Megastar business lounge.

Megastar Magic on the Baltic

Passengers on the popular cruise ferry route between Helsinki and Tallinn, the respective capitals of Finland and Estonia, are in for some pleasant surprises when they board the new Tallink shuttle, the MS Megastar.

Text: Tim Bird Photo: Okko Oinonen

The launch of the MS Megastar on the Helsinki-Tallinn passenger ferry route in early 2017 might well be the start of a new era in Baltic travel. The route has evolved into one of the world’s busiest for leisure traffic and the mutual allure of the two cities shows no sign of diminishing.

For many people, the excitement of a short cruise remains a crucial part of the experience of the trip. At the same time, passenger expectations are understandably limited for a voyage that the Megastar, the fastest ship on the route, cuts to just two hours.

Megastar comfort lounge.

For a short shuttle voyage, customers tend to prefer more public space and seating and fewer cabins, which makes sense. Taking this feedback into account, the operators, AS Tallink Grupp, decided to commission the leading Finnish interior design company dSign Vertti Kivi & Co to create the ship’s interior environment.

“We’ve designed interiors for several cruise ships, but this was the first time we designed interiors for a journey that only takes two hours,” says designer Vertti Kivi. dSign contributed the designs for the entrance lobby, all the restaurants, a children’s playroom and the Comfort and Business lounges.

“Designing a lay-out that enables smooth customer flow is a vital part of a shuttle design,” says Kivi. “There are also high-level safety standards in ship construction that add their own challenges to design. Design briefs are always different. In the case of Megastar, we were asked to design the ship based on Tallink’s customer feedback. But they had commented mainly on functional matters so the feel and the atmosphere were totally up to us.”

Megastar Delight Buffet.

A bold approach

dSign has a reputation for taking a modern, bold and original approach to interior designs, and its portfolio includes work for various Finnish hotels and the innovative lighting for new aircraft of the Finnish airline Finnair. At the same time, there is always a demand for a positive, cosy and entertaining atmosphere in which the customer feels at ease.

“We are known for strong ambience design, and our clients tend to hire us when they are looking for totally new, disruptive ideas in the field,” says Kivi. “They appreciate that we are always thinking of their business and try to contribute to that side, too. Design thinking, our own way of resolving problems for which we designers are famous, is in demand among business people.”

In the case of a ship, the crew must take into account functional requirements and ensure that everything works efficiently from one voyage to another.

“There are many ways to facilitate work and ease the crew’s stress through design, which naturally affects the customer experience too,” explains Kivi. “Employees’ opinions are important, but customers are the absolute kings in the leisure business.”

Studying the customer feedback is a good starting point for this kind of project, he says. But when dSign began to review the feedback collected by Tallink, they were struck by the low expectations expressed by customers.

“So we decided to surprise them, and now we are excited to see how they like it,” he reports. 

Megastar Fastlane.

New standards

In the lounge areas, that surprise has been achieved with the use of light, serene colour schemes and furniture with an especially tactile appeal. A similar attention to eye-catching detail is displayed, for example, in the Victory bar, with its unique wall lamps, and the wooden surfaces and bright carpeting of the Delight buffet restaurant.

On entering the ship, passengers are welcomed by a feeling of excitement and tempting views towards different spaces. The aim seems to be to create an overall sense of calm and ease of movement not always associated with Baltic ferries, without sacrificing the sense of every voyage being a special occasion.

“At least the owners of the vessel seemed pleased. In fact, they said that they are afraid that the Megastar is going to set new standards for shuttle cruise ship travel!”

Megastar Victory bar.

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