We all have our favorite ships, but even the most ardent cruise line loyalists would jump at the chance to add a few features from other lines onto their favorite ships. We’ll let you choose between the best lido and sun deck features and use your votes to see how Cruiseline.com readers would create their all-star cruise ship. We'll be sending out the results in our newsletter in the next few weeks, so subscribe today to what the perfect cruise ship would look like!
Once upon a time, the coolest cruise ships had a small pool, and if you were lucky, a tiny, 10-foot slide leading into that pool. Nowadays, cruise passengers have come to expect miniature water parks on their ships, as newer vessels often have multiple slides, pools, and large play areas for kids.
Candidates: Breeze, the newest offering from Carnival, has two giant slides (the 312-foot long Twister and the Drainpipe) in its WaterWorks park, plus a massive 300-gallon soaker bucket that fills and eventually tips, drenching everyone below. Although Norwegian Escape hasn’t officially sailed yet, once it launches in November it will have the largest waterpark at sea with two pools and four water slides, including the nearly vertical Free Fall and the head-to-head Aqua Race slide.
Disney goes for quality over quantity with Aqua Duck, the only Aqua Coaster at sea, which wraps around the ship for a 765-foot ride, and while Royal Caribbean may not have the giant water slides of the other lines (although those will be coming soon to Harmony), they do have the unique surfing simulator, the FloRider, plus the SplashZone on Freedom-class ships.
Our Pick: Norwegian. The Aqua Park on Escape has us salivating in anticipation.
Why walk all the way to the buffet when lines can bring the food to you? Many ships have excellent food options that let you enjoy your meal in the sun.
Candidates: For a true open-air experience, Celebrity’s Lawn Club Grill pairs passengers with a chef as they cook up steak, salmon, chicken, and beef for their party on custom-built grills, while the hand-tossed pizzas on Princess' Prego Pizzeria are a huge hit among cruisers.
If you would rather satisfy your sweet tooth on the lido deck than have a full meal (sometimes heavy food on a hot day is just too much), try the gelatto and nutella at Venchi on MSC Divina. And when steak and gelatto is a little too fancy, Guy’s Burgers on Carnival can make even the most sophisticated cruisers salivate at the very mention of its name.
Our Pick: Lawn Club Grill. The food is fantastic and you can enjoy it on real grass.
Out-of-control children are one of the most common complaints we see in reviews. Adults-only areas give grown ups a chance to use the hot tub and pools without noise and the constant threat of cannonballs.
Candidates: Quiet relaxation is the goal for most of these spaces. The Serenity Deck on Carnival has hammocks, cushion loungers, whirlpools, and an excellent view. Plus, unlike other adult-only areas, it’s completely free. Holland America’s The Retreat and Cabana Clubs will cost you extra, but they do have more than a dozen private cabanas and the option to order food and drinks.
The Sanctuary on Princess is a similar relaxation destination, has cushioned sofas, televisions, welcome cocktails, snacks, plus a mini bar stocked with water, soda, and alcohol. If you’re looking for more than just relaxation, Spice H20 on Norwegian Breakaway and Getaway breaks the cabana mold: it’s an private outdoor lounge by day with a large video screen and hot tubs, but at night it morphs into an open-air dance club.
Our Pick: Serenity. You can't beat free, plus it's rarely overcrowded.
What’s the point in having all that open air space if you can’t move around? While many cruisers are more than happy to spend their entire sea day lounging around the pool, the more restless among us need to keep moving.
Candidates: Royal Caribbean is generally considered the king of onboard activities, as sister ships Allure and Oasis come loaded with a mini golf course, basketball courts, climbing walls, and a zip line. Still, there’s some stiff competition from the SportsSquare on Carnival, as Breeze sports a miniature golf course, a lighted volleyball/basketball court, an open-air workout area, and the SkyCourse.
Norwegian is also a strong competitor with its Breakaway-class ships which have multi-use sports courts for basketball, volleyball, soccer and dodgeball, plus mini golf, rock walls, and the largest ropes course at sea. And for people who would rather play bocce or croquet than work up a sweat, Celebrity’s Lawn Club with an acre of real grass is a more relaxed alternative.
Our Pick: Royal Caribbean. They're the pioneers of onboard activities for a reason.
These watering holes are basically the cruise ship version of a rooftop bar, and just like their urban counterparts, the view is often more important than the drink list.
Candidates: The Sunset Bar on Celebrity Solstice-class ships shares some grass with the Lawn Club, meaning you can enjoy your drinks like you’re at an outdoor country club, and the Seaview Bar on Royal and Regal Princess extends over the edge of the ship for unobstructed ocean views.
The Sky Bar on Royal Caribbean has a similarly good view for people watching, and while Carnival’s Redfrog Rum Bar and the Blue Iguana Tequila Bar don’t have quite the same views, "barhopping" between the two can make for a great evening.
Our Pick: Seaview Bar. Nothing gives alcohol a little extra kick like a little vertigo-induced adrenaline.
There are some features on lido decks that don’t fall into any particular category (unless that category is, “I would never thought of putting that on a cruise ship, although it is pretty cool!”) but still give passengers a great experience.
Candidates: The North Star on Royal Caribbean’s Quantum and Anthem is a truly unique feature among cruise ships. This hamster ball attached to a crane gives cruisers a 360-degree view while gently sweeping them over the side of the ship. Also fun but equally unsuitable for those afraid of heights is the Skywalk on Princess. Like its counterparts on land that dangle over canyons, this glass-bottomed walkway arcs over the side of the ship 128 above the water.
For those of us who like to stay grounded, Carnival’s “Dive-In Movies” play films, sporting events, and concerts on a 270 square foot LED flat screen that overlooks the Beach Pool, and the dog kennel on Cunard’s Queen Mary 2 is the only chance you’ll have to see non-service dogs on a cruise ship.
Our Pick: North Star. The Sky Walk is great and we all love dogs and movies, but nothing gives you a new perspective on how amazing modern cruise ships are like seeing one from 300 feet above sea level.