Cruise ship cabins reflect the design aesthetic, preferences and travel needs of contemporary travelers. If you're tired of outdated decor, tight spaces you only use to shower and sleep, and a lack of modern amenities, check out the cruise lines and ships embracing these six top design trends.
1. Smart Cabins
On new ships, you can expect fast internet and enough plugs and USB ports for your smartphones and other devices. Most also will help you conserve energy through keycard-operated lights. (They turn off when you remove the card as you leave the room.)
Cruise lines are also using smart technology to make your cabin experience more comfortable. A leader in this area is Princess Cruises with its OceanMedallion technology, now available on several ships. Thanks to a quarter-sized medallion given to each passenger, your door will unlock as you approach. The technology also makes it easy to order room service via your smartphone or wager on casino games from the comfort of your bed.
Passengers on Celebrity Cruises' Celebrity Edge and Celebrity Apex can use a proprietary app to open their cabin doors, adjust the lights, open or close the blinds and turn on the air conditioning -- even remotely, so your cabin will be cool and lighted before your return from your evening entertainment. At the push of a button, the top half of a wall of glass opens, transforming an in-cabin space into an open-air balcony (which Celebrity calls an "Infinite Veranda").
In cabins and suites on Virgin Voyages' debut ship Scarlet Lady, mood lighting automatically adjusts based on the time of day. Sensors detect your presence and close the blinds and turn the temperature to eco-saver mode if you're out. Crystal Cruises provides iPads for convenient light and temperature control on its river ships and yachts; on the river ships, you push a button to open the window to create a French balcony.
On MSC Cruises' latest ships, Zoe is an in-cabin, voice-enabled device that you can consult for information about shipboard activities.
2. Modern Looks by Land-Based Designers
Whereas previous cruise ship designers have gone for a nautical look or colorful, whimsical design, cruise lines are hiring land-based designers to give cabins a modern look that's more chic hotel or comfortable home than captain's quarters. Cabin color schemes are morphing from seafaring blues to more subtle, neutral tones.
When working on Seabourn and Holland America ships, star hospitality designer Adam Tihany (The Beverly Hills Hotel, The Breakers in Palm Beach) went with muted colors and no sharp edges for an elegant, sexy look. The suites on Seabourn Encore and Seabourn Ovation feature glass-topped dining tables and retro-cool leather chairs, mahogany accents and marble bathrooms.
The first Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection ship, Evrima, will feature 149 modern suites designed in neutral tones with pops of color and contemporary furnishings, as floating reflections of Ritz-Carlton hotels. Celebrity Cruises tapped British design expert Kelly Hoppen for the "modern luxury" cabin and suite designs for Celebrity Edge. She also chose a soothing neutral palette with color accents.
It's not just color palette that gives cruise ships that hip hotel vibe. Hoppen created cabins that feel like comfortable living spaces, with a sofa bed or chaise in nearly every cabin and clever storage spaces, such as outlets and USB ports hidden in a plastic jewelry box on the desk. The top Owner's Suites on Ritz-Carlton's Evrima come with a spacious terrace with whirlpool for private relaxation.
Virgin Voyages asked London-based design firm PearsonLloyd and its own design team to create standard cabins that were spaces for socializing, not just sleeping. Scarlet Lady's cabins feature a custom-designed Seabed that converts into a sofa for daytime hangouts. Cabins with a balcony (called a Sea Terrace) are equipped with a custom-designed hammock.
3. Family-Focused Accommodations
Squeezing families into one cabin can be tricky, but cruise lines are recognizing the value of making families feel at home.
Family Harbor cabins and suites on the latest Carnival ships are located in a "family zone" with shared access to a lounge where families can watch movies on big-screen TVs, play games and enjoy breakfast and snacks. The accommodations also come with the perk of free dining for (age 11 and under) in specialty restaurants and one free evening of Night Owls babysitting. The suites sleep up to five and come with one-and-a-.
