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Cruise interiors: China, booming orderbook and innovation

Thu 14 Feb 2019 by Rebecca Moore

Cruise interiors: China, booming orderbook and innovation
Chinese yards have not built cruise ships before – therefore Tomas Tillberg Design was hired by SunStone Ships to deliver the interior a modern cruise ship should have (credit SunStone Cruises)

Newbuild cruise ships reveal the latest interior innovations, while Chinese construction is having an impact on the hotel side

The cruise interior market is booming – January 2019 opened with 124 ships on the forward-looking cruise ship orderbook, extending through 2027. The cruise industry is projected to continue to grow throughout 2019 with an estimated 30M travellers expected to cruise, up 6% from 28.2M in 2018. All of this creates opportunities for the interiors market.

One of the ships on the cruise orderbook is P&O Iona, which will be delivered by P&O Cruises in 2019.

Richmond International was the interior architect for all the public spaces and passenger cabins on the P&O Cruise ship Britannia and was invited to work with P&O again on some of the major public spaces and the passenger cabin and suite design for its new ship Iona.

The Britannia interior design concept was based around the brief of a five-star luxury hotel at sea whereas Iona’s interior design direction is British contemporary luxury with a seaside feel, which embraces the ‘sea as the star’, Richmond International managing director Terry McGillicuddy explained. “The design of Iona's cabins is centred around a contemporary holiday atmosphere and the materials chosen create a seaside aesthetic.”

He said “Cabins and suites on large cruise ships are normally very tight spaces, therefore they require careful planning to maximise circulation and storage. There are defined briefs from the owner/operator that outline the full service requirements and respond to their passenger expectations. The circulation flow is extremely important to ensure the passengers feel comfortable and experience a non-stressful stay, therefore internal planning is key to the success of a great cabin design.

“The choice of furniture – light and fresh materials and colours together with soft detailing of all the elements – is crucial to achieve a more spacious and relaxed ambience.”

With regards to the interior fit out process, Mr McGillicuddy said “we had to appreciate the limitations in terms of space constrictions and minimal ceiling heights and design the interiors around these issues.”

Due to restrictions on weight and fire regulations, material specification was a challenge. “We looked at new suppliers and manufacturing processes which have the approved IMO certification for marine use,” he said.

He singled out passenger flow as extremely important. “It is vital that cruise ship design is conducive to easy passenger movement. Due to large numbers of passengers, it is important to understand their movement patterns and routines as, for example, all passengers cannot be accommodated in every space.”

He added “The entertainment programme is crucial to schedule the movement of the passengers from one room to another and disperse them around the ship. All the corridor spaces and the vertical circulation routes between decks need to be considered to cope with such a large numbers of guests.

“Designers need to review the passenger movement routes and challenge the circulation of these. Cruise ships are also not the most straightforward of structures to navigate and therefore clear and simple signage systems must be incorporated in the design. For example in our previous project, Britannia, we worked very closely with Jackson Daly to produce a simple London underground-inspired ship map with iconography describing the type of rooms and facilities.”

Looking ahead at passenger expectations of cruise design, he said “Guests now expect more state-of-the-art vessels, exclusive destinations and authentic memorable experiences; interior design must also respond to and support these demands. This may result in cruise ships becoming more resort like and design more focused on the deployment markets or passenger origins, which may bring in local and cultural design requirements.”

He said technology will also be a key factor to enhance the passenger experience and service expectations. But although technology will be more and more integrated within the design, “there may also be a need to create technology free areas, focusing on a real human interaction”.

China:  a ‘new frontier’

Using Chinese shipyards to build cruise ships is a “new frontier” for the cruise ship market, said Tomas Tillberg Design managing partner Tomas Tillberg.

Tomas Tillberg Design is heavily involved with building cruise ships and ferries in China. It is heading up interior design for SunStone Ships’ newbuilds being built at China Merchants Industry Holdings’ (CMIH) shipyard and is also playing an important role in Viking Line’s newbuild project being built at Xiamen Shipbuilding in China.

Tomas Tillberg Design was awarded the contract to design SunStone Ships’ new expedition cruise ships following a decade-long relationship with SunStone Ships.

Mr Tillberg elaborated “Chinese yards have not built cruise ships before but by bringing an experienced European contractor to CMIH we can deliver the interior that a modern cruise ship should have.”

He highlighted the great impact he believes China will have on cruise shipbuilding. “China is a new frontier for cruise shipping and for building cruise ships. The Chinese are making a serious effort to get into this market and are committed to staying for the long haul.”

A team lead by Tomas Tillberg Design managing partner Carlos H Reyes is responsible for the co-ordination between the shipyard, the outfitters and the architects when it comes to Viking Line’s LNG-fuelled newbuild, being built in Xiamen.

