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.
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1. Princess Cruises' The Sanctuary
Where to Find Serenity: Fleetwide, except for Pacific Princess
Pampering Elements: Princess has got the concept of an exclusive adults-only sun deck, dedicated to quiet relaxation and attentive service, down pat. At The Sanctuary, the lounges are upscale and plush, and Serenity stewards provide cooling Evian misters, chilled face towels, rental MP3 players with noise-canceling headphones and healthy and refreshing drinks and snacks like fruit skewers, spring rolls and smoothies. The ships' Lotus Spas also have outposts there in two private cabanas, where various massages are offered. (But, on warm breeze-free days, the enclosed cabanas can get rather sticky.) You can even take part in a sunset yoga session right on the deck. Cabanas can be rented separately for a fee.
On Royal Princess, Regal Princess and Majestic Princess, The Sanctuary area is 20 percent larger than on the line's other ships, which leaves room for additional landscaping (like rock gardens) and four more private Sanctuary cabanas. These offer personal TVs, a welcome cocktail and sofa seating. The three ships also feature an adjacent adults-only Retreat Pool area, with cabanas available for rent; that space transforms into a lounge area each evening.
Serenity Secret: Book an outdoor massage, and you'll be able to enjoy The Sanctuary free of charge for an hour after the treatment. (Outdoor massages are not available on Island Princess, Coral Princess, Diamond Princess, Sapphire Princess, Sea Princess or Sun Princess.) If you're tired of your own musical choices, you can rent an MP3 player for use in The Sanctuary; 10 preloaded playlists include calming island, new age, soft pop and country music selections, among other genres. Doing some scenic sailing through the Panama Canal or around the glaciers of Alaska? Book a Scenic Sanctuary package that includes a private viewing area for the day, along with special goodies.
Reality Intrudes: Use of The Sanctuary costs extra. Passengers can choose between half-day and full-day passes. Scenic sailing packages are offered at a per-day rate. Personal Evian misters bear a nominal fee, though you can enjoy a gratis spritz from the Sanctuary stewards periodically throughout the day. Drinks from The Sanctuary menu also cost extra, though you can expect to pay less than you would at other bars around the ship. Snacks themselves are free, but a small food delivery surcharge applies to all orders.
2. Carnival Cruise Line's Serenity
Where to Find Serenity: Fleetwide, except for Carnival Triumph
Pampering Elements: Unlike most of Carnival's outdoor public spaces, Serenity deck zones are entirely kid-free; passengers must be 21 or older to use the area. Location and amenities vary by ship, but Serenity features plush loungers, oversized shade umbrellas and pools and/or whirlpools. (Carnival Splendor only has a deck area without a pool or hot tub.) Carnival Sunshine's Serenity space spans three decks and features a waterfall. Waiters provide bar service for sunbathers looking to cool off with an icy drink or frozen cocktail, and a variety of music is played throughout the day. The Serenity deck on Carnival's newer ships, Vista and Horizon, also has a chopped salad station that serves up basic and specialty salads on sea days, free of charge.
Serenity Secret: It's free to use.
Reality Intrudes: Because the area does not charge a usage fee, loungers are available on a first-come, first-served basis. Depending on the time of day and popularity of the area, the Serenity deck may feel more or less serene. Although the area is accessible 24/7, whirlpool and bar are closed after hours. Be sure to check once you're onboard, as it can vary.
3. MSC Cruises' Top 18 Exclusive Solarium
Where to Find Serenity: Deck 18 on MSC Cruises' Fantasia-class ships (Fantasia, Divina, Preziosa and Splendida); Seaside also has its own adults-only sun deck
Pampering Elements: While officially "adults preferred" (since kids are technically allowed to be there), the Top 18 area does skew toward an adult clientele, with its dedicated spa services, bar menus and complimentary fruit skewers. Enjoy express 20-minute reflexology and facial treatments or massages, available from the Solarium's private massage chairs. Then, head to the Tiki bar for a smoothie or a frozen cocktail. A private entrance and chilled towels upon arrival set the mood for sunning and seclusion. Watch the sunset from one of two private hot tubs in the area.
On Divina, there's also the free-to-use, adults-only, lounge chair-fringed infinity pool on Deck 15 aft, where passengers can order signature cocktails from the Disaronno Bar, have a dip in the whirlpool or sign up for an industry-first AquaCycling class. Meanwhile, MSC Seaside touts a glamorous, 16-and-over South Beach pool and sun deck, tucked away at the back of the ship on Deck 7. Although there are no hot tubs on the South Beach sun deck, loungers do have access to a bar as well as a gelateria and creperie for ice cream, waffles and crepes.
Serenity Secret: At Top 18, wide-brimmed relaxation pods can be made available if you prefer to take in your ocean views from the shade.
Reality Intrudes: Entry fees for the Top 18 sun deck vary based on which piece of furniture is being used and how long it's needed. Depending on ship and itinerary, this Italian line may charge by the euro; check your onboard currency before sailing. The adults-only pools on Divina and Seaside are free to use; drinks and food from the gelateria and creperie cost extra.
4. Disney Cruise Line's Satellite Sun Deck
Where to Find Serenity: Deck 13 forward on Disney Fantasy and Disney Dream
Pampering Elements: In addition to the Quiet Cove Pool and much-needed adults-only area found on all Disney ships, Fantasy and Dream feature another dazzling adults-exclusive space called Satellite Sun Deck. It's centered on the Satellite Falls water feature, a circular splash pool with benches and a "cascading rain curtain" that sets apart this area from the rest of a kiddo-ridden cruise ship. Anyone 18 years or older can take advantage of this relaxation area with loungers on the top deck.
