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The one thing for me that has always set cruising apart from other vacation types is the ships themselves. Unlike many chain hotels – which can be rather cold and impersonal – cruise ships vary wildly in their interior design, décor and amenities, even within a single company! Just look at the diversity of ships in the Carnival or Holland America Line fleets and you’ll see what I mean. They may look similar on the outside, but there’s a world of difference on the inside.
To showcase that diversity, I thought it would only be appropriate to look at five of my personal favorite public rooms aboard some of the ships I’ve sailed on to discover what makes each the cozy, warm and inviting places I return to time and time again.
Adagio Bar – Crown Princess – Princess Cruises
The Adagio Bar has a ton of good things going for it on this massive, 3,114-passenger ship. To start with, it’s located all the way aft on Sun Deck 16 – meaning most passengers aren’t going to find it anytime soon.
But it’s the clubby, 1930’s feel that gives this intimate piano bar its real charm, coupled with an attractive location next to Sabatini’s and the terraced aft pool decks. Soft, diffused mood lighting makes the perfect accompaniment to the soft, plush chairs and loungers – not to mention some great views from the windows that line the starboard side of the room.
It’s also the place to go if you value a good martini; there’s selections on the menu here that are exclusive to Adagio and can’t be found elsewhere on the ship.
The Panorama Lounge – Silver Spirit - Silversea Cruises
Ahhh, if only everything were as luxurious as Silversea’s ships, what a world we would live in. Fortunately, it is precisely this uniqueness that makes sailing aboard this ultra-luxury line such a privilege, and ship buffs like me will not be disappointed with the Panorama Lounge aboard the line’s flagship, the 2009-built Silver Spirit.
At first glance, there’s not a lot to make this room an instant standout. In fact, it’s one of the more subdued rooms onboard this art-deco-inspired vessel. But therein lies the entire brilliance of the Panorama Lounge. Done in light wood accents with crimson-red and offset cream-furniture, this intimate lounge is notable for its soothing atmosphere and breathtaking, 180-degree windows that look out across the aft portion of Deck 9.
Better still, doors inset just off the dance floor open, allowing you (or me) to take that all-important photo of another brilliant sunset, all without causing your drink to ripple.
If the weather is nice, ample plush chairs and clamshell loungers make long hours spent both in and out of the Panorama Lounge a no-brainer.
The Svedka Ice Bar – Norwegian Epic – Norwegian Cruise Line
Admittedly, this one could be a head-scratcher for many – unless, that is, you’ve personally sailed aboard the Norwegian Epic, Norwegian Cruise Line’s latest-and-greatest.
Here’s why you should cool off in a big way when sailing in the warmth of the Mediterranean or Caribbean: first, this is a “true” ice bar – complete with parkas, gloves, and double-sealed entrance doors designed to keep this multicolored room at a cool 17 degrees Fahrenheit (-8.3 degrees Celsius.)
Second, it’s a bargain – your admission fee includes three very bracing drinks – and that’s cheaper than three similar bevvies ordered outside in the much-warmer confines of Maltings or Shakers Martini Bar.
Third: it’s a bit of a rite of passage. After all, you’re onboard the Norwegian Epic! Why not Cruise Like a Norwegian?
The Pinnacle Grill – Volendam – Holland America Line
One of my favorite public rooms aboard Holland America’s 1999-built Volendam (and her sister Zaandam and near-sisters Amsterdam and Rotterdam) is ironically one of the few with no exterior-facing windows. But once you step inside these intimate dining rooms, you’ll see why that’s not a problem at all.
An intimate affair, Volendam’s Pinnacle Grill is Holland America Line’s signature specialty dining venue, offering up sumptuous cuisine for a modest, per-passenger surcharge. But aside from the great food, chances are it’s the clubby and intimate atmosphere that will keep you coming back again and again.
My favorite touches? Look out for the hand-blown glass light fixtures that adorn the room; they’re both elegant and colorful.
The Reception Lobby – Viking Odin – Viking River Cruises
River cruising is a fantastic way to see inland parts of the world that would otherwise be inaccessible to those of us who like our vacations water-based, and Viking River Cruises really hit the ball out of the park when they designed their new Viking Longships. And chances are, you’ll realize this the second you step onboard.
The first sight you’re treated to as you enter Viking Odin or one of her soon-to-be 13 sister ships is a brilliant, two-story reception lobby that is unlike anything that has come before it. Flanked with walls of glass windows and a stunning skylight, the Atrium is futuristic, Scandinavian, and yet warmly inviting.
By day, this sun-splashed area functions as the heart of Viking Odin, and by night, a welcoming ambiance is created thanks to soft lighting options and plenty of comfortable seating choices.
That’s the great thing about cruising – there truly is a ship, room, and space created for every taste and style!
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