It’s wildly appropriate that when Carnival Cruise Line introduces Mardi Gras next year, it will be a total game-changer. After all, the ship is named after Carnival’s first ship, which had the exact same impact on the industry when first she was introduced back in 1972.
From the striking new hull art to the themed zones, the largest ship to ever enter the Carnival fleet represents a major evolution for the brand.
The Team Behind Carnival Mardi Gras’ New Look
Already, some of the splashiest, most public-facing features of the ships are garnering a great deal of attention. There is, of course, the top-deck roller coaster which will be an industry first, or the jaw-dropping atrium. Even the pool deck has been given an entirely new look, anchored by a two-story tiki bar.
But as we found out when talking to Greg Walton, the CEO and a Founding Partner of design firm Studio DADO, the numerous changes that will be implemented on this ship “mark the first time the Carnival brand has evolved this significantly from its original look.”
In this exclusive interview, Walton gives us a behind-the-scenes preview of what went into designing such elements as the incredible Excel Suites and the re-imagined Cloud 9 Spa.
Cruise Radio: When Carnival approached your team about Mardi Gras, what did they say they were looking for from an aesthetic and design point of view?
Greg Walton: This is our first new-build project with Carnival, so we jumped at the chance when they approached us to design spaces aboard their largest and most innovative ship, the Mardi Gras. In addition to working with Carnival on the staterooms and the spa, we were thrilled to have the opportunity to work on the Excel Suites, a new premium category for the line.
We were given the task of creating a more subdued and relaxed feel to the ship, marking a design evolution for the Carnival brand. Through multiple meetings and a collaborative design process, we understood that Carnival wanted to take the design of the staterooms into the next generation. The team’s focus was on updating the brand’s visual palette for a more sophisticated experience, shifting from Carnival’s original bright imagery and design.
We believe they are very pleased as the process has been very collaborative between us and the Carnival team. We look forward to a long-term relationship.
Cruise Radio: What was the biggest challenge in designing the Carnival Excel suites?
Greg Walton: When tackling the design for the Mardi Gras staterooms, our biggest challenge came when dealing with space. Taking into consideration that the typical cabins are built in an assembly-line fashion, we were tasked with finding a way of designing the room’s features so that they are able to be rolled out and implemented in every stateroom type, with minor modifications.
This was a way to keep the production process rolling smoothly and reducing cost in fabrication.
We began by studying the smallest cabin types, the inside staterooms, and seeing what amount of closet space and vanity/desk space was able to fit. We were able to push them to lessen the space needed for the interlocking knuckles and give more space to the stateroom. We are talking millimeters, but every bit helps.
This became our guide as to what we could implement moving up into the larger staterooms and suites. With the help of the shipyard, cabin manufacturer and Carnival Cruise Line team, we were able to create a product that is elevating the Carnival brand in a booming cruise industry.
Cruise Radio: How was this project different from ones you’ve tackled in the past?
Greg Walton: When working on new projects, we always believe direct collaboration is key to success, and with Carnival, we were able to take that to the next level. We started with a look at the brand and took research and information that was established by an outside consultant firm hired by Carnival to study their findings to help create the end result.
We collaborated with the Carnival team, and pushed the envelope a little further in the beginning stages with both design and color scheme. It was a give-and-take, and [there were] many meetings to find the level of comfort and create what Carnival desired for the guest experience.
The fact that the Carnival team was passionate about and ready to step-up the design of the staterooms created the spark to aid in creating these designs not only for today, but for the future.
One thing we kept going back to with this project was that the design does not have to be expensive to be good. It just needs to be well planned.
Cruise Radio: What’s your single favorite design element that you were able to implement?
Greg Walton: Our favorite element is the clean, streamlined, fresh look with the light, airy wood tone that is consistent throughout the staterooms. The curvilinear millwork and countertops with the routed out handles with no sharp corners which create a seamless and timeless look.
These elements in the staterooms were designed with a new generation of travelers in mind by placing a focus on creating a fresh feel with timeless and well-planned features to capture the new spirit of Carnival.
We believe these staterooms are leading edge and will possibly influence the industry moving forward.
Cruise Radio: A lot of attention has been paid to your work on the Excel Suites, but you also worked on the spa and fitness center for Mardi Gras. What can you tell us about that space and how you approached it?
Greg Walton: When approaching design for the Cloud 9 Spa, our goal was to optimize the guest experience, setting it apart from other ships in the Carnival fleet. Seeking to create a relaxing escape from an active cruise environment, we drew inspiration from a trip to the Yucatan Peninsula and the Mayan culture’s connection to nature.
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