When Royal Caribbean's gargantuan and game-changing Oasis of the Seas debuted as the then-world's largest ship in 2009, people wondered if anyone would bother to get off the ship in port, as it could take a week to try out all the onboard activities. With 24 dining options, 21 pools and hot tubs, multiple live performance venues (including an ice rink and AquaTheater for high-diving shows) and seven "neighborhoods," the ship practically guarantees that no one will have trouble finding something to do. But you don't need to sail on a 5,400-passenger ship to get the most from your days at sea. Any ship will do if you're content to spend your onboard time passed out on a sun lounger. But if you want the right mix of activity and relaxation options, it's key to pick the right ship with enough onboard attractions and programming to keep you entertained from sun-up to sun-down. Here's our selection of the best ships for days at sea, chosen based on their variety of indoor and outdoor pursuits, plus plenty of daytime dining options. And if you need more inspiration, check out our companion piece: Top 10 Things to Do on Sea Days.
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Sponsored by Cunard Cruise Line Imagine having seven whole days to yourself. Away from the pressures of home, the noise of social media, the distractions of daily life. Seven days to reinvent yourself: to be whoever you want and to try new things and have new experiences. A transatlantic crossing is the perfect opportunity. Personally, I love the idea of sailing 3,565 miles and going for the best part of a week without seeing land. I like the perspective the distance gives on the sheer vastness of the North Atlantic. I love the sense of occasion, too, as you cross the gangway and step into a refined world of elegant lounges, sweeping staircases and hatted bellmen in scarlet uniforms. The anticipation of the voyage to come is a real thrill. I have never been nervous about doing a crossing. Some people worry they'll get bored. To me, it's always been the opposite: How can I fit everything in? I feel a sense of freedom out there on the ocean. But, a transatlantic crossing can bring many surprises, too.
Sponsored by Cunard Cruise Line Technology, such as cellphones and computers, is wonderful when it comes to being productive at work and keeping in touch with loved ones. But, those devices can wreak havoc on your vacations if you don't unplug. And many of us don't. According to a poll by NPR, some 30 percent of Americans say they work often during a getaway. That means you're packing stress into your suitcase by never truly disconnecting. That's why a transatlantic crossing is such a unique way to travel. Where most forms of transportation aim to get you to your destination as quickly as possible, a transatlantic cruise is all about taking your time. On many sailings aboard Cunard's Queen Mary 2, the only ship to actually have a scheduled series of departures between New York and London that call at no other ports, you get seven or even more days at sea -- and a chance to enjoy the journey as much as the destination. Still, however you choose to recharge while traveling, it can be tough to transition from your crazy daily life filled with a million commitments to a life filled with as few or as many diversions as you choose.
How often are you able to make your our own vacation choices… to wander the world and contemplate life on your own terms? The liberation of a solo cruise -- of not having to be responsible for anyone's pleasure but your own -- allows you to appreciate the experience on an entirely different level than when you're with a friend, spouse or family member. However, in this coupled-up world, a solo traveler can find it difficult to cruise alone. Mega-ships don't make it easy to meet people and run into them again onboard, and harried crew members don't always have the time to dote on lone cruisers. Open-seating dining and reservations-only restaurants are not always friendly to singles who do not wish to dine alone. Then there's the issue of cost: A solo can expect to pay between 125 and 200 percent of the published cruise fare to cover the cost of the "missing" passenger. Some cruise lines do make an effort to cater to solos. Some will greatly reduce or even waive single supplements in an effort to fill berths, or offer meet-and-greets or group dining for single cruisers. Additionally, several lines now offer dedicated solo cabins, touting priced-for-one fares that generally run higher than the per-person cost for a double occupancy cabin, but lower than assuming the cost of the single supplement on a standard cabin. (See The Truth About Solo Cabins for more info on how fares for solo-dedicated cabins stack up.) All that said, here is a look at the seven best lines for those who like their "alone time."
