Part of the reason our ships come out so well the first time is that we cheat. The first ship isn’t really first. For key areas, we build mock-ups so we can see what the final product will be like. And we always find that we learn something in the process. No matter how much time and effort we devote to studying the plans or even the models, there is just no substitute for being able to see and touch a full scale version of the item.
We recently did a mock-up of a section of Central Park. Of course Central Park is so huge that there is no way we could build the whole thing on land. (It’s ironic that we can’t do it on land but we can on a ship). But they did build a section of it that included all the relevant components in one place. This way we get a feel for the walkway, the shrubbery, the trees and the living wall.
We also took advantage of CLIA’s Cruise3sixty to have a meeting of our Travel Agent Advisory Board. The Board is comprised of leading travel agents from all sectors including full service agencies, cruise only agencies, home based agencies, internet agencies, national chains and smaller local agents. They are all successful in their own areas as well as respected observers of the industry and they provide us useful and candid advice about all aspects of our business. Be careful what you wish for, you may get it. In this case, we want candid feedback but I know that when diplomats describe a dialogue as “candid” they mean it didn’t actually come to blows (“a frank exchange of views” means they had to be restrained and “candid” means they didn’t have to be restrained but were thinking about it). The advice we get from them is not always pleasant, but it is always helpful and we do act on it.
So, while they were here, we asked them to look at our Central Park mock-up. It is only one half of one percent of the total space, but it contains all the essential elements. They had seen the earlier renderings etc, but reacted very well indeed to the actual piece. One important point was the topography of the Park. We want to be careful that it is not flat – naval architects like flat because it is easy to build – but want to ensure it has the natural rolling feeling one instinctively associates with parks while still maintaining the accessibility that is so important to us.
On a technical level, the mock-up allowed us to check irrigation, installation logistics, water conservation, shrubbery density, etc. There were a number of small items the mock-up helped clarify, but only one substantive issue and that related to the green wall. The mock-up showed that the initial drawings were too “mechanical” and exposed the plumbing and other technical requirements. Too much input from the engineers and not enough from the artists. Also, the foliage shown included new plants and they looked insipid. The real planting is carefully selected and needs a long time to mature. They are growing in a nursery now so they will be mature and lush by the time of the ship’s arrival. Mock-ups are helpful but not perfect.
Overall, a very successful mock-up which gave us all even more confidence about how the final version will be and why the “first” Central Park will actually be a finished product.