Myanmar, a region closed off to the world until as recently as this decade, is undergoing a major tourism renaissance, and at the forefront of this phenomenon are two visually arresting 5-star and 4-star luxury river cruise ships, the RV Samatha & RV Princess Panhwar. This design project, completed in 2015, marked the first foray into the hospitality transport sector for our interior design studio. Because of the unique setting of this project, our Client was looking for custom design concepts that were true to their context. This proved to be no easy feat for the design team as they soon realized that they, as did much of the world, knew very little about the mystifying Myanmar, its culture, and its geography.
From Mandalay to Yangon, the cruise ships sail down the Irrawaddy (Ayeyarwady) River and offer guests a rare and intimate glimpse into Myanmar’s rich cultural diversity. As such, the ships’ designs had to be a floating representation of the entire region. Achieving a design solution that suitably represented a diverse culture in a politically complicated region required extensive research, so the design team traveled to Myanmar and nearby neighbours Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam to meet with clients, observe, learn and document their findings. In the end the team produced two distinct design solutions that respect and pay homage to the beautiful landscape while recognizing local and regional cultural differences.
The vessels, which include guest suites, a lounge, sun deck, lobbies and public spaces, rest rooms, opulent corridors and a centerpiece restaurant, strike a fine balance between traditional ornamentalism and modern luxury. Warm, sophisticated colour pallets, rich woods, and geometric forms and patterns speak to Myanmar’s history and culture while celebrating its diverse landscapes, exceeding the expectations of the modern traveler.