If you don’t say ‘wow’ when looking at the pictures of at least one of these pool areas then we suspect you may be one of our most jaded readers.
Cruise ship pool areas have come a long way in just the past decade or so. Long gone are the days of one single plunge pool filled with seawater on the aft deck, with a few deck chairs scattered about for those passengers wanting to read a book and catch some sun.
Nowadays, at least on the mainstream cruise lines, pool areas are a signature attraction aboard their ships. After all, cruise passengers take a cruise for the food, the destinations, the entertainment and the sun and sea experience that a cruise holiday offers.
Modern cruise ships are floating hotels, waterpark resorts, theme parks and luxury retreats. The pool area is part of the modern cruise ship package and according to surveys conducted by Yahoo Travel, more than 40% of the 21.3-million cruise passengers in 2013 rated the pool area as ‘very important’ to their cruise experience.
So if you’re a holiday maker that loves a bit of sun at sea, you might want to consider one of the ship’s from Cruise Arabia & Africa’s list of the best pool areas at sea.
Brilliance of the Seas – Royal Caribbean
In our list of the best cruise ships for shopping, we ranked Royal Caribbean’s Oasis of the Seas and Allure of the Seas at number one, and it was tempting to do so here again, but closer examination reveals that Brilliance of the Seas in fact offers the best pool area at sea.
Recently based in Dubai during the winter cruise season offering Middle East cruises in the Arabian Gulf, until being replaced by the smaller Splendor of the Seas, Brilliance offers an Asian-jungle inspired Solarium pool area that is restricted to passengers older than 16 and has its own sliding glass roof, so that the climate inside is always tropical no matter the weather.
At the centre of this pool area is a pool and oversized Jacuzzi, surrounded by plush foliage and zen-like water features. There’s even an elephant statue.
Royal and Regal Princess – Princess Cruises
While a number of cruise lines, including Disney Cruise Line, Carnival Cruises and Costa Cruises, offer outdoor cinema experiences. It was Princess Cruises that pioneered the concept in 2004 aboard the Caribbean Princess.
Their two newest cruise ships, which are identical and also the largest in the fleet, Royal Princess and Regal Princess, take the concept to the next level, however, with ‘Movies Under the Stars’ screens that are the largest in the global cruise fleet.
Movies and major sporting events are screened day and night giving passengers a unique form of entertainment while swimming in either of the twin freshwater pools.
An extra dose of ‘wow’ is provided by the adjacent dancing fountains. It doesn’t compare with Dubai Mall or the Bellagio, but the water and lights show is a must-see on any Royal or Regal Princess cruise.
Viking Star, Viking Sea and Viking Sky – Viking Cruises
The leading European river cruise line made headlines this year when it ‘floated out’ the first of a trio of new ocean cruise ships being built at Fincantieri in Italy.
The river cruise operator’s expansion into ocean cruises is an exciting development, and if Viking Star is anything to go by, these are going to be three impressive cruise ships indeed. Debuting in 2015 and 2016, Viking Star, Viking Sky, and Viking Sea will boast onboard infinity pools, a very rare but increasingly popular feature for the industry.
Backed by glass paneling, the infinity pools will cantilever over the stern of the ships, allowing passengers to fully immerse themselves in the ocean and port-side scenery.
Due to be delivered in April next year, Viking Star will spend her inaugural cruise season in the Mediterranean, popular with both the South African and Middle East cruise markets, cruising predominantly between Barcelona and Venice.
MSC Divina – MSC Cruises
Staying with the infinity pool concept, MSC Cruises’ current flagship MSC Divina’s adults-only, Zen-inspired Garden Pool exudes minimalist design and is framed by four striking sculptures that emit sounds from nature (like bird song and waterfalls).
The pool’s infinity edge melds with the ocean for seamless views and a lively pool bar dishes out perfectly frothy drinks. While MSC Divina undertook her inaugural Caribbean season in 2013, MSC Cruises recently reversed their decision to base her in the North American market permanently, so during the winter cruise season she’s still available to the Middle East and South African cruise markets in the Mediterranean.
MSC, however, also deploys cruise ships to our regions, with MSC Opera sailing out of Durban and Cape Town this coming cruise season and MSC Orchestra replacing MSC Lirica in the Arabian Gulf, offering 7-night roundtrip cruises out of Dubai.
Oasis of the Seas and Allure of the Seas – Royal Caribbean International
When Royal Caribbean ordered the sister ships Oasis of the Seas and Allure of the Seas they paid special attention to the various pool areas they would be providing for passengers.
Not only do they feature the deepest pools at sea (18 feet!), these kidney shaped pools double up as a stage for aquatic shows at night. They’re bordered by tiered platforms lined with deck chairs and transform into the AquaTheater after dark.
Passengers can watch high-diving aerial athletes, water acrobats and synchronised swimmers display breathtaking feats of human ability. When there isn’t a show on at night, a synchronised fountain show, with shoots of water that reach up to 65 feet high, makes these pools a centerpiece attraction aboard the ship.
It’s not quite the 500-foot high spectacle that is the Dubai Fountains, but it’s the closest you’ll get to it at sea!
Marina and Riviera – Oceania Cruises
The twin ships Marina and Riviera, owned and operated by luxury cruise line Oceania Cruises, are achingly beautiful examples of old world class and elegance, with interiors that harken back to the golden age of ocean travel, and up on deck, no expense has been spared in creating pool areas imbued with style.
Fringed by real teak decks, soothing greenery, twin Jacuzzis, a pool bar, and plenty of comfy lounge chairs, the pool areas aboard these two ships are the epitome of ocean liner sophistication. A water fountain adds atmosphere, especially at night when LED lights enhance the pools sleek design. Here to we find the de rigueur outdoor theatre, with a large, built-in TV screen showing movies and major sporting events.
Sun Boat III – Sanctuary Retreats
One of the great things about river cruises and the river boats that you cruise on for them is that they’re not designed for ocean crossings and so there is a total re-imaginging of onboard spaces that wouldn’t be possible on a convention cruise ship.
Sanctuary Retreats’ Sun Boat III is a perfectly example, with a pool area that features live palm trees, a watering-hole inspired rock pool and canopied day beds that would be unpractical in the stiff winds common to the open ocean. There is also an open air bar. What better platform could you have for watching the ancient scenery of the Nile slip by?
Amawaterways are the undisputed leaders in European river cruises, with ships based on almost every major water way on the continent at some point each year.
Their newest river cruise ships AmaCerto, AmaPrima, AmaSerena, AmaReina, and AmaSonata offer something that most European river cruise ships don’t – a pool area, and it’s not just a hole filled with water and some deck chairs scattered around it.
They’ve gone one step further, not only heating the water for winter cruises, but also including a swim-in bar with in-water seats so that during the colder months you don’t have to leave the warm water to sip on a cocktail beneath the towering Eiffel Tower on the River Seine, against a metallic winter sky.