Working for a partnership that designed casinos, Tim McGill first came into contact with Royal Caribbean International at a gaming panel in Las Vegas in 2005. The panel was held to help Royal Caribbean learn about state-of-the-art land-based gaming. From there, McGill went on to work with Royal Caribbean on its Oasis Class ships.
As part of his work consulting on Quantum of the Seas, McGill has helped develop top-of-the-line spaces, including Two70, a dining, activity and event space designed to accommodate casual diners looking for spectacular views or night owls looking to dance until dawn. Two70 combines architecture and audiovisual to create an engaging atmosphere.
Cruise Critic spoke with McGill about his experience working to create unique spaces onboard cruise ships and what the next thing in cruise ship design might look like.
Q: What is the major difference designing for at-sea versus land?
A: For one, a ship is moving, so construction details are more precise. Space is a premium thing on cruise ships, so designs are typically more compact than land-based projects. Vibrations on a ship can cause technical issues — light bulbs will actually unscrew themselves — so we make sure to use light bulbs that snap in, for example. As the ship is turning, things can shift, so something like a chandelier will need to be stiffly constructed. There are also different fire regulations onboard ships and specific materials used in construction that are registered with the International Marine Organization.
Q: What is the timeline for designing a cruise ship space as compared with a land-based client?
A: Collaboration begins early on with a cruise ship, given the participation from the shipyard. From the beginning, contractors are using their own engineers, turning design into reality. The only other place where this system is similar is in Japan; the master builder process is fairly unusual. With land-based architects, contractors are only brought in after the concept, design and development stages are complete. Gestation period for a large-scale mix-use retail, office or hotel project is about five years. Cruise ships move faster, taking about four years for the design of a brand-new ship.
Q: Have you ever worked on any cruise ship renovations, or only new ships?
A: We haven’t worked on any retrofits yet; our work has been primarily featured on the Celebrity Solstice class.
Q: On the Web site for your firm, 5+Designs, it mentions a belief in design “tied to a true story of place.” Is that why the walls in Two70, the new Quantum of the Seas venue, are made of glass?
A: The planning process for Quantum was about taking the ship to the next level of cruise ship design for Royal Caribbean. Moving from the largest cruise ships ever built, the Oasis of the Seas and Allure of the Seas, was similar to how Boeing reacted to Airbus 8380 (the largest commercial plane ever built) — they designed a more technically advanced plane with Dreamliner, focusing on composite materials, fuel efficiency and the quality of the passenger experience. In this respect, Quantum is aiming for an enriched guest experience. Two70 will be a shift towards transformational spaces that change over the length of a cruise. The venue has a very specific daytime use, with distinctive panoramas featuring the ship’s wake — beautiful views of sea and sky and all — and at night, it becomes an entertainment place. It converts to dancing.
Q: What do you see as an emerging trend in cruise ship public spaces?
A: Integrating technology more and more into the design. Ships are becoming more and more interactive. It’s a long-time trend of the cruise industry to aim for individualized experiences for passengers. This means added venues, more choices and options for customization (not sitting next to people you don’t like in the dining rooms). Also, there will be a better transition between ship and port– between your experience onboard and the places you visit. I see a stronger connection between the ship and nature: more light, air and interaction with the water. Quantum offers such a variety of fun and active things to do (the iFly, bumper cars) that we’d never dream of before.
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