Søren Sonne joined the cruise interiors industry over 13 years ago. Today, as Managing Director and CEO at Dansk Wilton, he is focused on supplying the largest cruise lines in the world with the most sustainable interior carpet solutions. Søren will be bringing his knowledge on sustainable carpet design to the session, “Responsible Cabin Design” at Cruise Conversations Live, Cruise Ship Hospitality Expo Europe’s two-day conference. Ahead of his session, we caught up with Søren to learn more about his role at Dansk Wilton, creating sustainable carpets for some of the world’s largest cruise lines, and his upcoming session at Cruise Conversations Live.
Thanks for speaking with the Cruise Ship Interiors Expo Europe team (CSIE) today! Tell us about your current role and what it entails on a day-to-day basis?
I am the Managing Director and CEO at Dansk Wilton. My current role is to oversee the overall operations of the company and ensure our continued success. This is especially important now as the last two years have been quite challenging for everybody involved in the cruise industry. Whether you are a trade show organiser, an architect, a cruise line or a shipyard, everybody was severely hit by COVID-19 and its negative consequences.
The positive is that we’re in a much better situation now. 2020 was a very tough year for everybody, but today we are using all our resources to gain momentum again. I am making sure we have the right number of staff to meet demands and create a great product, as we are very focused on developing new sustainable interior solutions that are on one side environmentally friendly, but also very inspiring and visually pleasing. We also have a high level of demand right now as the cruise industry is returning to business.
What inspired you to venture into the marine industry?
Well, it was actually by coincidence! When I joined Dansk Wilton some 13 years ago, I had a lot of land-based contacts within the hospitality industry, but the marine industry was quite new to me. However, I found that there’s not a big difference between land based resorts and cruise ships. It’s been a fantastic journey so far and until COVID-19 hit, the cruise industry was actually the fastest growing leisure industry in the entire world.
Tell us about a recent project that was particularly challenging, interesting, or unique in some way.
Well, we have so many interesting and unique projects that it’s difficult to just point out one! We recently finalised our deliveries for the biggest cruise ship in the world, Wonder of the Seas, who just left the Chantiers de l’Atlantique shipyard in Saint-Nazaire, France. For this, we delivered all the carpets for the passenger cabins and suites, as well as the crew areas. That was a very big project for Dansk Wilton, with it also being the biggest cruise ship in the world. Besides that, we have a lot of really interesting projects together with Norwegian Cruise Lines, Celebrity Cruise Lines, Silversea, MSC, Seabourn and Holland America. One thing these projects all have in common is a strong focus on selecting Cradle to Cradle certified carpet.
What trends have you seen emerging recently, or are expecting to emerge, in the cruise interiors industry?
We see that there is more and more focus on sustainable interior solutions. We work with quite a lot of hotels worldwide, and we have seen, especially in land-based hotels, that they are a little bit ahead of the cruise industry. They have been paying more attention to using sustainable products in their interior design. But now, we are seeing the cruise industry putting it at the top of the agenda, which is very positive. I think it’s vital that the future of the cruise industry is also an environmentally friendly one. The entire world is very concerned about finding ways to do things in a more environmentally friendly way, and that also comes to cruising and holidays.
How would you describe the current state of the cruise interiors industry?
What I see is an industry that is really eager to get started again. I see an industry that is full of energy and optimism again. This is very different to what we saw in the early days of 2020, where ships were sailing around the entire world and nobody knew what would happen to the cruise industry. So, it’s extremely positive to see that the industry is picking up again and everybody is full of energy. Our priority is making sure that the industry gets back on track and that we can support it the best way we can.
Next week you’ll be speaking at Cruise Conversations Live during CSIE. Without giving too much away, can you tell us what we might expect from your session?
Well, I think from my side, you will hear about how we work with environmentally friendly and sustainable products. We will share how we operate an internal project we call REUSECruise. Here, we have some good examples of how you could reuse old carpets and make new materials out of them. So, I would say there will be a lot of interesting thoughts and ideas in the conference session on how to create a sustainable and environmentally friendly cruise ship.
Finally, we have to ask, what are you most looking forward to at Cruise Ship Interiors Expo Europe?
Well, it’s of course meeting new and potential partners; it’s about networking with colleagues and being a part of a great industry again. In a way, it’s a small, connected industry, so I look forward to meeting up with good old friends and talking with the network again while helping each other where we can. It’s just great to get connected again, and together we will grow this industry to what it was before, and I’m happy to be a part of that.
Refresh your knowledge, source suppliers for your next project, and connect with representatives from world-leading cruise lines at Cruise Ship Interiors Expo Europe. Find out about the next event here.