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New luxury ship makes mark with 'sexy' curves

USA TODAY logo USA TODAY 15/01/2017 Gene Sloan

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ABOARD THE SEABOURN ENCORE -- Call it the Marilyn Monroe of luxury cruise ships. 

The interior of luxury line Seabourn's new Seabourn Encore is all curves, from the swirl of the mahogany railing at the bottom of the main stairway to the circular bartender's hub at the ship-top Observation Bar.

Adam Tihany, the noted hospitality designer commissioned to created the 600-passenger vessel's interiors, says he was going for something "a bit sexier" with the design than what is found on Seabourn's three other vessels, the Seabourn Odyssey, Seabourn Sojourn and Seabourn Quest.

Created by a different firm, the interiors of the three earlier ships have a more angular, Nordic-style design. There are lots of straight lines and squared-off spaces. Tihany's version of a Seabourn ship is more flowing and smooth. 

The curvaceousness is about more than aesthetics, Tihany tells USA TODAY during an interview on board the ship, which was christened Jan. 7 in Singapore. It's about catering to the needs of the customer. Tihany notes the typical Seabourn passenger is 66 years old or older, a stage in life where hard angles and sharp edges can be an obstacle. 

"People (on Seabourn ships) are older, and they have to hang onto something," says Tihany, who at 69 is in the same age range as Seabourn's typical customer. "I said if I can eliminate all the sharp edges, it'll make the ship a bit safer." 

Tihany also layered Encore with a more yacht-like decor than what is found on the earlier Seabourn vessels. The color scheme is darker and more nautical with more blues and browns and whites as well as mahogany accents. 

After sailing on several Seabourn voyages to get a feel for the line, Tihany says he told Seabourn executives his idea for the design was that "it's not going to be a ship, it's going to be a luxury yacht." 

Still, the design isn't a radical departure from the earlier vessels. Tihany calls it evolutionary, not revolutionary, and that's on purpose. Seabourn has a lot of long-time fans who could have been upset with a drastic change, he says.

Early on in the design process, Seabourn executives told Tihany that 50% of passengers on the typical voyage are repeat customers, many of them on the older side.

The Observation Bar on the Seabourn Encore. © Seabourn Cruise Line The Observation Bar on the Seabourn Encore. "I said, 'stop, that tells me almost everything I need to know,'" he says. "Repeat customers, older people. Why are they coming back? Because it's familiar. Because they know their surroundings ... they need to come to places where everything looks familiar, where if you left a chair in a certain location, that's where it is."   

Encore features all of the same public spaces that exist on the earlier ships, from social hub Seabourn Square to musical lounge The Club to The Restaurant. But in each case they've been re-imagined by Tihany.

One of the biggest changes that Tihany made came at Seabourn Square, which is a living-room like space that is part lounge, part coffee bar and part library and also serves as the hub for guest services. Tihany greatly opened up the room by tearing downs walls that enclosed a concierge area at its center. In its place is an open, circular concierge area that becomes an elegant focal point.  

Delivery ceremony of 'Seabourn Encore' cruise ship, Marghera, Italy © Rex Images Delivery ceremony of 'Seabourn Encore' cruise ship, Marghera, Italy "My first thought was 'what is the role of a concierge, to help customers or to hide?'" Tihany says. The concierge area on the earlier vessels "was a closed wood box (with) the concierges inside. I said I want the concierges exposed, facing the customers."  

Tihany also made major changes to the The Colonnade, the ship's casual buffet eatery. On the earlier ships, passengers encounter a corridor of seating upon first arriving at The Colonnade. The food stations are tucked in the back. Tihany rearranged the layout of the space for Encore so that the first thing passengers see is food laid out in a market-like area with an open kitchen in the background. It has much more of the feel of a stylish New York restaurant than a casual cruise ship buffet eatery.  

"I want people to walk in and see food," Tihany says. "This is why they come here. They don't come here to see a corridor." 

The Restaurant, too, has been revamped to feel more like a restaurant on land than a cruise ship dining room. A grand aisle that ran down the middle of the room has been removed, creating a cozier feel. Tihany also added arching columns that mimic tree branches and starburst chandeliers with balls of cobalt and aqua glass.

Delivery ceremony of 'Seabourn Encore' cruise ship, Marghera, Italy. © REX Images Delivery ceremony of 'Seabourn Encore' cruise ship, Marghera, Italy. Encore also has several new-for-Seabourn venues, including a sushi eatery and a private, deck-top sanctuary called The Retreat that Tihany says is one of his favorite spaces. There's also a restaurant by famed chef Thomas Keller, The Grill by Thomas Keller, along with an adjacent bar and lounge. 

While built on the same basic platform as the earlier ships, Encore has one more deck to accommodate the additional public venues and more cabins. 

While Tihany has designed individual rooms on other cruise ships, Encore is the first vessel where he has been in charge of every element of the interior from bow to stern. He says it was a challenge given the restrictions on construction methods and materials inherent with ship building. Fire safety rules mean that many fabrics and wood elements are not allowed. 

A limitation on ceiling height also posed a challenge, Tihany says. Encore's ceiling heights, over which he had no control, are barely seven feet, even in public areas, which is not atypical on smaller cruise ships. When he works on land-based resorts and restaurants, he typically is designing for far grander spaces. 

Still, such challenges are what makes the work satisfying, Tihany says. 

"If something doesn't have problems, then I don't enjoy myself," he says. "I like spaces and ideas that are difficult. This was a lot of fun."

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