If the bridge is the brain of a cruise ship, then the atrium is the heart. Found on nearly every ocean vessel, the atrium is a hub for everyday activities, events and parties and central to a ship's shopping, dining and entertainment venues.
Some atriums stand out from the pack as being truly spectacular. Here, we've hand-picked our eight favorite cruise ship atriums.
Framed by a stainless steel sculpture of spokes and spirals, Koningsdam's atrium is like a three-deck-tall work of art. The atrium -- which is capped by a ceiling with ever-changing projections of sunny days and starry nights -- is central to passenger service desks and a variety of dining venues, including Pinnacle Grill, Sel de Mer and Grand Dutch Cafe.
2. Seven Seas Explorer
Regent's Seven Seas Explorer oozes luxury, and the opulent theme is only furthered by the ship's awe-inducing atrium. This central space -- which spans seven decks -- houses two impressive staircases, a massive crystal chandelier and a circular floor that's inlaid with fine Italian marble.
3. Queen Mary 2
The Grand Lobby on Queen Mary 2 received a major upgrade in 2016 during the ship's £90 million refurbishment. Cunard stripped out the lobby's two elevators and added high-back chairs, a baby grand piano and new decor, including a bright, starburst-style carpet.
4. Norwegian Escape
Located on Deck 6, Norwegian Escape's atrium hosts a variety of classes and contests, movies and live demonstrations. Most notable is the space's floating glass staircase and its LED chandelier, which changes colors throughout the cruise.
5. MSC Bellissima
Nothing is quite like MSC Bellissima's atrium -- an 80m-long promenade called Galleria Bellissima. It is the beating heart of the ship, lined with shops, restaurants, bars and clubs, across two decks (there is a walkway which encircles the promenade, above), and, of course, that ceiling -- an LED dome featuring an ever-changing show that is hard to tear your eyes from.
6. Carnival Vista
Carnival Vista's atrium deviates from the line's typical decks-high design. Equipped with a relaxed seating area, a bar and a three-deck-high LCD funnel (called Dreamscape) with slow-moving digital images, Vista's atrium feels more like a hotel lobby than a cruise ship hub.
7. Empress of the Seas
Empress of the Seas may not be the newest Royal Caribbean ship, but its atrium feels almost space-age. Marked by a panoramic glass elevator and flanked by a variety of restaurants, shops and bars, this color-changing atrium also hosts acrobat acts, live music and cruise ship parties.
8. Celebrity Eclipse
The Lawn Club isn't the only place you'll find foliage on Celebrity Eclipse. Located inside the ship's atrium is a living tree, suspended between the lobby's four glass elevators. Down below, cruisers will find a grand marble staircase and foyer, a wide variety of art and daily events -- including those from the line's popular Top Chef partnership.
A standout design feature onboard P&O Cruises' Britannia is the stunning three-tier atrium complete with a starburst sculpture made from shards of aluminium and bathed in coloured light. The atrium is intended to be a destination -- rather than just an area to pass through -- with Eric Lanlard's Market Cafe and Olly Smith's The Glass House both central features.