Why Cruise? Cutting Edge Design

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If you associate cruise ship interiors with tacky design, you'll be glad to know the industry is working hard to lose its reputation for turquoise bedspreads, frosted glass, and abundant brass fixtures. Mega cruise ships such as the Oceania Marina, launching later this year with stylish decor by designer Ralph Lauren, and the largest passenger vessel in the world, the Oasis of the Seas, with its massive glass-domed atrium, prove it's possible to be big and beautiful.
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Why Cruise? Cutting Edge Design

If you associate cruise ship interiors with tacky design, you'll be glad to know the industry is working hard to lose its reputation for turquoise bedspreads, frosted glass, and abundant brass fixtures. Mega cruise ships such as the Oceania Marina, launching later this year with stylish decor by designer Ralph Lauren, and the largest passenger vessel in the world, the Oasis of the Seas, with its massive glass-domed atrium, prove it's possible to be big and beautiful. Smaller ships can offer more boutique-style elegance -- the recently renovated Road To Mandalay, an 82-passenger cruiser, features teak carvings and silkscreen pillows in muted shades, while M/V Aqua, a 24-passenger ship that sails the Amazon, has 12 lavish suites, enormous picture windows and curated nature photography. "It used to be that the interiors made you seasick," says Valerie D'elia, NY1's travel commentator and veteran of 80 cruises. "What's happening now is that ships are becoming more like resort destinations. They are no longer simply a means of transportation from point A to point B." And if that means nixing the Love Boat gaudiness of old, we're all for it.

Why Cruise? Cutting Edge Design

Myanmar/Burma

If you're not familiar with Rudyard Kipling's poem Mandalay (and it's repeated refrain 'On the road to Mandalay'), the name of this luxury cruiser might seem a bit of a misnomer, considering it follows Myanmar's winding Irrawaddy River. What is unmistakable, however, is that its beautiful interiors play up the golden age of exploration. The vessel's 45 newly refurbished cabins, designed by French Laotian Architecture Firm Ateliers de la Péninsule, are filled with Burmese jade wall tiles, custom lacquerware, teak carvings, and steamer style furniture upholstered in Jim Thompson silks. Huge picture windows allow passengers to admire the ancient UNESCO monasteries and ornate pagodas passing by, while flat screen TVs, an exercise room, piano bar, pool, and a recently added teak deck strewn with cane furniture are touches of modern comfort. And if you're inspired by Road to Mandalay's décor, it's possible to pick up some collectables on excursions to regional markets, temples and villages.

Why Cruise? Cutting Edge Design

Caribbean

It may be the world's largest cruise ship, but the Oasis of the Seas could also be considered the West Indies' newest island; with space for 5,400 passengers and 2,791 staff, it's big enough to house the entire population of St. Barts. At the ship's core is a 27,000 square foot atrium called Central Park -- an impressive design feature under a crystal canopy and sculptured glass domes festooned with 12,000 plants including butterfly lilies and jasmine, not to mention edible species like cocoa trees and dwarf bananas. While the ship's 28 tasteful blue and green loft suites have modern chaise lounges and sofas, it's the public areas that really impress, with stand out attractions including a Coney Island-style boardwalk and a handmade carousel. If you're looking for other launches on a grand scale, Oasis of the Seas' equally gigantic sister ship, the Allure of the Seas makes her debut in November 2010.

Why Cruise? Cutting Edge Design

Peru

Style hasn't been sacrificed for adventure on the M/V Aqua's Amazon cruise ship in Peru. This decor-forward vessel features 12 airy suites (starting at 230 square feet) designed by Peru's top architect/designer Jordi Puig and decorated with photographs of local nature by French photographer Jean Claude Constant. The ship's modern, wood-paneled exterior is just as striking as the contemporary décor inside. Cabins have been done out in light tropical woods and dark stone materials accented by red club chairs, California King sized beds topped with 280 thread-count Peruvian sheets, and bathrooms separated from the main suite by Brazilian slate walls. But it's the cabins' floor-to-ceiling windows that have the big wow factor, offering passengers sublime views of the Pacaya Samiria Reserve and wildlife, including pink dolphins and red macaws.

Why Cruise? Cutting Edge Design

Egypt

Launched in 2009, the Amirat is modeled on a Dahabeya -- the long double sail ships originally designed in the early 20th century to transport royal families down the Nile. Today, it cruises in serious Nile style and features six cabins and two spacious suites. Décor includes netted beds, parquet floors, copper sinks, warm amber wall sconces, chairs made of rope and other nautical touches that were dropped from cruise interiors during the 1960s jet age. The open-air whirlpool tub and plasma TVs are reminders that you're in the 21st century. A wooden rooftop sundeck with cream colored tents and day beds and a partially shaded lounge serve as elegant common areas to kick back in when you're not on excursions to Egyptian temples, ruins, and tombs.

