6 Cruise Ship Innovations That Sounded Better on Paper

cruise ship innovations robot bartenders
Some ideas are great in theory. - Photo by Royal Caribbean

Over the past decade, an unprecedented wave of innovation has turned modern cruise ships into technologically-advanced, hyper-modern marvels that give even the flashiest hotels in Vegas a run for their money. Of course, not every idea is going to be a winner. Some were outright failures, and others, while not necessarily bad, just didn’t live up to the gratuitous PR hype. Here are six of those ideas:

1. Virtual Balconies on Royal Caribbean

virtual balcony royal caribbean
Photo by Royal Caribbean

The Hype: The virtual balcony was Royal Caribbean’s attempt to make interior cabins more appealing. The 80” floor-to-ceiling HD TV displays a live feed from cameras on the ship, making it possible to watch the ship sail into and out of port in real time.

Why It Wasn't That Great: There are two reasons most people book inside cabins: 1) Because they only use their cabin for sleeping and 2) to spend as little money as possible. The first kind of cruiser doesn’t have much use for this, and the second kind is not going to love that they cost more than a regular inside stateroom.

The Kicker: Ever go to a big concert or game and catch yourself watching the huge jumbo-trons because your seats aren’t great, and then realize you paid lots of money just to watch an enormous television? That’s kind of what this feels like, except you’re still sitting in your room.


2. New Wave Split Bathrooms on Norwegian Epic

norwegian epic split bathrooms
Photo by Norwegian Cruise Line

The Hype: The New Wave bathrooms on Norwegian Epic were supposed to be a modern take on the typically drab and cramped cruise ship bathroom. The facilities were split into two areas behind frosted glass doors, with the shower on one side and the toilet on the other. We’re guessing that a couple of bold designers pitched this layout as a way for two people to use the shower and the toilet at the same time.

Why It Wasn't That Great: The frosted glass is still glass, so when the lights are on in the bathroom and off in the stateroom, you can still see silhouettes pretty clearly. In other words, you know exactly what someone is doing in there. The design change also made it possible to condense the already small cabin even further, and the extra space was used to fit more balcony cabins on the ship.

The Kicker: Neither area is completely airtight, so every sound (and smell) made in either facility will quickly make its way into the rest of the cabin.


3. The Seawalk on Princess

seawalk princess and MSC
Photo by Princess Cruises

The Hype: This glass walkway extends over the side of the ship more than a hundred feet above sea level.

Why It Wasn't That Great: The design is sleek and modern, the views are beautiful, and unless you have nerves of steel you’ll get a nice little spike of adrenaline when you see the crashing waves 128 feet below. There’s just… well… there’s not much to do up there. The view is nice (even though you’re really not completely over the water at any point), but there’s no seating to enjoy it. You walk across it (or dramatically run across like the models in the press photos), take a few pictures, and that’s it.

The Kicker: It’s open 24/7, which is nice if you like feeling like you’re floating above a dark, empty void that you could fall into at any moment.


4. Robot Bartenders on Royal Caribbean

robot bartenders royal caribbean
Photo by Royal Caribbean

The Hype: When these automated servers made their debut, Royal Caribbean boasted they could mix all kinds of drinks, further enticing cruisers with the option of creating their own cocktails with 30 different spirits and mixers.

Why It Wasn't That Great: We have to admit that the robotic ballet is fun to watch, but the interest factor fades pretty quickly. It also doesn’t help that the bar often is closed for cleaning as the robots have a tendency to spill drinks. We assume that a robotic arm with a mop attachment is in the works.

The Kicker: You still have to pay a tip, but it goes directly to the cruise line instead of the ship’s staff.


5. Victoria’s Secret on Carnival Horizon

victorias secret carnival Horizon
Photo by Carnival

The Hype: Carnival Horizon features a modern two-level mall on decks four and five with plenty of venues making their debut at sea including Michael Kors, Kate Spade, Breitling, and Hublot. But there was one shop that seemed a little out of place for such a family-oriented line.

Why It Wasn't That Great: We get that some people like to shop on board, but how far does this have to go?

The Kicker: We're trying to imagine the meeting where someone pitched the idea of "duty-free lingerie" and everyone nodded their heads in agreement.


6. Magic Carpet on Celebrity Edge

celebrity edge magic carpet
Photo by Celebrity Cruises

The Hype: We saved this one for last because the ship hasn’t launched yet, so we might be proven wrong. The Magic Carpet is a moving venue that travels up and down the side of Celebrity Edge. The venue also changes its function depending on where it’s stopped, from an extension of the pool on deck 14 to an open-air dining experience on deck 5.

Why It Wasn't That Great: When we first heard about this, we immediately pictured something like the Rising Tide Bar on Royal Caribbean but on the outside of the ship. We couldn't wait to ride an elevator-like bar that treated cruisers to better and better views as it slowly ascended to the top decks. Our hopes were quickly dashed, however, when Celebrity made it very clear that cruisers would not be able to sit aboard the Magic Carpet as it changed levels. So it’s less of “magic carpet” and more like a “carpet that gets moved from room to room when you’re not looking”.

The Kicker: It’s an impressive feat of engineering, but there are already venues that change their identity and function depending on the time of day, and they don’t need to switch their location to do it.


Posted by MisterBill99

MSC Seaside has a similar walkway at the back of the ship, except you overlook a pool area below. It was interesting the first time. I'd like to nominate Seaside's (and now Seaview as well) entire outside promenade for this list. They made it seem like they had taken stuff that was normally inside like shops and bars and moved them outside. Wrong. In reality most of the outside area is just overflow seating for the buffet (which is needed since the indoor seating area is too small). And the buffet closes at 3pm to turn it into dinner seating for the lower experience Bella customers, so you can't even use it the whole time. There are no bars or shopping on the outside walkway. Oh, and having the main buffet on deck 8 was an interesting idea as well since it would be easy to access after dinner for late night snacks, until they announced that it wasn't open then. Captain Scala (from MSC) told us that on the next 2 ships in the Seaside family (after Seaview), the buffet will be moving back upstairs so it will be interesting to see what they do with the outside walkway.

Posted by BDRebel

We cannot forget Princess' Medallion Cruises. Amid great hype from the press office, they failed to produce it on time. The latest forecast is that it will be ready 2 years late.

Posted by kel400

fabulous article. hey i would pay for duty free lingerie! i thought they were gonna say it was like the VS at airports. they don't even sell lingerie there, just makeup, accessories and clothes.

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