Venetian Palaces, 1920s Paris, and the French Quarter – Designing Cruise Ships with a Theme

Design trends are in constant flux, both influencing and influenced by designers. This influence can be the consequence of outside factors – most recently, the impact of COVID-19, which will likely birth some design trends, such as the possible decline of the buffet.

In addition to this, taking trends into consideration too much in the design process can lead to a shorter lifespan for the design, as it will begin to go out of style. One way to avoid going out of fashion is to completely bypass modern trends. In the below cases, the designers have done this by designing the interiors of the ship to look exactly like something else – such as a Venetian palace! This form of thematic design is popular in cruise design – an industry well known for creating innovative forms of entertainment escapism. Take a look at the four examples below…


Uniworld S.S. La Venezia

Uniworld took inspiration from Northern Italy for this recent refurbishment job. Uniworld River Countess undertook the transformation into SS. La Venezia to provide a river cruising experience reminiscent of Venice in the early 20th century. The base of the design transformation came from the Fortuny textiles that are prevalent throughout. Founded in 1906 by Mariano Fortuny, the company is famous for both their fabrics, handmade in Venice, and for their era-defining Delphos dress created in 1907.

The lobby on board Venezia

Upon boarding Venezia, you enter the lobby (above) and are immediately struck by the glitzy gold décor. The Fortuny fabrics are in place in the free-standing centre sofa, and are comparatively understated. The gold is more than an accent here, with the stairs, handrails, wallpaper and decorative elements all coloured in gold.

The Panini Bar on Venezia

Moving into the Panini Bar the palette is expanded a bit, with striking blue sofas upholstered in a jacquard print from Fortuny. The flooring here is done in a herringbone style – traditional but expensive, carrying through the opulence from the lobby.

The Suite is as striking as the public areas, with the Fortuny fabrics coming into play throughout – in particular in the leopard-print centrepiece chair. The traditional glitz is in the detail here, with intricate patterns in the chair, delicate decorative elements in the side tables, and matching wood sliding doors separating the bed and lounge areas.


Uniworld S.S. Joie de Vivre

Described by Uniworld as ‘your floating pied-a-terre’, SS Joie de Vivre is inspired by 20th century Parisian design, from the 1920’s through to the 60’s. The winner of the Cruise Critic Editor’s Pick ‘Best new River Ship’ in 2017, Joie de Vivre features Parisian décor throughout, from the Club L’Esprit, to La Cave des Vins, to Le Bistrot.

Le Bistrot is reminiscent of classic Paris cafés such as Café de la Paix, or Les Deux Magots. To add to the feeling of the sidewalk café culture that Paris is famous for, the windows in Le Bistrot can be lowered for an open-air ambience.

Le Bistrot on SS Joie de Vivre, reminiscent of Parisian sidewalk cafes

Club L’Esprit is a flexible space, functioning as a spa and wellness centre in the day before transforming into Claude’s, a bar and entertainment venue, in the evenings. By day cruisers can enjoy a dip in the moodily-lit pool – by night the floor of that pool rises up to create space for tables and chairs. Club L’Esprit evokes the feeling of being in a Monet painting; the floral textiles, greenery, and low light provided by a spread of ‘stars’ on the ceiling combine to create a soft natural ambience. By night as Claude’s, the ceiling of ‘stars’ really comes into play, giving the feeling of dining outside. Furnishings in Club L’Esprit/Claude’s include rattan chairs with floral cushioning – choices typical of the art deco style popular in Paris in the early 20th century.


Cunard Queen Elizabeth

Launched in 2010, Queen Elizabeth is Cunard’s newest ship. Stepping on board however, the cruiser would believe they had stepped into a 1930’s hotel. As a tribute to the previous two Queen Elizabeth ships (Queen Elizabeth and Queen Elizabeth 2), the first of which was launched in the 30’s, Queen Elizabeth is decked out with many art deco interior touches.

The Britannia Restaurant on Queen Elizabeth

The large decorative element standing in the middle of the Britannia Restaurant brings to mind the most famous of art deco buildings, the Chrysler Building.

The library (right above) continues in the same style, with a large stained glass ceiling bathing the area in a yellow glow.


Carnival Mardi Gras – The French Quarter

Carnival’s newest ship, Mardi Gras, recently departed on sea trials from the Meyer Turku shipyard. The first North American ship to be powered by LNG, Mardi Gras will cost Carnival $1 billion and hold up to 6500 passengers. Among other notable onboard amenities, Mardi Gras will feature the first rollercoaster on a cruise ship.

The interiors of Mardi Gras were designed by Cruise Ship Interiors Expo Advisory Board member Petu Kummala. In an interview with Cruise & Ferry Review, Petu explained the French Quarter area of the ship:

“The French Quarter will heavily reflect the atmosphere and aesthetic of New Orleans’ notoriously vibrant neighbourhood, with various venues like the Brass Magnolia Jazz Bar, Emeril’s Bistro, Alchemy and Fortune Teller Bar providing guests with entertainment and exquisite cuisine”

Both venues are designed in the art deco style popular of traditional cruise liners. The focus in the Brass Magnolia Jazz bar is to create the atmosphere of drinking in a New Orleans jazz bar – and does so by combining low mood-lighting elements with motifs chosen to create excitement, such as the large herringbone flooring and the room-spanning plant design wall covering. These combine to create the ‘late night’ vibe you would get in an French Quarter jazz bar.


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