Art has always been a part of cruising, and today many cruise ships are becoming floating museums, offering more priceless art on the high seas than ever before. The best vessels sailing today feature artistic surprises, from sculptures as large as the rooms they occupy to silkscreen prints and oil and watercolor paintings. Many cruises also offer auctions, history seminars, and the ability to meet artists. Here are six cruise lines with gorgeous art collections.
Art is specifically commissioned by Costa Cruises to reflect the theme of each ship. The latest vessel, Costa Diadema, has 190 original works and more than 7,800 reproductions that fit into its royalty theme.
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Many guests will recognize Arnaldo Pomodoro’s famous Sphere Within a Sphere in gilt bronze in the atrium of Costa Deliziosa (versions of this work are also on display at the Vatican Museums and the United Nations Headquarters). A more delicate work found on the ship is “Butterflies,” a chair too beautiful to sit on, by Carla Tolomeo located in the Grand Bar Mirabilis.
Fernando Botero’s 2,000-pound Reclining Woman 2004 was exclusively contracted by the Italian cruise line to be exhibited in Costa Luminosa’s atrium. Costa Mediterranea, dedicated to Italy’s decadent history, features the -deck-high Maschera d’Argento Atrium with a stunning sculpture of dancers hovering in the air, by the highly rated artist Gigi Rigamonti.
Renowned architect Frans Dingemans designed the Holland America ship interiors and incorporated art and antiques into every nook and cranny. Expect to find his vision of contemporary, modern, and conventional art with an undercurrent of glamour in all of this line’s vessels.
Artisans from Pietrasanta, Italy, worked on a large marble table (the stone comes from the town where Michelangelo used to purchase his marble) that lies in the Amsterdam ship. The Italian artist duo Lebigre and Roger created a fountain featuring dolphins and other creatures of the sea for the Ryndam vessel, and the Veendam showcases circular ceiling murals by Wout Muller of Ireland.
Other ships in Holland America’s fleet include baseballs signed by celebrated players like Joe DiMaggio, works by Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein, famous photos of Paul Newman and Elvis, signed guitars from Queen and the Rolling Stones, and Frank Lloyd Wright medallions.
The Europa 2 has about 900 original pieces from acclaimed German and international artists, and an art tour is held during each sailing. One of the most beautiful motifs on the ship is Damien Hirst’s butterfly mural, which floats on panels near the ship’s largest restaurant, Weltmeere. Other showcased artists include contemporary painter Gerhard Richter, sculptor Ólafur Elíasson, painter and printmaker David Hockney, photographer Adam Fuss, and lyrical abstract painter Hans Hartung. Though some art hangs on suite walls for private eyes, most is found in large, public spaces.
This British line, which celebrates its 175th anniversary this year, boasts an impressive art collection valued at more than $2 million aboard the Queen Victoria. Celebrating the queen’s reign as the first modern monarch of England, Cunard amassed a huge collection of contemporary works from British artists to deck out the ship.
The art tour offered onboard showcases the most noteworthy works, as well as videos of the artists at work or speaking about their art. Significant pieces include etchings by Victoria and Prince Albert of their dogs, a clock designed by the makers of Big Ben, and leaded-glass ceilings in the library and casino.
Long regarded as housing one of the finest art collections on the high seas, Oceania Cruises has museum-worthy art that was personally acquired by founders Frank J. Del Rio and Bob Binder over several years.
You can find sixteen signed and numbered Picasso lithographs on the stately Riviera. Also floating around on the ship’s walls are paintings by Damien Hirst and Joan Miró. A 200-page book called The Oceania Cruises Art Collection has images of more than 2,000 works in the collection and a timeline of the curating process.
Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection
The Baroque-inspired S.S. Maria Theresa displays its hand-selected art in honor of the Habsburg dynasty’s only female ruler. Along with the original artwork, the ship is decorated with draperies, luxurious carpeting, and antiques and furnished with four-poster beds and French balconies. The main attraction: a 10-foot-tall oil painting of the queen gracing the sweeping grand staircase.