“It looks spectacular, but it’s not only a visionary dream, it’s a beautiful and realistic design that also works,” said Fredrik Johansson, owner and executive project director at Tillberg Design of Sweden.
Johansson, of course, is talking about the dramatic sleek exterior that will feature on the Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection ships.
“There are lots of projects that start off looking beautiful but once you’ve done your business model and stability studies, the ship suddenly looks completely different,” he said.
Design work started years out on the Ritz-Carlton vessels, culminating in a June announcement. Johansson credited the ownership group for their vote of confidence for a unique design, as well as the shipyard, Barreras, for showing its flexibility in wanting to deliver the vessels.
The smaller size allowed the design firm to come up with a slender silhouette for the ship. Once the design was in place, the ownership group and Tillberg took it to the yard.
“Barreras is a boutique yard,” said Johansson. “They have been very flexible and creative in interpreting our design outlines, and there have only been very marginal adjustments to the exterior.”
Among the highlights for Johansson is the aft marina, and top-deck observation lounge, which offers side windows that can be opened.
Tillberg is also heavily involved in the new Hurtigruten newbuilds as well as the new expedition yachts for Crystal and Star’s mega-sized Global-class ships.
With the latter two projects under the Genting Hong Kong umbrella at Genting-owned MV Werften, Johansson said the cruise lines, yard and owner shared a unique interest in optimizing the design and construction of the ships.
The new Star ships will be designed for the Chinese mass market with a focus on families.
Designed from the start for the Chinese passenger, the ships will have different restaurant designs and back-of-house areas.
“We have a long experience of designing for the South-East Asian market,” Johansson said. “It’s an altogether different setup. The eating habits are not the same as most western ships, the cabins may need other functions and features, and there is generally a bigger focus on gaming. There is actually not much that is directly replicated from the large Western-orientated ships.”
Key to ship design and incredibly important is onboard revenue.
Johansson said that came down to the cruise line and what it sees as its main onboard revenue generators.
“We have to learn how the shipowner thinks about revenue, and whether, for example, a bar or a spa is in a prime position or not,” he said. “We need to be open-minded on that and know what the priorities are, and where the client is making money.”
On expedition ships, space is at a premium, including a potential spa.
“There is space-efficient planning for everything. If you put a spa on a ship that size, it has to be super well-planned,” Johansson explained.
On smaller ships, he said he works cleverly to optimize the layout and use multi-purpose solutions as often as possible.
Employing just 20 people four years ago, Tillberg now has offices in Sweden and Poland and a staff of 100.
“We have young and creative minds, almost straight out of school, and they only see opportunity,” Johansson said. “They come in with fresh ideas and then we make them work on a ship.”