Putting Ship Design into Perspective

| Tuesday, 05 Mar. 2013
With the introduction of Carnival Splendor let's put some ideas on cruise ship design, both interior and exterior, into perspective.

I think it is important to make some distinctions between the top three players in the mainstream cruise market: Carnival, Royal Caribbean and NCL (Norwegian Cruise Lines). I want to point out the differences in their ship design philosophies and draw a few conclusions on how that relates to their relative success and the public perception of each cruise line.

In the cruise industry, hardware is the ship itself, and software is the workers and what they have to offer the passengers onboard. What we are mostly discussing today is hardware, although software is also a factor in everything a cruise line has to offer.

Carnival Cruise Lines Let's use the new Carnival Splendor ship as an example of the Carnival design philosophy. Carnival has arguably the simplest design approach of all lines. For a cruise line with 23 different ships, they really only have three basic designs, in terms of superstructure, going all the way back to 1990.

During the 1990s, Carnival built eight ships of the Fantasy-class. The superstructure design on all eight ships were functionally identical. Then came the Destiny class, which is the same basic superstructure of the Victory, Conquest, Splendor and soon the Dream classes, so we count them as one large class. The third distinctly different class from Carnival is the Spirit class, created in 2001.

What differentiates Carnival ships from each other the most is the work of their inimitable interior designer, Joe Farcus. Even though each class has functionally identical hardware, there is no mistaking one Carnival ship for another. Farcus puts his personal artistic stamp on every Carnival ship; unique color schemes, design themes, lighting effects and different approaches to the selection of onboard artwork.

As a cruise line, the line is further differentiated by its software, the "Fun Ship" workers onboard. The Farcus designs make the Carnival ships "fun," which is carried through by the attitude of the people (software) onboard. This combination of unique interior designs and the "fun" attitude of the staff is what makes Carnival ships unique.

Even though Farcus' approach to interior décor is more famous for its outlandishness than its beauty, his décor gives Carnival a quality unlike than anything you would ever see on land. Even if he often goes way too far, that is how Carnival differentiates its ships. The décor goes from "Wow, that is really clever," to "it's so weird I'll never get it out of my mind."

But what I want to reiterate is that Carnival rarely changes anything about the interior superstructure of its ships. Especially the most important mega-ships where they have focused the majority of their attention. The basic floor plans stay the same on all their ships year after year. (I am not counting Holiday (1980s) which will leave the fleet soon).

Carnival Destiny was introduced in 1996. At the time she was a revolutionary ship as the largest cruise ship ever (a distinction that only lasted a few months). In terms of floor plan, however, the ship was in many ways a blown up version of the Fantasy class. The main show rooms were all in the same relative areas, as were the dining rooms, Lido restaurants, pool areas and spa.

Since 1996, Destiny's interior design has been the working model for all of the over 100,000-ton ships Carnival has built, and there are now ten of them. They have grown gradually, from Destiny's 103,000-tons, to the Conquest class 110,000-tons, to the Splendour class 113,000-tons and culminating in 130,000 tons for what will be Carnival Dream. Still, they are in fact all the same basic superstructures. If you look at a side view of Dream (2009), Splendor (2008), Conquest (2002) and Victory (sister ship Triumph) (1997) they are virtually identical.

Continue Article >> Significance of Carnival Design (Part 2)

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