1. Home
  2. Planning
  3. Best Cruises
  4. 6 Best Cruise Ship Thermal Spa Suites

6 Best Cruise Ship Thermal Spa Suites

  • While some people cruise for the ports, onboard shows and other ship attractions, others love the sense of relaxation you feel when you're out at sea. For serenity seekers, a thermal suite -- an area of the spa with special whirlpools, hot tubs, showers and saunas -- just can't be beat.

    For the uninitiated, the services available in a thermal suite can be confusing; with names like laconium and caldarium, you might feel like you've stumbled back into Roman times. Not to worry: The treatments themselves are simpler than their names. Often, you'll find a steam room, which will be humid; a sauna, offering dry heat; a cold room, where you cool off after those hot experiences; a vitality pool that has oxygen-intensified water; and aromatherapy showers, where you're engulfed in soothing scented water and mist.

    Access to cruise ship thermal suites is not free (generally speaking), and availability is limited to ensure the spaces don't get crowded and those who pay for a daily or weekly pass can truly relax. These passes, sold through the spa or guest services, often sell out; if you're interested in the thermal spa suite, make your purchase soon after you board.

    Here are our picks for the best thermal spa suites you can book on a cruise.

    Photo: Cruise Critic

  • 1

    Persian Garden

    Celebrity Cruises

    With heated ceramic tile loungers, several shower options, a cold room and an aromatic sauna as well as a regular sauna, Celebrity's Persian Garden provides a relaxing getaway for the line's sophisticated spa-goers. Access to the retreat is free for passengers booked in Aqua-class cabins; others can buy a weekly or daily pass.

    Tip: While Celebrity has a Persian Garden on its Millennium-class ships, the ones on the Solstice-class ships are vastly superior, due to their location at the front of the ship, which provides panoramic views as you relax.

    Photo: Cruise Critic

  • 2

    Aqua Therapy Centre

    Queen Mary 2

    As you might expect on Cunard's flagship ocean liner, the thermal suite on Queen Mary 2 is expansive enough to keep participants occupied on lengthy transatlantic crossings. Run by Canyon Ranch, the suite includes a good-sized pool, a whirlpool, reflexology basin to relax your feet and sensory showers with different pulse options. Sauna-lovers will be in heaven, with a choice of a traditional Finnish sauna, an aromatic steam room and an herbal sauna before cooling down with the ice fountain.

    Tip: While access to the Aqua Therapy Centre requires the purchase of a voyage-long SpaClub Passport, passengers who book a spa treatment also can access the thermal suite free of charge. Just make sure you leave enough time before or after your session to indulge.

    Photo: Iglu Cruise/Flickr.com

  • 3

    Thermal Suite

    Norwegian Cruise Line

    Norwegian Cruise Line has fairly elaborate thermal suites on Norwegian Epic, Norwegian Escape and Breakaway-class ships, Norwegian Getaway and Norwegian Breakaway. Within the space, you'll find trendy "salt rooms" encased with layers of salt crystals, designed to improve respiratory problems and skin ailments. Other elements of the Thermal Suite include a steam room, a dry sauna, a vitality pool, heated tile loungers and hot tubs.

    Tip: Word on the Thermal Suites is out, and the limited passes that are good for a weeklong sailing sell out quickly. If you're interested, make a stop at guest services a priority on embarkation day. Day passes are available at a discounted rate to those who purchase a spa treatment.

    Photo: Cruise Critic

  • 4

    The Spa

    Viking Ocean Cruises

    While not thermal suites per se, the spas on all Viking Ocean cruise ships qualify, as they provide a number of hot and cold therapies. There's a warm-water thalassotherapy pool, plush loungers, two therapy showers, a steam room and a Finnish sauna. The spa also has a first-at-sea snow grotto, a small glassed-in room in which ice shavings fall each day. (Don't worry, when you get cold, you can warm up on heated stone loungers outside the snow grotto or retreat back into the steam room.) The best part: It's free to all passengers -- no special cabin class or purchase of a spa treatment is required.

    Tip: A couple of things to know about the snow grotto: First, it can get slippery, so you'll want to wear soled slippers. (We also recommend going early in the morning, when the snow is fresh.) Second, the snow grotto needs to be defrosted and cleaned once per cruise. So try to leave some wiggle room in your schedule, if your heart is set on trying it.

