Design to satisfy a fast-developing market
The fast-emerging Chinese cruise constituency brings an entirely new set of tastes to which ship designers must respond. Since 2006, the compound annual growth rate of China's cruise economy has been around 45 percent, with outbound cruise passengers numbering 2.48 million in 2016 according to the China Cruise & Yacht Industry Association.
As one of the world’s leading cruise ship design studios, YSA Design is also one of only a handful of companies that engages in newbuilding and refitting projects from concept to delivery, liaising with owners, architects, engineers, yards and subcontractors.
“We are very keen to be part of developments for a culturally diverse demographic,” says Derek Barkas, YSA Design Senior Interior Designer. “This is always a challenge and, as with any new market, we have undertaken intense research and study of guest demands.”
In the last 12 months, YSA Design has been involved in one of the first refits of a well-known European-built ship at a Chinese yard which has been undertaken so that its public spaces truly reflect the tastes of the Chinese passenger.
The project in question involved a “rip-out” and reconfiguration on the main pool deck, with the jacuzzi considered surplus to requirements, and the pool re-conceived more as a feature than as a lido.
The overall way space is used that brings home the different way Chinese passengers think of their cruising experience. Outdoor exercising and dancing in formation are in, for example, as is card-playing and picnicking in small groups; sunbathing is - more or less – out, Barkas says.
At a subtle level, designing for the Chinese audience involves parameters guided by tradition, Barkas adds. The Asian cruiser is likely to respond well to wide entrances that evoke energy flow, but may be less amenable to sharp edges or design angularity, Barkas says. In general, designers considering the color palette will want to exploit red’s link to good fortune, but should avoid overkill.
Chinese cruisers have less thirst for bars serving alcohol, so the creativity often used to deliver different bar-room “vibes” is better harnessed designing areas for interactive entertainments such as karaoke or semi-private areas for gaming and socializing, as well as public casinos.
Fewer bars also mean lower demand for pantry-style catering. “Food and beverage operations need to be set up differently,” says Barkas. “Chinese cruise passengers have a greater requirement for the choice and speed of service offered by buffet-type restaurants. As designers, we need to consider consequences of less à la carte dining and more specialty outlets for specific palates, and these will include table sizes and seating arrangements, passenger flows and dwell times.”
More retail space will be required overall, and expectations from the Chinese cruiser will be different; while familiar luxury brands play a major role, there is also desire for a wider range of retail outlets. Furthermore, the understandable appetite for exclusive ‘eastern’ cosmetics feeds through to fixtures and fittings in the spa and salon areas. At the same time, duty free should be competitively priced, and the retail space needs to reflect that ethic.
The change in focus extends from the outdoor decks to the private cabins. Serving the greater number of family groups traveling means more connecting doors between cabins, or even duplex designs. “Already, we have learned quickly that “the ‘western’ and ‘Chinese’ cruise experiences involve very different guest expectations ship-wide,” Barkas concludes.