Nordic-inspired contemporary design details and public areas are among the key features in Swan Hellenic’s newbuild expedition ice-class fleet
The Swan Hellenic name was revived in 2020, marking the return of the 70-year-old British discovery cruise brand under new ownership. Two 152-passenger Vega-class ships are now under construction at Finland’s Helsinki Shipyard and a third vessel, with capacity for 192 guests, is on order.
Tillberg Design of Sweden partner and executive director Fredrik Johansson tells Passenger Ship Interior & Refurbishment Review “In our first meeting with Swan Hellenic’s executives we defined the design direction together as ‘Nordic elegance’. In considering the destinations and the well-travelled guests on board, we knew the scenery should always be the centre of attention. In support of that we have created designs that offer comfort and sophistication in a contemporary way.”
In its previous guise, Swan Hellenic operated with one repurposed and traditional vessel, Minerva. Passengers will have a very different experience on the trio of ice-class siblings which will debut in November 2021 with SH Minerva - named in honour of its predecessor - April 2022 and year-end 2022.
Highlighting the opportunity of working for an all-new line on its first newbuild ships, Mr Johansson continues “This was a very exciting starting point for us. We assigned a young and talented team and very quickly narrowed down our vision. Swan Hellenic executives understood immediately what the look and feel was going to be and how we could create a visual guest experience around this.
“In considering the polar destinations, we wanted to create a sense of feeling rather than a specific theme, so the suites and cabins will feel sensual with materials that are soft to touch. In other areas we wanted the use of colours and materials to create a design flow where the feeling is continuous from one room to another. Large windows looking out in all areas will create the scenery, so the design supports it and in no way competes with it. However, at the end of the day, when the explorers return to the ship, there is an easy sophistication and excellent service waiting for them.”
Tillberg Design of Sweden cruise newbuild director Iina Forsblom takes up the story and explains that innovative use of light and space were other main drivers in the design. She singles out the sweeping central flight of stairs as an example.
“One of the design highlights will be the staircase in the heart of the ship. Even on a small vessel, we have been able to create a feature expanding from deck three to deck eight. The staircase feels open and closed at the same time. Sunlight filters in from a geometric wall of wood elements during the day and in the evenings, it will be lit indirectly.”
Elsewhere, SH Minerva will feature 76 welcoming and functional staterooms; the majority with large balconies.
Ms Forsblom continues “Every suite and cabin has a fireplace, maybe not with a real fire but with a clever use of hologram technology. It immediately creates a mood for the room. Guest comfort and convenience have been extremely important as these accommodations are their home when they rest between their adventures. The wardrobes and storage space in each cabin are extensive and suites offer a walk-in closet. Several types of lighting options are available and easily operated. Knowing that the guests will bring on board their own tech devices and cameras, there are several power outlets and USB ports.
“The cabin layout allows for separating the living room from the sleeping area and some suites and cabins have a sleeper sofa and interconnecting door to the adjacent cabin to serve families. Naturally, there are bathrobes, a coffee maker and a minibar for convenience, but all cabins also allow for in-room dining.”
The observation lounge has been designed to be the multi-purpose social hub of the ship.
Ms Forsblom explains “With large panoramic windows and direct access to the open deck and the swan’s nest observation point, we have a space where guests are welcome to gather from morning to night. Choice of colours and materials work wonderfully from the morning cappuccino to the evening martini. Lectures and entertainment are offered here and rather than a more typical auditorium layout we have created a lounge with various styles of seating for smaller and larger groups with a full bar in the aft end and a large LED screen located forward.”
In keeping with time-honoured Scandinavian tradition, the ship will feature a sauna, plus hot tubs and a swimming pool.
Commenting on any testing areas of the interior design process, Ms Forsblom says the potentially rough seas where the ship will sail, including the Arctic, had to be taken into consideration.
“We have inhouse expertise on this but have also been supported by the owners’ technical team as well as the shipyard to find solutions to these challenges. Mainly it is about the quality of construction and securing loose furniture and goods. Passengers are protected as well, so we have avoided any sharp corners or slippery materials.”
Aside from the name, whether returning passengers will find any design elements with a nod to the original Minerva remains to be seen.
Ms Forsblom says “Our design team started with a clean slate, so for the time being there are no such features. Swan Hellenic is, however, just starting to explore the art options for the ship, so maybe we will discover something.”
And looking ahead to any evolution in the interior design of the Swan Hellenic trio, she sums up “The first two ships are identical sisters and delivered close to one another. The third will be a big sister with some new features, but it is too early to reveal those.”
Whatever they are, the cruise industry, repeat passengers loyal to the original line and new guests are all eager to see the end result when the revived Swan Hellenic brand takes to the water once more.
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