A London-based agency behind some of the world’s most iconic hotels will oversee the cruise line’s new superliner. Lee Hayhurst found out more at last week’s keel laying in Italy

P&O Cruises has broken with tradition and employed a single design team from outside the cruise industry to oversee the development of its next ship.

The UK’s leading cruise operator said its decision to appoint London-based Richmond, a design agency for hotels, reflected its desire to come up with a new concept for a cruise ship.

Traditionally, separate design teams are allocated specific areas of ships, but P&O said it wanted to ensure the as-yet unnamed ship has a better flow.

Carol Marlow, managing director of P&O Cruises, said she had used hotel designers when she worked for Swan Hellenic to create a country club feel.

P&O Cruises is aiming for a contemporary British feel for its new 3,600-passenger ship, the biggest ever built for the UK market and due to enter service in 2015.

Richmond, which has 45 years’ experience of designing hotels, has worked on properties including Four Seasons Baku, InterContinental Park Lane and Langham hotels in London and Chicago.

Richmond’s introduction to cruise came when its spa at the Four Seasons in Hampshire was spotted by a Carnival executive and it was asked to design the spa for Princess Cruises’ Royal Princess.

“We wanted a design very much with British people in mind who have never been on a cruise before,” said Marlow.

“We hope this ship will bring in these types of people. British tastes are moving forward and we are trying to anticipate the future.”

An agent’s view

Leading agency Bolsover Cruise Club will keep its customers up to date on progress through its own blog on its recently relaunched website.

Marketing assistant Katie Anderson, who was attending her first keel laying, said clients will be sent e-shots, including blog posts, to build anticipation.

“We are already getting good engagement on our blog and have been focusing on our existing database but we have noticed a lot more new-to-cruise customers as well.”


We’ll be introducing British style, says ship’s architect

Compared to designing and building hotels, cruise ships like P&O Cruises’ new vessel are built at an incredibly fast rate, chief architect Terry McGillicuddy said.

The enormous drydock in the Fincantieri shipyard near Trieste was largely empty after the keel laying last week apart from the 500-ton chunk of metal that was ceremoniously lowered in. But within just two years, the ship will be cruising the world’s oceans.

“Very rarely can we get a hotel finished in two years, it’s usually four or five,” said McGillicuddy, director of London-based design agency Richmond.

“A ship is a huge build. There are a lot of food, beverage and entertainment areas that a hotel does not have.

“P&O was looking for overall designs throughout the ship to be up to date, and different from ships they have now that have rooms that are individually designed and do not really flow.

“The fact we are a British firm was really important; we will be introducing some British style.”

McGillicuddy said most of the initial design work was completed, with only details of the open deck area to be finalised.

P&O Cruises will be releasing details to build interest in the ship as construction continues.