While the newest mega cruise ships are designed for families, laden bow to stern with the kid-friendly facilities of a land-based resort, plenty of vessels still cater to twosomes seeking a romantic getaway. Some cruise ships offer better options than others for couples wanting to enhance their experience together.
Choosing a luxury ship, especially a small luxury vessel, can lessen the distractions couples might experience during a larger, more raucous vacation at sea. Seabourn, for example — whose stylish ships carry no more than 450 passengers — honed its resort features down to a fine spa and a water sports marina. No zip lines or crowded swimming pools, and room stewards are always on hand to draw a romantic bath for two. For complete (and indulgent) privacy, Seabourn couples can book a day-spa villa furnished with twin treatment beds, a whirlpool and a private terrace.
Another favorite of couples, especially those seeking both luxurious intimacy and resort-style facilities, is the 312-passenger Wind Surf with its computerized sails. Many of the suites on this Windstar Cruises vessel combine two standard cabins, which yield his-and-her bathrooms. Candlelit dinners by the pool draw twosomes after dark, and couples for whom more than two really is a crowd can opt for the “Cuisine de l’Amour,” a romantic repast for two served by candlelight in your cabin.
For those headed to the lush islands of Tahiti and the South Pacific, the 332-passenger m/s Paul Gauguin offers the ideal setting for tête-à-tête encounters with its all-inclusive drinks policy and elegant furnishings. Most cabins are equipped with a queen-sized bed only. La Palette Lounge features a small dance floor for intimate waltzes and two-steps, and the French/Polynesian restaurants teem with tables for two.
More intimate yet are two 112-passenger mega yachts, SeaDream I and SeaDream II, which combine informality with chic sophistication (everything’s included, even caviar, and the showers are wide enough for tandems). The top deck is outfitted with Balinese sun beds (which can be used to sleep under the stars), and the indoor-outdoor Topside Restaurant offers plenty of private nooks and tables.
Although couples-only cruises are an extreme rarity, several lines run adults-only ships. British-owned P&O Cruises dedicates three of its ships exclusively to adult passengers —Arcadia, Adonia and Oriana. His-and-her toiletry sets from The White Company set the tone, and all three vessels offer tables for two at the Ocean Grill, celebrity chef Marco Pierre White’s restaurant. The largest P&O ship, Arcadia, carries more than 2,000 passengers and sports a modern décor. Slightly smaller is the 1,870-passenger Oriana, quite British in ambience. Refitted for adults-only use in 2011, its playrooms were converted to additional cabins, and there are four wooden ballroom dance floors aboard for pairs who want to take a fling. Far more intimate is P&O’s 710-passenger Adonia, with the look of an old-world 1920s ocean liner featuring a Regency-style library and recreational outlets for those who want to jog or play shuffleboard in tandem.
Saga Cruises, another British-based line, offers elegant cruises in Europe and the Mediterranean exclusively for guests aged 50 and above aboard the 720-passenger Saga Sapphire. Couples can enjoy spa facilities, talks and lectures, dance classes, cabaret entertainment and, on the highest deck, an elaborate “crazy golf” (miniature golf) course modeled on St. Andrew’s.
While adults-only lines and small luxury ships cater to couples rather than to families, some mid-size and larger cruise ships have also apportioned their spaces to appeal to couples favoring intimacy over non-stop glitz. For twosomes who can avoid summer sailings and school vacations, the mid-size, 1,090-passenger Crystal Serenity combines large-ship facilities with small-ship luxuries geared to adults. A plethora of penthouse suites in three categories feature verandas, butler services and in-room dining, with dishes you select from the specialty restaurants’ menus. The Crystal Spa offers massages for two, and couples can reserve dinners for two in two specialty restaurants, Silk Road and Prego. There are no special facilities for children or families. Instead, Crystal Cruises puts the emphasis on guest lecture programs, music and bridge instruction, casino games, paddle tennis, social dancing and spa services.
Another large carrier, Princess Cruises, targeted many of its services to couples for decades, ever since it provided the original vessel for The Love Boat TV series. Nowadays, Princess’ new line of Grand-class ships — Crown Princess, Emerald Princess and Ruby Princess — offers couples a dining option at its most romantic. The Ultimate Balcony Dining experience comes with Champagne and lobster-tail dinners and course-by-course service in the privacy afforded by a couple’s stateroom balcony. These ships also provide massages à deux, and their Lotus Spa features a mud room with steam for two. Up front on the highest deck, couples often seek out The Sanctuary, an adults-only hideaway requiring an additional fee but providing attentive snack service and private cabanas for massages. The ships also feature dedicated wedding chapels, and those already married can renew their vows there. While these three Princess ships are fully equipped resorts at sea, each carrying more than 3,000 passengers, the children’s recreational facilities are snugly corralled in the stern.
Norwegian Cruise Line’s four Jewel-class ships (the Norwegian Gem, Jewel, Pearl and Jade) are floating resorts, too, carrying more than 2,000 passengers each, but family activity areas have been separated from places where couples can spend their time together. Best bet for two on a Norwegian cruise is a suite in The Haven, a private-access area, where an Asian-style courtyard includes a pool, hot tubs and massage beds. Haven couples also receive exclusive access to Cagney’s Steakhouse for breakfast and lunch, where small tables beckon. And even Disney Cruise Line has its adults-only spas, swimming pool and restaurants where duos (including parents and grandparents) can put some distance between themselves and Mickey whenever they find that more than two’s a crowd.
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