Cruise ships can provide the perfect oasis for sun-worshipers. Taking inspiration from some of the great places around the world, such as South Beach, Miami and St Tropez, France these are havens of relaxation and enjoyment, as well as offering some of the best views found anywhere.
Each ship and line has its own take on what it thinks is a great sun decks, so here my top 10 best sun decks and pool areas at sea.
Carnival Vista, Carnival Cruise Line
Vista’s sun areas can broadly be divided into four. The first is the mid-ship beach pool, arguably the centre of activity on the lido deck where you’ll find a sea screen, a variety of the lines signature bars and food outlets and tiered levels of seating. To the aft of the ship you’ll find a similar area, the Tides Pool and jacuzzis, featuring more seating and access to the speciality dining as well as the lines Lido Marketplace.
At the top-front of the ship you’ll find the Serenity adult-only retreat. A quiet getaway from the carnival-style excitement, this area features a variety of seating, a bar and jacuzzis overlooking the side of the ship. Similarly, at the aft of the ship, but on The promenade Deck, you’ll find the Havana Bar & Pool, an exclusive (at least during the day) pool area for guests staying within Havana complex of the ship
Celebrity Solstice Class, Celebrity Cruises
The Solstice Class were ground-breaking when they were first introduced in 2008 and even today they still turn heads. The sun and pool decks are no exception, providing a well-considered space for both relaxing and activities throughout the day. There is also the adults only solarium providing a quiet, tranquil environment to just be.
Unique to the Solstice class is the Lawn Club at the top of the ship, a half-acre of grass with unparalleled views from the ship and features a variety of lawn games. Some ships also feature special cabanas which for a fee you can rent for a day around the Lawn Club.
Crystal Serenity and Symphony, Crystal Cruises
Crystal cruises provides a spacious and upscale sun deck, featuring all-teak decks and comfortable chairs, with a number of pools and jacuzzis. Like a number of the other ships mentioned here, there is a poolside buffet featuring a variety of eats. At night, there are themed buffets and casual dining under the stars.
As you would expect, the sun deck on a Disney ship are a different take on it all. Mickey’s and Donald’s Pools form the main sun area on the ship and is the centre of activity including slides, Funnel Vision, showing variety of shows and films, including Star Wars and Pirates of the Caribbean, and a stage for live performances. To the aft of the main pool area is Nemo’s Reef is an interactive themed water play area for children 8 and under.
Unique to Disney Dream and Fantasy is the Aquaduck. This water coaster is located on the highest deck accessible by passengers. Guests are propelled on a raft in a transparent tube suspended 150 feet over the edge of the ship and takes them on a journey around the entire top deck of the ship, including tight turns, quick drops and open air sections. A must when one board!
At the front of the ship you’ll find Quiet Cove Pool and area, an adult only relaxing refuge including its own swim up bar. To chill out there’s also Satellite Falls, an exclusive wading pool and waterfall at the top of ship.
Koningsdam, Holland America Line
The flagship of the Holland America Line fleet, MS Koningsdam has two main pool area at the mid and aft of the ship. The first area, the Lido Pool, is a two-storey space enclosed by a retractable magrodome offering a variety of seating areas, jacuzzis and pools, as well as a large sea screen.
The second area, to the aft of the ship, offers similar amenities with expansive views over the wake of the ship.
Norwegian Breakaway and Breakaway-plus Classes, Norwegian Cruise Line
Norwegian have delivered a number of ships and derivatives of this design over the past few years. Each one differs very slightly but for the most part have the same sorts of sun decks. First off is the main mid-ship pool area which arguably acts as the outdoor social hub of the ship, with groups of people hanging out around the various bars, multiple sea screens and music playing. Further forward and up a couple of decks you’ll find a quieter sun area with hot tubs. Adjacent to this you’ll also find Vibe, the lines exclusive for-fee adult-only area, offering a Miami beach inspired environment. The line only offer a limited number of passes to this area per cruise so it never feels overly crowded.
To the aft of the ship you’ll find Spice H20, a free adult-only area with a large sea screen, pools, jacuzzis and a private bar. On Norwegian Escape there is also a water grotto where you can sit in waterfalls to cool off, perfect for the sun. At night, the area transforms into an entertainment and party venue.
Finally, there is The Haven courtyard and sun deck. This area is exclusively for suite guests and offers complete privacy and tranquility.
Royal Class, Princess Cruises and P&O Cruises
The Royal Class of ships provide an expansive and well-considered sun area with several pools and Jacuzzis, as well as the line’s signature Movies Under the Stars screen. Unique to these ships is the glass-bottomed SeaWalk, a new feature to the class where the starboard deck extends over 28 feet from the side of the vessel with views to the sea 128 feet below. On the port side, you’ll find a great bar that afford amazing views, as highlighted in my best bars at sea post (here). At night, the area becomes an entertainment venue where fountains are used to perform water and light shows and films are shown from the large screen, with popcorn and blankets provided.
Further forward you’ll find the Retreat Pool, an exclusive area for adults to relax, with its own pool and seating. Retreat Cabanas can also be reserved (for a fee), providing private poolside space. At night the area becomes a chill-out area where you can indulge in cocktails under the stars. The lines signature outdoor spa area, The Sanctuary, can be found at the very front of the ship. This further (for fee) adults-only area offers a relaxing alternative to the rest of the ship, with a plush, outdoor spa-inspired setting. To splash-out there are the Sanctuary Cabanas, which includes a seating area, minibar and TV. On the line’s latest ship these two areas have been replaced with the Hollywood Poole Club & Conservatory, providing a similar setting but enclosed under a magrodome roof, providing shelter from inclement weather.
Whilst I haven’t spoken about P&O specifically here, Britannia is a Royal Class ship offering similar amenities and spaces to her Princess counterparts, albeit with a British flair.
Oasis Class, Royal Caribbean
The Oasis class provides sun deck variety in ways other ships cannot. With the split superstructure of the ship the class provides six different areas, each with their own dedicated water areas. There’s the sports pool; the main pool; Splashaway Bay or H2O Zone providing an interactive water playground for children; the beach pool, enabling you to wade into the pool; and the semi-covered Solarium, a love tranquil space overlooking the bow on the ship.
They have even taken this a step further on the latest iterations of the class, with Harmony and Symphony of the Sea boasting a number of multi-deck waterslides, enlarged solariums and improved suite guest facilities.
Seabourn Encore, Seabourn Cruise Line
Seabourn Encore builds on the successful design of their previous Odyssey class of vessels. The main pool area feels intimate, with a more luxury yacht feel than anything. Depending on the itinerary, the pool deck offers deck barbecue parties and “under the stars” theme nights. At the top of the ship you’ll find The Retreat. An adults-only area where shade sails cocoon the main sitting area. There’s also a central jacuzzi and 12 private cabanas.
Viking Star Class, Viking Ocean Cruises
As with all spaces on these ships, the pool and sun area is very well considered, with contemporary tones and embracing the concept of Hygge, promoting a wonderfully pleasant environment. The area is covered with a magrodome roof that can be retracted depending on the weather. This space is next to the ships serene Wintergarden, perfect for afternoon tea.
The Aquavit Terrace is located at the aft of the ship overlooking the stern. It is a beautiful space to relax in, benefitting from one of few true infinity pools on a cruise ship. The area also offers al fresco dining where you can enjoy sushi amongst other things.
Images © Carnival Cruise Line, Celebrity Cruises, Cruise Critic, Crystal Cruise Line, Disney Cruise Line, Holland America Line, Norwegian Cruise Line, Princess Cruise Line, Royal Caribbean, Seabourn, Viking Cruise Line and Marcus Adams