Race you to the “catamaran net.”
The designers behind the world’s newest cruise ship have never been on a cruise. But if this approach seems crazy, well, it’s all strategy. The group, dubbed the “Creative Collective” and led by the likes of Roman and Williams (The Boom Boom Room, Le Coucou, Ace Hotels), Concrete Amsterdam (citizenM hotels, W London), and Tom Dixon’s Design Research Studio (Shoreditch House, Mondrian Hotels), are deep into designing Virgin’s cruise line with the aim of attracting travelers who normally wouldn’t touch the idea of taking a cruise with a ten foot pole. In fact, Rob Wagemans of Concrete Amsterdam joined the project under the condition that he wouldn’t have to go on any existing cruises at all.
“It’s quite risky, what Virgin Voyages are trying to do, getting a bunch of [designers] who’ve never been on a cruise before,” said Tom Dixon at a party in New York City for Virgin Voyages, where the team of ten designers had gathered to unveil a first glimpse of the interior concepts. “But there’s a logic to that madness. If you’re going to encourage a new demographic to cruise, then why not use designers who’ve never been on [one]? We think, ‘what would entice you to go on a cruise?’”
A sneak peak at Virgin’s upcoming cruise line.
The answer to that question includes a dual-level nightclub that wouldn’t look out of place on a historic ocean liner, and intimate, plush bars areas inspired by “the glamor of the 1920s and 30s, and the glamor of the future,” according to Roman and Williams co-founder Stephen Alesch. The ship’s overall design influence is retrofuturism, a style that imagines the future through the lens of the past, an approach Alesch says is also an homage to how Virgin companies never lose sight of the brand’s heritage as they build the future. After all, Virgin got its start as a record label and now it explores the frontier of space travel. Alesch hopes Creative Collective’s designs will succeed in fostering “a mildly hallucinogenic, cinematic, dreamy kind of experience” for guests.
Outside and on deck, the vibe is far more Slim Aarons than Jay Gatsby. Expansive chill-out decks are home to scarlet striped, cushioned sun beds that invite guests—excuse us, “sailors” in Virgin Voyages parlance—to luxuriate in a Riviera fantasy. It’s a world away from the stereotypical cruise ship scene of rows upon rows of plastic chaise lounge chairs. Suite guests are promised their own VIP level dubbed “Richard’s Rooftop,” and, at the extreme top rear of the ship, there’s a “catamaran net” (a rope hammock taken to the max and suspended over the rear of the ship) that guarantees to be the most Instagrammed spot on the ship. That is, if we’re all still hot on Instagramming in 2020, when the first ship is set to launch.
The designers hope to achieve “a mildly hallucinogenic, cinematic, dreamy kind of experience” for guests.
Originally announced in 2015, Virgin Voyages has slowly but deliberately revealed details bit by bit, initially cutting the steel for the first ship’s hull in March 2017. Some $2.55 billion is to be spent on a total of three ships, with the first debuting with seven-day sailings from Miami; each ship will host 2,800 sailors with a minimum age of 18, and 1,150 crew. Virgin Voyages has also set a goal to become one of the cleanest fleets out there, after partnering with clean energy start-up Climeon to “efficiently turn heat waste into electricity, saving stacks of CO2,” according to Tom McAlpin, the line’s president and CEO.
And while we may still have to wait a bit longer for a glimpse of the cabins themselves, Creative Collective’s initial designs—both for the inside and outside of the ship—look likely to convert even the greatest cruise cynic. We’ll see you on the catamaran net.