There’s no denying it — cruise ships have gotten a lot cooler in recent years. Our favorite innovations: the ones that bring a cruise vacation closer to the best summer vacations on land. Now you can duplicate some of your favorite summer moments, without leaving the cruise ship. Here are seven of the best warm-weather experiences at sea:
1. Sip a drink at a unique swim-up bar.
Photo by Claudia Uripos / eStockPhoto
Resorts on land can keep their swim-up pool bars: SeaDream Yacht Club has taken the concept one step further on its weekly beach picnic, offered in the Caribbean and Costa Rica. Sure, staffers set up tables and chairs in the sand, making for a decadent, less-rustic take on this open-air meal. But the best part is how they hand out the hors d’oeuvres: Waiters in formal attire serve champagne and caviar from bars they set up on surfboards floating in the sea. (Yes, it is exactly as cool as it sounds.)
2. Play a round of minigolf.
Minigolf course on Carnival Dream. - Photo by Carnival Cruise Lines
There’s not much actual sportsmanship involved, but miniature golf is a summer staple for anyone who grew up going “down the shore.” A variety of lines offer small courses — including Norwegian Cruise Line, Royal Caribbean, and Princess — but Carnival Breeze, has 9 holes over two levels and the course is lit up at night.
3. Have a backyard barbecue.
Sear your own meat at Celebrity's Lawn Club Grill. - Photo by Celebrity Cruises
If your favorite part of summer is the backyard cookout, then you’ll be thrilled with the Lawn Club Grill on Celebrity Silhouette and Celebrity Reflection. Located in the grass-covered Lawn Club area, the restaurant has a menu of steaks, chops, seafood, and kebabs — and diners are invited to join the chef out by the grill to take a turn at creating their own perfect hash marks.
4. Watch an outdoor movie.
Princess has the largest screen, but it's far from the only line that offers movies on the lido deck. - Photo by Princess Cruises
Some of my favorite grown-up summer memories are of watching movies in Manhattan’s Bryant Park, marveling at classic films in the moonlight on warm evenings. Fortunately, this is one treat that many cruise lines offer, including Princess Cruises (which has the largest screen at sea on its new Royal Princess), Carnival Cruises, Costa Cruises, Royal Caribbean, and Disney Cruise Line (which shows first-run films).
5. Play bocce at sea.
Celebrity is the only line to have real grass on their lido deck. - Celebrity Cruises
Not one but two lines have introduced bocce courts on the high seas. On Royal Princess, you can play bocce on a small turf court, but on Celebrity’s Solstice-class ships, you can play bocce on an amazing half-acre lawn, covered in real grass.
6. Eat at a fabulous clam bar.
The Raw Bar on Breakaway. - Norwegian Cruise Line
7. Sleep out under the stars.
SeaDream knows how to craft a romantic moment. - Photo by SeaDream Yacht Club
On SeaDream Yacht Club ships, the crew dresses the Balinese-style day beds — which are made for two — in linens, a duvet, and pillows, and allows guests to spend the night sleeping outside under the stars. Hint: The daybed on the most forward sun deck is the most private, and therefore the most coveted.