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Art Auctions at Sea

cruise ship art

One of the most exciting side attractions on any major cruise ship is the art appreciation. It is not anything new to the cruise industry but like everything else, it has gone through several changes over the years.

The idea of art at sea came in the 1990s and turned into a wildly popular pastime especially for those days at sea. Passengers are treated to an array of authenticated and signed pieces of art on display prior to the scheduled auction.

For those who are new to the idea of obtaining a piece of artwork, it can be a bit intimidating, and the auctions at sea are the perfect opportunity for the novice to learn and take the first steps to starting a collection.


These auctions begin with a traditional serving of champagne and an enrichment lecture that gives passengers interesting particulars about the works on display. At times, a specific artist is emphasised in the opening talk. The selections available to bid on included original paintings, signed lithographs and etching, sculptures or even film cells of favourite Disney films enlarged, numbered and framed.

These series of auctions have been aboard Carnival Cruise Lines, Norwegian Cruise Line, Regent Seven Seas, Royal Caribbean International, Disney Cruise Lines and Celebrity Cruises amongst others.

Eventually, the ship’s art curator was able to secure items for high end buyers of original masterpieces. Those who have dabbled with the palette such as Warhol, Picasso and Dali and were not represented in the auction were obtainable for passengers through the ship’s art agent.


If owning an original such as that is out of the price range, then the best alternative is bidding on a high quality reproduction in the form of lithographs or etchings signed and numbered by the artist for the fraction of the cost. Not only do they add a lifelong memory of the cruise holiday, they serve as an attractive decor offering many years of visual pleasure.

Unfortunately, the age of the art auction began to decline a few years ago, although you can still attend them on some cruise lines. They tend to be held only on sailings going to the Caribbean.

Prior to even setting foot on the ship, passengers can check out the pieces selected for their sailing on-line.

Some ships have developed new art based activities to replace the fast pace auctions of the past.

One of these alternatives is the enrichment programs that feature art related trips in ports. On the trips, sights related to the arts are seen in museums and personal collections, in galleries to places of worship and local iconic monuments. Back on board, a lecture and Q & A takes place.

If one wants to see art at their own leisure, the interactive art tour program is perfect from them. Some lines such as Holland America offer downloadable MP3s for tablets for museums and other points of interests. The MP3s even include a tour of the ship’s artwork featured throughout the public areas. These walking tours average a half an hour and contain intriguing items such as interviews and pointing out lesser known art of interest.


Other cruise lines, such as Celebrity Cruises, go so far as to invite renowned artists on board for their meet and greet series, as well holding live interviews and lectures. Of course, this leads to the artist’s work being prominently featured, as in the case of pop artist Peter Max who celebrated his birthday in 2010 on the Celebrity Solstice.

Sometimes, artists will even create works of art on site, such as marine life artist Wyland, who came up with a portrait of dolphins in the pool of the ship.

Most ships still maintain an art curator or art gallery manager who can be instrumental in helping a passenger obtain a piece of art, whether on-board the ship or held in any world-wide gallery. Art collecting is fun, invigorating, exhilarating and mind expanding.

Buying a piece from the vast array of visual art offered on a ship need not be a daunting process. Even if a passenger prefers browsing to buying, they are most welcomed to view and ask questions.

The magnificent colours, shapes, designs and concepts can be seen in the home or office each and every day with a signed reproduction or an original piece of art purchased on-board.

Written by Veronica Shine

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