Design industry panel at the Seatrade Cruise Global conference in Fort Lauderdale

(3:30 p.m. EDT) -- While the fundamentals of design might include forming and framing experiences, in 2017 they also include creating photoworthy moments.

That's the message that came through when four leaders in the design industry spoke on a panel at the Seatrade Cruise Global conference in Fort Lauderdale on Tuesday. The panel was moderated by Cruise Critic Editor in Chief, Carolyn Spencer Brown.

Design includes almost every element you see onboard your cruise ship, whether it's a photo in the stairwell, an interesting sculpture in the lobby or how food is presented on your plate at dinner. And most designers feel that the experience begins the moment you print your cruise ticket. Here are five things we learned from the panel about current cruise ship design.


1) The same designer is responsible for both the art on Holland America Line's Koningsdam and Seabourn Encore's Thomas Keller Restaurant.

Tal Danai, CEO of ArtLink, works with cruise ships and major hotel brands to contribute to "disruptive design that engages." Know the harp sculpture in the atrium of Holland America's Koningsdam? It took 7.5 tons of steel and countless sleepless nights to design and suspend. Danai worked with renowned designer Adam Tihaney to incorporate music into every element of the cruise ship's interiors. Danai also incorporated roughly 834 glass bricks into celebrity chef Thomas Keller's at-sea restaurant onboard Encore, with colors drawn from Keller's five favorite spices.


Wintergarden on Viking Star

2) The gorgeous aerial wood design in Viking Ocean Cruises' Wintergarden was created to hide the roof.

The light timber "trees" that sprawl atop the airy Wintergarden space in Viking Ocean's fleet of ships were originally incorporated to disguise the retractable sliding glass ceiling, which felt too industrial. Andy Yuill, director of SMC Design, said the wood not only created a soft feel, but the shadows created by the carved wood when the light hit became an additional benefit, ensuring no one was paying any attention to the roof.


3) Food is not always about the menu.

Designer Ido Garini of Studio Appetit creates experiences around cuisine and argues that the quality of the food shouldn't hinder the experience. "Only two things involve all your senses: food and sex," Garini said. He believes the element of design is underutilized in onboard dining. What you're selling is not the piece of salmon, but the story and context surrounding the dish. "An experience has to be designed," Garini said, adding that even a canned food concept could be successful if it was properly executed. Garini is currently working on elevating the afternoon tea experience onboard cruise ships.


4) Designing for Asia adds a slight twist.

Asia is now the second-largest cruise market, and as ships are built specifically for that market, there's a need for specific design. Michael Jackiewicz, CEO and partner of Tillberg Design of Sweden, has designed interiors on ships like Regent Seven Seas Explorer, as well as Norwegian Joy, Norwegian's upcoming Asia-based vessel. "For Norwegian Joy's Serenity Park, you're crafting something politically correct, but it's also a soft approach to design; there are actually similar design trends in Asia, but it's a balance of culture with other accents," said Jackiewicz.

Yuill, who designs for Genting Dream of Hong Kong in addition to Viking and British brands, added that they're embracing that certain things are different for Asian cruisers. "Lots of shade and cover are important for Asians, but there are many cultures within the Asian market that make it diverse [and need to be taken into account]." Yuill also stressed that spa offerings have to be something consumers are used to. "The flow is part of those offerings in Asia, not just the list of treatments." Yuill also discussed the correct level of food offerings, which balance tradition with modern tastes. "There are ducks on display [on Genting Dream] but also a truffle boutique -- it's East meets West."


5) You will continue to see more edgy design onboard cruise ships.

The panelists agreed that the time of bland, "vanilla" cruise ships that appeal to everyone might be over, noting that passengers are seeking an experience over a product. Garini stressed the need for a canvas that can be ever-changing and adjustable to various groups of passengers. "This can be food, art or photography." 

--By Brittany Chrusciel, Associate Editor