    Photo: Viking Ocean Cruises

  • 5

    Enclave

    Princess' Royal Class

    Princess has thermal suites on its Coral and Grand classes (with the exception of Golden Princess and Grand Princess), but its Royal-class vessels, Royal Princess and Regal Princess, take the concept up a couple notches. The Enclave boasts a hydrotherapy pool and accompanying rain shower, heated tile loungers and water beds, sensory showers with mood lighting and therapeutic aromas. Three named rooms offer a variety of heat-based experiences: the Hammam, a Turkish-style bath, featuring a marble slab for mud or salt treatments; the Caldarium, a ceramic chamber infused with herbal aromas; and the Laconium, a dry sauna.

    Tip: Access is granted by a weekly pass that sells out quickly. It might not be in the spirit of relaxation to rush to claim a spa pass, but if you don't get one shortly after embarkation, you'll be out of luck.

    Photo: Cruise Critic

  • 6

    Thermal Suite

    Holland America's Koningsdam

    Snag a day pass for Koningsdam's thermal suite, and you might find yourself wishing you'd purchased one for the entire week. The facility is not only one of the most gorgeous at sea, but it also has a wide variety of thermal suite alcoves that allow you to try something new every day. Spa-goers will instantly gravitate toward the spa's large thalassotherapy pool, complete with body massagers, a rain shower and sparkling overhead lights that give the illusion of a starry night sky. Other standout features include an aromatherapy room, "lazy" shower (you lie down on a ceramic bed instead of standing up), cold water bucket shower, an infrared sauna and sweeping views -- which can be enjoyed from the relaxation room, ceramic lounge, sauna and steam room.

    Tip: Purchase your spa pass on embarkation day. Many times, the line offers first-day discounts (such as $100 off a weeklong couple's pass). This also ensures you claim your spot, as passes tend to sell out quickly.

    Photo: Holland America Line

Find a Cruise

Popular on Cruise Critic

Onboard Credit: How to Get It, Where to Spend It
Free. Money. Are there two more beautiful words in the English language? While money doesn't grow on trees, increasingly it can be found somewhere else -- on the high seas. Call it an incentive, call it a bonus; whatever you want to call it, onboard credit lets you spend more freely with less guilt. You've paid your cruise fare, and now you can splurge on those enticing extras -- Swedish massage, specialty restaurant, an excursion to snorkel among shipwrecks -- without busting your budget. Not many need convincing as to why onboard credit -- money automatically deposited into your onboard account-- rocks, but finding out exactly how to get it and where you can spend it is a bit trickier. We found eight ways to hit the OBC jackpot and offer even more suggestions on how to burn through it, although you probably have your own ideas already.
Cruise Packing 101
There once was a not-so-savvy seafarer who didn't feel right unless she took two steamer trunks crammed with outfits on every cruise. This, she learned, was not a good idea. Besides incurring the wrath of her male traveling companion, who pointed out that he would have to wrestle with excess baggage through airport terminals and beyond, she quickly tired of cramming her belongings into tiny closets and bureaus. The now savvy seafarer follows her own packing 101 rule: Thou shalt put into one's suitcase only that which will fit neatly in the allocated storage space without hogging every available nook and cranny for thyself. Following that advice is getting easier these days because, for the most part, cruising has become a much more casual vacation -- even on luxury and traditional lines. Plus, with airlines charging to check bags and imposing extra fees for overweight luggage), it's just plain economical to pack light. To do so, you need to have a good sense of what you’re going to wear on a cruise so you don't pack your entire closet. If you're wondering what to bring on your next cruise, here are our guidelines for what you'll need to pack.
7 Best Adults-Only Cruise Sun Decks
Cruise ship sun decks offer all the convenience of loungers, hot tubs and beverage service -- and all the headaches of screaming children, rock concerts on poolside screens and live bands playing "Hot Hot Hot" for the 20th time. Adults-only sun decks offer all the former in a much more serene environment. We have nothing against kids, but even on the most family-friendly cruise ships, an area explicitly excluding children gives parents a valuable hour or two of "me time," while maintaining the sanity of fellow cruisers who came on vacation for peace, quiet and minimal crying. Adults-only sun decks come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Many have amenities not available in the main deck areas and nicer loungers or sun beds; some also require an entry fee. We have not included adults-only solariums that are strictly covered pools. If the only "whining" you want comes with dining, then consider the following seven sun decks that maintain a strict adults-only ambiance.
Best Time to Cruise
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. Fall foliage enthusiasts, for instance, will find September and October the best time to take that Canada/New England cruise, whereas water sports-lovers (and families) much prefer to sail the region in the summer when school is out and 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.