Petu Kummala, senior director of interior design and architecture for Carnival Cruise Line, dispels the old adage that you can’t go home again.
The Finnish native has the good fortune to return to his hometown of Turku every few months when he checks on the progress of Mardi Gras, the line’s newest and most innovative ship. “It really is quite amazing that after living in Miami for the past two decades, I am fortunate to have the opportunity to visit my hometown where our newest ship is being built and soak up the unique culture that I grew up with.”
His path from a child growing up in Turku to heading up the design team of the world’s most popular cruise line is a circuitous one. Kummala literally grew up watching ships come in and out the Turku shipyard on a daily basis – “the shipyard is not just a huge economic engine for the community but an enormous source of pride for local residents” – and even worked summers building and installing furniture for ferries built at the yard.
Always fascinated by drawing and design, Kummala studied at the Turku Naval Architecture School and after graduating he had a chance meeting with Carnival’s legendary interior designer Joe Farcus who offered him a job in 1999. “After gaining my composure, it took me about a minute to agree to work for Joe and I started designing Carnival Spirit as well as Costa Atlantica from his Miami Beach studio.”
Kummala spent the next 14 years working with Farcus and then started his own firm, 358 Design, in Miami. In 2015, Carnival’s Senior Vice President of Newbuilds Ben Clement asked Kummala to join the Carnival team to help finalize design details for Carnival Vista and begin work on a new 180,000-ton ship that would eventually become Mardi Gras.
“When I heard that Mardi Gras would be constructed in Turku, I couldn’t contain my excitement but I couldn’t tell anyone, especially my mother – she’s the worst at keeping a secret!” he said.
Kummala is part of a talented, hard-working team that has been involved with virtually every design aspect of Mardi Gras, from passenger flow and venue location to the unique atrium concept and the six distinctive zones lined with an array of distinctive dining, bar and entertainment choices.
Outside of visiting his parents and enjoying some Finnish cuisine that he can’t get in Miami, Kummala use his free time in Turku for one of his favorite hometown activities – heating up in the sauna and breaking through the ice to swim in the sub-freezing waters of a local river. “It is invigorating to say the least. I’ve convinced everyone on the Miami design team to give it a try - they loved it!” he exclaimed.
When he heads home to Miami, Kummala makes sure to stuff his suitcase full of traditional delicacies like herring, rye bread, and a special kind of salty licorice called “salmiakki” for his adult sons who grew up enjoying the treats.
So what’s next for this talented designer? Right now he’s finalizing plans for the soon-to-be-named second Excel-class ship that promises some new surprises from her sister ship Mardi Gras and of course thinking up new and innovative ways to build upon the uniqueness of the Carnival vacation experience.
“Working on Mardi Gras has been one of the highlights of my career and building it in my hometown has made it even more special. Seeing ideas that our team conceived years ago come to life before your eyes is truly astonishing and that’s when you realize all the hard work was worth it,” he said. ”I really can’t wait for guests to see how amazing Mardi Gras will be. We build these ships for them.”
Mardi Gras is scheduled to enter service from Port Canaveral, Fla., Feb. 6, and her sister ship is set to debut from PortMiami in November 2022.