Updated October 26, 2017
Like the demise of shag carpets and wood paneling from modern interior design, cruise cabins -- your home away from home on a cruise ship -- have also evolved with the times. Everything from the look and touch of fabrics to the physical space of the room -- inside, outside and even vertically -- has changed, as the wants and desires of passengers change. Cruise lines are designing rooms for different types of travelers, such as dedicated family cabins to house multiple travelers in one space and solo cabins tailored to a single resident. Meanwhile, trends in technology dictate the ever-present availability of Wi-Fi and outlets -- and plenty of both. Cruising has even caught on with land-based hotel brands that will soon launch ships of their own.
More cruise ships are being built than ever before, and with every one that debuts, cruise cabin design advances. These are the top eight cruise cabin design trends that we are seeing on the oceans and rivers.
1. Cruise Cabins Get Smart
In an effort to be greener and also to get with the high-tech times, more and more cruise lines (across oceans and rivers) are incorporating the latest technology into their cruise cabins. Newer cruise ships are being designed with the phone-attached masses in mind -- your cabin is not only sure to be Wi-Fi-enabled, but ships like Royal Caribbean's Harmony of the Seas, Carnival Vista and AmaWaterways' AmaKristina were built with USB ports to charge extra devices. Cruise line Viking Ocean went as far as to retrofit its first two ships with USB ports on nightstands. Lights are increasingly keycard-operated to conserve energy (they turn off when you're not in the room), and luxury line Crystal Cruises uses iPads for convenient light and temperature control onboard its river and yacht ships. Suites onboard some cruise lines like Emerald Waterways and Oceania Cruises include iPads or laptops for personal use.
2. Land-Based Designers Give Cabins More of a Hotel Feel
The days of over-the-top, in-your-face, we're-on-a-ship decor might be over, as cruise lines work with hotel and other land-based designers to create the newest staterooms. Influence from designers like Adam Tihany (who designed the Beverly Hills Hotel, among many others) can be found onboard Holland America's Koningsdam and Seabourn Encore. Celebrity Cruises tapped renowned interior designer Nate Berkus to be a brand ambassador, while design expert Kelly Hoppen took the lead on the "modern luxury" cabin designs for Celebrity Edge. Luxury hotel brand Ritz-Carlton is getting into the cruise business in 2019 with three 298-passenger yachts. All 149 suites with balconies will be designed in partnership between the hotel brand and Swedish firm Tillberg Design, promising thoughtful and modern interiors.
3. New Rooms Cater to Families
Squeezing families into one cabin can be tricky, but cruise lines are finally recognizing the value of making families feel at home in their cabins. They're taking inspiration from Disney Cruise Line, which has always led the pack in family-friendly accommodations, with thoughtful touches like curtains that act as room dividers, and split bath setups that lets one family member use the toilet, while the other takes a bath in the adjacent room.
Holland America's Pinnacle Class, beginning with Koningsdam, offers family staterooms -- a first for the line. The 32 ocean-view cabins (ranging from 222 to 231 square feet) provide room for five -- cozily -- with one and a half bathrooms. Carnival's new Family Harbor staterooms come in all categories and accommodate up to five family members; suites have one and a half baths. But the perks are what make these cabins irresistible to families. All Family Harbor rooms are clustered together around the Family Harbor Lounge, which provides a space for all ages to mix with large-screen TVs and complimentary breakfast and snacks. Additional perks for families staying in these cabins include a concierge, free dining in specialty restaurants for children 11 and younger, and one night of free babysitting for kids of the same age.
In addition, easily connectable rooms or suites are now featured on lines like Norwegian, MSC Cruises and Royal, to accommodate large groups who want to bunk up together without driving each other crazy. For example, Royal's Family Connected Junior Suites (with balconies) combine a junior suite, a studio cabin and an ocean-view room with a balcony to sleep up to 10 people. These connected family cabins measure a total of 575 square feet with a 216-square-foot interconnecting balcony.
Taking that up a few notches, Royal Caribbean's Symphony of the Seas will have the Ultimate Family Suite, featuring a private 3D cinema, air hockey table, balcony bumper pool table... oh, and a two-story slide.
