If dancing puts you in your happy place, then dancing on a cruise can be a quick step to bliss. Why? Cruise ships offer dance aficionados a wide variety of enticing venues, from trendy nightclubs playing the latest club music to posh, outdoor dancing under the stars, elegant ballrooms and many a dance lounge in between. Plus, themed dance cruises can be a great place to find dance hosts and instructors and improve your dancing skills while meeting others who love to dance. (Look to charter companies like Dancing at Sea and Dancers at Sea for upcoming sailings.)
Whether your idea of dancing is to shimmy, shake, sway, rock, cut a rug or shake your bum, you're sure to have fun on one of our favorite cruise lines for dancing at sea.
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Norwegian Cruise Line
It's hard to beat Norwegian when it comes to nightlife, and its Bliss Ultra Lounge, a decadent Vegas-like club, is a winner. On Norwegian Getaway and Breakaway, Bliss features an expansive LED wall that runs the length of the club and lights up in sync to the music. On Norwegian Pearl, Gem and Epic, Bliss is a high-energy lounge with music videos playing on plasma screens, shadow dancers entertaining the crowd and the club's resident DJs spinning the hottest music. Don't miss Broadway dance show "Burn the Floor" on Norwegian Epic, Breakaway and Getaway for inspiration.
Another must-attend event for dancers is the "White Hot Party", held either on the pool deck or in an indoor lounge (depending on ship and weather). Dancers dress all in white, and onboard entertainers dressed in angel wings mingle, lead line dancing and invite you to join them. Don't have anything white? Pick up one of NCL's "White Hot" shirts and a feather boa in the ship's gift shop.
Norwegian Breakaway, Getaway and Escape feature the Glow Party instead of the White Hot Party -- but it's just as happening. It typically takes place in Spice H2O, the adults-only sun deck, though it's often a family-friendly event. Come early to get your face decorated with paint that glows under the black lights, and be sure to wear white or fluorescent clothing so you'll glow, too. Entertainment staffers will hand out a limited supply of glow sticks, but it's best to bring your own.
Norwegian Bliss does not have a Bliss Ultra Lounge, nor does it offer the White Hot or Glow parties. Instead, the ship lures dancers to the Social Comedy & Night Club. After the last comedy show, around 10 p.m., the space transforms into a nightclub. Nights rotate between hosting a live DJ and a silent disco party, in which everyone dances to music via headphones that can be set to two different DJ-run stations (as opposed to loud speakers). Its themed parties are dubbed "Caliente" and "Nashville Nights and Lights."
Carnival Cruise Line
Many Carnival dance clubs have multimillion-dollar sound and light systems, along with a wall of video screens displaying music videos ... or videos of you out on the dance floor. Carnival's DJs are trained under the "DJ Irie Spin'iversity," led by the award-winning DJ Irie, a renowned DJ who has entertained crowds from South Beach to Las Vegas.
Carnival Breeze has the silvery Liquid nightclub, complete with dance "cages." Carnival Dream's Caliente is South Beach-themed with a large dance floor that's great for blending into the crowd. Carnival Valor's One Small Step's lunar theme celebrates Neil Armstrong's walk on the moon, complete with moon-crater decor, LED lights that create a multicolored volcano effect, a ceiling with images from the Hubble telescope and special-effect lighting that simulates shooting stars. Plus, One Small Step's white marble dance floor contains inlays of white granite to make it appear as if you're dancing on the moon.
Playlist Productions shows "Motor City" (R&B themed), "Latin Nights" and "Studio VIP" (think '70s-inspired Studio 54) morph into all-out dance parties at the end of the shows -- available on nine ships, including Carnival Breeze and Carnival Sunshine. Note: Smoking is allowed in Carnival's clubs but not on the dance floor.
Plus, Carnival specializes in Caribbean-style fun, and its numerous deck parties are the place to Electric Slide, conga line and Limbo. You might head to the pool deck thinking you're above line dancing, but the entertainment team's enthusiasm is so infectious that you'll soon be waving your arms with a big dorky grin on your face. The Mega Deck Party pits RedFrog rum enthusiasts against BlueIguana tequila shooters; Serenity Under the Stars is more South Beach, sophisticated style; and the '80s Rock-n-Glow Party will bring you back with themed dance contests, retro tunes and a shipwide Thriller dance.
In addition, Carnival Vista and Sunshine have the perfect spot for dancers who like a little salsa. The Havana Bar, inspired by antebellum Cuba, features both live bands and DJs who play Latin tunes and draw crowds throughout the evening. If you love to dance but are a true gringo, wait for dancers from Carnival Vista's "Amor Cubano: A Caribbean Dance Romance" show to arrive; they will join passengers on the dance floor and show you a thing or two about shaking your hips.
Ballroom dancing has been a longstanding hallmark of the line, attracting dancers from around the world. It's easy to see why: Queen Mary 2's elegant Queens Room is, by far, the biggest and best ballroom at sea. The ballroom spans the full width of the ship and features a 1,225-square-foot rectangular dance floor, crystal chandeliers hanging from the two-deck-high ceiling, a resident orchestra and multi-tiered seating that offers great sight lines of the dance floor and the sea. While not as large, Queen Victoria's Queens Room is equally elegant with cantilevered balconies overlooking the floor, ornate frescos and backlit glass panels.
