Designing the interiors for a 141,000-ton cruise ship

Consultancy Richmond has created all the interior designs for the 141,000-ton P&O cruise ship Britannia, which is set to launch from Southampton in March.

PO Cruises Britannia

Source: James D Morgan/P&O Cruises

P&O Cruises Britannia

The Britannia is P&O Cruises’s biggest ship and this is the first time one design consultancy has created all the interior designs – from cabins to suites and public areas – for a ship.

We spoke to Richmond director Terry McGillicuddy, who led the project, about the challenges of designing for a huge, sea-faring client.

The Crystal Room
The Crystal Room

Design Week: What is Richmond’s previous experience in designing for cruise ships?

Terry McGillicuddy: Britannia is our first entire ship, and this is also the first time that P&O Cruises has handed over every aspect of the interiors to one design firm. We have however collaborated with Carnival Cruises Lines in the past, as we were responsible for the Lotus spa on board the Royal Princess, which launched in 2013. That commission stemmed from our project on the spa at the Four Season Hampshire hotel, where Princess Cruises’ senior management first saw our work.

Superior Deluxe Cabin
Superior Deluxe Cabin

DW: What are the main differences between designing for cruise ships and designing for other (land-based) clients?

TM: The main challenge when designing cruise ships is the speed of the overall build and delivery; this is a much faster process than typical land-based projects. There are very tight schedules for the production of design and documentation information, which represent a significant challenge for creative designers. Furthermore, the complex integration of the services required throughout the ship requires a wealth of experience, and major co-ordination with the shipyard, all of which adds to the challenges in the different phases of the project.

Oasis Spa
Oasis Spa

DW: Why did P&O choose to treat the Britannia interiors as one single interiors projects and what are the advantages and disadvantages of this?

TM: P&O Cruises wished to have a coordinated design approach across the ship, so to enhance its features, and ultimately, to provide a stylish and glamorous experience to its customers. It was logical to approach a single design consultancy to achieve this unity of vision and implementation. The advantages are clearly noticeable in the results: an overall single design vision and direction ensures that the public areas designs throughout the ship complement and flow into each other. The interior design has a cohesive style, quality and ambience. 

Crow's Nest Bar
Crow’s Nest Bar

DW: What was the most challenging aspect of the project?

TM: The main challenge we encountered was the time schedule for our design stages, in the context of the overall scale of the project and the number of different public areas within the ship that needed to be addressed and designed. In addition, we had a considerable learning curve in relation to marine design and specification, combined with the crucial point of creating a good working relationship with the shipyard, their contractors and suppliers.

The Atrium
The Atrium

DW: And what aspect are you most proud of?

TM: To be able to complete the whole ship so successfully is a great achievement alone, but we are particularly proud of the main public space, Atrium. We believe the Atrium will really be the “WOW” feature of the ship, due to the design, style and appreciation of the quality and aesthetics of the space. One of the Atrium’s main features is the “Starburst” lighting installation, a sculpture that stretches across three decks of the ship, and acts as a centerpiece and focal point – and its development and production were an interesting challenge in itself – which makes it one of our favourite elements on board the Britannia.

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