Want to get cruise travelers riled up? Design a bad bathroom for a new cruise ship. Some memorable miscues over the past few years include:
*The controversial split sink/toilet combo on Norwegian Cruise Line’s Norwegian Epic (the former actually situated inside the cabin, the latter behind its own four walls).
*The short showers on Oceania Cruises’ Marina, which were quickly revamped after passenger feedback.
*The toilet paper roll placement fit only for a contortionist on Princess Cruises’ Royal Princess.
At Cruise Critic, what we are hearing passengers say to cruise lines’ ship designers is this: Save the wow for bars, lounges, pool decks, atriums, restaurants, gift shops, casinos…and just about anywhere but the bathroom.
That’s why Regent Seven Seas Cruises, which is currently knee-deep in blueprints for its new 738-passenger, 54,000-ton Explorer, is taking some pretty radical steps to make sure the ship’s design suits.
“We think we know what our guests want,” president Kunal Kamlani told us, “but rather than be presumptuous, why not bring passengers and travel agents into as many aspects of design – and as early as possible.”
So on a sultry morning in Miami, Regent’s leadership team, which included its chairman Frank Del Rio, gathered a group of travel agents and veteran past passengers – as well as Cruise Critic. The purpose? To discover which bathroom and closet designs pass muster.
At the time, Explorer’s design effort was about 25 percent done, and the team had already logged some 1,200 man hours on its creation. For this feedback study, the line had built three possible bathroom/closet layouts as mock-ups, in an out-of-the-way warehouse. The three different combinations were built to scale, so you could literally experience each as if it was an actual bathroom.
Most of the time, we talked — and Regent executives listened.
One model, the most contemporary of the trio, featured a shower big enough for two, and a much-discussed toilet that had its own little room and frosted door to match. Another had a bathtub and separate steam shower, with the toilet in the normal position. The third model sort of blended the two; it was a shower-only without the toilet cubby.
Closets were adjacent, just as they would be on a regular ship, and there was much discussion over the placement of the drawers, how high — or low – the safe should be, and whether or not you really need a shelf just for shoes.
So after all that discussion, which bathroom/closet combo did Regent end up choosing for Explorer? The verdict’s still out though Kamlani did offer a few hints. “Luxury guests really enjoy bathtubs and oversized bathrooms,” he said. “And closet space and the details behind their layouts are critically important since many luxury sailings are longer than average.”
Overall, however, the line knows that the details matter — and no one knows that better than the loyal passengers that sail year in and year out. “What we walked away with was that the feedback from our guests and travel agent partners was – and will be — fundamental to creating the most luxurious ship in the modern era of cruising,” Kamlani told us. “Given how much they shaped our view here, their input on suites, restaurants and other public areas is going to be invaluable.
“In the end, Explorer is for our guests, and it’s their home away from home no matter where they are, all over the world.”