Last updated: 04:00 PM ET, Mon July 11 2016

Nothing New Under The Sun: Which Cruise Ship Features Are Truly Original?

Cruise Line & Cruise Ship | Royal Caribbean International | Jason Leppert | July 11, 2016

Nothing New Under The Sun: Which Cruise Ship Features Are Truly Original?

PHOTO: Rendering courtesy of Royal Caribbean International 

It is often said that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, but to what degree that resonates onboard cruise ships is mixed. With so many new vessels coming out, it’s inevitable that some features, classic or new, will resemble ones that have been seen before, but some are more blatant than others. And originality almost always wins.

To a large degree, cruise ship layouts have remained the same for decades. You can generally expect a main show lounge to be positioned forward in the bow, a main restaurant somewhere amidship or at the stern and a pool deck perched high above. Classically, observation lounges have been positioned forward on the upper deck, but sadly those are less common these days with a few notable exceptions.

To compete, feature innovations and layout reconsiderations have become more mainstream in recent cruise ship designs, however. Royal Caribbean International has been at the forefront of originality for years, adding unprecedented surf and skydiving simulators on deck or more recently its North Star passenger pod ride craned up and over the sides of its Quantum-class ships. These are undoubtedly attractions that stand out and garner great attention.

 READ MORE: The 7 Best Cruise Ship Observation Lounges 

Royal Caribbean even rethought its signature Viking Crown Lounge on the Quantum of the Seas and its sisters to follow. These ships instead have the alternative Two70 entertainment venue overlooking the stern and wake. The double-decker space is lined with 270-degree wraparound windows for observation by day, crafting a structurally magnificent multipurpose room that converts for production shows by night.

While MSC Cruises innovates in its own way – just look at the wild architecture of its forthcoming MSC Seaside – it also appears to be emulating Royal Caribbean’s Two70 on its future MSC Meraviglia with its own aft Carousel Lounge. The venue will host entertainment in the form of the line’s exclusive Cirque du Soleil partnership, where MSC’s uniqueness will come into play.

Elsewhere, Norwegian Cruise Line’s Waterfront al fresco boardwalk, first introduced on its Norwegian Breakaway, has also been repeated somewhat on Carnival Cruise Line’s latest Carnival Vista, but NCL’s variety was really an evolution of what Carnival started with its promenade deck barbecue before either that came after. It really just goes to show that there is literally nothing new under the sun, and what goes around comes around.

READ MORE: Top 10 Coolest Things Aboard the Biggest Cruise Ship in the World 

It does make one take pause when a venue is copied as closely as Disney Cruise Line’s Skyline Lounge from its Disney Dream and Disney Fantasy ships aboard Norwegian’s new Norwegian Escape, where it is called Skyline Bar. They didn't even dramatically change the venue name, and both display virtual vistas of evening cityscapes on digital screens. Still, Disney’s presents a far better version with higher resolutions and automobile and pedestrian animations activating the scene.

But even Disney’s AquaDunk waterslide on the Disney Magic is an off-the-shelf free-fall waterslide not unlike those found aboard Carnival and Norwegian. The difference comes in how well integrated Disney’s is chromatically with the rest of the ship and the playful story of Donald Duck it tells along the way.

The bottom line is, everyone copies. Some just do a better job of coming up with their own spin than others. Of course, we also live in a time where movie remakes are cash cows for film studios, so tried-and-true has proven to be a good formula in pop culture as well. However, originality is always ideal. It may be harder to come up with fresh ideas, but they usually pay greater dividends with customer satisfaction, onboard and off, in the long run.


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