Serenity Secret: The Satellite Sun Deck area might be the exclusive spot to go on Fantasy and Dream but if you crave variety, the upper deck of the Quiet Cove Pool and Cove Bar has poolside loungers, protective canopies and a small wading pool. Happily, all of these adults-exclusive areas are free to use.
Reality Intrudes: Disney passengers cruising on Disney Magic or Disney Wonder will only have the Quiet Cove area to seek out as a refuge for some adults-only sun time, missing out entirely on the ample deck space of the Satellite Sun Deck.
5. P&O Cruises' The Retreat
Where to Find Serenity: Azura, Ventura and Britannia
Pampering Elements: Situated high on Deck 16 forward on Azura and Ventura, and Deck 17 on Britannia, The Retreat is an exclusive, for-fee sun deck area with its own private terrace, sun beds (some double beds are available, too), a cabana for outdoor spa treatments, a duo of whirlpools and personal waiter service. During summer Mediterranean cruises, the adults-only space offers a perfect respite from the main sun deck area, which can be overrun with kids, pool games and bands. You have easy access to the Oasis Pool, located immediately below, plus The Retreat fee includes a pass to the thermal spa.
Notable, as well, on Britannia is the adults-only, quiet zone found at the Serenity Pool, set just adjacent to The Retreat area. While touting less frills, it's fringed with its own batch of loungers and complimentary cabanas, and has its own bar, to boot. (Bonus: Unlike The Retreat, the Serenity area is completely free to use.)
Serenity Secret: A word of advice: Book early for The Retreat. It can sell out quickly. Note that sun lounger positions are not guaranteed.
Reality Intrudes: Passes for The Retreat cannot be prebooked, but they're available to purchase onboard at the Oasis Spa. They tend to book up quickly on the first day of the cruise, though passes to The Retreat can also be obtained when booking a spa package. If you're booked in the spa cabins, you'll have VIP access to The Retreat.
6. Norwegian Cruise Line's Posh, Vibe and Spice H20
Where to Find Serenity: Posh Beach Club and Spice H20 on Norwegian Epic; Vibe and Spice H20 on Norwegian Breakaway, Norwegian Getaway, Norwegian Escape and Norwegian Bliss
Pampering Elements: Spice H20 is a kids-free lounge area, located on Deck 15 aboard Norwegian Epic, Norwegian Breakaway and Norwegian Getaway and Deck 17 aboard Norwegian Escape and Norwegian Bliss. During the day, the area serves as a quiet escape, complete with hot tubs, loungers and a serene waterfall. Just don't expect serenity at night, when the space is converted into an open-air dance club.
Passengers reach Norwegian Epic's exclusive Posh Beach Club by private glass elevator. The area has a Mediterranean flair with cushioned daybeds, a full bar, water spritzers, cold towels and fruit skewers. It's complimentary to passengers staying in Villas.
Aboard Norwegian Breakaway, Norwegian Getaway, Norwegian Escape and Norwegian Bliss, the Vibe Beach Club -- which features ocean views, an oversized hot tub and chaise-style loungers -- functions similarly to Posh and offers the same amenities.
Serenity Secret: Only a limited number of passes for Vibe and Posh are available, so you'll want to purchase them as early as possible.
Reality Intrudes: There's no fee for Spice H20, but Posh and Vibe will cost you. Passengers can purchase one-day, one-week or 10-day passes to Posh, with access for weekly and longer passes beginning the second day of the cruise. While Posh is free for Villa suite passengers, Haven suite cruisers on Norwegian's newest ships will have to pay the standard rates to gain access to Vibe. Daily and weekly passes are available; passengers also can rent a cabana for two -- which includes a food and beverage credit. All other passengers in the three venues must pay regular prices for bar purchases.
7. Costa Cruises' Lido Bar Saint-Tropez, Lido dell'Amore and Apollo Pool Deck
Where to Find Serenity: Find fee-free adults-only sun decks on three Costa ships: at the Lido Bar Saint-Tropez on Deck 10 of Costa neoRomantica, Lido Via dell'Amore on Deck 11 of Costa neoRiviera and the Apollo Pool on Deck 9 of Costa Mediterranea
Pampering Elements: On Costa neoRomantica, the Lido Bar Saint-Tropez offers a sun deck with plenty of seating and lounging options (sun beds, wicker seats and couches), including complimentary first-come, first-served cabanas. Plus, there's a dedicated bar touting light bites and drinks. On Costa neoRiviera, the Lido Via dell'Amore area affords another complimentary adults-only space, with a swimming pool, spa pool and Jacuzzi, framed by sun loungers and a bar. Or, on Costa Mediterranea, the adults-exclusive Apollo Pool sun deck is situated at the ship's aft, featuring a lounger-flanked pool along with a Jacuzzi.
Serenity Secret: The Apollo Pool deck offers daily sunset cocktail specials, accompanied by live music. Tip: The bars at Lido Via dell'Amore and Apollo Pool are equipped to serve up complimentary smoothies, too.
Reality Intrudes: There's no shade at the Apollo Pool deck, so bring sunscreen. While there is an adjacent shaded bar area, be forewarned that half of the tables are designated as smoking and the seating there is open to families, some of which choose to dine alfresco here.