Popular cruise ship pools and thermal suites are typically the go-tos for kicking back and relaxing onboard, but wouldn't it be nice to have a peaceful area all to yourself -- one that's not your cabin?
If you look hard enough, you might find "secret" decks, hot tubs or lounges around your cruise ship that are often overlooked by other passengers. While you'll likely be in the company of another serenity seeker or two, you can enjoy a break from the crowds -- and best of all, you won't have to deal with chair hogs.
We've combed through the Cruise Critic forums for tips on where to escape the hustle and bustle, and combined them with our own experiences to come up with some of the best-hidden gems at sea. Retreat to one of these seven spots for the ultimate "me time"; just don't forget to stop at the bar on your way because you won't want to leave once you're there.
1. Royal Caribbean's Running TrackA running track might not sound like the best place to escape, but on Oasis of the Seas and Allure of the Seas, a small section of it is made for just that. Below the AquaTheater, on Deck 5 aft, there are a few deck chairs overlooking the wake. It's typically quiet (as long as no AquaTheater shows are running), and the views are soothing. This hidden deck space also can be found on Harmony of the Seas and Symphony of the Seas, though without chairs. If you don't mind sitting on the ground, spread out a couple towels and enjoy the view. Another hidden find on Symphony's track are adjacent ping-pong and shuffleboard courts; we bet there isn't a queue to use these tucked-away gaming areas.
2. Oceania Cruises' Spa DeckDuring the day, the spa deck on Oceania's Marina and Riviera is no secret to passengers staying in Concierge cabins and suites (the only cabin categories with access to this space). The space, tucked away at the very front of the ship, lures sunbathers with its padded loungers and two hot tubs. So, what's the secret? Few are aware the deck is open late, so after hours, it's not unlikely you'll have the space all to yourself. Stargazing from your own private hot tub? Cruising "win."
3. Carnival Cruise Line's LanaiAll Carnival ships come with a free, adults-only Serenity deck that offers a respite from all the "Fun Ship" festivities, but sometimes, even they get crowded. On Carnival Breeze, Dream and Magic, passengers can find their Zen at the Lanai, on either side of Deck 5. This cozy little spot offers deck chairs and hot tubs that extend over the side of the ship. It's also conveniently located near the RedFrog Pub, which serves up a variety of beers, rum cocktails and snacks. Tip: We recommend visiting early on in your cruise, as the secret usually gets out after a few days.
4. Viking Ocean Cruises' Explorers' Lounge Top DeckSweeping views, live tunes and one of the most beautiful bars at sea make Viking Ocean Cruises' Explorers' Lounge (decks 7 and 8) a favorite hangout spot for many of its passengers. Because most of the action happens on the venue's lower level, its upper deck tends to be fairly low-key, especially during the day. Make your way up there to catch up on your reading or simply kick back and soak up the views -- don't worry, catnaps are totally acceptable.On Viking Orion, a planetarium takes up part of this upper-deck lounge, which means it's popular for show times and lectures, but people tend to forget about it as a place to chill outside of the events.
5. Norwegian Cruise Line's Top DeckUnless you have access to the most exclusive areas on Norwegian's Breakaway- and Breakaway Plus-class ships, the top deck might seem out of the way. Those willing to make the trek, however, will find a sliver of public deck space with chairs adjacent to the adults-only Vibe Beach Club and suite-only enclave, The Haven, that remains fairly undiscovered until a few days into the cruise. Locations vary by ship and are as follows: Deck 17 on the Breakaway-class ships (Breakaway and Getaway) and Deck 19 on the Breakaway Plus-class ships (including Norwegian Escape, Joy and Bliss).
6. Disney Cruise Line's Outlook Lounge"Hidden Mickeys" aren't the only thing you have to keep your eyes peeled for on Disney Dream and Disney Fantasy. The ships' Outlook Lounge is often overlooked by those onboard, because it's the only venue found on Deck 14. The space is intimate yet bright and airy, and features seating nooks and sweeping views through a wall of windows (but no bar). It's the perfect place to sneak away with a good book. Bear in mind: The lounge has limited hours, because it's used for many private events.
7. Seabourn's Forward Hot TubThe forward hot tub and sun deck found on all Seabourn ships remain a secret to many passengers, even though they're clearly visible from the popular Observation Bar's outer deck. That's because their location -- all the way forward on Deck 6 (Odyssey, Sojourn, Quest) or Deck 7 (Encore, Ovation) -- is only accessible via a door at the far end of a suite corridor. If you're not in the mood for a dip, you can still get your vitamin D fix from one of a handful of deck chairs, surrounding the hot tub. Pair that with poolside service and complimentary Champagne and caviar, and you've got yourself a picture-perfect escape.