For some travelers, a cruise ship is merely a method of transportation to get to their destination.  Fore, aft, starboard – none of it matters as long as it docks near an island with azure-blue seas, a sandy beach, and a drink with a little umbrella in it.

For others though, the ship is as much of a destination for them as the actual ports of call and in some cases, they’d be happy if the ship just cruised in a circle for seven days.

It is in that spirit that we present the first of a series of articles here on From the Deck Chair.  Today’s focus: the public rooms that have most inspired us, awed us with their design, or made us feel completely at home, never wanting to leave the ship.  Each ship contains its own personality, and the interior design elements present on each line reinforce this, and are designed to constantly stimulate the senses. So without further adieu, let’s begin.

The Atrium – OosterdamHolland America Line

The stunning atrium onboard Oosterdam.
Photo © Aaron Saunders
In contrast with the sprawling multi-story atria found on other ships, the Holland America design team went in a different direction on their Vista-class ships.  Onboard each ship, including Oosterdam, the three-story atrium is still the heart of the ship, but in the subtle, elegant style Holland America is famous for.  
Led by Frans Dingemans, the design team has managed to evoke a sense of wonder and discovery aboard the Vista-class ships through the clever use of color and texture, literally creating new experiences for passengers both during the day and at night.  Dingemans and his team of talented architects and artists know what they’re doing: they’ve been responsible for the interior design of every Holland America vessel since the Statendam in 1992.  Not only does each ship feature a multi-million dollar art collection, in many cases the interior design can itself be considered a work of art.
 The lower level of the atrium features a martini bar.
Photo © Aaron Saunders
The beautiful atrium on the Oosterdam exemplifies this wonderfully.  Spanning three decks, the atrium plays host to a martini bar; the Purser’s Desk and Shore Excursion desk; the Pinnacle Grill, Holland America’s premium specialty restaurant; and the line’s famous Ocean Bar, which adorns the atrium’s highest deck.
Topping off this space is an enormous Waterford-crystal Earth.  This can also be made to rotate slowly, though on two of our three voyages it remained stationary.  Hand-crafted in Waterford, Ireland, the globe is perhaps one of the most striking and understated pieces of art onboard.  
Also equally striking is the choice of colors.  With dark navy carpeting offset by ivory-white tile floor, purple bar stools and ketchup-colored chairs, you’d be forgiven for thinking that someone on the design team suffered from color-blinness.  Once onboard though, the colors work perfectly and create a bright, exuberant feeling during the day, and a classy, intimate atmosphere at night.  
The interiors aboard Holland America line ships play with the senses moreso than other lines and create a constant sense of discovery as passengers journey from room to room.  Rather than being in-your-face about it, like Royal Caribbean’s jaw-dropping interior promenades, Dingemans has gone for an understated feeling.  It’s only after you’ve rode the onboard elevators for three days that you realize the cast-aluminum doors are inspired by art deco designs from the Chrysler Building in New York.
Everything – RMS Queen Mary 2Cunard Line
One of the four stair towers onboard QM2.
Photo © Aaron Saunders
It took only a few minutes to realize that trying to pick the best public room onboard Cunard’s Queen Mary 2 (QM2) was like trying to shovel snow with a toothbrush: impossible.  
Why?  Because the interior spaces on this venerable 1,132-foot long ocean liner are just so well done.  There are so many of them that on a typical six-day transatlantic crossing, chances are you won’t be able to see them all.  You will be wowed at every turn: from the impressive Planetarium (the only one at sea) to the largest ballroom at sea (The Queen’s Room), to the understated elegance of The Chart Room and the ultimate relaxation of the Canyon Ranch Spa, expect to be both disoriented and overwhelmed – in a good way.
Even the stair towers are impressive: QM2 boasts four, labeled A to D.  Each is done with a different type of wood paneling, carpeting, and artwork.  Then there’s the so-called ‘tween-deck’ passages.  Extending at the forward end of the ship, and amidships around the dining room, these ‘secret’ passages are hallways that run in between the Planetarium and main theatre and allow access to the forward spaces of the ship, like Cunard Connexions.  Near the dining room, these hallways include an art gallery and photo gallery, and actually run in between the first and second floors of the dining room in order to access the Queen’s Room immediately aft.  This unique solution allowed QM2’s interior designers to use the full width of the ship for most public rooms.
Notice the high ceilings and tapered floor of the Queen’s Room.
Photo © Aaron Saunders
 Everything here is about scale, and it’s clear the designers pulled out all the stops to make QM2‘s interior spaces as unique and breathtaking as her exterior profile.
Ceilings are far higher than normal for most cruise ships.  This allowed the designers to play with another element of space: height.  Chandeliers and decorative atmosphere lighting adorn the tops of public rooms, giving each room its own distinct feel and mood, particularly at night, when the ship becomes a cozy, clubby modern throwback to the gory days of the transatlantic liners.
The atrium aboard QM2.
Photo © Aaron Saunders

This attention to detail is most evident in the ships sparkling atrium.  Flanked by a grand staircase done in white with black accents and Cunard-red carpeting, the atrium is also host to twelve so-called Atrium Cabins, visible in the photograph above.  These look out onto the atrium itself, as well as the large mural of the QM2 that adorns the adjacent bulkhead.
There’s not many places in the world – on land or at sea – where a person can truly feel like a King or Queen as well they can aboard QM2.  In forty years, people will talk about her with the same nostalgic fondness typically reserved for the Normandie or the original Queen Mary.
Bar Central – Norwegian Pearl, Norwegian Cruise Line
Bar Central aboard Norwegian Pearl.
Photo © Aaron Saunders

NCL has always been an innovator in the cruise industry.  Sometimes, this ability to embrace new trends has earned them a degree of criticism that their equally-industrious competitor, Royal Caribbean, has managed to avoid.  Like the true champ they are, NCL always manages to pick themselves up and dust themselves off and create something truly unique in the process.  
Bar Central is a concept that has been part of NCL ships since the Norwegian Star hit the scene in 2001.  The idea was to offer multiple bars in a single area, each with its own unique menu, decor, and dedicated servers.  Rather than have passengers disperse all over the ship to far-flung locations, these would be geared towards the pre-and-post dinner drink crowd.  NCL continually refined this concept with each new ship.
Shaker’s Martini Bar onboard the NCL Pearl.
Photo © Aaron Saunders
Aboard Norwegian Pearl, Maltings kicks things off.  Focusing on fine cognacs and whisky, Maltings has a gentleman’s club atmosphere with its low black chairs, art deco paintings and dark wood paneled walls.  Moving forward, we come to Shakers Martini Bar.  Changing both style and menu, Shakers serves up a variety of martini delights in a comfortable, trendy setting emphasizing neon lighting and fanciful colors.  Lastly, we come to Magnum’s Champagne Bar, featuring a wall of blue bubbly cascading behind the bar.  Serving up a variety of champagne delights, Magnum’s changes the tone and pace of Bar Central with its soft lighting and soothing pianist.  Colors change from the powerful blues of Shakers to soft and muted oranges and coppers.  An excellent way to end the evening onboard this beautiful ship.
There’s more public rooms to come later this week – stay tuned for Part 2 of our feature on cruise ship interior design, as well as the usual news and more!


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