Pickleball, one of the fastest-growing sports in North America, is now making waves on the high seas. The combination of Ping Pong, tennis and badminton is a great way to have fun and burn off that buffet lunch on your next cruise.
Three dads invented this energizing and competitive racket game in 1965 on Bainbridge Island, near Seattle, Washington. They came up with the idea as a way to entertain their children during summer vacation.
The men began with table tennis paddles, established rules much like those in the game of badminton, and used a perforated ball that could bounce off the asphalt over a 36-inch high net. Over time, the game evolved, standardized rules were established, and pickleball spread throughout the U.S., into Canada and eventually into Europe and Asia.
Fun fact: The game is fondly named after Pickles, the dog of one of the founders.
Pickleball has become very popular with active retirees, perhaps due to its introduction to the Arizona Senior Olympics in 2001 and the addition of pickleball courts and lessons in private clubs, towns and master-planned communities appealing to active seniors.
With many cruise lines appealing to the same demographic of active seniors, pickleball is a perfect fit for cruise ships to include in their entertainment and sports lineup. It's easier than tennis on the joints, and is a great way for cruisers of all ages to stay active while on the ship. It also affords excellent opportunities to meet fellow passengers and burn off calories from lavish onboard meals and extra glasses of wine.
While on the court, don't be surprised if you see a few younger competitors playing pickleball on cruise ships. The sport's growing popularity is creating a much broader and younger following, as evidenced by the very active USA Pickleball Association's Junior Division.
Cruise ships that have pickleball courts include all of Holland America's fleet. Many of these ships have "official" lines mapped out for the pickleball courts within their sports courts. The rest of the courts have unofficial lines, but are set up to play.
Regent's Seven Seas Explorer also offers a pickleball court for its passengers as will the new Seven Seas Splendor. If you want to play pickleball on Princess Cruises, head to the Sports Court on Sky Princess and Enchanted Princess.
Carnival Cruise Line's Carnival Conquest also has a dedicated pickleball court, added to the top deck during the ship's most recent drydock in 2022. While Conquest is the first and only Carnival vessel with a pickleball court, the game can also be played on board other ships across the fleet on basketball courts with recently-added equipment.
Holland America Line sometimes hosts sessions where passengers can quickly learn the rules of the game. These gatherings provide opportunities to meet other guests interested in playing, similar to volleyball or basketball pick-up games. These often take place during Australia or European sailings. If there's quite a bit of interest, open play and tournaments will be listed in the daily program.
Princess Cruises will also list pickleball open play sessions in its daily programs, and if there are a lot of players, the cruise director might add tournaments throughout the sailing.
Updated October 27, 2022