To conclude our series, Hotels at New Heights, Hamish Kilburn investigates why more and more hotel designers are taking to the seas to design the luxury cruise vessels’ suites of the future…
Somewhere between Myanmar and Phuket, in the Andaman Sea, my perception of luxury cruises shifted from that of a cliché to feeling very much part of an exclusive club. In what felt like a blink of an eye on board Seabourn Sojourn, while watching an unpolluted starry sky meet the horizon, I realised that I was in my own little ‘one-off experience’ moment, which was totally unmatched by any hotel on the planet – no matter how luxurious.
In just a handful of days, our short voyage took us to four countries until we eventually arrived in the bright lights of Singapore. We docked just in time to attend the naming ceremony of Seabourn’s latest ship, the Encore. With interiors imagined by award-winning designer Adam Tihany, who is best known for working on hotel projects such as The Beverly hills Hotel, Mandarin Oriental London and Four Seasons Dubai Financial Centre, it was clear that the luxury cruise liner was daring to be different in order to cater to the growing demand for luxury travel.
From impeccable finishes and bespoke fittings to the hand-picked art, the Encore was the beginning of a new design direction for the Seabourn brand with a few elements remaining the same, such as the iconic hot tub positioned on the bow. Tihany’s sharp vision provided comfort and familiarity of an on-board living room. The atrium included an elliptical double-helix staircase that connects seven floors and was complete with a six-storey art installation that, again, reiterated the design inspiration of Seabourn’s effortless luxury style.
Ever since then, the industry has evolved and expanded as a result of travellers being prepared to go further to explore beyond just one beach, city or a destination. In 2017, a total of 25.8 million passengers boarded cruise ships to travel, which is 4.9 million more passengers than in 2012. With this great demand comes great responsibility. The leading luxury cruise liners as we knew it had to, with a splash of irony, charter themselves into new waters in order to seek inspirational interior designers to work on creating their up-market future fleet of ships.
“‘Experience’ has become the buzzword for the hospitality industry. Guests are no longer focused on traditional expectations but are looking for interior spaces that have been tailored to their own unique interests and aspirations,” explained Tihany when discussing how the latest design-led cruises are changing the hospitality arena. “Whether it be within the comfort of a suite or through a transformative dining experience, the changes within the cruise world bring to light a current momentum I call the Age of Design, which continues to move the dial in all areas of hospitality.”
While Tihany continued to wave his interior designer wand on Seabourn’s luxurious fleet, with the launch of Ovation last year, other celebrated hotel designers were also receiving ambitious briefs in order to take luxury cruise ship design to new heights.
P&O Britannia / P&O Iona
Richmond International became the first interior design firm to be selected to help reimagine the interiors for P&O Cruises directly because of its impressive luxury hotel portfolio. Director Terry McGillicuddy was given the somewhat unusual task to design the entire interiors for the P&O Britannia vessel, which took its maiden voyage in 2015. “This opened up opportunities for a whole-ship holistic integrated design approach,” he explained. “And allowed us to integrate a consistent design thread whilst maintaining the individuality and integrity of each space.”
“Richmond loved this challenge after decades in land based hospitality design; this has become a huge part of our business.” – Terry McGillicuddy, Director, Richmond International.
Despite the firm having led interior design projects such as The Beaumont, Langham London and Sandy Lane in Barbados, the team were required to adapt their design processes in order to comply with certain marine regulations, as McGillicuddy explains: “We needed to learn the specifics to Marine Works Regulations and certifications, respecting International Safety of Life at Seas (SOLAS) rules, and a whole new ‘ship’ language.
“It was also crucial to understand the differences between the interior fit out process of the ship, which is a metal construction ‘panel’ based system throughout. We had to appreciate the limitations in terms of space constrictions and minimal ceiling heights, and design the interior around these issues.
“Due to restrictions on weight and different fire regulations, material specification was also a challenge. We looked at new suppliers and manufacturing processes, which have the approved IMO certification for marine use.
“All of these new parameters were exciting to learn whilst respecting the very tight turnaround times in the build program. Richmond loved this challenge after decades in land based hospitality design; this has become a huge part of our business.”
