30 December 2022


By P&O Cruises Editorial staff

Insider info: designing Arvia’s interiors

Alison Clixby has been the creative eye behind the interiors of many of P&O Cruises and Cunard’s most stunning ships. She’s now turned her expertise to Arvia, where she’s put years of experience and a passion for maritime design into practice, designing interiors that work and wow in equal measure.

Can you tell us a bit about your role at Carnival UK?

As Director of Hotel Design and Projects, my role is to lead the design process for new-build ships and refurbishments, from inception to delivery. This means understanding the requirements of the brand, product and operational teams to set a design brief, commissioning a design team and then working closely with them to steer the design and, ultimately, approve and deliver the end result. That’s generally a four-year process. 

What’s your background and what led you here?

I did a degree in interior design and, after graduating, worked in a small design agency that happened to be refurbishing Queen Elizabeth 2 for Cunard. At the time I knew nothing about ships or cruising, but I was immediately immersed and astounded at the nature of ship dry-docking, so I looked to enhance my knowledge and worked through the design ranks at some of the leading ship interior design companies before eventually starting my own business. I’ve come full circle now, working at Carnival UK with P&O Cruises and Cunard.

What is it you enjoy about maritime design?

It’s fair to say I quickly became hooked on maritime design and that’s because no two days are the same. There’s always a new design challenge: from concept development to flow planning, steelwork and services coordination to detailed furniture or carpet design, there’s always something to keep me interested and learning. Building and delivering a ship is unique; not the design process so much but dealing with space restrictions and movement, and because you’re designing for an ever-changing environment. I live for the delivery of each new ship. It’s a monumental privilege to be part of that.

What are some of the key principles you keep in mind when designing a ship?

When guests first enter on the ship, what is their first impression? Where are they going to stand for their Instagram moment? Brand teams do a lot of research to find out what guests like and what they want for the future, which is the bones of ship development, because what we design now must remain relevant for 20 years or more.

On that basis, we start with a narrative and design concept that defines the design principles and provides the reason behind choosing certain materials or colours. I take each venue and think about how we want guests to feel and what emotions we want to bring out, but also balance this with the practicalities of operational function as well as the volume of the available space. Working with structural ship stability and safety, we look for ways to deal with low ceiling heights and small windows to create a feeling of spaciousness and increasing penetration of light, so crafting interesting interior volumes of space is always a key principle.

What were the key elements of the design brief for Arvia?

Arvia is a ‘sunshine ship’, so we were briefed to design and create spaces and ‘wow’ moments that celebrate the sea and bring the shore or the outside in. It was important that our design cues were informed and inspired by P&O Cruises rich and proud nautical heritage, and we also wanted to let people find their own space on board and provide choice depending on their needs, to make their holidays unique to them.

How has working on Arvia been different to the other P&O Cruises ships you’ve worked on?

Arvia and Iona are the same platform vessel and are a completely different size and construction philosophy to the rest of the P&O Cruises fleet. The sheer scale and capacity required intensive review and development of the back-of-house services, as well as enhanced consideration about the environment for our crew. For example, the ships have a wider beam, which means we needed to think about pushing light into the centre of the ship to avoid dark areas. One huge upside was that we had a fantastic opportunity to work closely with P&O Cruises teams to really tailor the interior design and product to meet guests’ needs and expectations, both now and for the future. 

Which spaces on Arvia are you most excited about?

There are so many to choose from! One is the additional speciality dining venues – I’m incredibly pleased to see how they are going to deliver something new for our guests. The Olive Grove and 6th Street Diner both look amazing. The most challenging from a design perspective was how to articulate Green & Co feat. Mizuhana – I have high hopes that this new concept will resonate with guests looking for a high-end yet casual plant-based dining experience. Keep an eye out for the feature sushi counter! 

Arvia will be visiting sunshine destinations, so we’ve also paid extra attention to the outside spaces, with features such as the new aft swim-up bar and, of course, the thrilling height of Altitude Skywalk. We’ve also been able to better consider guests who need equipment to navigate the increased size of Arvia by providing cabins with enhanced support and space for mobility devices.

How do you hope guests will feel when they step aboard Arvia for the first time?

I hope guests will feel special and inspired by the careful attention to design that provides a recognisable Britishness, coupled with some impressive and sometimes unexpected features that can be discovered throughout the ship. After guests settle in, I hope the cabins, the flow of the ship and the choice of spaces allow them to relax and feel at ease. And, lastly, I hope the whole experience on board Arvia really delivers exceptional P&O Cruises holiday memories for everyone.

 

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