This article was first published in the Spring/Summer 2017 issue of International Cruise & Ferry Review. All information was correct at the time of printing, but may since have changed.
Designing a complete cruise ship is an amazing creative opportunity. From the initial concept stage to final delivery, designers must anticipate the customer needs, emerging design trends, and of course, the future ambitions of their client. They must harness expectations while exceeding upon delivery. It’s a complicated and highly detailed procedure that London-based consultancy SMC Design continues to be heavily involved in. One of its main clients is the new Asia-based operators Dream Cruises, for which it designed inaugural ship Genting Dream.
“The main challenge for us was to understand the customer profile,” says Andy Yuill, managing director of SMC Design. “The diversity within Asia is massive. You go from Penang in Malaysia, round to Shanghai, China and there are so many countries and markets within that one region. You have to understand that and realise how it needs to be a flexible vessel that can cater for a variety of cultures.”
Andrew Brown, a senior associate at SMC, agrees. “Fundamental to anything we do is understanding the offering and the operation, and then the design flows from that,” he explains. “In designing the vessel, we travelled to many different Asiatic regions to gain an understanding of their design and culture. We’ve recently returned from a research trip to study the latest food, beverage and spa formats in mainland China. We are continuously exploring, researching and visiting the different services and facilities in Asia so that we can stay ahead of the trends.”
On Genting Dream, SMC introduced restaurants catering to the Malaysian and Singaporean customers, including Dream Mansions, which serves Xiao Long Bao and other northern Chinese comfort food. A Japanese restaurant that is popular with all markets, covering all bases.
The spa has also been carefully designed to meet Asian tastes. “A Chinese spa is completely different to a Western spa,” says Brown. “They are open for 24 hours a day and might have an extensive team of staff working there. The Chinese spa has specific references to Shenzhen, just outside Hong Kong, and has a completely different flow of services as you go deeper and deeper into the spa. If you hadn’t been to one before you wouldn’t truly be able to understand them, but it is a very popular format. Visiting these spas for ourselves was crucial to getting the spa right on Genting Dream.”
The research wasn’t restricted to designing the public areas either. SMC’s head of art Jennie Drummond visited artists in Japan, Thailand, China, Bali and Korea to commission the 4,000 pieces of artwork that can be found throughout the vessel.
“There is a strong narrative running throughout the ship,” she comments. “The art was selected to compliment the sense of a dream-like adventure. The eye-catching graphic on the hull – a collaboration with Jacky Tsai and the Dream Cruises team – incorporates it too. It’s a love story of an astronaut and a mermaid who are trapped in alien environments trying to find one another – they’re dreaming of being reunited. The love story continues inside the ship with a large feature wall where the pair finally embrace. Thus, the narrative continues from the outside to the inside.”
SMC was also responsible for all onboard decorative and directional signage. This included bilingual (simplified Chinese and English) digital wayfinding screens throughout the ship. A new internet protocol TV system and an onboard app were also developed specifically for this project.
“The app can help passengers make restaurant reservations, book shore excursions and monitor their onboard spend,” says Rebecca Hodgson, senior designer and project manager at SMC.
SMC is currently working on Genting’s second vessel, World Dream, which will be delivered in October 2017.
“We are continually challenging ourselves on how we design at SMC,” says Yuill. “Especially when we have the responsibility of designing an entire vessel. The important point is that you get a far greater design cohesion when you’re controlling all of the various design elements. The communication is better, as is the integration between all of the different components that together continue to create such unique experiences.”