With the holiday season came our long-awaited family vacation. A cruise on the Allure of the Seas, a Royal Caribbean ship, would take us to St. Maarten, Puerto Rico and the Bahamas. As usual, there was plenty of design inspiration along the way.

First there were the floor plaques in the elevators that featured the day of the week. I’d like a visual reminder like that at home since it’s bigger and better than your average calendar.

Entertaining ideas were everywhere, from the butter dishes in our dining room that resembled mini cake stands with domes to the Christmas menu at one of the specialty restaurants that was rolled up and tied with a ribbon for a pretty presentation.

A boat-shaped sandwich filled with seafood salad would be a good fit for an outdoor gathering. All it takes is an oval roll sliced like a hot dog bun, which also makes the contents easier to manage.

The tapas restaurant on the ship had comfy sofas and chairs with tasty small plates that would be great for a small group. Their olives, cheeses and breads made this the perfect stop for a late night snack.

Soda cans and juice bottles that were neatly arranged on the glass shelves in our suite made a colorful statement. Even the cupcake decorating class my mother and daughter took exceeded my expectations with a decadent puppy design that was almost too cute to consume.

Towel creatures that greeted us at night went above and beyond those we had seen before. Special touches like these make me want to do better at home with some inspiration from the crew who are in the “surprise and delight” business.

We were impressed with the initial towel animals that wore our sunglasses and the heart-shaped varieties on the last night that provided a sweet farewell. But, one night we returned to our room to find the TV on, which was a little strange. It wasn’t until we saw who was sitting in our bed that we realized why. The towels were folded into a person with paper eyes holding a remote and watching Star Trek, which was quite amusing and very clever.

The storage solutions were also clever like the bathroom in our cabin that featured built-in cubbies above and below the sink leaving plenty of counter space.  

Even the age-specific gifts for kids were well-thought-out like the metal straws my daughter received. The hair salon with a sink on wheels that means you never need to leave your seat was another stroke of genius.

In St. Maarten, I was inspired by the gorgeous turquoise water and the Christmas tree in an open-air hotel lobby where I sought relief from the heat. There, the seasonal decorations had a modern tropical feel with accents in black and white and silver and gold along with a touch of Caribbean blue.

The historic architecture in Old San Juan, Puerto Rico was full of color and character, while the planning and logistics of the private island we visited in the Bahamas gave me some ideas for entertaining at home with labeled food stations.

Despite our enjoyable break, I am happy to be back. After all the movement from the vehicles, planes, water vessels and elevators, I am ready to embrace the stillness of home.

Jeanine Matlow is a Metro Detroit interior decorator turned freelance writer specializing in stories about interior design. You can reach her at

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