Following the success of P&O Britannia, Richmond International, together with interior design and architecture firm Jestico + Whiles, were awarded the opportunity to design the interiors for the new ship, Iona. Expected to launch in 2020, with the distinct aim to “bring the outside in,” Iona is expected to feel more like a large resort than a conventional cruise ship. With a glass dome roof and spacious layout throughout, the vessel will be flooded with natural light. “Guests are now expecting more state-of-the-art vessels, exclusive destinations and authentic ‘memorable’ experiences; interior design must respond to and support these demands,” said McGillicuddy. “This can result in cruise ships evolving to a more ‘resort’ like experience and the design more focused on the deployment markets or passenger origins. This can bring in local and cultural design requirements which we can leverage from our hotel heritage.”
Straddling both interior design and architecture, Jestico + Whiles, unveiled its design for a new atrium concept on board P&O Cruises’ next generation of ship, Iona. The design of the soaring triple-height Grand Atrium is described as the heart of the vessel, complete with panoramic views across ever-changing waters. “The sea becomes the focus of the triple-height space; the sinuous curves are shaped around it, framing and complementing the views to the outside, said James Dilley, Director of Jestico + Whiles. “Despite the challenge of such a large space, we have worked closely with P&O Cruises to make the Grand Atrium harmonious with the separate venues, making the space both open and intimate.”
An elegant, arcing staircase of Italian marble with a polished, filigree silver balustrade serves as the centrepiece to the space, evoking the glamour of the iconic cruise ships of the 20th century. Designed as a piece of sculptural architecture, its curving form guides guests on a journey through the decks offering changing views and perspectives of the sea and activity within, encouraging everyone to explore the variety of destinations on board.
Following its maiden voyage on December 9 from Fort Lauderdale, Florida, all eyes seem to be focused on the Celebrity Edge cruise ship. The 1,467 staterooms, including 176 suites, on board have been designed by the award-winning luxury interior designer Kelly Hoppen. In addition to the laid-back luxurious accommodation, Hoppen also designed the Retreat Sundeck and The Retreat Lounge and Luminae, which is the suite-class restaurant.
“Celebrity Edge is definitely a ship of the future – nothing like this has ever been done in this industry before. I was so honoured to be part of something this groundbreaking and it was a challenge for me to do something that no one had ever done before,” explained Hoppen. “The craftsmanship and quality that Celebrity Cruises follows is second to none and their reputation for innovations in the industry is already renowned so it was an incredibly exciting project to work on.”
Hoppen’s stylish interiors proved so popular that they are now being rolled out across the fleet as part of a $500 million investment called the Celebrity Revolution.
The architect on the project, Tom Wright, whose impressive portfolio includes projects as grand as the Burj Al Arab, pushed design boundaries by unveiling the world’s first cantilevered deck on the vessel. The elevating deck, or Magic Carpet as it is being called, can move up and down the ship’s exterior with the ability to dock at four separate levels. The concept of its interiors, designed by Hoppen, transforms into many settings. When it is positioned at Deck two, for example, it becomes a luxury entrance foyer. However, when it moves to Deck 16, it becomes a high-dining experience.
Design studio Jouin Manku also worked on the interior spaces inside Celebrity Edge. On board, the studio imagined The Grand Plaza, which is the Main Dining Atrium as well as the connecting circulation spaces. Designers Sanjit Manku and Patrick Jouin came to the Celebrity Edge project with a sense of excitement and wonder, and the desire to capture the magic of travelling by sea. Inspired by the glamour and adventure of the pre-war era of travel, they sought to transform this experience for the 21st century.
Meanwhile, the three-storey Eden bar and restaurant stretches across the stern of the vessel and is complete with striking spaces of dark greens, brass and palms.
Aside from the water slides, zip-wires and other sensational headline-grabbing features on board the giants of the seas, there is a larger picture. With the cruise industry now leaning on leading hotel designers to imagine their future fleets, the lanes between luxury hotel design and luxury cruise ship design are coming together. In August of last year, the cruise industry hit new records, reporting a total of 113 ships on the orderbook to be introduced between now and 2027, with Seabourn, Princess, TUI and Lindblad among them. With the demand for cruise ships at an all time high, more and more award-winning hotel designers are seeing this market as one of ample opportunity, taking international hotel design on its maiden voyage for an unforgettable journey.
Throughout this series, Hotels at New Heights, we have investigated how other luxury markets are working to design their future territories. The aim of this series has been to understand how hotel designers and architects can continue to challenge conventional design in order to help lead the hospitality market with clear innovation and thinking outside the box.
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Main image credit: Celebrity Edge/Kelly Hoppen