Nothing compares to jumping in cool water on a hot sea day or loosening your muscles in a therapeutic whirlpool after a long day of shopping in port. If you want to keep your toes dry, you can just sit back and sip frozen cocktails on your lounge chair -- equally refreshing in our minds.
When we're stuck at work and vacation is far away, we dream of cruise ship pools -- you know, the ones you see in those shiny brochures and online ads that instantly transport you to a state of Zen. If the top deck is your happy place, then redress your swimming sorrows with pictures of our 15 favorite spots (in no particular order) to take a dip onboard.
Norwegian Cruise Line's Haven PoolShips: Norwegian Encore, Norwegian Joy, Norwegian Bliss, Norwegian Escape, Norwegian Breakaway, Norwegian Getaway, Norwegian Epic, Norwegian Gem, Norwegian Jade, Norwegian Jewel and Norwegian PearlWhy we love it: Tucked away on the top deck is Norwegian's exclusive hangout spot for passengers staying in Haven Suites. The Haven's tranquil courtyard includes a pool, hot tubs, bar and plenty of lounge space -- all separated from the rest of the ship. No need to trek across the ship to visit the pool. Just step outside your cabin doors and savor a quiet soak away from the crowds.
Royal Caribbean's Solarium Pool (Quantum Class)Ships: Ovation of the Seas, Anthem of the Seas and Quantum of the SeasWhy we love it: Royal Caribbean has taken everything we love about the Oasis-Class Solarium -- a quiet, adults-only space with great views -- and added a second swimming area made up of cascading pools. The glass-canopied space also includes the Sunshine Bar for thirsty loungers and swimmers.
Princess Cruises' Retreat Pool (Royal Class)Ships: Sky Princess, Royal Princess and Regal PrincessWhy we love it: As if the line's adults-only Sanctuary isn't secluded enough, Princess' U.S.-based Royal-class ships also have the Retreat Pool. The area offers more space than the adult pools on other ships, plus cozy cabanas in which passengers can order picnic baskets packed with artisan snacks and wine.
Disney Cruise Line's Quiet Cove (Dream Class)Ships: Disney Dream and Disney FantasyWhy we love it: While the adults-only retreat can be found on all four Disney ships, we're particularly keen on these two Dream-class pools. Romantic mood lighting, a swim-up bar and optional poolside massages make the ultimate -- and guilt-free -- mommy and daddy escape.
Celebrity Cruises' Solarium PoolsShips: FleetwideWhy we love it: Exclusive for adults, the glass-enclosed Solarium plays soft, meditative music while swimmers ease their way into the water with shallow steps. Its chic, contemporary look epitomizes Celebrity's style.
Seabourn Cruises' Aft PoolShips: Seabourn Ovation, Seabourn Encore, Seabourn Sojourn, Seabourn Quest and Seabourn OdysseyWhy we love it: Tucked away at the very back of Seabourn's ships, this intimate pool deck feels worlds away. Because most passengers head to the top deck for a swim, you might find you have the whole space to yourself. Soak in the small plunge pool or adjacent hot tubs, or kick back in one of the lounge chairs, all while enjoying the fabulous wake views. For the ultimate pampering experience, top it off with a glass of Champagne and some caviar -- it's all included.
Carnival Cruise Line's Serenity PoolShip: Carnival SunshineWhy we love it: Just about every Carnival ship has the adults-only Serenity sun deck. But the line took a different approach on Carnival Sunshine. Not only is its Serenity area one of the largest in the fleet, but it also has a beautiful waterfall-fed plunge pool accented by palm trees, hammocks, loungers and a nearby bar.
Viking Ocean Cruises' Infinity PoolShip: FleetwideWhy we love it: Infinity pools on cruise ships are hard to come by, but Viking's fleet of oceangoing ships is an exception -- and the views speak for themselves. Backed with glass and cantilevered off the stern, the pool on these five ships are reminiscent of those you see in luxury resorts that make you feel as if you're floating on the horizon.
