Sky meets sea

STX Finland's Merja Makela discusses Mein Schiff 3
Sky meets sea

By Rebecca Gibson |

The goal of cruise ship design is to bring a vessel to life in a way that satisfies passengers and their needs, according to Merja Mäkelä, head of interior design at STX Finland. “But although recognised needs mean passengers are aware that they want to visit the spa or sports centre, for example, guests’ less recognised needs include wanting to be inspired by design,” she says.

A few metres from the shipyard office that allowed Mäkelä to visit the vessel daily during its construction, TUI Cruises’ 2,506-passenger Mein Schiff 3 developed the kind of innovative touches guaranteed to turn the heads of its onboard guests.
“The design of Mein Schiff 3 is spectacular and design such as this is one of the reasons I’m in this business,” says Mäkelä. “TUI Cruises states that this newbuild is ‘diamond meets pearl’ – I would say luxury meets sophistication, but it’s both. There are elements that make you go ‘wow’ and I have so many personal favourites.”

Number one for Mäkelä is the first-at-sea Grosse Freiheit (Great Freedom) bar and lounge area which is surrounded by a ‘diamond’ glass wall that bends over two decks and extends across the entire aft space of the ship. “It was manufactured outside of the ship, then lifted in one piece and installed into position,” she explains. “It’s quite amazing. The space is light and bright and so beautiful.”

This sky-and-sea theme carries to the passenger suites too – ten two-level Himmel & Meer suites with partly covered private roof terraces come complete with a table and chairs, sun loungers and a hammock. “They are fabulous – bringing both the both sky and sea closer to the guest is a wonderful concept,” enthuses Mäkelä. “With a glass wall instead of a porthole, these suites have such a feeling of space. The roof-top terrace enables private sunbathing, while outdoor decking material provides shade. Guests can gaze out to sea while swinging in their own private hammock and once they tire of that, they can meander downstairs to the interior privacy of the rest of the suite – it’s just like an apartment.”

However, another of Mäkelä’s favourite features had the potential to disrupt such peaceful passenger spaces. “The chandelier in the atrium extends between three decks and is wonderful,” she says. “But with around 50,000 individual stainless steel parts these had to be linked to the other so that there were no moving parts to create noise. It took between nine and 12 months to manufacture before the entire structure was attached to the deck, allowing it to move silently as one with the ship.”

Mäkelä is convinced that heady highlights such as those onboard Mein Schiff 3 are what design is all about and that a limitless future lies ahead for onboard interiors. “New generations of passengers demand new generations of designers and innovative thinkers,” she says. “When you combine this with new ways of pampering and titillating people’s senses, the possibilities are endless.”

This article appeared in the Autumn/Winter 2014 edition of Cruise & Ferry Interiors. To read other articles, you can subscribe to the magazine in printed or digital formats.

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