Combining expert design and brand integrity at Studio DADO

Studio DADO’s refurbishments combine expert design and craftsmanship with brand integrity and deep insight into guests’ expectations. Jacqui Griffiths asks founding partner Yohandel Ruiz how it’s done

Combining expert design and brand integrity at Studio DADO
Insignia's Veranda stateroom combines comfort, luxury and a boutique hotel atmosphere

This article was first published in the Spring/Summer 2019 issue of Spring/Summer 2019 issue of International Cruise & Ferry Review. All information was correct at the time of printing, but may since have changed.

Refurbishment is a hot trend in today’s cruise industry, says Yohandel Ruiz, founding partner of Studio DADO. “The cruise ship market is so strong there’s limited dock space to build new ships,” he says. “A lot of investment capital is going into refurbishment as clients look to bring their existing fleet up to par with new ships, both aesthetically and in terms of retrofitting ships with the latest technologies.”

Transforming a vessel in a short timeframe is immensely rewarding, says Ruiz, and it demands seamless logistical coordination. “The whole design must be implemented perfectly within just a few weeks in dry dock. We have to be resourceful, understand the market and our vendors, and build relationships so we know who can deliver materials and furnishings at the right time.”

The company’s recent refurbishment of Insignia – the first of four 684-guest ships it will transform for Oceania Cruises – illustrates its expertise. “We knew this would be a four-ship project so we established milestones for all four dry docks,” says Ruiz. “We told our vendors that the materials we chose and the products we were custom designing had to be available for all four ships. They’ve produced furniture ahead of time so we can meet the future dry dock timeframes.”

Studio DADO’s designers work extensively to understand the brand and its end users’ expectations. For Oceania’s ships that meant creating a unique, personal experience. “These are affluent, mature guests and they’re looking for comfort,” says Ruiz. “With itineraries ranging from 10 days to several months, the ship becomes their home away from home. Our cue was to design a residential space that felt like a boutique hotel. We wanted it to feel personal, including luxuries that guests would have in their own homes.”

With the ship’s architecture as a backdrop, the team created a contemporary aesthetic to evolve the brand while staying true to its traditions. “We took a multi-layered approach using comfortable furniture, luxurious fabrics and warm lighting,” says Ruiz. “For example, dining is important to the brand so we made sure the dining chairs would be comfortable for events that can last several hours. We rebuilt the suites from scratch with new finishes, architecture, lighting, fabrics and bathrooms, so the ship feels brand new.”

Art was another essential layer of the project. “We commissioned unique pieces from expert craftsmen,” says Ruiz. “Canada-based artist Peter Gorman’s ‘tree of life’, which envisages the tree as a living element that brings people together, will be replicated featuring different trees across all four vessels. On Insignia, California-based Michael Skura has installed a work inspired by the barnacles at the ship’s ports of call, comprising around 200 glass pieces hand-blown by the artist.”

Ruiz says it’s this level of detail and storytelling that enhances and extends the guest experience. “For us the guest experience doesn’t stop at the end of the cruise,” he says. “We want the guests to talk about their experience, the design and comfort they’ve discovered onboard to their friends and family.”

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Jacqui Griffiths
By Jacqui Griffiths
Thursday, April 18, 2019