As you lie on a massage table, legs tucked into a soft sheet, hot stones soothing the tired muscles of your back and arms, you will most certainly not be thinking about cruise ship spa ratings. And while you relax on a heated tile lounger or in a steamy sauna, eyes drooping, thoughts of work and bills scurrying far away, you're probably not wondering about your cruise line's philosophy on its spa product. But when you sit down at your computer to research your next cruise vacation, you might very well want to know where to find the best spas at sea -- and we'll be there to help.
Main dining rooms are a cruising staple. You'll find one on just about every ship -- a large, opulent space with a wedding reception feel that serves as the "default" dinner venue for most passengers. The meals are included in your cruise fare, and there's typically no limit to how much you can order. Foodies, however, tend to be underwhelmed. Main dining rooms aren't known to offer the best quality, which is why a number of passengers opt to splurge on specialty restaurants. On the flip side, there are a handful of main dining rooms that whip up some pretty drool-worthy dishes, making it hard to ever skip a night. If you have a picky palate and a sweet tooth for tradition, these six best cruise ship main dining rooms are sure to whet your appetite.
Can a luxury cruiser, accustomed to small ships with just a few hundred like-minded passengers, enjoy cruising on Cunard's 2,691-passenger Queen Mary 2? If they book a Princess or Grill Suite, we certainly think they can. If you're contemplating a transatlantic crossing or other cruise on Cunard's flagship, here's our scoop on the line's upper-class Grill Suites and the Cunard cruise experience, from a luxury traveler's perspective.
If you believe sea days are for reading, cruises are for relaxing and that the cruise ship librarian should be just as important as the cruise director, then these next few slides might appeal to you. Whether you're an avid bibliophile or simply appreciate a quiet, scenic atmosphere to unwind
The Caribbean's newest port of call, Amber Cove raises the bar for cruise line private islands. The Carnival Corp.-owned village, which welcomes lines including Carnival, Princess and Holland America, offers a combination of fun, history and culture on the Dominican Republic's northern coast. (Most
Set at the southernmost tip of the African continent, South Africa teems with travelers' temptations: safaris, wine country, beaches, tribal culture and multicultural cities. The biggest dilemma for any visitor here is not in wanting for choice, but in making the tough decisions on just what to
While some people cruise for the ports, onboard shows and other ship attractions, others love the sense of relaxation you feel when you're out at sea. For serenity seekers, a thermal suite -- an area of the spa with special whirlpools, hot tubs, showers and saunas -- just can't be beat. For the
Although many people think that Australia and New Zealand are the same, the island nations coexist in the South Pacific as close neighbors with completely different personalities. Aussies and Kiwis enjoy a healthy sibling rivalry on the sporting field, but New Zealand has its own distinct offerings that cannot be compared to Australia's. The Maori culture is one of the strongest in all of Polynesia, and if you've seen the breathtaking, sweeping vistas portrayed in blockbuster movies like "Lord of the Rings," you won't be disappointed; this is where they were filmed. The early Polynesian inhabitants called New Zealand "Aotearoa," which means "The Land of the Long White Cloud." Ever since European traders and whalers arrived in the late eighteenth century, it has retained a reputation for being ruggedly beautiful and mysterious, a land of geysers and glaciers that's a fusion of Maori and British. The country is neatly packaged up in two halves. The North and South islands are separated by the Cook Strait, which is just more than 19 kilometers wide at its narrowest point. The North Island is more heavily populated, featuring bigger cities that include Auckland and the nation's capital, Wellington. The South Island is the true star of the show, with its wide-open spaces, spectacular mountains, lakes and glaciers. From the Bay of Islands at the top of the North Island to dramatic Fiordland in the far south, cruising New Zealand opens up a world of natural wonders and reveals a vibrant culture. It's also one of the safest countries in which to travel, with efficient airline networks, generally good roads, and excellent healthcare, and emergency and hospital facilities.