It has always been about ‘wow factors’, says Jan Akerblad. Over the last two decades, his firm in Gothenburg, Sweden, has worked with Royal Caribbean International, most recently on its Voyager and Freedom-class vessels, creating stunning facilities and developing concepts such as the Adventure Ocean youth programme, with its dedicated children's areas and activities.

Analysing how his team seeks out new ‘wow factors’, Akerblad says: "You have to be clever. You have to have knowledge of what’s going on in the world, and sometimes you have take a land-based concept and try to put it on board. It’s not just having a dip in the pool or a fine dining experience or going to the sports quarter for a basketball competition. You need something more, something that actually surprises people.

"On the Genesis project we have been responsible for all the open decks and their facilities. Our original vision included the idea of having glass-bottomed aqueducts running over the void across Central Park. You would actually have been able to swim between the pools on each side of the ship, rather than have to get out and go down and across and up to them on foot. We thought it was a great concept and did a couple of treatments but Royal Caribbean rejected them, either because they thought they were a little bit too dangerous or perhaps they were not ready for the idea. It was also a question of economics."

Another early design, says Akerblad, was to have the Flow Riders coming down to the family area of the boardwalk at the stern, near the restaurants, playgrounds and carousel. "But it turned out to be the amphitheatre instead, so we put the Flow Riders on the top decks," he says.

This, however, was a challenge because of the weight of the water and the increased movement it would undergo at the greater height. "We were therefore asked to cut the weight. The solution was to reduce the amount of teak wood in the decking. We tried to do this without losing the feeling and atmosphere of the top decks, by using a lighter weight deck covering. We also had to look at the size and depth of the pools, well aware that if, for instance, we made them too small, we would lose the ambience of the pool areas. By working on small parts of the design everywhere, we have been trying to minimise the weight."

Onboard turbulence has been another factor with which Akerblad and his team have been concerned: "We did a lot of work on different wind factors because turbulence is a very real issue. If you have a headwind that is blowing 25k and the ship is making 22k, it gets windy.

So there were a lot of studies for the open decks and for Central Park in the middle of the ship, just to be sure that it was not going to be uncomfortable to sit outside. There was work using computer studies to ensure we had the right wind screens and design features on the open decks that would not create any turbulence." Akerblad says the computer modelling that Royal Caribbean has been able to do on the Genesis project has transformed and speeded up the design process. "Only two years ago, you just had the wind tunnel test to depend on," he notes. "Now you have computer programmes that can take care of most things."

There had been no temptation to cover Central Park, Akerblad explains, as heat build-up in the park will be cooled down by computer-controlled ventilation. Akerblad says this will also be important for the well-being of the flowers and trees in the park. "They will have a couple of dedicated gardeners on board because if the gardens do not look good all the time it will be awful. They will have to be careful with the choice of species. They will not however be bringing on their own plants in a greenhouse space but will replenish and replace the floral displays as necessary at each port of call."