MSC Cruises' Garden PoolShips: MSC Divina and MSC PreziosaWhy we love it: MSC Divina and MSC Preziosa share more than a sisterly bond. The two Fantasia-class ships have gorgeous infinity pools -- the first true infinity pools at sea. Reserved for adults, the pool offers a low-key vibe, fun bar and unbeatable views from the back of the ship.
Oceania Cruises' Main Pool (O Class)Ships: Marina and RivieraWhy we love it: Lie back in a cushion-topped lounger while being served your favorite cocktail from the nearby bar. The sleek, heated saltwater pools on Oceania's O-class ships are flanked by fresh-water whirlpools and boast a dignified ambience -- an adult's picture-perfect sea day.
Royal Caribbean's "Amplified" PoolsShips: Oasis of the Seas, Allure of the Seas, Mariner of the Seas, Independence of the Seas, Navigator of the Seas, Voyager of the Seas, Freedom of the SeasWhy we love it: Royal Caribbean cruise ships that have undergone a "Royal Amplified" refurbishment boast a resort-style pool deck that is meant to be enjoyed all day long and into the evening. The enlarged pool, which features a shallow area for toe dipping, is surrounded by decorative palm tree-shaped structures and colorful cabanas, hammocks and clamshell loungers. As the day progresses, the music and lighting change, but the nearby food venues stay open so cruisers can enjoy a casual evening in the open air.
Holland America Line's Greenhouse Pools (Pinnacle, Signature and Vista classes)Ships: Nieuw Statendam, Koningsdam, Eurodam, Nieuw Amsterdam, Noordam, Oosterdam, Westerdam and ZuiderdamWhy we love it: The Greenhouse Spa hydrotherapy pools on HAL's Pinnacle-, Signature- and Vista-class ships are all beautifully designed and unique in their own ways. They're also much larger than those on other ships in the fleet -- as opposed to more of a hot tub-style pool -- so you don't feel cramped.
Princess Cruises' Lotus Spa Hydrotherapy PoolsShips: Sky Princess, Royal Princess and Regal PrincessWhy we love it: Princess snags a second spot on our list, this time for its hydrotherapy pools in the Enclave, exclusive to Sky Princess, Royal Princess and Regal Princess (as well as the ships' China-based sister, Majestic Princess). The pool features a cascading rain shower and therapeutic air jets. The space is small, but its soothing atmosphere and surrounding features -- such as a Turkish-style steam bath and heated loungers -- make up for it.
Crystal Cruises' Seahorse PoolShips: Crystal Symphony and Crystal SerenityWhy we love it: Surrounded by teak decking and pops of tropical colors, these pools share similarities but also have their differences. Whether you fancy a large hot tub overlooking the pool (Crystal Symphony) or cushioned pod beds (Crystal Serenity), you'll feel rejuvenated at the end of the day.
Celebrity Cruises' Retreat PoolShips: Celebrity Edge and Celebrity ApexWhy we love it: The Retreat Pool, only available on Celebrity Edge and Celebrity Apex, is found on the ship's top deck and has a chic hotel rooftop pool feel. We love the whimsical swing chairs that dangle above the pool's wading area and the shaded double loungers. The pool and sun deck area is only accessible to suite passengers, but it's definitely worth the price of admission.
MSC's Seaside-Class Main and Aft PoolsShips: MSC Seaside and MSC SeaviewWhy we love it: The two main pools on ships in MSC's Seaside Class are some of the most bustling you can find at sea. The main pool (called Miami Beach Pool on Seaside and Panorama Pool on Seaview) is a zero-entry pool surrounded by a sizeable sun deck. It can get crowded, but that just lends itself to the social atmosphere you'll always find on an MSC ship. There are three hot tubs nearby, plus a short walk away is the Bridge of Sighs (a glass walkway that lets you see the ocean below). The aft pool (called South Beach Pool on Seaside and Sunset Beach Pool on Seaview) is reserved for passengers aged 16 and over. There are no hot tubs but you'll find gorgeous aft views and a yummy gelateria just steps away.