The last comedy show just ended, you're a few gin martinis in and the dance floor is calling your name. Where do you go for trendy music and an upbeat atmosphere?
Every mainstream cruise line has a nightclub or designated dancing area onboard its ships, but not all of them can keep passengers Cupid Shuffling, Percolating and rolling their hips like Shakira until the wee hours of the morning. Onboard nightclubs run the gamut from flashy discos to top-deck dance parties, while DJs typically spin hip-hop and electronic dance music, mixed with disco throwbacks and other genres. Picture some of the more stylish nightclubs you've seen on land, and you'll get the idea of the cruise ship version, which often plays around with themes and fun decor. Depending on the ship, you might even luck out with a view.
If you long to dance, it's probably more important to pick the right itinerary than the right ship; the best nightclub can't counteract the exhaustion you get from back-to-back days of hardcore sightseeing. But if we had to choose, the following clubs are our favorites at sea. If you plan to sail on one of these ships -- be you clubbing fiend or wallflower -- make sure you pack your dancing shoes.
Photo: Norwegian Cruise Line
Carnival Cruise Line's Nightclubs
Why We Love It: Carnival takes the cake for unique nightclubs at sea. Ships have their own individual venues, rocking fun themes and jaw-dropping decor. A few of our favorites include Frankenstein's Lab on Carnival Miracle (because you can't beat dancing around a giant Frankenstein); One Small Step on Carnival Valor, inspired by the moon landing; and Carnival Sunshine's Liquid, a show lounge that transforms into a nightclub after hours. Each venue features high-tech sound and light systems, as well as DJs trained by DJ Irie, the official DJ of Carnival and the Miami Heat.
Photo: Carnival Cruise Line
Ship: Royal Caribbean's Harmony of the Seas, Oasis of the Seas and Allure of the Seas
Why We Love It: Held in each ship's Solarium Bar, covered by a retractable glass roof, Club Twenty is the hottest Royal Caribbean spot for dancing after hours. The South Beach-style nightclub features popular club music played by a Scratch DJ Academy-trained DJ, and go-go dancers enhance the mood. The atmosphere is lively, colorful and refreshing. Passengers are given flashing glow-in-the-dark accessories, while decorative white drapery sways in the ocean breeze.
Photo: Cruise Critic
Bliss Ultra Lounge
Ships: Norwegian Escape, Norwegian Getaway, Norwegian Breakaway, Norwegian Epic, Norwegian Pearl and Norwegian Gem
Why We Love It: Norwegian's Vegas-style nightclub not only features a funky, vibrant atmosphere, but it also has plasma screens playing music videos, shadow dancers and a DJ spinning the latest hits. Each club is unique in its own way; Norwegian Epic offers the most space to dance, while Norwegian Pearl even includes a bowling alley in its nightclub. One standout feature all the ships' nightclubs share is the colorful, cozy lounge area.
Photo: Norwegian Cruise Line
Night Sky Lounge
Ship: Regal Princess
Why We Love It: Outdoor nightclubs aren't new to the cruise industry, but none comes close to the Night Sky Lounge on Regal Princess. For only one night per cruise, the top-deck Retreat Pool transforms into a Miami-style dance party with colorful lights, glowing drinks and a DJ. Passengers can enjoy music from the hot tubs and even reserve cabanas with bottle service.
Photo: Princess Cruises
MSC Cruises' Nightclubs
Why We Love It: Perhaps because it's a European-influenced cruise line, the clubs on MSC are active late into the night. Inspired by "La Dolce Vita" and '50s supper clubs,the Galaxy Lounge Restaurant & Club can be found on MSC Cruises' Fantasia Class (MSC Divina, MSC Fantasia, MSC Preziosa and MSC Splendida). The venue is actually a restaurant that turns into a nightclub at 11 p.m. Along with the retro chic atmosphere and panoramic views, we love the variety of music. A DJ spins music ranging from salsa and Reggaeton to '70s disco while music videos are streamed on a large screen. Keeping with the '50s theme, Garage Club is found on MSC Seaside and is a diner-themed disco that sometimes stays open until 4 a.m.
Photo: MSC Cruises
B.B. King's Blues Club
Ships: Holland America's Koningsdam, Eurodam, Nieuw Amsterdam, Noordam, Oosterdam, Rotterdam, Westerdam and Zuiderdam
Why We Love It: We dare you not to get up and dance when the B.B. King's Blues Club band takes the stage. Every night in the Queen's Lounge, the high-energy, jazz band pumps out R&B classics (think Sam Cooke's "Twistin' the Night Away" and Martha & the Vandellas' "Heatwave") and modern songs with a soulful twist that make singing and dancing along contagious. After hours, a DJ takes over and spins the latest hits for those who decide to linger.
Photo: Cruise Critic
Ships: Carnival Horizon, Carnival Vista and Carnival Sunshine
Why We Love It: It's easy to feel like you're out on the town somewhere in Cuba, at Carnival's Havana Bar. The Cuban-themed venue heats up with Latin tunes -- courtesy of both a live band and DJ -- that tend to draw a crowd early into the night. On Carnival Vista, dancers from the ship's popular production show "Amor Cubano: A Caribbean Dance Romance" are known to join passengers on the dance floor. Need some liquid courage? The Havana Bar serves up excellent mojitos.
Photo: Cruise Critic
It's one of the most common cruising questions: When is the best time to cruise Alaska, Australia, the Caribbean, Canada/New England, Hawaii, Europe or the South Pacific? The answer depends on many variables. For example, fall foliage enthusiasts will find September and October the best time to cruise Canada/New England, whereas families prefer to sail in summer when temperatures are warmer for swimming. The best time to cruise to Alaska will vary depending on your preferences for viewing wildlife, fishing, bargain-shopping, sunshine, warm weather and catching the northern lights. For most cruise regions, there are periods of peak demand (high season), moderate demand (shoulder season) and low demand (low season), which is usually the cheapest time to cruise. High season is typically a mix of when the weather is best and popular travel periods (such as summer and school holidays). However, the best time to cruise weather-wise is usually not the cheapest time to cruise. The cheapest time to cruise is when most travelers don't want to go because of chillier temperatures or inopportune timing (too close to holidays, the start of school, etc.). But the lure of cheap fares and uncrowded ports might make you change your mind about what you consider the best time to cruise. As you plan your next cruise, you'll want to take into consideration the best and cheapest times to cruise and see what jibes with your vacation schedule. Here's a when-to-cruise guide for popular destinations.