Cruise Ship Interiors through the Decades – part 2

Today we’ll be taking another trip down memory lane, exploring how cruise ship interiors have evolved through the years. Part 2 of Cruise Ship Interiors through the Decades takes a close look at Hurtigruten MS Finnmarken and P&O Oriana, two ships built in the late 1950’s/early 1960’s with a post-war/mid-century design direction.

To give each of these amazing photos the space to stand out, we’re making this a multi-part article. If you missed part 1, take a look at the interiors of USSCo TSS Awatea and P&O Orcades here.


1956 – Hurtigruten MS Finnmarken

Hurtigruten’s 1956 MS Finnmarken currently sits in drydock in Stokmarknes, Norway, as the centrepiece of the Hurtigruten museum. Nordic civil engineering company Peab are undertaking a project to encase the ship in a glass and steel protective structure, protecting it from the elements and providing a foundation for the museum.

cruise ship interiors through the decades - the salon on Finnmarken 1956, courtesy of Hurtigruten
Courtesy of Hurtigruten – the Salon on board Finnmarken

As seen in the above images, the mid-century Scandinavian design influence is clear on the second of three Finnmarken‘s from Norwegian cruise line Hurtigruten. Built in 1956, Finnmarken features staples of 50s interior design, such as the linoleum flooring, mix of primary colours, and teak furniture. The decorative elements keep to the nautical theme, with a glass mosaic of mermaids made by Norwegian painter Solveig Wiik. Overall however, the decoration in the Salon is kept to a minimum, allowing the mix of coloured furniture to stand out.

The far wall in the picture above on the right shows a plant divider, seen in more detail in the below image from Museum Nord.

cruise ship interiors through the decades - the salon on MS Finnmarken 1956, Photo: Sigurd Skjegstad / Museum Nord
Photo: Sigurd Skjegstad / Museum Nord

cruise ship interiors through the decades - the salon on Finnmarken 1956, courtesy of Hurtigruten
Courtesy of Hurtigruten

1960 – P&O Oriana

Launched in 1960, Oriana was the last cruise liner to run under the Orient Line name before the merger with P&O Peninsular resulted in ‘P&O Line’, which was then changed in 1973 to P&O Cruises as it is today. After her retirement in 1986, Oriana served as a floating hotel and museum in Osaka and Shanghai until 2005.

These two photos of the public rooms on board Oriana show a clear American-Scandinavian influence in interior design popular in the late 1950’s and early 1960’s, with the soft curves reminiscent of early Saarinen or Eames furniture. This is contrasted with the light-coloured, sharp-angled feature armchairs and large mural feature wall.

Looking to the wall coverings, the left image shows a more refined nod to the commercial textile designers of the day, hinting at the post-war popularity of Lucienne Day and Jacqueline Groag whilst retaining the restrained and sophisticated feel of a first class lounge, in what was at the time a two-class ship.

It’s also worth noting the open-plan layout of the lounges in these two images – while cruise ships are often open-plan by nature, it is possible that this was a purposeful design decision, based on the growing popularity of open-plan interior spaces in the 1950’s.

Speaking of Saarinen, these images of Oriana from Cruiseship Odyssey’s 1981 visit show a clear ‘Tulip’ influence, with Tulip-inspired tables and chairs both inside and around the outside pool area. The pool area also features injection-molded stack-able outdoor chairs, which look like Helmut Batzner’s monobloc Bofinger chairs. A mid-60s classic, the Bofinger chair helped create a new typology in furniture design for plastic, by making shapes that could not be recreated with other materials. As well as this, they were durable and easy to clean – both characteristics required of outdoor furniture on a cruise ship!


Both ships have a distinctly mid-century design direction, but interestingly both are also restrained in their design choices. This is indicative of what the cruise industry was at the time – an expensive, luxury option that, by the late 1960’s, was losing out to aviation. Despite this, both ships still held an elegance and grandeur resulting from a considered design approach, that is still referenced in today’s cruise industry.

Look out for part 3, where we’ll be pushing further into the 1960’s with two stunning Italian Line ships, Michelangelo and Raffaelo.


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