“For a number of years we felt the industry was so far behind, but now it is more daring,” said Fredrik Johansson of Tillberg Design in Sweden, which is busy working on projects for a long list of cruise lines, including the Norwegian Cruise Line newbuilds. “Instead of looking at concepts being permanent and lasting 15 years or so, ship owners are accepting the fact that concepts may be shorter-lived.”
On Royal Caribbean’s Sunshine-class newbuilds, a handful of spaces will remain “white spaces” until the last moment in order to respond to the latest trends, said Scott Butler of Wilson Butler.
“Shelf life is always a risk with any designer, whether on land or at sea,” he added.
Joe Farcus, who has designed countless Carnival Cruise Lines and Costa Crociere newbuilds, said the industry was pushing toward branded spaces, against his beliefs.
"If you have a brand, you need to repeat certain details to reinforce that brand,” he explained. “As a designer, that is not of the greatest interest to me. We’ve always designed sister ships and even though the floor plan is the same, the feeling onboard is completely different.”
At Partner Ship Design, Kai Bunge and Siggi Schindler said that their clients were asking for more sustainable and durable materials. However, the first thing those clients ask for, they said, is the “wow” effect.
Partner Ship, which worked on the very-branded Carnival Breeze, said that no more than 30 percent of the ship was branded, and it was an enjoyable challenge to their creativity to integrate branded areas “into the overall design of the ship, so it looks like one natural landscape without big breaks.”
Butler, meanwhile, pointed to convertible space.
“It can be as simple as changing a table top and lighting to swing from Asian cuisine to meat and potatoes,” he explained, underlining that as ships move deployments, passenger demographics change.
Butler mentioned the notion of neighborhoods on the Oasis and Allure, that offered a large variety of characteristics.
Tillberg’s Johansson explained that designers must balance design with profitability, and have to increasingly think about revenue potential. That is, where to locate venues onboard in terms of revenue generation.
There is also the 25 percent factor to take into account, meaning that all passengers are generally in the same 25 percent of the ship.
One market standing out in Europe is Germany, whose passengers require a slightly different kind of design.
Butler is working on the TUI newbuilding at STX in Finland, as is Tillberg.
Johansson said that restaurant flows for German passengers proved rather unique. For example, a ship designed for the American market makes the assumption that most people will sit inside in the Lido. However, German passengers want to sit outside, thus affecting design and also passenger flows, with guests trying to grab a table outside before they get their food.
While these designers all have their own ideas and dreams, they are marching to the orders of the shipowners, as well as the latest rules and regulations for cruise ships.
Anti-slip materials are becoming more and more standard, as are non-combustible materials, even when it is not required by regulations.
Durability is also key, as passengers have a habit of scratching and destroying interiors,
“Everything we design has to anticipate passengers climbing or stepping on it, it needs to be monkey or gorilla proof, but they don’t need to see that,” said Partner Ship’s Schindler. “It is getting challenging to come up with good designs as our list of materials for selection gets narrower and narrower.”