River Cruising Wish List: Build the Ideal Sun Deck

August 30, 2013 | By | No Comments

Cruising along the Danube in sweltering heat several weeks ago, I took several dips in the small plunge pool on AmaWaterways’ new ship, AmaPrima. Strangely, I had the pool to myself, every time. There’s supposed to be a swim-up bar at one end of the pool but it was always closed, so we collared a passing waiter to bring drinks that we could sip decadently in the water. But the absence of fellow cruisers using the pool made me wonder, is this really a good use of the space on the ship?
(For more thoughts on AmaPrima, read our Hits and Misses piece by Cruise Critic’s Editor In Chief, Carolyn Spencer Brown).
European river cruise boats are a pretty standard size and shape and as far as the cruise lines can go, it’s about striking a balance in ship design. Maximum space per passenger has to be achieved to create a feeling of luxury without reducing numbers and losing revenue – and it’s the service, the food and the gimmicks — like a pool — that differentiate one product from another.
Huge attention has been paid by all the cruise lines to cabins, dining and bar space. But I can’t help feeling that the open deck is often a bit of an afterthought, on some ships simply consisting of a long line of deckchairs, a token deck game (traditional ring toss or large, mostly decorative chess set) and not enough shade. Yes, everything has to collapse down to low level to fit under some of the bridges, but there must be some way of adding a bit of style to the sun deck.

New cruise line Emerald Waterways is trying something different, creating a proper swimming pool one deck down from the top with a retractable roof, a bar and ice cream station and a sliding floor that covers the pool to create a cinema area at night. AmaPrima, to give the line credit, has a really lovely chill-out area forward of the pool, with smart, rattan armchairs and sofas in sociable groups; it was a real favorite for after dinner drinks. Avalon Waterways has an al fresco grill restaurant on the upper deck of some of its ships, for which passengers have to book – so that’s clearly a hit.
So what would you like to see on the open decks of a river cruise ship? Not water slides and surf simulators, obviously, but maybe a bit of imagination to match that shown by the designers of ocean-going ships. A lawn, perhaps? A few luxury cabanas, even if they do carry a surcharge. Or some hammocks. Some of those sexy circular sun loungers for two, as featured on Crystal’s two ships. Definitely a decent-sized hot tub (which some river cruisers already have). And maybe an outdoor massage tent, or picnic baskets, or a gelateria.
What else? Tell us by commenting below.
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