1. Home
  2. Planning
  3. Cruise Tips and Advice
  4. 7 Secret Spots on Cruise Ships
Explorers' Lounge on Viking Star (Photo: Cruise Critic)
Explorers' Lounge on Viking Star (Photo: Cruise Critic)

7 Secret Spots on Cruise Ships

Popular cruise ship pools and thermal suites are typically the go-tos for kicking back and relaxing onboard, but wouldn't it be nice to have a peaceful area all to yourself -- one that's not your cabin?

If you look hard enough, you might find "secret" decks, hot tubs or lounges around your cruise ship that are often overlooked by other passengers. While you'll likely be in the company of another serenity seeker or two, you can enjoy a break from the crowds -- and best of all, you won't have to deal with chair hogs.

We've combed through the Cruise Critic forums for tips on where to escape the hustle and bustle, and combined them with our own experiences to come up with some of the best-hidden gems at sea. Retreat to one of these seven spots for the ultimate "me time"; just don't forget to stop at the bar on your way because you won't want to leave once you're there.

Updated July 18, 2018

1. Royal Caribbean's Running Track

A running track might not sound like the best place to escape, but on Oasis of the Seas and Allure of the Seas, a small section of it is made for just that. Below the AquaTheater, on Deck 5 aft, there are a few deck chairs overlooking the wake. It's typically quiet (as long as no AquaTheater shows are running), and the views are soothing. This hidden deck space also can be found on Harmony of the Seas and Symphony of the Seas, though without chairs. If you don't mind sitting on the ground, spread out a couple towels and enjoy the view.

Another hidden find on Symphony's track are adjacent ping-pong and shuffleboard courts; we bet there isn't a queue to use these tucked-away gaming areas.

The Spa Terrace on Marina

2. Oceania Cruises' Spa Deck

During the day, the spa deck on Oceania's Marina and Riviera is no secret to passengers staying in Concierge cabins and suites (the only cabin categories with access to this space). The space, tucked away at the very front of the ship, lures sunbathers with its padded loungers and two hot tubs. So, what's the secret? Few are aware the deck is open late, so after hours, it's not unlikely you'll have the space all to yourself. Stargazing from your own private hot tub? Cruising "win."

3. Carnival Cruise Line's Lanai

All Carnival ships come with a free, adults-only Serenity deck that offers a respite from all the "Fun Ship" festivities, but sometimes, even they get crowded. On Carnival Breeze, Dream and Magic, passengers can find their Zen at the Lanai, on either side of Deck 5. This cozy little spot offers deck chairs and hot tubs that extend over the side of the ship. It's also conveniently located near the RedFrog Pub, which serves up a variety of beers, rum cocktails and snacks. Tip: We recommend visiting early on in your cruise, as the secret usually gets out after a few days.

4. Viking Ocean Cruises' Explorers' Lounge Top Deck

Sweeping views, live tunes and one of the most beautiful bars at sea make Viking Ocean Cruises' Explorers' Lounge (decks 7 and 8) a favorite hangout spot for many of its passengers. Because most of the action happens on the venue's lower level, its upper deck tends to be fairly low-key, especially during the day. Make your way up there to catch up on your reading or simply kick back and soak up the views -- don't worry, catnaps are totally acceptable.

On Viking Orion, a planetarium takes up part of this upper-deck lounge, which means it's popular for show times and lectures, but people tend to forget about it as a place to chill outside of the events.

Vibe Beach Club loungers and umbrellas on Norwegian Getaway

5. Norwegian Cruise Line's Top Deck

Unless you have access to the most exclusive areas on Norwegian's Breakaway- and Breakaway Plus-class ships, the top deck might seem out of the way. Those willing to make the trek, however, will find a sliver of public deck space with chairs adjacent to the adults-only Vibe Beach Club and suite-only enclave, The Haven, that remains fairly undiscovered until a few days into the cruise. Locations vary by ship and are as follows: Deck 17 on the Breakaway-class ships (Breakaway and Getaway) and Deck 19 on the Breakaway Plus-class ships (including Norwegian Escape, Joy and Bliss).

