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.
Step onboard Viking Ocean Cruises’ newest vessel – Viking Sky – and it feels more like a contemporary hotel rather than a ship, albeit one with amazing sea views. Guests booked in on the luxury liner will be able to swim in a glass-walled infinity pool, which is suspended seemingly unsupported over the sea, take afternoon tea with panoramic views of the ocean in the attractive Wintergarden, and ‘chill’ in the onboard spa’s Snow Grotto – a glass-enclosed room filled with manmade snow.
One of eleven newbuilds launching in 2017, Viking’s third ocean-going vessel is relatively small – holding up to 930 passengers – compared to some of her floating city-esque counterparts taking to the high seas in the coming months. But that doesn’t mean she holds back on amenities. Indeed, she is flush with so many activities that passengers will likely welcome a sea day to explore the vessel.
It’s a trend that’s prevalent across the industry. From waterparks to go-kart tracks and shopping centres, passengers are being offered more things to see and do onboard than ever before. Take MSC Cruises’ newest ship. Debuting in June this year, MSC Meraviglia offers up an aqua park with water slides, a splash pool and champagne bowl; a spacious indoor promenade; twelve restaurants; and the ‘Himalayan Bridge’ where guests can zipline across the ship.
Passengers holidaying on the German-engineered Norwegian Joy, launching this summer, will have access to activities not found on other ships, including a two-level, electric-car raceway, multi-story water slides, and open-air laser tag.
Architect firm YSA DESIGN is working with a number of cruise lines at the minute to bring the ‘wow’ factor to their ships. “One of our projects has involved designing the longest zipline at sea, which is presently under construction,” says CEO Anne Mari Gullikstad. “We’ve also been responsible for designing many new public areas, ranging from restaurant facilities and bars, to family areas and water parks.”
Tina Kjeldgaard, project manager at interior consultant Danish Decoration, also acknowledges a growing trend towards family-friendly features, which has seen her company helping to adapt existing onboard areas. “We’ve worked on many family areas, particularly ones targeted at children and teenagers. Waterparks are particularly popular,” she says.
Offering onboard amenities that can be accessed and enjoyed all year round, regardless of the weather, is important too. On AIDAperla, AIDA’s newest vessel and sister to AIDAprima, passengers can relax in constant 24-degree heat under a transparent foil dome.
“The foil domed area on top of the vessel is the main feature in terms of providing a resort type of holiday onboard a vessel if the weather outside is not that great,” says Michael Ungerer, COO of Carnival Asia and former AIDA president. “We will have a beach club in the centre of the vessel on top, themed from beaches around the world, with an activity area, the Four Elements.”
For ships destined for warmer climes, cruise lines are focusing on making the most of their outdoor spaces. MSC Seaside, which will launch in December 2017, has been designed to bring guests closer to the sea with connecting inside and outside public spaces and a waterfront promenade that wraps around the 323-metre ship. More than three quarters of the cabins are also positioned on the outside of the ship.
“The design of the ship embodies our passion for the sea with innovative features to enhance the enjoyment of the open water and sunshine for our guests,” says Gianni Onorato, MSC’s CEO.
Princess Cruises’ Majestic Princess, which set sail this April, makes the most of the sea as a feature too, with SeaWalk – a 60 foot-long glass-floor walkway, which extends 28 feet beyond the edge of the ship, offering thrilling views of the ever-changing seascape. Guests can also look forward to the Princess Water Color Fantasy fountain and light show on the top deck.
At 315 metres long, the latest TUI Cruises’ vessels – the new Mein Schiff 1 and 2 – are 20 metres longer than their predecessors, allowing for a redesign of the interior layout and the opportunity to introduce several new features and public spaces. Revealing some exclusive details about the vessels is Ralf Claussen, founder of interior design firm CM Design: “Because both vessels are longer, they will accommodate more cabins, suites and public spaces,” he says. “The whole feel of the ships will be quite different to that of the original Mein Schiff 1 and 2. They will include a new indoor sports- and multipurpose hall, and the public areas will be more open and spacious.”
One of Claussen’s design highlights is the new fitness area. “It’s much larger than before and offers almost 360-degree sea views thanks to its glass facade,” he says.
Space is also the name of the game on Silver Muse – Silversea Cruises’ all-suite flagship. Holding 596 guests, everything about the vessel exudes luxury, from the intimate cigar lounge to the marble bathrooms. Entry-level Veranda Suites are spacious at 323 square feet, plus a 64 square foot balcony. And it has the highest number of large, upper-category suites in Silversea’s fleet.
While not aimed specifically at the growing Asian market, which is increasingly attracted to luxury cruising, Silver Muse will undoubtedly appeal to passengers in this buoyant sector. A fact not lost on the brand’s chairman, who confirmed in an interview with ICFR last year that Silversea is “following the Chinese market very closely as we think that it will become one of the main markets for ultra-luxury cruising over the next decade.”
“The cruise market has become more diverse in its audience, with the Chinese market becoming more of a focus,” explains Ana Albert, vice president of PR and marketing at Almaco, which focuses on design for onboard accommodation and food handling areas. “Keeping the Asian customer in mind, ships are being purpose built and modernised to suit the guests’ preferences with special interior design features and unique equipment. Almaco has been at the forefront of this movement as a catering systems vendor to Dream Cruises’ Genting Dream, as well as Royal Caribbean’s Quantum and Anthem of the Seas, among others.”
Ultimately, as passengers seek more memorable experiences, cruise ship design continues to pursue luxury, choice and uniqueness. When it launches next year, Star Clippers’ Flying Clipper will be the largest sailing ship in the world. A near replica of the France II, built in 1911, the new vessel will offer passengers an authentic glimpse into the past, albeit surrounded by modern amenities such as three pools, open-seating dining and a glass Dive bar.
“It’s easy to be complacent,” says Michael Oliver, co-chairman of marine interior firm Trimline. “But it’s important that the cruise lines evolve with new trends and refresh their brand to keep one step ahead. We believe that it is a company’s brand that makes them unique. By incorporating their brand values into the interior design of their ships, we enable our clients to communicate their corporate attributes, personality and beliefs to their guests.”