When former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher smashed champagne on the bow of the new tour ship Regal Princess earlier this month in New York, she was christening a boat largely Baltimorean in interior design and furnishings.
For five years, as it was being built near Trieste, Italy, the local interior design and planning firm H. Chambers Co. worked on the furnishings and layouts of the liner's hundreds of spaces and its 14 decks of passenger and crew accommodations.
Chambers earlier had done interiors for the Regal's sister ship, the Crown Princess, launched last year.
"The Regal is almost identical in terms of interior spaces," says Robert A. Hickman, Chambers' president and chief operating officer, but this time around "we had to develop a design approach that was completely fresh and different but still in tune with the warm, casually elegant look that is a Princess line signature."
Teresa Anderson, Chambers design director for the project, says that furnishing the Regal Princess was also a challenge involving different approaches for different kinds of area. But the overall theme was "clarity of design." In its thousands of areas, she says, there could be "no clutter, no patterns over patterns over patterns.
"You can't force passengers into mazes of intricate detailing that they have to figure out. What they have to see for the first time can be overwhelming," says the designer.
That meant that each public area of the boat had to be given a recognizable thematic difference in the plan, if only to help passengers realize where they were and keep them from getting lost. Hence a sporty bar offers bamboo and polo-type chairs and a safari look reinforced by a life-size tiger sculpture stalking under canvas ceiling fans, while a quite different, nearby formal bar gets shiny ceilings, lavish 1920s murals and art deco banquettes of marble and metal.
"I really wanted a timeless quality . . . informal but yet luxurious," says Teresa Anderson of her concepts. Lee Chambers, chairman of the board of the design firm, says that Ms. Anderson's designs are "somewhat deco," but for the hordes of ocean tourists who will see the ship for the first time they must be more than an approximation of the Joan Crawford type of swank. Colors tend to pastel ranges and there is what designer Anderson calls a conscious attempt to avoid the creation of dark areas. Patterns are accented with touches of pink and rust.
While clarity of statement for group movement and good passenger flow was a principal concept for public areas, the cabins, says Ms. Anderson, required the reverse, a sort of simplicity of privacy.
Color schemes chosen for cabin areas involve turquoise, blue-greens and soft beiges and corals, related to the same tones in the public areas. Deep-toned wool-nylon carpeting is used on cabin floors, and most wall and furniture surfaces are light mahogany in tone. (Public areas are floored in thick, all-wool carpeting in geometric patterns.)
In detail, furnishings had to reflect their purpose with a nod to safety. "No sharp corners on tables," the designer decreed, so that round tables, cafe-style, predominate in the many lounges and are standard, too, in cabins and suites. What ties all this together are the light color tones used throughout the ship, indoors and outdoors.
All these themes are particularly evident in the Regal's radiant, .. 700-seat formal dining room, the Palm Court. Here about 30 spectacular panels of etched colored glass moving into the distance portray massive translucent roses and greenery in pink and soft green. While most of the finishes in the ship are Italian-made, including a black stone maitre d's station in the big dining room, the colored glass panels were crafted in Florida. Above the glass panels, parading chandeliers feature giant frosted globes shaped like hanging beehives. Soft greens, light tans, pinks and buff notes predominate in the wall treatments, napery and linens. Only bright silver wine coolers on stands recall 19th century tradition.
What are the deco notes in this huge design?
One of the largest enclosed areas (and one of the first the passenger sees, for it includes a long-countered reception area) is a two-story atrium with a shopping arcade on the upper level. It is all glassy-bright, with the obligatory ocean liner's sweeping two-story staircase, done in metal and wood and marble tones in the best tradition of Hollywood, 1935. Heavily upholstered tub chairs, which came on the scene in the "contemporary" design thrust of the 1920s and 1930s, are all but universal in the public areas and in cabins and suites.