The world of cruise is continuously changing, evolving, and most importantly, adapting to its guests’ desires and needs, as well as emerging design trends. One of the key aspects of providing a guest with the holiday of their dreams is undoubtedly the cruise ship’s interior.

Guests of today have higher expectations than ever, given the ease of access when it comes to exploring other options. Today we can choose between a kitschy-chic Airbnb in Brooklyn, a pod hotel in Tokyo, a quaint cottage in the Cotswolds, or even a penthouse suite in Dubai. Designers have a duty to ensure guests continue to choose cruise ships over alternative options. Of course, keeping up with guests’ ever-evolving wants is what these world-class design studios are best at, and why they are employed by the world’s most prestigious cruise lines. But what interior design trends are ranking top in 2019?

Interior design trends can be controversial
The bold Razzle Dazzle restaurant on board Scarlet Lady

Keeping it personal

Personalization is nothing new, but the way it has been interpreted by cruise lines certainly is. Taking personalisation to new heights, design studios are encouraged to create tailored interiors depending on the guest demographic. Take Virgin Voyages for example, a relatively new player to the cruise industry. The very reason Virgin Voyages is making such an impact is because of its extreme personalisation. While a baby boomer may find Scarlet Lady’s new Razzle Dazzle restaurant (pictured above) deterring, it’s likely to be much more popular with the line’s target audience of millennials, illustrating just how much design trends can impact a guest’s cruising choice.

Home away from home

More and more guests are opting for down-to-earth luxury, the kind that feels like you could possibly own it. Taking a note from the ever-increasing popularity of Airbnb properties, cruise lines are turning to design studios to request more home-like cabins and suites. Creating interiors that mimic the look and feel of a home, rather than a hotel room, is also proving popular with more long-term guests.

According to Studio DADO’s Javier Calle, “people are looking for authenticity and a sense of belonging”, as opposed to the ultra-shiny, show-home like hotel rooms and cruise cabins of the past.

Interior design trends onboard Celebrity Flora
A popular trend in cruise cabins and suites is to capture the feeling of a home away from home

Inside out

Touched upon in our 2019 interiors guide, the indoor and outdoor trend is still running large. We’re expecting to see even more rugged and raw-finish décor and furnishings. Plus, keep an eye out for all-season terraces (showcased above on Celebrity Flora), a surplus of flora and plants, and heaps of glass panelling.

Speaking in CSI’s ‘Design Trends 2022’ panel, Andy Yuill, managing director at SMC Design, shed some light on the increasing popularity of biophilic design, a design philosophy that incorporates natural materials, light, vegetation, and other experiences from the natural world into the built environment. As Andy explained, “Biophilic design is the passenger’s ability to get close to nature”, which is only growing in popularity, possibly as a reaction to our increasingly digital and industrial world.

The Solarium on board Quantum of the Seas’ design is abundant with plants and natural lighting

Sustainability, sustainability, sustainability

Such a hot topic we had to write it three times over, sustainability is arguably the most important trend in the industry right now, with all parts of the cruise industry working on sustainability initiatives and more. In 2019, using sustainable materials and products is a must (unless you want to be completely disregarded by Gen Z that is). Take tips from the likes of Bolidt, whose flooring composites offer an eco-friendly alternative to the more demanding wooden teak, and Shores Global, who has taken unwanted ocean plastic to form a brand-new product in the form of its Ocean Chair.

In the same way that guests are searching for more authentic experiences, they are also opting for more sustainable ones. Not only are guests looking for “authenticity”, as Javier told us, but also interiors that are “more socially responsible”, based on the materials they encompass. 

“The next generation of consumers and travelers is demanding us to take action. If they are not satisfied with the way we deal with environmental issues, they won’t be going on a cruise. We need to make ourselves attractive to this young generation of consumers.” – Lone Ditmer, Dansk Wilton


Not only do guests want to be offered the holiday of their dreams (ours is a three-week cruise around the Caribbean if anyone was wondering), but they also want to be told a story. Cruise operators are working with design studios to translate their brand identity and brand story into unique spaces. Just look at SMC Design’s recent work with Saga Cruises, which totally transformed its fleet’s interiors while staying true to Saga’s classic branding.

No longer content with mere aesthetic beauty, “guests are looking for more meaningful experiences”, says Javier. Part of the designer’s role is to “manipulate the way [guests] feel through space”. The story being told very much depends upon, most importantly, the cruise line’s particular vision and brand identity, but also the location, ship’s history, and target demographic.

Interior design trends by Tillberg Design of Sweden
Guests are increasingly seeking meaningful experiences and spaces that tell a story

Multipurpose spaces

In 2019, it’s not enough for a space to fulfil just one function, especially when cruise real estate is such a limited resource. Multipurpose spaces continue to be a favourite among cruise designers. “Onboard a ship, people still think there is a lobby and that there is a reception, but those spaces almost shouldn’t be referred to as that. They should have other uses; they should have other items that they bring together”, commented Andy Yuill. “As designers, we’ve got to keep challenging how space is used”, he continued.

Technology reigns supreme

This may not be a major factor for our interior designers, but smart room tech is on the rise. In line with creating more personalized experiences, cruise operators are leaning on the Internet of Things (IoT) to provide bespoke experiences in and out of the cabin. A quick Google search shows just how rapidly cruise digitalization is occurring, with the likes of MSC Cruises’ Ocean Medallion improving the guest experience tenfold.

In 2021, MSC Virtuosa sailed passengers into the future with a brand new venue, the MSC Starship Club. Here, passengers can interact with 3D holograms, an immersive digital art wall, a 12-seater infinity digital interactive table, and Rob, the first-ever humanoid bartender at sea!

Timeless design

Creating “timeless” designs as much as four or five years in advance may seem like a challenge, but indisputably it’s what these talented designers do best.  Though these design trends may be at their most prominent now, we’re likely to continue to see interiors influenced by them on ships debuting within the next five or so years. 

Want to stay up to date with the latest cruise interior design trends? Cruise Ship Interiors Design Expo Americas is the only trade show dedicated to this niche industry, offering two days of hundreds of exhibitors, an interactive conference program and networking events.

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