Has Cruise Ship Innovation Run Dry?

Over the past two decades we have seen unprecedented innovation in cruise ship design.

Not only has there been a quest to build the biggest cruise ships, they have increasingly become floating resorts, rather than just ‘ships’.

There have been many defining moments in cruise ship innovation. However one which stands out to me is when ‘Carnival Destiny’ entered service in 1995. She was the first cruise ships to exceed 100,000 gross Tonnes.

Before Destiny, Cunard’s RMS Queen Elizabeth Ocean Liner (1929) was the biggest at 83,673 gross tonnes.

Carnival Destiny (Courtesy Carnival)

Another defining moment was in 1998 when Royal Caribbean’s ‘Voyager of the Seas’ entered service. At 138,194 gross tonnes, she was the first cruise ship to have an internal ‘street’ down the middle, called the ‘Royal Promenade’. (Although the concept was originally featured on a Ferry).

Voyager was more like a floating theme park than any ship before her.

Royal Promenade (RCI)

Another milestone in ship design was the introduction of the world’s biggest cruise ship, Royal Caribbean’s ‘Oasis’ class at 225,282 gross tonnes.

Oasis had a unique split-superstructure design accommodating a Boardwalk, a Carousel and a Park.

The Norwegian Cruise line should also be credited for their ‘Freestyle’ dining innovation, which now dates back a couple of decades. Elements of it have been copied by most of the major lines.

NCL have also  introduced a cruise ship, Norwegian Bliss, with a Go-Kart track on the sun deck.

Norwegian Joy (Courtesy NCL)

Given all of this innovation in the past, is it still possible to build increasingly innovative ships in the future, or has the bar been set too high?

Are the major players running out of ideas to wow us?

RCI are famed for their originality, but personally I did not find RCI’s ‘Quantum’ class anywhere near as innovative as their previous, the ‘Oasis’ class, therefore a little disappointing. For example I though that Oasis’s  Aqua-Theatre was more innovative than Quantum’s Two70 Degree lounge. which is essentially a high-tech show lounge. The Aqua-Theatre is unique. I found Oasis’s ‘Boardwalk’ and ‘Central Park’ more innovative than Quantum’s ‘Seaplex’, which is essentially a sports Hall.

Although the Quantum class has lots of Technology,  take away the frills and the Quantum ships internal design was very similar to NCL’s Epic/Breakaway/Breakaway+ ships. It has multiple dining and entertainment venues, coupled with flexible dining, but without the excellent NCL ‘Waterfront’ feature.  NCL call it ‘Freestyle’, RCI copied it and called it ‘Dynamic Dining’.

(RCI have since revised Dynamic Dining, as it did not impress their passengers).

North Star, Quantum of the Seas (RCI)

The Mediterranean Shipping Company’s (MSC) new mega-ship ‘Seaside’ features a wide promenade deck, which features dining options and bars. NCL pioneer this, with their ‘Breakaway’ design and it’s ‘Waterfront’ promenade. MSC’s other newbuild, Meraviglia, features an internal street, RCI’s ‘Royal Promenade’ in style. The main difference is that MSC’s one has a digital sky.

The Waterfront (NCL)

I’m not convinced about the innovations on-board Celebrity’s newest ship design, ‘Celebrity Edge’, either.

The new stateroom design called ‘Infinite Verandas’, is very nice. However it was first featured on European river boats some years back.

The ‘Magic Carpet’ platform which climbs up one side of the ship is part ‘Rising Tide Bar’ (Oasis) and part ‘North-star’ (Quantum observation pod.) The jury is still out if this is a ‘real’ innovation or just another gimmick.

The Magic Carpet (Courtsey Celebrity)

I certainly think it is increasingly difficult for the cruise lines to come up with something truly innovative: something that has not been done before on-board another cruise ship.

The cruise lines are intent in fitting more passengers on-board their newbuilds, so space can be a luxury, even on the biggest ships.  This is probably why many of the innovations are actually located on the outside or on the sundecks of new ships.

However, when they do come up with something original, like a Go-Kart track on-board a ship, do we really need it?

Do we even need constant ‘innovation’?

As somebody very wise once said: “What ever happened to just cruising”?