Best Cruise Ship Serenity Decks

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Holland America Line

It used to be hard to find some onboard R&R on a cruise ship, where the pulsating bass rhythms of rock music and the buzz of fellow passengers chatting and splashing in the pool provided a constant backdrop to any activity.

Then Princess came along and introduced The Sanctuary-an adult-only, exclusive sun deck, geared toward peaceful relaxation- starting a new trend in cruise ship sun decks. Suddenly, Holland America, Carnival, P&O Cruises and NCL began creating their own versions of this shipboard hideaway.
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Best Cruise Ship Serenity Decks

It used to be hard to find some onboard R&R on a cruise ship, where the pulsating bass rhythms of rock music and the buzz of fellow passengers chatting and splashing in the pool provided a constant backdrop to any activity.

Then Princess came along and introduced The Sanctuary-an adult-only, exclusive sun deck, geared toward peaceful relaxation- starting a new trend in cruise ship sun decks. Suddenly, Holland America, Carnival, P&O Cruises and NCL began creating their own versions of this shipboard hideaway.

These tranquil sun decks come in a variety of shapes and sizes-actual deck areas versus private cabanas, for free or for a fee. What they have in common is some measure of exclusivity, amenities not available in the main deck areas and an atmosphere of quiet relaxation.

The editors at Cruise Critic have selected the cruise ships that sport the best serenity decks, as they like to refer to them. So if you're hoping to get away from the crowds on your next cruise, don't miss our top spots for serenity in the sun at sea.

Best Cruise Ship Serenity Decks

Where to Find Serenity: Carnival Inspiration, Carnival Imagination, Carnival Splendor, Carnival Fantasy

Pampering Elements: Unlike most of Carnival's outdoor public spaces, Serenity deck areas are entirely kid-free. Located on the aft deck with ocean views, the area features plush lounges, oversized shade umbrellas and two whirlpools. Waiters will provide bar service for sunbathers looking to cool off with an icy drink or frozen cocktail. Best of all, this area is free.

Reality Intrudes: Because the area does not charge a usage fee, lounges are available on a first come, first serve basis, and typical chair hogging may apply. Depending on the time of day and popularity of the area, the Serenity deck may feel more or less serene.

Best Cruise Ship Serenity Decks

Where to Find Serenity: Caribbean Princess, Crown Princess, Emerald Princess, Grand Princess, Island Princess, Ruby Princess, Star Princess

Pampering Elements: Princess got the concept-an exclusive, adults-only sun deck, dedicated to quiet relaxation and attentive service-right on the first try. Here, the lounges are upscale and plush, and Serenity Stewards provide cooling Evian misters, chilled towels, MP3 players and healthy and refreshing drinks and snacks like fruit skewers, spring rolls and smoothies. The ships' Lotus Spas also have outposts here in two private cabanas, where various massages are offered. (But, on warm, breeze-free days, the enclosed cabanas can get rather sticky.)

Reality Intrudes: Half-day passes (8 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. or 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.) cost $10 per person. Evian misters cost $2.50, drinks from the Sanctuary menu run $1.50 to $3, and a food delivery surcharge of $3 applies to all orders. (All snacks are free.)

Best Cruise Ship Serenity Decks

Where to Find Serenity: Eurodam

Pampering Elements: At this point, only available on the fleet's newest ship, The Retreat is a cordoned-off area on Eurodam's Deck 10, featuring 14 private cabanas for rent and outdoor seating with wicker couches and chairs. The open-air cabanas look over the main pool or out to sea, with drapery that can be pulled across for privacy and lounges inside for relaxing. They're stocked with bathrobes, towels, handheld fans, Evian spray misters and iPods. Occupants can savor complimentary iced fruit skewers, chocolate-covered strawberries, Champagne and chilled waters. Only Retreat guests are allowed in this area, so you won't have to fight for chairs.

Reality Intrudes: Daylong cabana rentals cost $45 on port days or $75 on sea days. You can also rent them for the entire cruise. These packages range from $299 for a seven-night cruise to $599 for a 16- to 20-night cruise. Families who want to fit four people in a cabana must pay more-$65 per port day, $115 per sea day and $449 to $899 for seven to 20 days.

Best Cruise Ship Serenity Decks

Where to Find Serenity: Insignia, Nautica and Regatta

Pampering Elements: Located on Deck 11, private cabanas line the forward-most area, overlooking the bow of the ship. Each cabana features a teak double-lounger with terry-covered cushions, fan and a phone for contacting room service. Drapes at the entrance can be adjusted for air and privacy. The mesh ceiling can be extended or retracted for similar purposes, and glass windows at the front provide respite from the wind, as well as ocean views. Waiters will bring bar drinks and selections from Waves Grill (the ship's burger, hot dog and sandwich bar) and afternoon tea. Cabana occupants can also request chilled towels, refreshing mist sprays and morning fruit skewers.

Reality Intrudes: Cabana rentals cost $50 on port days and $100 on sea days. The rest of Deck 11 is open to the public and includes a shuffleboard court and golf putting greens, so you may have to pull your drapes for privacy during tournaments.

Best Cruise Ship Serenity Decks

Where to Find Serenity: P&O Cruises has announced that its new ship, Azura, will feature The Retreat when it launches in April 2010.

Pampering Elements: Located on Deck 17, this adults-only haven will feature cabanas for open air treatments and luxurious sunbeds. Waiters will be on hand to serve up light bites and smoothies.

Reality Intrudes: A cover charge will apply, but since the ship is still a year and a half away from launch, the price hasn't yet been set. If you are, however, booked in the spa cabins, you will have VIP access into The Retreat.

Best Cruise Ship Serenity Decks

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