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Profiles in Design

The Versailles Restaurant aboard the Norwegian StarCruise Industry News asked a selection of the world’s leading designers to look through their portfolios, choose a public space they are particularly proud of, and describe the process of how it was created and built.

Tillberg Design: A Dramatic Entrance

There’s a long history to Tillberg Design’s Versailles Restaurant aboard the Norwegian Star - in a way, dating back to the very birth of Star Cruises. •

“Back when Star was developing their new cruise line,” explained Tillberg designer Anders Rasmussen, “they visited a lot of places around the world - and went to Las Vegas several times. They liked the idea of Las Vegas’ separate, very different casinos right next to each other, one themed around Venice, another New York - and they wanted their ships to be like that: with something very different in each room.”

Tillberg Design proposed a room with a Versailles theme for one of the earlier Star ships, but the owner opted for another idea at the time. Then, when Star began development of its 92,000-ton Libra new buildings, it asked Tillberg to present an idea for the aft main restaurant.

“They told us they wanted a Western (i.e., European)-style theme, because many of the other restaurants aboard would be Asian. And they wanted a glamorous entrance, where the passengers would walk into the room and say ‘Wow.’

“We decided it should be something big, something everybody knows,” he said, “and we looked at different castles and palaces and ended up with Versailles.” Work had already been done on the Versailles concept previously, so Tillberg revisited those earlier ideas and reworked them into the aft restaurant space for the Libra I, complete with Versailles-style elements such as arches, mirrors, bright colors, and artwork.

The 8,820-square-foot space stretches between decks five and six, and Tillberg used the main staircase outside the entrance to bring passengers to a landing halfway down between the decks. “There’s a landing between the two decks at the main entrance to the restaurant, and a staircase down from there,” said Rasmussen, who noted that there wasn’t enough room to bring passengers down a full deck length using the staircase inside the restaurant itself. “This way guests coming in get a good view of the room, which is sometimes difficult when they enter at the same level as the restaurant floor; at the same time, the people who are eating can see who’s coming in.” When presented to Star, the owner approved the concept, which was then passed along to builder Meyer Werft for the next step in its development.

Rasmussen said the reference room for costing the Versailles Restaurant was the aft dining room on the Superstar Leo, a public space featuring expensive details including marble columns. “In the Versailles, we used GIP - a kind of reinforced polyester - instead of marble for the columns, so we were able to use the marble elsewhere, on the staircase instead of plaster and carpeting.”

Austria-based Messner was chosen as the main subcontractor for the room, manufacturing most of the interior elements, including the seamless ceiling, columns, barriers, waiter stations, maitre d’ stand, grand staircase and wall paneling. Said Rasmussen, “Messner takes a different approach. For example, he may tell us that some of the materials we’ve chosen are very expensive, and a little out of line with the reference room, but instead of making a change in the materials, he will suggest using workers more efficiently to save money, which will allow the use of more expensive materials.”

Then, as Meyer and its subcontractors fleshed out the Versailles Restaurant for the Libra I, the situation suddenly changed: Star acquired Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL), and ultimately decided that the Libra class would be reworked as NCL ships, for the North American as opposed to Asian market.

According to Rasmussen, “(NCL President) Colin Veitch looked over the design and liked what he saw.” Among the changes that were made: “There is a different philosophy for the seating arrangement in Asia and America,” said Rasmussen. “In Asia, you use tables for six that can fit a tight eight. Asians travel with their children and their grandparents in large groups, and often invite people they meet to the table. For the American passengers, and with NCL’s Freestyle Dining, the tables were four-seaters and two- seaters, with a six-seat maximum. Also, in Asia the tables are always round. In America, though, you might have a fourseater that is round, square, or rectangular.” When completed, the required seating changes lowered the restaurant’s capacity to around 400, he said.

Additional changes were made in the galley. When the ship was designated for Asian clientele, Asian food was to be available in addition to the primary courses. When the ship became the Norwegian Star, the Asian-food option was removed, and the galley arrangement and equipment were changed accordingly.

Finally, Rasmussen pointed out some unusual features of the dining-room design that have been kept since the beginning. “Star never wanted the passenger to see leftovers, or the galley itself,” he said. “So the layout is designed so you can never look into the galley. And unlike other ships that have bus stations where the leftover food is gathered, Star does not do this. Leftovers are taken directly from the table out of the dining room.

"Back before they built the Leo and the Virgo,” he explained, “Star’s executives took cruises on the major lines, and they studied their operations. Then they decided they wanted to do a number of things differently.”

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