Wendy Olsen, owner of Dancers at Sea (a company that hosts roughly 10 dance cruises every year), has sailed with Cunard multiple times, in part for the floors. "They are truly the only ocean liners in the world with a rectangular wood floor with give, which makes it easy on the feet and knees to dance for three or four hours," she says.
New to ballroom? No worries! The professional dance couple onboard lead daily ballroom dance lessons. A wide variety of dance genres is offered and includes cha-cha, waltz, foxtrot, rumba, country and western line dancing, Caribbean and '70s style. Cunard's gentleman hosts are on hand during lessons to assist female passengers traveling solo.
In addition, the Queens Room on all ships is home to the line's Royal Nights-themed balls, which include a Black & White Ball and a Masquerade Ball.
Royal Caribbean's largest and newest ships have the best venues for dancing fleetwide. Voyager, Freedom, Oasis and Quantum ships feature Club Twenty. These South Beach-style dance parties feature electronic music customized by celebrity DJs from New York City's Scratch DJ Academy, sheer banners billowing in the breeze between the bar and dance floor, "living statues" and go-go dancers. With all this, you can't help but dance and shout "tonight's gonna be a good night!"
In addition, Oasis-class ships offer one of the prettiest nightclubs on any cruise. Dazzles is a two-story club with huge double-height windows that look over the Boardwalk on Oasis-class ships (with a good view of the Ultimate Abyss on Harmony of the Seas). Early on, the venue is light and airy; in the evening you can still get a view of the Boardwalk action. Live bands and DJs play a mix of music, with occasional theme nights, until midnight or 1 a.m.
If tribute bands are your thing, you'll love Anthem of the Seas' Music Hall, where singers and musicians channel the Beatles or Bon Jovi while you enjoy a retro dance experience. Imagine yourself at a live concert, just without the hefty cover charge or ticket price -- and everyone who wants can get a front-row spot on the dance floor by the stage. When you need a break, you can sink into a number of cushy lounge chairs, grab a drink at the venue's two bars, climb to the second level to get a bird's-eye view of the action or play some pool on self-leveling tables.
Finally, Bolero's is a staple on 15 Royal Caribbean cruise ships; it's also the place to order a mojito or margarita. Yet avid Latin dancers might not need that liquid courage to take to the dance floor when live bands perform salsa, meringue and other Latin music before and after dinner. If you love the vibe but are a novice when it comes to Latin styling, look for salsa dance classes listed in your daily onboard newsletter so you can get a lesson by day and strut your staff late that night.
Crystal offers Ballroom at Sea theme cruises that feature a full-length production show, "Dancing with the Crystal Stars." The show is held on the dance-themed sailings and is a combination of professional dance performances and the "Dancing with the Crystal Stars" event. The Crystal "stars" are crew members who have used their time off within the week to train in a variety of ballroom, Latin and swing dances. Their rehearsals are filmed to create short behind-the-scenes video segments, which are shown, along with their final performances, during the show. Passengers can also show off their moves in dance showcases.
On regular sailings, passengers can take spins around hardwoods to live music in the Palm Court on both Crystal ships, as well as in Crystal Serenity's Stardust lounge or Symphony's Starlite lounge. Gentleman dance hosts are onboard to ballroom dance with passengers who don't have partners. (Female dance hostesses make an appearance on theme sailings only.) Plus, Crystal's cruises normally include complimentary group dance classes (tailored to beginner, intermediate and advanced levels) on all sea days. These are taught by dance instruction teams, made up of professionals -- often champion dancers -- who also perform several times during the cruise. The instructors also offer private lessons for $100 per class.
MSC Cruises attracts an international clientele, and, in general, European lines like MSC tend to devote more public space to dancing than American ones. Themed indoor and outdoor parties are heavily attended by an enthusiastic crowd of Europeans and South, Latin and North Americans, and live music and dancing carry on late into the night.
One of the line's best clubs is the Galaxy Club, found on the line's Fantasia Class ships: Divina, Fantasia, Preziosa and Splendida. The venue is actually a supper club-style restaurant with panoramic views by day, but it becomes a dance club when the clock strikes 11 p.m. Dancing does go into the wee hours; lose yourself in the DJ's far-ranging playlist and the videos on the wide screens, and you might find yourself catching the sunrise.
Another great venue for live music and dancing is the Black & White Lounge. In this snazzy lounge done in black and white with silver accents, you'll find organized dances and themed events. If you want to try your Latin dance moves with some local experts, this is the place to be. If you're looking to learn, make a point to hit up one of the onboard dance lessons first.
MSC also took its passion for dance to its first ship purpose-built for the American market: MSC Seaside. The Miami-inspired ship features the Garage Club, a 1950s diner-themed lounge that turns into a nightclub after hours. It's got a bar and dance floor, and fun touches like a jukebox and "classic car" DJ booth. Night owls will appreciate the fact that the Garage Club has no set closing time, and it's not unusual for the venue to stay open 'til 4 a.m.
On select ships, Holland America transforms the Queens Lounge six nights out of seven into B.B King's Blues Club. An eight-piece band keeps the energy high with a mix of rock 'n' roll and R&B numbers sure to get you on your feet. The 45-minute shows take place three times each evening, so you can shake it silly and still get to bed at a reasonable hour. Many cruisers come back night after night; for late-night rug cutters, a DJ takes over for the after-hours crowd.