Recently one of my followers asked if I had ever put together an all inclusive list of my favorite cruise ship venues, across any cruise line. As I read the question I realized this would make for a great blog post. So here we are, July 2019, exactly 15 years after completing my first cruise. I’ve done a lot of cruising over those 15 years, so it is going to be difficult to pick only 10 venues. I started a list about two weeks prior to writing this, just to make sure I was comfortable with my choices. I only made two changes to the overall list but I have moved around the rankings quite a bit. I should also point out that in my list I will mention a specific ship for each venue, however, the venue may be found on many ships within that cruise line’s fleet. Let’s jump right into number 10 and countdown to number 1!
10 – Jamie’s Italian on Mariner of the Seas
Jamie’s is one of Royal Caribbean’s flag ship Italian specialty restaurants. The two times I have dined here stick out in my mind as some of my favorite meals at sea. This is actually surprising because I am not the biggest Italian food fan. The menu lends itself well to group dining, as appetizers and desserts can be served family style. Although some of my friends may argue that the dessert plank is not intended for sharing! If you find yourself on one of Royal Caribbean’s ships that offers Jaimie’s Italian, I would urge you to try it!
9 – Sugarcane Mojito Bar on Norwegian Getaway
This bar made my list for its combination of delicious drinks and central location. Not only do the bartenders mix some excellent mojitos, but it is located on Norwegian’s 678 atrium. This makes it a perfect meeting point for both pre and post dinner drinks, as well as a great people watching spot through the atrium area. The Original and Coconut mojitos are my favorites here, but I should also mention the Jalapeño. If you are really a fan of some heat I would suggest trying it, but I warn you, it is really hot!
8 – One Small Step Nightclub on Carnival Valor
While I understand the industry’s reason for going to multi-functional spaces, I will always prefer a dedicated nightclub. Carnival’s Fantasy and Conquest class ships still boast these dedicated venues and is part of the reason that I still love these older ships. I’m not sure if it is just Carnival’s choose fun atmosphere or if it’s the combination of that and the dedicated space, but late night dancing is always heavily attended in comparison.
7 – Solarium on Symphony of the Seas.
Earlier this year I sailed on an Oasis class ship for the first time and really expected crowding when it came to pool and lounge space. I was delightfully surprised when I visited the Solarium on the first sea day that it was quite easy to find loungers and there were plenty of space in the pool (not all Symphony’s sisters have a pool) and hot tubs. In addition there is a bar inside the Solarium and UV glass which seems to deflect the suns rays. It was a perfect place to lounge and waste away a sea day. I should also mention this space is for adults only. If some quiet downtime is needed on these mega Oasis class ships, this is the place to go!
6 – Food Republic on Norwegian Bliss
Hands down my favorite place to eat at sea. The food can be best described as an Asian and South American fusion. The dishes are perfect for sharing and allows you to try numerous things on the menu. One visit a sailing is usually not enough for me. Beef Anticuchos and Salt and Pepper Calamari are a couple of my favorite dishes. If you are looking for an adult libation, the Toro Toro is a must!
5 – Lido/Pool Deck on Carnival Victory
When a pool deck has everything I love about cruising in one central place, I can find my “spot” and spend hours there. The pool deck on Carnival Conquest and Sunshine class ships have multiple bars, multiple food venues, multiple pools, stadium lounger seating, and a big screen. If grabbing a Red’s Rum Treasure from the Red Frog Rum Bar and a burger from Guy’s Burgers sounds good to you, then this is your place too.
4 – Spa Thermal Suite on Norwegian Escape
If you asked me five years ago if I would ever enjoy the spa while cruising, my simple answer would have been no. Today is a different story though. Back in 2016 on the Escape I had a cabin that included access to the spa thermal suite. Each morning that my wife went to the gym, I would head to the thermal suite. Therapy pool, sauna, salt room, heated lounger, became my routine. I would leave feeling so relaxed. Not to mention it’s a great hangover killer! I’m now sold on the thermal suite experience!
3 – Haven on Norwegian Escape
Sure the Haven experience could have easily been number one on this list, but I felt I needed to apply some cost versus included factor to the rankings. I was fortunate to be able to upsell last minute in the Escape’s Haven back in 2016 at a very reasonable rate. I probably won’t ever be in a position to pay full fare for a Haven cabin in the future, but you sure do get a lot of bang for your buck. The service is top notch the second you step onto the ship. Exclusive dining, private pool and sun deck, amazing cabins, the list can go on. If you have sailed in the Haven before you know what I’m talking about!
2 – Boardwalk on Symphony of the Sea
On the Boardwalk you will find Playmaker’s Sports Bar, the Dog House, Sugar Beach (candy store), Johnny Rockets, the Ultimate Abyss exit, and the Aquatheater. When I boarded the Symphony of the Seas back in February this was where I first headed to meet up with most of our large group. It became the meeting place anytime we were heading somewhere as a group. Playmaker’s has some tables along the main boardwalk area. It’s great for hanging out, having a few drinks, and people watching. Here is a pro tip, if you find yourself up on the pool deck and need to get down to deck 6, simply take the Ultimate Abyss!
1 – Waterfront on Norwegian Bliss
We have made our way to number one and I promise it does not disappoint. Just imagine drinking and dinning with friends and family only a few decks up from the water line. It is a space that truly connects you to the ocean. The area encompasses three quarters of the outdoor deck space on Norwegian Bliss’ deck 8. You can find outdoor dinning at La Cucina, Ocean Blue, Los Lobos, and Cagney’s Steakhouse. In addition the Sugarcane Mojito Bar and The Cavern Club have each boast a waterfront section. If you sail on a Breakaway or Breakaway-plus class ship I have no doubt you will spend a ton of time here! I certainly have! The photo below is actually of the Waterfront on the Norwegian Getaway. Bonus points if you can tell me why I have no good photos of the Norwegian Bliss Waterfront!
This was by far the most fun I had writing a blog post. It took me down memory lane across many sailings. I will say that all the of the venues listed here I have experienced in my last three years of cruising. While some of them are relatable to sailings earlier in the 15 years, I have to wonder if some of these stuck out more just because they were fresh in my mind. I’ll have to set a reminder to do another one of these a few years down the road and see how much my list has changed. I would love for you all share some of your favorite venues. Where we in agreement on any?
Bonus content, here are some venues that just missed the cut. Norwegian Escape District Brew House, Norwegian Getaway Teppanyaki, Disney Dream Pool Deck, Symphony of the Seas Wonderland, & Carnival Valor Red Frog Pub.
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