Tillberg Design is a design consultancy with significant experience in the cruise-ship industry. The company has a niche market providing interior design for the essential areas of some of the world’s best known cruise ships, including Queen Elizabeth 2 for Cunard, the Crystal Serenity for Crystal Cruises, the Four Seasons’ Ocean Residences and Carnival Celebration for Carnival.

“Tillberg Design has, through the company’s 40-year history, planned and designed interiors for approximately 130 vessels, large and small,” says Fredrik Johansson, senior designer and project manager at Tillberg’s headquarters in Viken, Sweden. “In several cases, it has been a matter of developing not only the interior design per se, but also the ships’ entire cruise concept. In this way, founder Robert Tillberg’s pioneer spirit has contributed to shaping the cruise industry into how we know it today.”

The latest additions to the Tillberg portfolio are Cunard Lines’ Queen Mary 2, Bora-Bora Cruises’ two 230ft yachts Tia Moana and Tu Moana, and NCL’s Norwegian Pearl, all projects where Tillberg was coordinating architect.


Cruising has changed since Tillberg Design first began designing ship interiors. Vessels have changed from smaller liner type designs to the mega-ships that are pushing the boundaries of tonnage. Modern cruise ships are built to serve up to 4,000 passengers, as well as a crew of up to 2,000, so the design has to be accurate as there is not much space to spare.

“Cruise passengers have also become more sophisticated and because of this the interior design has to cater for a variety of tastes.”

Cruise passengers have also become more sophisticated and because of this the interior design has to cater for a variety of tastes, to the highest standard. Designers need to be aware of the area of operation, the market of the cruise ship and the major nationality of the passengers, as there can be a world of difference between the interior design of a ship for the European market and one for the US market.

Shipboard dynamics are another consideration, for example, where passengers will be concentrated at particular times, and how design can help maintain the flow of people around the ship.

“This varies incredibly between the different clients,” says Johansson. “We often say that our professionalism is about stepping outside our personal taste and creating something that is right for that particular client. Although Tillberg Design is perhaps best known for designing classic and timeless elegance, we have naturally responded to a growing demand for colourful and progressive design, something that we really enjoy – and do very well.”

Tillberg has had to change its approach to handling new projects. It can design single rooms, such as a restaurant in a ship while the rest of the vessel is designed by the shipyard. Or, increasingly, it can take total control of designing the entire ship’s interior as an integrated project.

“For Queen Mary 2, Tillberg was responsible for approximately 85% of the interiors, and for Tia Moana, Tu Moana, and Norwegian Pearl we were the sole architects,” says Johansson. “If several design companies have been involved, Tillberg has usually served as coordinating architect. Projects have ranged from very small refits to extensive rebuilds and complete newbuilds.”

Cruise lines are becoming ever more exclusive and driven by entertainment and value-added products and services on board. This, in turn, has created more demand for innovative, exclusive and comprehensive design. This also means there is more room for Tillberg to use creative solutions and high-quality materials to produce superlative interiors for the finest luxury vessels.

“The basic requirements for interior design on new cruise vessels is that the ship works and lasts,” says Johansson. “It also has to comply with all rules and regulations. If flows and functions are not carefully considered, a wonderful decor will not help; both passengers and crew will suffer. This goes hand-in-hand with what it all boils down to in the end – revenue and economics.

“This may sound cynical, but it’s a simple fact that very few ships are allowed to sail for long unless they make a sound profit. So all planning has to work towards the target of promoting on-board revenue. With regards to the design concepts, the designer must be a good listener.”


As the cruise market expands, work for Tillberg Design has flooded in from cruise operators and shipyards all over the world. “Cruise-ship projects are on the increase,” says Johansson. “Just like the industry as whole, we suffered a dip after the events of 2001, but over the last two to three years we have been working hard to regain market share, which seems to have paid off now. The business is expanding rapidly, and we have doubled our work force since January 2006 to cope with all the work.”

Tillberg Design’s workload reflects this expanding market with a number of new projects in the pipeline. “We are now detail-planning Norwegian Cruise Line’s entire new giant newbuild at Chantier de l’Atlantique, which is a fantastic project,” says Johansson.

“We are also putting the final touch to Royal Caribbean International’s second ship in the Freedom class, Liberty of the Seas, for which we have again designed the main dining room. We are preparing concepts for the third and last vessel in the Freedom class, Independence of the Seas, which is due to be delivered in 2008.”

Another exciting prospect is Residential Cruise Line’s Project Magellan, for which Tillberg is fine-tuning generative art specifications and other contract documentation. There are also several ongoing and potential ferry and yacht projects in the loop, so business for Tillberg is looking promising for the next few years.


Cruise-ship designs are reaching a point where they are becoming more like floating hotels and less like ships, according to Johansson, who sees the future of cruise ship interior design being influenced by contemporary trends in the design of landbased hotels, restaurants and clubs, where the potential of design is a marketing tool.

“We have a dream that there will soon be a ship owner who dares to introduce a pure designer cruise ship into the market; an exclusive, probably smaller vessel, aimed at a clientele with interest in contemporary culture, arts and design, fashion and gourmet dining,” he speculates.

“Cruise-ship designs are reaching a point where they are becoming more like floating hotels and less like ships.”

“It would be the seagoing equivalent to, say, Ian Schrager’s Morgan Hotels Group. We believe it would be a huge success, and would attract the kind of people who may find it difficult to identify themselves with the traditional cruise concept.”

Certainly a strong idea for a future project and in today’s climate perhaps a valid concept, given the tendency for bold designs. Tillberg’s designers are continually collecting ideas and renewing their vast library of concepts, design tendencies and solutions. For each project they draw inspiration from new sources, and spend a lot of time looking for interesting new ideas and what new technology offers.

“With an open mind, inspiration can come from every conceivable source and direction,” says Johansson. “We have a 100m² room full of materials from all over the world, including textiles, furniture and wall finishes, all hand-picked to meet the extreme demands of marine use. Whatever we specify has to be non-combustible, last forever, look like a million dollars and preferably cost next to nothing.”

Tillberg Design still retains the pioneer spirit of its founder and follows his principles in all its design work, so perhaps the interiors business has not changed that much.

“We share Robert’s passion for breaking new ground,” says Johansson. “We constantly develop new concepts, and find new and better solutions to old problems. We always aim to improve everything we can. One of our most progressive clients is Norwegian Cruise Lines, and they really make us stretch our imagination. For instance, the Blizz Ultra Lounge on board Norwegian Pearl is groundbreaking for the industry.”

With a full order book and an eye to the future, Tillberg Design will continue to evolve to suit the design concepts of the ever-changing cruise-ship industry.