Skip to Content

My Favourite Cruise Ship Design Feature Isn’t Being Built Anymore – Here’s Why

I recently sailed on P&O’s oldest and smallest ship, Aurora. I wasn’t prepared for how much I would like her traditional feel and quirky features.

I had an inside cabin, but it was very close to an outside door, leading out onto the ship’s magnificent Aft.

This got me thinking, why aren’t cruise ships designed with this wonderful feature anymore? I love a ship with a tiered Aft, and I know many other cruisers do too.

Modern cruise ships look more like floating apartment blocks rather than the sleek, futuristic designs of Ocean Liners from days gone by.

How has Aft Ship Design Changed

Ships used to have tiered Afts. The outside space was great for recreation and leisure, had many different layered decks for sunbathing – and sometimes contained a swimming pool on the bottom level.

Changes in technology and modern cruise ship design coupled with the cruise line’s constant wish to maximise profits, means this unprofitable area seems to have been done away with.

Stormy weather on P&O’s Ventura. It was a Christmas Cruise, and we couldn’t get out to use the outside space as much as we would have liked.

That last Ocean Liner in service, the Queen Mary 2 has an elegant tiered Aft, with plenty of space to sit and enjoy the sunshine when the weather is good.

There are actually lots of differences between cruise ships and Ocean Liners. Find out more about that in the article below

Cruise Ships vs Ocean Liners – Measurable Differences You Need to Know

Ships That are Flat at the Back

Ships then moved on from having tiered Afts to being designed with a flatter Aft, like the Azamara Onward below, originally built in 1999 for Renaissance Cruises.

azamara onward ship port

This ship sailed for several different cruise lines before becoming Azamara Onward in 2022.

Her design has suites at the back of the ship -some of the most expensive cabins onboard.

Often the area at the back of the ship is very sought after for suites. Some have wrap-around balconies complete with hot tubs. These suites can cost thousands of dollars a night!

eurodam holland america cruise ship
Large cabins and suites at the back of Holland America’s Eurodam.

Sometimes this area can actually be a noisy area of the ship, as it can judder and shake when the ship docks.

I stayed in a cabin at the Aft of Marella Explora 2. Although I loved the cabin’s design, I didn’t like the fact it was very noisy for lots of reasons – and right above the ship’s smoking area.

Find out more about that eventful cruise here:

Ships With A Central Promenade Area

Royal Caribbean Oasis Class Ships and MSC World Class ships have a central promenade/central park area – this gives the cruise ship the impression of having been split right down the middle.

There are balconies that look out to the ocean, and balconies that overlook a central promenade area.

These new “mega ships” hold between six and seven thousand passengers – plus crew. They are like floating cities.

Every balcony cabin is making a good profit for the cruise line. Although the balcony cabins that face the central area are cheaper than the ocean-facing ones, they still command a higher fare than inside cabins.

MSC and Royal Caribbean are also maximising profits by economy of scale. One larger ship takes less staff and resources than two smaller ones.

Food and drinks can be bought in huge quantities which is cheaper, and they only have to pay one set of port fees to get the same number of passengers ashore. These port fees can be higher the larger the ship – but still cheaper than paying it twice.

Find out more about why mega ships are more profitable for the cruise line, and why they sell off the older smaller ships in their fleets in the article below:

Why Cruise Lines Sell Ships to Other Cruise Lines (Average Lifespan and More)

Symphony of the Seas Flag Nassau Bahamas
Oasis-class ships, like Symphony of the Seas have an Aqua Theatre at the back.

The Royal Caribbean mega-ships have a massive Aqua Theatre at the back. They put on amazing shows – but this deprives you of a traditional Aft view and may leave you feeling a little disconnected from the ocean.

msc world europa
View from my inward-facing balcony cabin, on MSC World Europa.

MSC World Europa doesn’t have an Aqua Theatre or anything else at the back. You still have an aft view, even though the ship is so large.

Why Have Things Changed?

Ocean Liners need to be built to sail on rougher seas and cross great oceans. They are designed with this in mind.

Other older ships like P&O’s Aurora -and Oriana (who no longer sails for P&O but is sailing for a Chinese company) were built to cruise across oceans, but also have the flexibility to sail along the coasts, like modern cruise ships.

Queen Mary 2 tiered Aft and teak decks.

Modern cruise ships have got larger and larger. They aren’t as streamlined in shape and have blocks of balcony cabins along the sides and at the aft.

These cabins at the Aft impact hydrodynamic stability. Cruise lines accept that the ship won’t be operating over long distances in rough weather conditions, so they choose to add extra accommodation for extra passengers to increase profits.

The cruiselines make more money by fitting in as many balcony cabins as possible. Profits on balcony cabins are higher than on Inside or Oceanview cabins, and cruise ship designs have changed to reflect that.

Older cruise ships without as many balconies are less profitable – they are either retired from the fleet – or even have extra balconies added. Find out more about that below:

How This Ship Added 314 Extra Balcony Cabins 11 Years After Her Launch

costa smeralda ship rear aft back glass floor
The Mega ship Costa Smeralda has a slightly more curved Aft with a bar and seating pods at the back.

The mainstream cruiselines seem to now focus on getting as many passengers onboard, with the least amount of unprofitable outside shared space.

This also seems to have led to fewer ships having a full promenade deck that you can walk around. I love a full promenade deck, but they are not a money-making area of the ship.

Some cruiselines like Norwegian have combined a promenade deck with bar space, to make a once unprofitable area more worthwhile. These areas on Norwegian ships are known as The Waterfront.

Find out more about traditional promenade decks below:

Cruise Ship Promenade Decks – Photos, Uses, and History

Before You Go

Find out why most cruise ships are red under the waterline here:

Why Are Ships Red Below The Waterline? – I Went Under One to Find Out!

Find out why you shouldn’t discount booking a cruise on a smaller cruise ship here:

9 Reasons You Shouldn’t Avoid Cruising on Older, Smaller Cruise Ships

Free Insiders Cruise Line Guide

Ever wondered how the mainstream cruise lines compare? Cruise lines won’t tell you this, but I will.

This FREE guide shows you everything you need to know to find your perfect cruise line.