Mr Reyes said “Our firm has been hired by the shipyard as part of the shipyard’s team lead by project manager Mr Zeng. What is important is that all the pieces fit together in the puzzle in the best possible way and by working with the shipyard, outfitters and architect, we achieve the product Viking Line is expecting.

“The shipyard is capable enough of building a large ferry of this kind and a great team has been put together, consisting of very experienced companies, including Finland-based Deltamarin who is providing engineering and shipbuilding support services.”  

Using shipyards in China to build cruise ships and ferries is a trend Mr Tillberg is sure will continue. “Major cruise lines are expanding, and European shipyards are full,” he said.

As well as newbuilds, Mr Tillberg said that an important part of Tomas Tillberg Design’s work is refurbishment. “As more and more ships are delivered, there is more refurbishment needed, it is an on-going operation. With a newbuild, we have more time, so it is less of a challenge time-wise. On a refurbishment project, there is not very much time, we have to get everything together in short order, so our whole team really has to know what they are doing.”

Joint venture for complete package

Marine Interiors carried out the complete accommodation package on Ponant’s newbuilds for the first time, an aspect that it wants to concentrate on (credit: Ponant - Studio Jean-Philippe)

Elsewhere, Fincantieri Group-owned Marine Interiors’ portfolio for 2018 is impressive – it has delivered seven newbuildings from five different yards to six different cruise brands. The work included: 12,000 cabins, 6,000 bathrooms and almost 30,000 m2 of public areas. The company also refurbished four cruise ships.

The work last year included Ponant’s Le Laperouse and Le Lyrial, built by Fincantieri’s subsidiary Vard shipyard in Norway. These projects are of great significance as for the first time Marine Interiors carried out the complete accommodation package, involving engineering and integrating the whole hotel side, from cabins and bathrooms to public areas, galleys, provisions and laundry. 

Marine Interiors chief executive Gabriele Maria Cafaro said “Vard used to do offshore work, so is not used to the hotel part of a cruise vessel. They did not have the expertise to integrate engineering and project management of the hotel part so they relied on us to complete the hotel supply side.”

This is just a starting point for Marine Interiors. “We want to do more of this, and now we have delivered the first two vessels, my intention is to further enlarge the product portfolio so that we can deliver the complete accommodation package. We want to do this through joint ventures.”

To this end, Marine Interiors established a joint venture with private shareholders Seanergy in 2018 that already has orders worth €100M. Mr Cafaro said “This will enlarge our product portfolio and enable us to install a wider range of products. It will allow us to take advantage of economies of scale when ordering supplies.”

The company is also moving forward in another area. “We will start a new line at our headquarters for the production of bulk head panels for cabins that will automate the process and more importantly, enable product innovation as these will be the lightest on the market. The new panels will offer up to a 20% reduction in weight compared to Marine Interiors’ current panels due to a lighter insulation material.

“With the weight saved, the owner could, roughly, add 20% more cabins at the same performance,” Mr Cafaro said. The company expects to start installing these panels by June next year. 

Standardising current fleets

The cruise interior refit market is also strong. Trimline key account manager Simon Dawkins said cruise operators were standardising their public areas. “As new ships are delivered, they want to replicate the public areas found in these across the fleet. They want ships to all be up to the same standard,” explained Mr Dawkins. He singled out an example – when Trimline worked on Mariner of the Seas, one of the tasks was to replace the current solarium with a replica that has been added to its newbuilds.

Another example is the refit Trimline carried out on the ultra-luxury Seabourn Quest. One of the refits included upgrading the elevators to bring them to the same standards as Seabourn Encore.

“They have been made much more visually impressive, with fabric behind the glass, glossy deckheads, use of hidden LED lighting to illuminate,” he explained. This contrasts with the previous elevators, which used spotlights and had plainer deckheads.

For Q1 2019, marine interior outfitters Trimline are working on cruise ship refits including RCCL's Navigator of the Seas, Celebrity Millennium, Coral Princess, TUI Mein Schiff 2, Celebrity Summit and Marella Explorer 2, as well as ferry refits for DFDS Seaways and Condor Ferries.

Marella Explorer 2 is an extremely large refit. It is in Cadiz undergoing an eight-week refurbishment to commence the change from Golden Era to Marella Explorer 2. Trimline is the main contractor on board Marella Explorer 2, and as with previous Marella Cruises refits, is responsible for the majority of the public spaces.

A total of 43 km2 of carpet will be laid, along with over 70 km of network cabling and 640 wifi access points.

Marella Explorer 2 is the second of the Explorer ships to be welcomed into the Marella Cruises fleet. The 1,814-guest capacity ship has 907 cabins across 14 decks.

New venues being added as part of the refit include a new golf-themed clubhouse bar, a champagne bar, Nonna’s, a traditional Italian restaurant and the Beach Cove, which has an al fresco dining feel.

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