Adrian spent the first ten years of his career as a Deck Officer with P&O and Princess Cruises.  He gained command on cross channel ferries and his last sea going appointment was with Island Cruises before settling ashore in positions with Island Cruises and for three years at the Marine Accident Investigation Branch. 

In 2012, Adrian joined TUI as Operations Director for Thomson Cruises.  During the past seven years he has been at the forefront of the transformation and rebrand from Thomson to Marella Cruises and has overseen the introduction of four new ships in four years.

Adrian is a Fellow of the Nautical Institute and a Trustee of the CHIRP Charitable Trust.

Adrian Hibbert, black and white headshot of the Operations Director at Marella Cruises

Thank you for speaking with the Cruise Ship Interiors Design Expo team today! Tell us about your current role and what it entails on a day-to-day basis?

As Director of Operations for Marella Cruises I have overall responsibility for all aspects of the fleet at sea which involves a number of different roles. First off, as part of my technical operations role, I am responsible for the smooth and uninterrupted running of the ships – including dry docks and out of service maintenance periods. Alongside this I work with my Head of Marine and Port Operations to ensure that the ships operate to the highest standard of safety and security and offer a wide range of itineraries that will excite our customers.

I also work closely with my Head of Hotel Operations to ensure that the guest experience from checking in at the airport, the transfer to the ship, the onboard experience of top entertainment and high quality of food in our famously friendly environment right through to the return flight to the UK is the best it can possibly be.

Can you give us an insight into your most recent project – were there any standout moments that were particularly challenging or unique?

After introducing four ships in four years there have been a number of projects completed that have marked a special time within Marella Cruises. In 2019 we saw the introduction of Marella Explorer 2. Formerly the Sky Sea Golden Era, a 7-week dry dock in Cadiz saw the rebrand to Marella. Significant work was done in all areas as we introduced many of the familiar concepts of the Marella Fleet as well as one or two new ones.

From a passenger point of view our biggest project was the 19th Hole. This saw us convert two spaces into a single venue with two full golf simulators, a club house bar and two golf carts where you can sit and drink cocktails from our bespoke bar menu.

Our most challenging part of any project we carry out tends to be related to galley facilities. Although the designers will have created a fantastic and visually exciting venue, the infrastructure to support the designs needs more thought than say a land based hotel concept.

TUI has launched a river cruise fleet with TUI Isla, TUI Skyla and TUI Maya, which are refurbished vessels. What, if anything, was different about the process of refitting river cruise vessels compared to ocean-going ships?

We took delivery of TUI Skyla at the start of November and are in the early stages of the refit which will significantly transform and modernise the ship. Sister ships TUI Isla and TUI Maya will join us at the end of December for their refits and all three vessels will be ready for our customers at the end of March. River cruise ship refits are on a much smaller scale than an ocean vessel, and that does come with benefits. In our case we have a single refurbishment company working exclusively with us on all three ships for the full refit period until March. This means that we’ll have a close knit design and refurb team working together for a relatively long time to deliver a consistent product offering at a very high standard.

Something that we were aware of throughout the design process was how hard working each venue on our river ships had to be. Our customer proposition is built around freedom and choice and it was essential that our public areas, dining services and entertainment options were designed to offer as much flexibility as possible.

And adding on to that, how, if at all, does the river cruise market currently differ from the ocean cruise market?

There’s very strong growth in the river cruise market, we’re seeing similar customers in terms of their holiday preferences and behaviours being attracted to both Marella Cruises and TUI River Cruises.

You’ve been in a position to witness the cruise market flourish in recent years. From an operations standpoint, can you talk us through some of the developments – whether technological, process, or something else entirely – that have truly impacted cruise?

If you look at the Thomson Cruise of four years ago compared to the Marella Cruises of today, there are two main operational changes.

The first is the move to a full and comprehensive all-inclusive bar menu. This has meant that we have needed to have increased cold room storage and have created larger bar pantries. We have additionally introduced self-serve beer and wine stations in our buffet restaurants and water coolers in passenger areas.

The second major change is technology. Our Marella guests can now browse the entertainment program, book spa treatments, reserve tables in our a la carte restaurants, choose their shore excursions and view and purchase their favourite cruise photographs all on their personal device via our “Navigate” App or at one of the kiosks dotted around the ship. This connectivity has needed hundreds of kilometres of cabling to be run and is a major consideration whenever we are refurbishing a space.

You’re taking part in the panel discussion, Streamlining the Refit Process, at our CSIE conference. Without giving too much away, can you tell us what we might expect from the session?

I think it’s going to be really interesting to hear about the challenges faced by each of the parties that contribute to a successful refit and to examine how the process can be improved on.

Finally, we have to ask, what are you most looking forward to at the inaugural Cruise Ship Interiors Expo Europe?

Any visit to Barcelona is something to look forward to, but the real value of these types of events is the chance to network with colleagues in the industry.

Hear from leading voices within the cruise interiors community at Cruise Ship Interiors Design Expo Europe. Find out about the next event here.