Passenger ship interiors will need “radical rethinking” to enable higher standards of hygiene and adequate social distancing.

The claim has been made by architecture and design firm YSA Design as lines look to prepare their vessels for the post-pandemic era following a shutdown of global operations.

The Oslo-based company, which has experience in cruise ship interior design, believes a return to ‘business as usual’ cannot be expected any time soon.

Chief executive Mari Gullikstad said: “When passenger ships set sail again, they will be carrying far fewer guests than they did prior to the outbreak, and stricter hygiene measures will be in place.

“The cruise holiday experience will look quite different for some time.”

Interiors will need to be adapted to accommodate fewer passengers per square metre, unused cabins converted into additional facilities such as medical rooms, crew quarters expanded to allow staff to maintain distance and dining areas reimagined for improved hygiene.

Gullikstad said: “Now that buffet dining rooms no longer seem viable due to their potential for disease transmission, restaurants will have to be redesigned to allow alternative forms of catering.

“For example, à la carte may completely replace self-service, with buffet counters removed to leave extra room for socially distanced dining.”

A priority will be flexibility, according to YSA Design senior architect Georg Piantino.

“Further outbreaks cannot be ruled out, and shipowners will want the ability to increase or decrease the capacity of interior spaces and implement or remove certain facilities depending on circumstances,” he said.

Another vital consideration will be the flow of passengers.

Typically busy areas, such as check-in and disembarkation stations, will have to be optimised to prevent congestion and bottlenecking.

The selection of surface materials will also require close attention, as these will be exposed to cleaning agents more frequently. Antibacterial materials are already widely used on board but will become even more prevalent as cruise lines look to further limit the spread of disease.

However, with studies suggesting that the coronavirus can survive for several hours in aerosol droplets, clean air is just as important as clean surfaces.

The company is working with sensor technology specialist Scenso to allow lines to analyse air quality on board their ships and ensure a safer, more hygienic environment for passengers.

Virtual reality and remote support tools will be used to conduct virtual inspections of both retrofit and newbuilds to assist cruise operators with the overall adaptation process.

“Our increased implementation of modern technologies highlights our involvement from design conception to delivery and is part of our efforts to restore public faith in cruise holidays,” Piantino added. “We are committed to giving the industry the kick-start it needs.”