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The Gauguin (Photo: Paul Gauguin Cruises)

5 Dreamy Cruise Experiences You Might Not Know Exist

Exotic destinations? Yes, please. Complimentary wine, beer and cocktails? If you insist. Luxury cruises sure know how to give us everything we desire. As if it couldn't get any better, some lines up the ante with experiences so remarkable, you might not have dreamed they were even available on cruise vacations. Indulge in some cruise fantasies with our five favorites.

Updated September 5, 2018

Champagne and Caviar Beach Parties

Seabourn butlers serving caviar and Champagne at the Caviar in the Surf event

Popping bottles and nibbling on caviar while standing waist-deep in the water might sound like something out of a hip-hop music video. But it's how luxury small-ship lines like Seabourn and Seadream Yacht Club throw a beach party.

Known as Caviar in the Surf and Champagne & Caviar Splash Party, respectively, the popular activity involves the ship's officers floating out Champagne bottles, caviar tins and other accoutrements on surf boards to passengers wading in the sea. The group sips and schmoozes, while a barbecue lunch and drinks await them on shore. If this isn't living the high life, we don't know what is.


Onboard Marina

Aerial view of the Watersports Platform on Wind Spirit

OK, so small ships don't have rock climbing walls or multiple swimming pools. That doesn't mean they don't know how to indulge adventurous spirits. A few lines, including Windstar, Seabourn, SeaDream and Paul Gauguin Cruises, are equipped with onboard marinas that house kayaks, paddleboards, snorkeling gear and other recreational toys. Passengers are free to use the equipment at their leisure, weather-permitting, as long as the ship is anchored or in some cases docked.

The onboard marina is not open on every itinerary, so choose your cruise carefully if it's high on your list.


Climb the Mast

Passenger climbing the mast on a Star Clippers ship

Traditional masted sailing is not a thing of the past. A handful of lines pay tribute to the golden age of sailing, with tall ships that run on the power of ocean winds. One of them, however, takes channeling your inner sailor to the next level. Star Clippers offers its passengers a chance to climb the mast for unbeatable views, the ultimate sense of accomplishment and of course, bragging rights.

How it works: You get strapped into a safety harness, climb more than 60 feet up a rope ladder and end at the crow's nest (a small lookout platform). Unless you've got the heebie-jeebies, don't rush to come back down. Soak up the scenery, and document your bravery with a selfie.


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Nights in Private Places

Bottle of Champagne, chocolate covered strawberries and candles beside the hot tub for the Nights in Private Places Experience on Azamara Journey

Nothing says "romance at sea" quite like butler service, dinner on your own personal deck and sleeping under the stars. Azamara's Nights in Private Places is a package just for couples, in which the ships' spa terrace is closed off to other passengers and transformed into a sensual hideaway. Lovers canoodle in luxurious robes, over Champagne and canapes, a saltwater whirlpool and freshly grilled meals paired with wine. At the end of the night, retreat to your outdoor canopy bed with privacy curtains for a long night of passionate … stargazing.

Psst: Seadream also offer an opportunity to sleep under the stars on its Balinese Dream Beds, though extras like dinner and Champagne are not included in the experience.


Private Submarine Ride

Partial underwater shot of Crystal's submarine, with Crystal Esprit on the water in the background

Riding in a submarine -- who didn't dream of that as a kid? On Crystal Cruises' Crystal Esprit, you can finally satisfy your childlike curiosity on a three-person submarine that travels up to 300 meters under the sea.

Helmed by the ship's captain (or his first mate), the sub -- which looks more like something out of "Transformers" than your stereotypical military watercraft -- features a Plexiglas bubble that offers 360-degree views of the marine life below. It's kind of like scuba-diving, except you're fully clothed in a cozy, protective capsule and never actually get wet.

Even more expedition yachts will offer onboard submarines when they debut, including Scenic Eclipse (launching 2019), Crystal Endeavor (2020) and Seabourn's new expedition ships (2021).

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6 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 six sun decks that maintain a strict adults-only ambiance.
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.