Pickleball, one of the fastest-growing sports in North America, is now making waves on the high seas and even on European river ships. 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. The line has paired up with the Professional Pickleball Association (PPA) to become their official cruise line. All ships in the Holland America Line fleet now have pickleball courts on the top deck and complimentary beginner lessons are offered.
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 has a dedicated pickleball court, added to the top deck during the ship's most recent drydock in 2022. While Conquest and Carnival Glory are the first Carnival vessels with a dedicated pickleball court, the game can also be played on board other ships across the fleet on basketball courts with recently-added equipment. These include: Carnival Breeze, Carnival Celebration, Carnival Firenze, Carnival Horizon, Carnival Jubilee, Carnival Legend, Carnival Miracle, Carnival Panorama, Carnival Pride, Carnival Spirit, Carnival Splendor, Carnival Venezia, Carnival Vista and Mardi Gras.
Royal Caribbean has a dedicated space for pickleball on Odyssey of the Seas, in the indoor SeaPlex sports area. The sport also appears on the program on the following ships, with more added all the time: Adventure of the Seas, Allure of the Seas, Anthem of the Seas, Explorer of the Seas, Freedom of the Seas, Harmony of the Seas, Independence of the Seas, Jewel of the Seas, Liberty of the Seas, Mariner of the Seas, Navigator of the Seas, Oasis of the Seas, Serenade of the Seas, Symphony of the Seas and Wonder of the Seas.
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.
Celebrity Cruises has added pickleball courts to nine of the ships in its fleet. The Edge-class ships with pickleball include Celebrity Beyond and Celebrity Apex, where the courts are located at the Rooftop Garden. The Solstice-class ships Celebrity Eclipse, Celebrity Equinox and Celebrity Solstice have pickelbll on the Sports Deck on Deck 15. And finally the Millennium-class ships Celebrity Constellation, Celebrity Infinity, Celebrity Millennium and Celebrity Summit offer the game at the Sports Court on Deck 12.
Crystal Cruises is also adding pickleball as an activity on its courts when its revamped ships debut in summer 2023.