Derek Barkas of Barkas Design on... | Cruise Ship Hospitality Expo 2021

Derek Barkas of Barkas Design on…

On Tuesday 19th May 2020, Cruise Ship Hospitality Expo and Cruise Ship Interiors Expo CEO Toby Walters was joined by Derek Barkas for an informal, informative chat about design in the cruise industry, for the second iteration of our Cruiseday Tuesday series. Part of the Cruise Conversations series of webinars designed to provide advice to suppliers, designers, and others in the supply chain, Cruiseday Tuesday occurs every other Tuesday, and takes the format of a friendly chat with members of the cruise industry.

The second iteration, Cruiseday Tuesday with… Derek Barkas, covered almost 30 years of design experience, exploring how design has changed in the cruise industry and the possibilities for the future. We’ve picked out some of the best bits from the session – but there were too many to include, so make sure you subscribe to our YouTube channel and watch the video below! Derek has also answered any questions that were on the premiere chat – you can find these below.

Derek Barkas on… changes in design

“Fundamentally, design itself has not changed – the nuts and bolts of design will probably never change, because it is fundamentally all about the end user and the guest.”

“Because of the amount of cruise ships now on the water, the competition has had to react to the demographic, so you’re seeing a lot more contemporary, beautiful designs and materials.”

“The choice in materials has increased, therefore giving designers a lot more scope to create beauty and wonder!”

On… wellness trends

“Gyms are becoming, in terms of design, a lot less industrial in certain aspects, and a lot more holistic, in that you have meditation centers, yoga rooms, pilate rooms, aerobics rooms, and spas which are reflective of mother nature. You walk into any spa and they’ll have an element of mother nature in there – and that’s certainly a reflection of todays society.

Meditation, healthy eating, wellbeing – in the mind and the body – is very, very apparent these days, and as designers we have to react to that.”

On… sustainability issues in cruise

“We would specify someone who has that consciousness, that ethos of ‘this is what we’re trying to do’. For someone coming to me with a wonderful selection of fabrics, my question will always be ‘where’s it from? Where do you make it? What’s the material? What’s the durability? What do you do with the waste?’

[The fast-paced world of land-based restaurant design] is driving the expectations of the guests on board the ships we’re design. We have to stay in line with that, we can’t let that fall by the wayside.”

On… advice to land based designers

“You never want to limit creativity, but any good designer should be able to design within a given space, whatever that space may be.”

On… the impact of COVID-19 on cruise design

I don’t think [this problem] is insurmountable, but I think we have to be guided by the health and safety aspect first and foremost. As designers we have to react to that and follow those guidelines, and of course we always will.”

On… do’s and don’ts of getting specified

“Our criteria is – is it beautiful, is it functional, and does it meet all the requirements? If they meet those three, it is an open-door policy.”


Premiere questions answered

  • Typically, what proportion of interior designer specified suppliers make it through owner and yard checks and culls and actually get used?

This is a hard one to answer, as project to project it is different. However, I would say on average 95 percent of specifications succesfully do go through.

Due to the time scales involved in a ship being built, it could be as long as 2-3 years from the time of specification to the time of order for implementation.

When the necessity to revisit a product is required, it is a transparent open, continuous and joint dialogue, usually between yard, sub contractor and owner to substitute said product. The usual factors when this occurs is when a product is no longer available, a company is no longer trading or can not supply the material in enough quantity, or when a value engineering process occurs.

As designers, our cooperation and collaboration with our suppliers is extremely valuable, we work together sometimes for months to get the right product for our projects,  and we try our very best to ensure our specifications are met either on a newbuild or a refurbishment. We do all we can to maintain our vision and ensure our design intent is met. 

However when, and only when, there are occurrences due to the above unforeseens and challenges, we would then seek a suitable or similar product.

  • And how different is this to newbuilding (where it’s mostly yard choices compared to a revitalisation project (where the owner makes the final call)?

I wouldn’t say this is always the case – see my above answer.


Stay tuned to Cruise Conversations to hear more on the crucial discussions had by industry leaders. Sign up for webinar updates below…

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