Finding the opportunity after COVID-19

While the cruise industry, like the rest of the globe, has been slowed by the COVID-19 pandemic, is it possible to have a conversation about positive outcomes? That’s exactly what the panel of leading names in cruise design and outfitting sat down to discuss on the collaborative Cruise Conversations webinar, COVID-19: Putting a Positive Spin on the Elephant in the Room.

Hosted by Toby Walters, CEO of Cruise Ship Interiors Expo America, the panel comprised of My Nguyen, Director Interior Design & Operations, Seabourn & Holland America Line, Petu Kummala, Senior Director of Interior Design & Architecture, Carnival Cruise Line and Mike Oliver, Co-owner & Co-chairman of Trimline. The conversation first turned the incredible sense of community felt by all areas of the cruise interiors industry. My and Petu spoke warmly of the incredible response they’ve had from the designers, outfitters and suppliers they work with, while Mike commended the suppliers who generously agreed to accept returned deliveries of materials for jobs that have been placed on hold. The message is clear: times are hard but the community spirit is strong.

The most challenging question for the room was: is there any opportunity to be found in the impact of COVID-19 on cruise? Mike Oliver suggested that as cruises restart with a lower passenger occupancy cruise lines can take the chance to employ ride on squads. As he pointed out, cruise companies have been so successful in the last ten years, understandably there is rarely any room to host contractors. However, as cruise ships restart their itineraries they have the potential to host up to 20 workers who, working 12 hour days, will be able to cover a lot of ground!

Petu was in agreement that ride on squads are often a good solution for cruise ship maintenance. Cruise lines, he said, always try to complete smaller upkeep projects while the ship is sailing and My pointed out that one of the greatest benefits is flexibility:

“The great thing about ride on squads is the versatility as well. Because dry docks usually happen every two to three years. So instead of waiting for this long window of opportunity you have ride on squads that can be ready within weeks and to go and help maintain the ship. It’s a great benefit.”

My Nguyen

Employing ride on squads wouldn’t just be an opportunity for cruise lines. With the larger refurbishment projects pushed back to 2021 and, in some cases, 2022, some cruise outfitters and suppliers could be facing a challenging couple of years. Employing ride on squads will come at a smaller cost to cruise lines than large-scale refurbs but will pump work and funding through the supply chain. This will help to keep the cruise interiors ‘eco system’ working.

Although there are still challenging days to come in cruise, it’s clear that the community is drawing on its experience and creativity to find a productive way forward. As My said, “With the gift of time you can innovate.”


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