6. Disney Cruise Line's Outlook Lounge

"Hidden Mickeys" aren't the only thing you have to keep your eyes peeled for on Disney Dream and Disney Fantasy. The ships' Outlook Lounge is often overlooked by those onboard, because it's the only venue found on Deck 14. The space is intimate yet bright and airy, and features seating nooks and sweeping views through a wall of windows (but no bar). It's the perfect place to sneak away with a good book. Bear in mind: The lounge has limited hours, because it's used for many private events.

7. Seabourn's Forward Hot Tub

The forward hot tub and sun deck found on all Seabourn ships remain a secret to many passengers, even though they're clearly visible from the popular Observation Bar's outer deck. That's because their location -- all the way forward on Deck 6 (Odyssey, Sojourn, Quest) or Deck 7 (Encore, Ovation) -- is only accessible via a door at the far end of a suite corridor.

If you're not in the mood for a dip, you can still get your vitamin D fix from one of a handful of deck chairs, surrounding the hot tub. Pair that with poolside service and complimentary Champagne and caviar, and you've got yourself a picture-perfect escape.

Popular on Cruise Critic

8 Best Luxury Cruise Ships
The moment you step aboard a luxury cruise ship, a hostess is at your arm proffering a glass of bubbly while a capable room steward offers to heft your carry-on as he escorts you to what will be your home-away-from-home for the next few days. You stow your things (likely in a walk-in closet) and then emerge from your suite to get the lay of the ship. As you walk the decks, friendly crew members greet you ... by name. How can that be? You just set foot onboard! First-class, personalized service is just one of the hallmarks of luxury cruise lines. You can also expect exotic itineraries, varying degrees of inclusivity in pricing, fine wines and gourmet cuisine as well as universally high crew-to-passenger ratios. That being the case, you might think any old luxury cruise ship will do, but that's not quite true. Like people, cruise ships have their own unique personalities -- and some will be more suited to your vacation style than others. Lines like SeaDream might not offer the most spacious suites, but their intimate yachts can stealthily visit ports that large ships can't manage. Regent Seven Seas and Oceania Cruises are owned by the same parent company but Regent offers a completely inclusive vacation experience, while Oceania draws travelers with a more independent streak. Take a look at Cruise Critic's list of best luxury cruise lines and ships to see which one resonates with you.
6 Cruise Ship Cabins to Avoid
You might expect loud noises, close quarters and crazy maneuvers in the dance club onboard your cruise ship -- but not in your cabin. Even if you don't plan to spend much time there, it should be a restful and private place so you can maintain that much-needed vacation stamina. To help you do so, we've compiled a list of cabins you'll want to avoid booking if closet-like dimensions or scraping chair sounds overhead aren't appealing to you. Heed our advice, and you might be feeling a bit less claustrophobic and a tad more refreshed come disembarkation.
How To Choose a Cruise Ship Cabin: What You Need to Know
Your room on a cruise ship is called a cabin (or stateroom) and is akin to a hotel room, but typically much smaller. Choosing a cruise ship cabin can be fun and challenging at the same time, and not just a little bit frustrating on occasion. Cabins fall into different types or "categories," and some cruise lines will present as many as 20 or more categories per ship. Before you get overwhelmed, it's helpful to remember that there are essentially only four types of cabins on any cruise vessel: Inside: the smallest-sized room, with no window to the outside Outside: a room with a window or porthole (a round window) with a view to the outside, often similarly sized to an inside cabin or a bit larger; also known as oceanview Balcony: a room featuring a verandah that allows you to step outside without going up to a public deck Suite: a larger cabin, often with separate living and sleeping areas, and a wide variety of extra amenities and perks It's the permutations (size, view, location, amenities and price, for example) of the four basic cabin types that can make choosing difficult. In addition to knowing your cabin options, you need to know yourself: Do you tend to get seasick? Do you prefer to nest peaceably on your balcony rather than hanging with the crowd around the pool area? Conversely, is your idea of a stateroom simply a place to flop into bed at 1 a.m. -- no fancy notions necessary? Are there certain amenities you are willing to splurge on, or can you simply not justify paying for unnecessary perks? The answers will help guide you toward selecting the best stateroom for your money. If you're feeling overwhelmed by choice, we'll help you get started with this guide to choosing the best cruise cabins for you and your travel party.