Why Cruise? Cutting Edge Design

Caribbean and Mediterranean

"My, she was yar." You'll want to quote Katherine Hepburn from Philadelphia Story when you hop aboard the Sea Cloud, a vintage 32-cabin, 30-sail yacht full of over-the-top opulence (oh, and 'yar' means easy to handle). This dazzling, four-masted barque was originally commissioned by Wall Street mogul E. F. Hutton in 1931, while his wife Marjorie Merriweather Post was brought on board to design the interiors. The current cabins have been refurbished in the same vein, with Louis XIV-style beds, gleaming Carrara marble baths, antique fireplaces, bidets, walk-in closets, and golden showerheads. Dinner is served in an elegant dining room marked by exposed beams, beveled windows, rich wood paneling, chandeliers, and paintings of other 'yar' ships. The MS Sea Cloud sails in the Caribbean in the winter and the Mediterranean the rest of the year.

Why Cruise? Cutting Edge Design

Egypt

When you opt for a cultural cruise between Luxor and Aswan, it seems only fitting that your surroundings should be up to par. The Oberoi's Zahra has been custom made for the job, with timber floors, large windows, and luxurious modern furnishings that take it to the top of the design class. Cabins on this 54-passenger ship come in sophisticated muted beiges and light earth tones, paired with dark wooden chairs and desks and angular wicker loungers. Deep tubs in the mosaic-tiled bathrooms are an extra few vessels of this size offer. In the public spaces there are outdoor wooden hot tubs, a compact pool, and a subdued holistic spa with four spa suites and steam showers. In keeping with the laidback surroundings, Oberoi times its excursions so they don't overlap with other tour groups, and there's a fleet of Mercedes onshore waiting to chauffeur guests off the beaten track.

Why Cruise? Cutting Edge Design

Greece and Turkey
br/>This sturdy Gulet -- a two-masted vessel from Turkey -- sports four sails and five staterooms and is the perfect option for those looking to sail the Aegean Sea in traditional style. Each cabin features wall-to-wall wood paneling and en suite bathrooms with hydro massage showers (book the stateroom with ensuite Jacuzzi). As well as an inner saloon, the beautiful teak deck is ideal for dining under the stars and relaxing after hard-core excursions, such as walking the dramatic Turquoise Coast in southwest Turkey. But be warned, while there are plenty of lounging spots on the Queen of Karia, Butterfield + Robinson Cruises are designed for active types rather than those seeking a laidback getaway.

Why Cruise? Cutting Edge Design

Europe

The streamlined aesthetic of M/S Le Boreal is a striking example of just how sharp your transport can be these days. Its 132 staterooms and spacious suites, created by French designers Compagnie du Ponant, are done out in various shades of gray and white, with sparing use of orange accents. Together, the monochromatic leather furniture, marble baths and flat screen TVs create a sanctuary as hip as any design hotel room. Though many ships in Tauck's fleet stand out for their sheer good looks, Le Boreal, poised to launch in May 2010, is the most tasteful of the bunch -- the piano lounge with white pedestal chairs and swimming pool linked to the upper decks by a spiral staircase, have a distinct retro feel. Initial sailings will be around Europe to locations like Reykjavik in Iceland, as well as more mainstream spots such as Venice in Italy; undoubtedly, the perfect way to arrive Bond style.

Why Cruise? Cutting Edge Design

Miami to Spain (Maiden Voyage)

Oceania's 1,258-passenger Marina, launching late 2010, looks likely to be one of the most impressive design-oriented cruise ships to hit the high seas. The 2,500 square feet Ralph Lauren furnished Owners Suites with pianos, zebra patterned chairs, and vaulted ceilings will undoubtedly become the most coveted cabins. However, the other 629 rooms are nothing to sniff at, with ivory wainscoting, Bel Air beds in dark mahogany, accented with blue mohair and polished nickel, caramel leather Clivedon chairs and fancy chandeliers. An ornate Lalique grand stairway is the first of its kind aboard a cruise ship, while a Canyon Ranch Spa, culinary arts center, and leather chairs and wool carpets in the public areas promise a much needed break from tasteless squiggly lines and patterned rugs still found on too many ships.

Why Cruise? Cutting Edge Design

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