Holland America's Koningsdam and Nieuw Statendam are outfitted with 32 ocean-view family cabins that sleep five and come with one-and-a-half bathrooms.
Easily connectable rooms or suites are now featured on lines such as Norwegian, MSC Cruises and Royal Caribbean to accommodate large groups who want to bunk up together without driving each other crazy. AmaWaterways, which charters select river ships to Adventures by Disney for family sailings, designed its latest ships with some connecting cabins -- a feature rare in river ships.
4. Two-Story Suites
Stairs might not seem like a luxury, but when they lead to the second floor of your cruise cabin, you might have to change the definition. Two-story suites offer unbeatable views through walls of glass sometimes from multiple balconies.
Cunard's Queen Mary 2 was an early adapter with its Grand Duplex Suites (each 2,249 square feet). It took a while but other lines are jumping on the trend with their newest ships. Royal Caribbean's latest-model ships have Sky Loft Suites that offer up to an impressive 772 square feet of space with a 410-square-foot balcony. The two-deck Duplex Suites on MSC Meraviglia and MSC Bellissima have 635 square feet of space to accommodate four people.
On Evrima, the debut ship for Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection, the innovative 700-square-foot Loft Suites will have an ocean-view bedroom downstairs and a living/dining space with sofa in the loft, which leads to a 76-square-foot terrace.
Eight 225-square-foot cabins on Tauck's Inspire and Savor river ships also feature a bed and bathroom on a lower level and a sitting area in the loft. Floor-to-ceiling windows give the spaces a light-filled atmosphere.
5. Extravagant Suites
Cruise lines are saving their most extravagant design for top-tier passengers. In the Regent Suite aboard the new Seven Seas Splendor and sister ship Seven Seas Explorer, passengers hang out in a space larger than the average American home -- 2,917 square feet (with a 958-square-foot balcony) -- and can relax in a private spa or on a $200,000 custom-made horsehair bed.
Royal Caribbean's over-the-top Ultimate Family Suite on Symphony of the Seas features a private cinema with video games, air hockey table, Lego wall and two-story tube slide. The two-level suite has separate sleeping areas for parents and , and a balcony with a whirlpool, kid climbing structure and dining table.
On Princess Cruises' Sky Princess, passengers staying in the two-bedroom Sky Suites enjoy some of the largest balconies at sea, averaging around 1,000 square feet. They have outdoor dining tables, sun loungers and plush clamshells, a telescope, a TV, a small bar and perfect views of the poolside movie screen.
Passengers in all of Virgin's RockStar Suites can take in views from their Peek-a-View outdoor terrace showers, and those in the Mega RockStar Suites can rock out in their own music room equipped with guitars and amp.
Carnival is upping its suite game, too. Of the 180 suites on Carnival Mardi Gras -- the highest number of suites on any Carnival ship -- 32 will be new Carnival Excel suites, offering access to a private pool and bar area. Among these suites are a pair of top-deck Suites that will be the largest suites in the fleet and come with private hot tubs and showers on their expansive balconies.
6. Solo Cabins
The consumer demand for single cabins is high, and they continue to be built into select new ships. On Celebrity Edge and sister ship Celerity Apex, there are 16 Infinite Veranda cabins built for single occupancy. The 131-square-foot spaces are a compact version of their double-occupancy counterparts, with a bed that's a twin as opposed to a queen-sized one.
Norwegian's Epic, Breakaway and Breakaway Plus ships have a Studio Complex, comprising solo cabins and a shared Studio Lounge for socializing. Virgin's Scarlet Lady has 40 cozy, 105-square-foot Solo Insider cabins and six 130-square-foot Solo Sea View cabins with a full-size bed and a hip desk facing the window. On Royal Caribbean's Quantum-class ships, small Studio cabins designed for one feature either ocean views or "virtual balconies," which are screen projections of real-time views.
MSC Cruises, Cunard and Holland America are among other lines with solo cabins.