Image: Princess Cruises Sanctuary
Courtesy of Princess Cruises
For $15, chill out at the Sanctuary on the Crown Princess for four-and-a-half-hours. This adults-only, quiet retreat includes chilled face towels and Evian water atomizers dispensed by stewards while guests relax.
By Anita Dunham-Potter Travel columnist
updated 7/27/2009 12:13:54 PM ET 2009-07-27T16:13:54

Janice Harding calls the blasting “boom boom music” from the Disney Magic’s Goofy Pool and Mickey Pool too much to take. “My kids love it, but I can only take so much before I feel a headache coming on,” says the Los Angeles native.

She is referring to the loud music, usually accompanied by overexcited children and adults that has become the hallmark of the majority of large cruise liner main pool decks. Although Harding loves her kids she tends to bolt from the loudness; after all she wants to truly relax on her cruise so she escapes to the adults-only area on the Disney Magic.

Adult-only areas are clearly needed on ships that are full of children. When Disney Cruise Line launched in 1998 it recognized the need for adult-only areas when it designed its ships. Both Disney vessels offer several spaces dedicated for adult activities, which includes a pool area, coffee bar and nightclub. “A lot of parents onboard appreciate the adults-only area. It’s our quiet space with no loud music or cell phones ringing. It’s a godsend as we can relax and get into vacation mode,” adds Harding.

No kids allowed
Harding is not alone, and a number of cruise lines are increasingly catering to passengers seeking tranquility with the introduction of quiet, adults-only areas on their ships. Long ago Royal Caribbean International recognized the need for these places when it introduced the adults-only Solarium areas on its Vision-class ships. These peaceful spaces lie under cover of a sliding roof and feature a large pool surrounded by chaise lounges and a hot tub or two, with exotic design motifs including bronze statues, stone reliefs, tile mosaics and tropical foliage. On the Freedom-class vessels there are two large hot tubs cantilevered out 12 feet from the sides of the ship. Suspended 112 feet above the ocean, the hot tubs offer breathtaking, panoramic views. Guests willing to immerse themselves in the experience find music piped in underwater, a photo collage behind glass depicting a coral reef, and a glass wall that allows them to look into the atrium adjacent to the pool while submerged.

In 2006, Princess Cruises unveiled the Sanctuary on the Crown Princess. This adults-only, quiet retreat is located in uppermost forward deck of the ship and is covered by white awnings and populated with trees, abundant plush loungers and massage cabanas. But, this area is not free as Princess charges $15 for four-and-a-half-hour stays. The charge includes chilled face towels and Evian water atomizers dispensed by stewards while guests relax.

Top 10 short cruise vacationsFor an additional charge, guests can order from a menu of healthy food options such as fruit skewers and lettuce-wrapped spring rolls, use an MP3 player loaded with what Princess calls “relaxation music” or get an alfresco massage in one of the private cabanas. The Sanctuary also can also be found onboard the Caribbean Princess, Dawn Princess, Emerald Princess, Golden Princess, Grand Princess, Island Princess, Ruby Princess, Sea Princess, Star Princess. “The Sanctuary has come to personify Princess’ essential philosophy of escape coupled with personal service,” said Jan Swartz, Princess executive vice president. “Passengers have told us they love this opportunity to completely relax in such a peaceful and pampering environment, so we’re delighted to introduce this special Princess feature on all our vessels.”

Carnival Cruise Lines took notice of the success of Princess’ program and launched its own Serenity adults-only area on its newest ships and re-vamped older Fantasy-class vessels. Unlike Princess, Carnival does not charge for use of the area. Located in a secluded aft area of the ship the area features a bar, plush chaise lounges and chairs, oversize umbrellas, and two whirlpools. “Our Serenity areas have been an unqualified success since they were first introduced aboard the Carnival Inspiration in 2007. Although the Serenity retreats were originally intended as part of the renovations for our eight Fantasy class ships, they’ve proven so popular that we’ve added them to our newer ships,” said Carnival spokesperson Vance Gulliksen.

Bigger adult space on the horizon
It’s no surprise the biggest ships launching in the coming months will have the largest adult-only areas at sea.

When the 220,000-ton, 5,400-passenger Oasis of the Seas launches in November it will not only be the largest cruise ship, by far, in the world it will offer the most unique adults-only playground afloat. Adults looking for a retreat will find solace in the Oasis’ Solarium. Boasting a redefined layout, passengers will have the sensation of floating on air from the two-deck high, glass-paneled enclave designed with seating on various “islands” surrounded by water. The adults-only, open-air Solarium will offer a swimming pool, two whirlpools, and four cantilevered whirlpools suspended 136 feet above the ocean. The mezzanine level of the adult-dedicated area will overlook the pool deck below, offering additional chaise lounges and seating.

Launching in September, the 133,000-ton, 3,646-passenger Carnival Dream will be the largest “Fun Ship” in the fleet and will offer an amazing 11,250-square-foot Serenity area that will encompass two levels — a first for the line. The area will accommodate up to 200 guests who can select from seven different styles of seating, from plush chaise lounges and chairs to shaded sun loungers and even hammocks. Carnival Dream’s Serenity area will also feature a full bar on the lower level in a shaded area, while the upper level will offer two whirlpools providing magnificent sea views.

In late May of 2010, Norwegian Cruise Line will launch its biggest “Freestyle Cruising” vessel the 153,000-ton, 4,200-passenger Norwegian Epic. Adults onboard are sure to like the party atmosphere at the POSH Beach Club, a first of its kind beach club at sea that offers an exclusive, adults-only setting at the top of the ship.

Its clear guests really appreciate adults-only retreats, which offer a tranquil and peaceful environment for relaxing with a book or just enjoying the magnificent sea view. You can bet more lines will initiate and only increase the concept as it’s a great way to enhance a cruise vacation.

Sound off! Do you have a comment, an idea, a complaint or a problem for Anita to solve? Send her an e-mail and you might find yourself in her next column. And check out her blog, ExpertCruiser.com.

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