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  • Hotel design in cruise ships: will it sink or will it float?

    Under the Arch sculpture
    800 533 Hamish Kilburn
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    With more and more design firms announcing their involvement in cruise ship interior designs, Hotel Designs’ editor Hamish Kilburn dived beneath the surface to find out how conceiving a cruise ship differs from designing a luxury hotel…

    “Location, location, location” is what I hear on a daily basis when asking where designers first look to for inspiration when reimagining interiors within our industry. Recently, though, we have seen an influx of leading hotel interior designers expanding their services to now include cruise ship interiors.

    It’s no surprise to hear that the cruise ship industry, as a whole, is working hard to evolve its image to challenge existing perceptions, which suggests that cruising is only for older generations. Now, it’s become more popular than ever for younger people to book a cheap and cheerful cruise. Travelling to many locations throughout a holiday, passing through many cultures along the way, is very much appealing to a wider demographic of people. Much like the attitudes of guests boarding the ships, the interior design of modern cruise ships is also improving, taking much of its inspiration from the aesthetics of iconic luxury hotels worldwide.

    Earlier this month, I sat down with Fiona Thompson, the Principal of Richmond International, the award-winning design firm that has recently been commissioned to reimagine a P&O cruise liner. Without the luxury of a fixed location, Thompson and her team have taken a lot of her inspiration from the sea, very much making it the star of the ship. “This includes making windows much larger and the relationship between inside and outside becoming more important,” Thompson explained.

    One of the most obvious challenges when redesigning cruise ship interiors is consumer behaviour.  Unlike hotels, passengers on board cruise ships don’t have the luxury to leave when they want. Therefore, the interiors in a ship really must capture the attention of every guest. “Cruise ships are trying to break away from that naff Vegas style. Our job is to turn these ships into places that are more upscale and thought provoking,” Thompson added.

    The less-obvious challenge when working in a cruise ship environment are the low ceilings, which interestingly tend to feature above large spaces. “You have to play all sorts of games as to how to make those spaces feel comfortable and airy,” said Thompson. “A great way to do that is through lighting.”

    Interiors of Seabourn ship

    Image credit: Assaf Pinchuk

    Outside of the design planning, many leading suppliers, who are featured heavily in international hotel design, are also being used more and more in cruise ships. Art curation consultancy ArtLink has recently announced it curated more than 1,600 artworks for the new Seabourn cruise ship, The Ovation. Known for being a high-end stylish cruise company, Seabourn’s design brief was to weave together Seabourn’s brand in a contemporary way with the interior designer, Adam Tihany’s vision. “We believe in telling stories through art, and there is arguably nowhere more suited to this emotional and intellectual adventure than a cruise ship,” says ArtLink’s founder, Tal Danai. “Guests are travelling slowly, confined within the experience of the vessel and full of anticipation about the destination they will eventually discover. They have the time to re-visit the art as they journey and to allow it to release one story at a time.”

    The company, which has completed more than 130 hospitality projects worldwide, pulled together the talents of nearly 120 artists from across five continents to achieve a multi-layered collection intended to reveal new discoveries little-by-little to guests as they travel the oceans.

    Going one step further, last week Hotel Designs broke the news that iconic Ritz-Carlton brand has opened reservations for The Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection, set to take the seas in February 2020. This will mean that the Ritz-Carlton will be first hotel brand to take its service and ambiance of its resorts to the sea.

    The cruise ship industry is honing in some of the industry’s finest designers and manufacturers in order to somewhat replicate modern hotels from around the globe. This very obvious movement is a further example of how clever collaborations can help evolve and transform a whole market.

    If you have an opinion on this topic, please tweet us at @hoteldesigns

    Fiona Thompson will be the headline speaker of next month’s Meet Up North. Taking place on July 18 at Manchester’s trendy King Street Townhouse, the evening networking event is a bridge between hoteliers, designers, architects, procurement companies and suppliers. Head over to the Meet Up North tab to secure your place.

    Hamish Kilburn / 18.06.2018

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