4. Suites Are Expanding Upward
Stairs might not seem like a luxury, but when they lead to the second floor of your cruise cabin, you might have to reconsider. Duplex suites are becoming the pinnacle of privilege onboard Royal Caribbean and MSC cruise ships. Royal's Allure, Anthem, Ovation, Harmony and Oasis of the Seas have Sky Loft Suites that offer up to an impressive 772 square feet of space with a 410-square-foot balcony, and market themselves as "urban lofts." The two-deck suits on MSC Meraviglia boast 556 square feet of room, excluding the balcony, and the living/dining rooms are made to host friends and family; MSC's Duplex Suites accommodate four people. The layout of these rooms is an impressive one offering privacy and unbeatable views, sometimes from multiple balconies. It's a cruise design trend we only see growing into the future.
5. Cabin Enclaves Get Bigger, Spread to New Lines
Feeding off the continued popularity of private, VIP cabin enclaves on cruise ships (like Norwegian's The Haven, MSC's Yacht Club or Celebrity's Suite Class), cruise lines are expanding and improving those spaces with each new ship. Amenities for passengers staying in one of these keycard-access areas include a dedicated restaurant, private lounge, comped drinks and more. Cabins typically feature more luxe decor with a different color scheme than the rest of the ship, special touches like bathtubs with jets and more square footage. On Carnival's 2016 new-build, Carnival Vista, the line debuted Havana Cabanas, cruise ship cabins with character (and a hammock on the lanai and a private lounge and pool). We don't see an end in sight for passengers looking to pay a little more to lay claim to more personal space -- and perks -- on a ship of thousands.
6. Cruise Lines Are Finding Creative Ways to Maximize Space
Small cabin sizes are a big deterrent to new cruisers, so cruise lines are finding innovative ways to maximize and optimize the limited space of a cruise ship room. One of the things that mainstream cruise ship designers are concerned about most is maximizing bathroom space, particularly in standard (balcony, outside) cabins. Designers on Royal Caribbean's Oasis Class of ships redesigned bathrooms on flagship Oasis of the Seas last minute to allow for more space. Oceania Cruises is removing bathtubs on its smaller, R-class ships and replacing them with larger walk-in showers.
On the other end of the space spectrum, cruise lines are improving storage space, optimizing previously empty nooks with drawers, cabinets behind headboards and ledges below vanity mirrors. Closets have long and short sides (long for dresses and trousers, short for blouses and shirts; below the short side, you might find bonus drawer space). Efficiency overall has become a major focus of cabin design, as demonstrated by touches like foldout tables on Celebrity Edge that slide away when unused, giving back that space to passengers.
7. Balconies Take on New Looks
Where balcony space was once at a premium, cruise lines are endeavoring to increase the availability of private decks (or at the very least, access to the open air) in cruise ship cabins. The latest luxury vessels seem to be all suites with verandas. Regent's Seven Seas Explorer, billed as the most luxurious ship in the world, made a conscious effort to offer oversized balconies in each room. Meanwhile, river ships make use of limited space with French balconies and sun rooms. AmaWaterways offers twin balconies -- one French, one open -- and Emerald Waterways and Scenic have sun lounges (a designated seating area near a full-length window that might open half way).
Celebrity is rethinking the balcony, and taking river concepts to the oceans onboard its Edge Class. The Edge cabins, debuting on Celebrity Edge, will introduce the Infinite Veranda -- at the touch of a button, the outer wall opens to the fresh air. This new feature also allows for 23 percent more space than the line's Solstice-class balcony staterooms. Expect higher ratios of balcony space on cruise ships, with creative ways to get passengers those coveted sea (or river) breezes.
8. Solo Cabins Are on the Rise
The consumer demand for single cabins is high, and they continue to be built into select new ships, like MSC Meraviglia, even though that means fewer passengers and possibly less revenue for the lines. Solo rooms on MSC Meraviglia are 172 square feet, which is a surprising amount of space for one occupant. The aforementioned Edge cabins on Celebrity will come in a version just for single travelers, and Norwegian's Studios (full beds and access to a Studio Lounge) continue to find their way onto new-builds like Norwegian Bliss -- and without a single supplement.