Cruise Ships

The Biggest Improvement in Newest Cruise Ships That No One’s Talking About

Cruise ships are getting bigger and bigger, with new bells and whistles coming with each generation. The newest ships are seeing massive water parks, expansive exterior promenades, ropes courses, and even a roller coaster, but there’s one big change that no one is talking about, and it’s something that affects all cruisers…the showers. Despite being an essential part of every cruiser’s daily routine, the evolution of cruise ship showers remains a topic no one’s talking about.

Early cruise ship showers left much to be desired

If you sailed in the early days of cruising, or even in the ’90s and early 2000s, you know how rough these bathrooms were. They were tucked into a corner of the compact, industrial-looking bathroom found in most cabins. A small border or lip would separate the shower floor from the bathroom, but it wasn’t enough to keep water from routinely going all over the bathroom.

carnival horizon shower
The flimsy shower curtain in older cruise ships would cling to you as the ship swayed in the ocean. (Carnival Horizon)

The flimsy white curtain would sway and stick to your body as the ship rocked, leaving a slimy, cold feeling on your skin. At the same time, the water would alternate between scalding hot and ice cold. The pressure itself was almost laughable. 

vision of the seas bathroom
Early bathrooms like this (Vision of the Seas) had fairly basic showers.

Evolution of cruise ship showers

In the late 90s, cruise lines finally started to up their shower game and provide guests with a better experience. 

When Royal Caribbean debuted its new Voyager-class of ships in 1999, it had a lot of firsts: the first ice rink at sea, the first Royal Promenade, and the first climbing wall. They all overshadowed an upgrade everyone could enjoy. They got rid of the shower curtain and instead put in plastic enclosures. These showers were still tight because of a unique curved design. It almost felt like one of the transportation tubes from the Jetsons cartoon or, if you think more morbidly, a standing coffin.

royal caribbean voyager of the seas shower
Voyager of the Seas saw the first enclosed showers in general cabins for the cruise line, but the circular shape meant limited room. (Voyager of the Seas)

Later, with the Oasis and Quantum-class of ships, they enlarged the showers and brought in a more premium-looking class, but they kept the arched design.

symphony of the seas shower
Royal Caribbean upgraded the showers on their Oasis- and Quantum-class ships but kept the arched design. (Symphony of the Seas)

Eleven years later, Norwegian Cruise Line debuted the highly polarizing Norwegian Epic. This one-of-a-kind ship (no sister ships were built) featured a split bathroom with a shower in one room, a toilet in another, and a sink in the main cabin. The odd bathroom layout was probably one of the most talked about things on the ship. Because of that, most people missed that Norwegian upgraded the shower to a glass design. On the Epic, they used a curved shower design similar to what Royal Caribbean used. 

norwegian epic shower
With the introduction of the Epic, Norwegian switched to glass enclosures in their standard cabins, although they also used an arched design.

Carnival was much later to the game. They stuck with the flimsy shower curtain until 2021 with the debut of Mardi Gras

Newest generation of ships have major shower upgrades

Over the past three years, 3 of the major mainstream cruise lines have all released a new class of cruise ship, representing where they see the future of cruising. Carnival debuted the Excel-class, Norwegian launched the Prima-class, and Royal Caribbean released the Icon-class. 

Carnival Excel-class

carnival celebration shower
With Mardi Gras, Carnival switched to large glass showers in all their cabins.

When Carnival debuted its first Excel-class ship, the Mardi Gras, guests were pleasantly surprised to see major upgrades in the bathroom. Carnival finally ditched the shower curtain and upgraded to a fully enclosed glass shower. Unlike the circular designs that Royal Caribbean and Norwegian used, these showers were rectangular and much more roomy. The glass door pivots into the shower itself when it opens, reducing the space required in the bathroom. Carnival even included a bar in the shower to make shaving your legs easier. While the bathroom itself still remained fairly small, the shower itself was a big upgrade from previous ships.

Norwegian Prima-class

norwegian prima shower
Norwegian not only switched to rectangular showers on the Prima-class, but they supersized them, even in the cheapest cabins.

The next new class of ship to debut was the Prima-class in 2022. With the Prima, Norwegian seriously upgraded the bathroom experience. Even the cheapest interior cabins feature an absolutely massive glass shower stall. Like Carnival, they upgraded the showers on this ship to a standard rectangular shape, but they sized the shower even more generously than Carnival. It’s probably more roomy than some people’s showers at home. The designers put in brown-toned walls to offer a spa-like experience to these showers. 

Royal Caribbean’s Icon-class

icon of the seas shower
With the Icon of the Seas, Royal Caribbean also switched to a large, rectangular design and added in a small seat.

Most recently, Royal Caribbean finally unveiled its highly anticipated new ship, Icon of the Seas. Like the other companies, Royal Caribbean decided to move away from the curved showers and upgraded to a fully enclosed glass, rectangular shower. They use a hinge similar to Carnival, allowing a larger shower without significantly increasing the bathroom. Royal Caribbean went a step further and put a seat in every shower. 

Big progress for basic cabin showers

The upgrades to cruise ship showers are a game-changer for all passengers. Gone are the days of cramped, dreary bathrooms with flimsy curtains. Now, even if you’re cruising on a budget, you can enjoy the comfort and convenience of a top-notch shower experience. It’s refreshing to see cruise lines stepping up their game in an area that affects everyone, not just in those expensive suites.

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Randy Young

Randy Young is the founder and editor-in-chief at Cruise Spotlight. He has been in marketing for 19 years and has been cruising for just as long. Over the years, he's worked with products like TVs, copiers, light bulbs, and EV chargers, but cruising has always been his passion. There's nothing Randy likes more than the first couple of hours on a ship, exploring every nook and cranny and seeing how it's different from everything else out there. He's known for providing detailed and analytical coverage of cruising to help cruisers get a comprehensive picture of a ship's offerings.