How SMC Design is helping to transform MSC Cruises

The UK-based company tells CFR about the delivery of MSC Bellissima, MSC Grandiosa and Ocean Cay MSC Marine Reserve

How SMC Design is helping to transform MSC Cruises
SMC Design
SMC Design delivered various spaces at Ocean Cay, including The Marina Bar

Back in 2018, SMC Design was approached by MSC Cruises to create a brand new concept for its first designation resort. Situated in the Bahamas, Ocean Cay MSC Marine Reserve is designed to immerse guests in the natural beauty of their surroundings, on a unique private island. Guests can connect with the natural world and its beauty, feel the warmth, fun and hospitality of the Bahamian spirit while diving into an ecologically intelligent atmosphere.

SMC began its work with a series of workshops, working alongside MSC Cruises to study the destination and get to grips with how to achieve designs that resonate with the local culture. The location was key to the design brief as the client wanted to use the vibrancy and heritage of the landmark location, as well as the character of the Bahamian soul. The vision of MSC Cruises was to create an experience of an authentic Caribbean marine reserve. Tasked with enhancing the design of the various public areas, SMC considered the interior and exterior design and the individual branding and artwork for each venue. It also created an overall wayfinding concept, adding a level of interest to the guest’s journey. “This certainly was a wonderful design opportunity,” says Mike Abbott, design associate at SMC Design.

SMC delivered a diverse range of public venues with bright contrasting exterior colours to give character to the building facades. Specially considered interior finishes create character and atmosphere within each venue. Externally, SMC created pockets of fun-loving areas for small groups with playful outdoor furniture, from oil drum chairs to hand-painted chess tables for guests to indulge in famous Bahamian cocktails, while capturing the scenic views over the marina. The signage throughout makes use of a variety of bold typography and lively illustrations, creating an urban retro style that complements the surrounding design.

By creating a specific design narrative for each area, guests are offered a unique and exciting experience. Springers Bar, located on the marina, offers a friendly and familiar welcoming atmosphere in an authentic Bahamian style. The bar includes eclectic island furniture, interesting lighting and quirky artwork.

“Artwork and props were instrumental in bringing life to Ocean Cay, in particular Springers Bar, where we sourced a vast range of vintage objects, plaques and props layered over the interior to give the bar a Bahamian heritage – as if it’s a third-generation family bar,” says Emmie Ratter, SMC’s senior art consultant and project manager.

At 100 feet high, the red and white lighthouse is a striking landmark and a useful orientation point at Ocean Cay. The Lighthouse Bar, with an ocean-facing terrace, creates an intriguing and diverse destination. The concept inspiration comes from the eccentric lighthouse keeper with his diverse collection of vintage maps, artwork and marine objects, creating a sense of accumulated treasures.

Gently rising from a sheet of turquoise, it’s hard to tell where the ocean ends and the sky begins. SMC designed a variety of beach huts, each inspired by the colour of local coral. Guests can enjoy authentic Bahamian-style cocktails while embracing the stunning surroundings. The private beach cabanas allow guests to have a more intimate place to relax. “We selected a range of furniture with mixtures of contrasting materials for a modern, minimalist take on outdoor furniture. Distinguished by clean lines and graceful curves, the pieces are crafted with Iroko wood and vertical all-weather cords that create a dramatic interplay of light and shadow – creating a cosy and stylish area for guests to spend the day,” says Tolu Adéko, senior designer and project manager.

After exploring all that Ocean Cay has to offer, guests can relax and unwind with a soothing spa treatment at The Spa Ocean Cay. A series of spa cabanas are finished with white sand-kissed timber cladding and the interior is surrounded by light sheer drapery and bespoke handcrafted joinery units. This is a more peaceful hospitality offering, where the sounds of the sea become part of the guests’ relaxing treatments.

Further down the main island, MSC Cruises Yacht Club guests are whisked away to Ocean House Beach, an exclusive destination offering an upscale experience like no other. The Ocean House Bar & Lounge is influenced by classic British architecture and has an interior featuring high ceilings with antique mirrors, whitewashed timber panelling and a dark stained timber floor. The handcrafted furniture and lighting have intricate detailing, colour and antiqued brass hardware to give an elegant and luxurious design. Framed artwork collections of botanical watercolours, navigational maps and vintage prints are paired with ornaments, vintage globes and a model yacht. The collection is inspired by early exploration and discovery.

From interior and exterior design to signage, artwork and everything in between, SMC has worked hard to communicate the concept of MSC Cruises, with its guests in mind throughout all stages of the experience. The result is unique food and beverage experiences, which tell a story of natural and beautiful surroundings.

SMC was also approached by MSC Cruises to rebrand its much-loved and well-established restaurant L’Atelier Bistrot on MSC Bellissima and MSC Grandiosa – both launched in 2019. SMC was asked to create an elegant restaurant and bar design concept that would be at the heart of the main promenade, offering contemporary French cuisine with private dining, live entertainment and a pop-up art gallery.

The firm created an incredible food and beverage experience that firmly resonates with a family audience. Aiming to design an offering intrinsically connected to Parisian culture, SMC wove together the old French neoclassical interiors and art nouveau architecture in harmonious co-existence. The restaurant and bar have been designed with a hand-painted fresco ceiling, antique mirrors and stained timber wainscoting, reflecting the rich colour palette, while the exterior remains classically Parisian. SMC Art sourced and procured the complete collection for the French bistro, including an eclectic range of prints, photographs, paintings and objets d’art. The collection was designed to appear as if it had been gathered over time by a flâneur (a person who strolls around observing society), and provides snippets of a bygone Parisian life, resulting in a sophisticated and refined restaurant interior appealing to guests, while maintaining the essence of the MSC Cruises brand.

2019 was a triumphant year for SMC and MSC Cruises, with the successful delivery of MSC Bellissima, MSC Grandiosa and Ocean Cay MSC Marine Reserve. And there’s plenty more to come: the firm will deliver MSC Virtuosa in autumn 2020.

This article was first published in the Spring/Summer 2020 issue of Cruise & Ferry Review. All information was correct at the time of printing, but may since have changed.

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Lindsay James
By Lindsay James
17 April 2020

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