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Five Sustainable Cruise Interior Design Trends to Watch

The design world never stops innovating. We’re here to help you keep ahead of the game with our series of ‘trends to watch’ across the cruise, hotel, and aircraft interiors industries. First up we will be exploring how sustainability is shaping the future of designs in the cruise industry.

The cruise industry has been making waves when it comes to sustainable cruise ship interior designs, but there are still many conversations to be had to ensure the innovation continues.

As we move forward into the second half of 2023, greener ways of designing environmentally responsible products are front of mind for interior designers, particularly given the growing customer expectations when it comes to taking a sustainable approach.

The cruise industry is taking action, thanks to initiatives like the Sustainable Maritime Interiors declaration. This bids to champion responsible maritime interior architecture and design as a pathway to a sustainable future.

The Sustainable Design Summit, taking place this November in London, will continue the conversation by inspiring and encouraging knowledge sharing around this crucial topic through its illuminating agenda. Below we have listed our top five trends and topics that are shaping cruise ship interior designs.

Sourcing sustainably

Sustainability dominates discussions when it comes to planning for both newbuilds and refurbishments of cruise ships from the hull right through to the cabin interiors. Not only is the customer now expecting cruise lines to think responsibly when it comes to wastewater management systems and greener fuels, but also to be smarter with the vessel’s interiors. 

A major trend that is already one to watch for cruise interiors is specifying products from sustainable sources: be that from the suppliers designers are working with, through to the materials being used.  There are of course fire safety barriers to consider when it comes to furnishing in the maritime industry, but more eco-materials are working their way onto cruise ships. Materials like these will be at the forefront of the Sustainable Design Summit as it features a gallery-style Product Showcase of intrinsically green products and solutions. Morbern Europe, Aquafil Spa, and BoTracks are just a few of the interior suppliers who will be showcasing their innovations.

Circular economy

Circular economy is another phrase we are hearing more and more. But what exactly is it?

According to the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, a circular economy, ‘is based on the principles of designing out waste and pollution, keeping products and materials in use, and regenerating natural systems.’

Cruise giant Carnival pledged to move toward a circular economy model and has looked at how it works with supply chain partners in a bid to reduce waste. 

This can also be shifted to interiors; TUI River Cruises for example used recycled fishing nets for some of the carpets on board its vessels.

Local sourcing

While supply chain issues have caused problems across the globe over the past couple of years, it has meant that cruise line have had to ‘think local’ when sourcing products to furnish ships. Add to this, it fits with their individual sustainable policies. 

At a recent Cruise Ship Interiors Design Expo panel discussion, executives from the likes of MSC Cruises and Hurtigruten Expeditions discussed the fact they were sourcing from European suppliers that are in the locality of their shipyards – and the quality and costs were similar to suppliers further afield in places such as Asia. 

Not only will it keep the supply chain healthy and help local employment flourish, but it also reduces the carbon footprint when it comes to transporting goods large distances.


More recently, there’s been a lot of discussion among both suppliers and cruise ship interior designers about creating products and designs that really last. However, with cruise vessels undergoing frequent refurbishments, designers are looking to get creative using existing pieces through ‘upcycling’. 

It’s likely upcycling is a familiar concept within the home, with many people giving tired furniture a makeover to bring it up-to-date and ultimately, make it last longer – so why shouldn’t this be applied to the cruise industry? 

Due to wear and tear, cruise ships are given refurbishments roughly every three to five years, and upcycling is a fantastic, eco-friendly solution. Flipping furniture by re-upholstering with fresh materials can add a whole new dimension to an existing public area on board. Bath Fitter – another Product Showcase supplier due to appear at the Sustainable Design Summit – does just this by remodelling existing bath and shower products.  Bath Fitter’s shower-over-shower, bath-over-bath and bath-to-shower conversions means that by working with what is already in place, there will be no waste and no products being dumped into landfills.

We’ve seen past examples from the likes of Petra Ryberg (Design Studio Berg+) who during a recent refurbishment decided to include existing design elements in the new design rather than removing them as the owner originally intended.

She said at the time “I think of design in general as multi layers. You have your hardware, your architecture, your finishes, so to me sustainable design would be classic lasting bones with interchangeable parts.

Recently, AROS Marine completed a refit on board Hurtigruten’s Trollfjord, imagined by YSA Design, which implemented many sustainable elements and cruise design trends. Among these, upcycling was used throughout, as AROS Marine reupholstered chairs and sofas. The team also preserved existing tiling in the vessel’s Panorama Bar.

Light innovations

Naturally, cabins on board cruise ships are also in the sustainability spotlight. As well as eco-furnishings and materials, lighting choices are a significant factor to consider.

Virgin Voyages – which currently has three ships in its fleet – has not only used LED lighting, but it has added light sensors in its cabins which use less energy and minimise the ship’s carbon footprint.

Lighting suppliers are finding innovative ways to ensure they have a bright future, too.  Companies such as Cristallux use their own zero-waste alternative material to make products, while MJM Marine, a leading international specialist in cruise ship refurbishment, has partnered with Vyv, which offers continuous-use, non-UV antimicrobial light technology. 

Written by Kelly Ranson

Want more of this?

Eager to learn more about sustainable design and spark climate change? Sustainable Design Summit provides a year-round global platform dedicated to making sustainable choices easier for interior designers working in the hospitality travel interiors sectors. Find out about the next event here.

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