Couple on a cruise

Cruise ship sun decks offer all the convenience of loungers, hot tubs and beverage service -- and all the headaches of screaming children, rock concerts on poolside screens and live bands playing "Hot Hot Hot" for the 20th time. Adults-only sun decks offer all the former in a much more serene environment. We have nothing against kids, but even on the most family-friendly cruise ships, an area explicitly excluding children gives parents a valuable hour or two of "me time," while maintaining the sanity of fellow cruisers who came on vacation for peace, quiet and minimal crying.

Adults-only sun decks come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Many have amenities not available in the main deck areas and nicer loungers or sun beds; some also require an entry fee. We have not included adults-only solariums that are strictly covered pools. If the only "whining" you want comes with dining, then consider the following seven sun decks that maintain a strict adults-only ambiance.

  1. Princess' The Sanctuary
  2. Carnival's Serenity
  3. MSC's Top 18 Exclusive Solarium
  4. Disney's Satellite Sun Deck
  5. P&O's The Retreat
  6. Norwegian's Posh, Vibe and Spice H20
  7. Costa's Lido Bar Saint-Tropez, Lido dell'Amore and Apollo Pool Deck

The Sanctuary

1. Princess' The Sanctuary

Where to Find Serenity: Fleetwide, except for Pacific Princess

Pampering Elements: Princess has got the concept of an exclusive adults-only sun deck, dedicated to quiet relaxation and attentive service, down pat. At The Sanctuary, the lounges are upscale and plush, and Serenity stewards provide cooling Evian misters, chilled face towels, rental MP3 players and healthy and refreshing drinks and snacks like fruit skewers, spring rolls and smoothies. The ships' Lotus Spas also have outposts there in two private cabanas, where various massages are offered. (But, on warm breeze-free days, the enclosed cabanas can get rather sticky.) You can even take part in a sunset yoga session right on the deck.

On the Royal, Regal and Majestic Princess, The Sanctuary area is 20 percent larger than on the line's other ships, which leaves room for additional landscaping (like rock gardens) and four more private Sanctuary Cabanas. These offer personal TVs, a welcome cocktail and sofa seating and can be rented from $140 for a half day. Plus, the three ships feature an adjacent adults-only Retreat Pool area, with cabanas available for rent (from $50 for a half-day); that space transforms into a lounge area each evening.   

Serenity Secret: Book an outdoor massage, and you'll be able to enjoy The Sanctuary free of charge for an hour after the treatment. If you're tired of your own musical choices, you can rent an MP3 player for use in The Sanctuary; 10 preloaded playlists include calming island, new age, soft pop and country music selections, among other genres. (Outdoor massages are not available on Island, Coral, Dawn, Diamond, Sapphire, Sea or Sun Princess.) Doing some scenic sailing through the Panama Canal or around the glaciers of Alaska? Book a Scenic Sanctuary package that includes a private viewing area for the day, along with special goodies.

Reality Intrudes: Half-day passes (8 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. or 1 p.m. to 5:30 p.m.) cost $20 per person. Passes for a full day cost $40 each. Scenic sailing packages vary by destination, but they cost about $60 per person for the day. Personal Evian misters cost $3.95, though you can enjoy a gratis spritz from the Sanctuary stewards periodically throughout the day. Drinks from the Sanctuary menu run $1.50 to $3. Snacks themselves are free, but a food delivery surcharge of $3 applies to all orders.


2. Carnival's Serenity

Where to Find Serenity: Fleetwide, except for Carnival Conquest and Carnival Triumph

Pampering Elements: Unlike most of Carnival's outdoor public spaces, Serenity deck zones are entirely kid-free; passengers must be 21 or older to use the area. Location and amenities vary by ship, but Serenity features plush loungers, oversized shade umbrellas and pools and/or whirlpools. (Carnival Splendor only has a deck area without a pool or hot tub.) Carnival Sunshine's Serenity space spans three decks and features a waterfall. Waiters provide bar service for sunbathers looking to cool off with an icy drink or frozen cocktail, and a variety of music is played throughout the day.

Serenity Secret: It's free to use.

Reality Intrudes: Because the area does not charge a usage fee, loungers are available on a first-come, first-served basis. Depending on the time of day and popularity of the area, the Serenity deck may feel more or less serene. Although the area is accessible 24/7, whirlpool and bar hours are from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m., but be sure to check once you're onboard, as it can vary.

Top 18

3. MSC's Top 18 Exclusive Solarium

Where to Find Serenity: Deck 18 on MSC Cruises' Fantasia-class ships (Fantasia, Divina, Preziosa and Splendida); Divina also has an adults-only Infinity Pool and sun deck area on Deck 15

Pampering Elements: While officially "adults preferred" (since kids are technically allowed to be there), the Top 18 area does skew toward an adult clientele, with its dedicated spa services, bar menus and complimentary fruit skewers. Enjoy express 20-minute reflexology and facial treatments or massages, available from the solarium's private massage chairs. Then, head to the Tiki bar for a smoothie or a frozen cocktail. A private entrance and chilled towels upon arrival set the mood for sunning and seclusion. Watch the sunset from one of two private hot tubs in the area. Or, on Divina, there's also the free-to-use, adults-only, lounge chair-fringed Infinity Pool, set at the ship's aft, where passengers can order up signature cocktails from the Disaronno Bar, have a dip in the whirlpool or sign up for an industry-first AquaCycling class.

Serenity Secret: At Top 18, wide-brimmed relaxation pods can be made available if you prefer to take in your ocean views from the shade. Looking ahead, MSC Seaside will debut in December 2017 devoid of a Top 18 area, but with an adults-only South Beach pool and surrounding sun deck space instead.

Reality Intrudes: Top 18 sun deck usage fees range from $5 to $30, depending on which piece of furniture is being used and how long it's needed. Depending on ship and itinerary, this Italian line may charge by the euro; check your onboard currency before sailing.

Satellite Falls

4. Disney's Satellite Sun Deck

Where to Find Serenity: Deck 13 forward on Disney Fantasy and Disney Dream

Pampering Elements: In addition to the Quiet Cove Pool and much-needed adults-only area found on all Disney ships, Fantasy and Dream feature another dazzling adults-exclusive space called Satellite Sun Deck. It's centered on the Satellite Falls water feature, a circular splash pool with benches and a "cascading rain curtain" that sets apart this area from the rest of a kiddo-ridden cruise ship. Anyone 18 or older can take advantage of this relaxation area with loungers on the top deck.

Serenity Secret: The Satellite Sun Deck area might be the exclusive spot to go on Fantasy and Dream, but if you crave variety, the upper deck of the Quiet Cove Pool and Cove Bar has poolside loungers, protective canopies and a small wading pool. Happily, all of these adults-exclusive areas are free to use.

Reality Intrudes: Disney passengers cruising on Disney Magic or Disney Wonder will only have the Quiet Cove area to seek out as a refuge for some adults-only sun-time, missing out entirely on the ample deck space of the Satellite Sun Deck.

The Retreat

5. P&O's The Retreat

Where to Find Serenity: Azura, Ventura and Britannia

Pampering Elements: Situated high on Deck 16 forward on Azura and Ventura, and Deck 17 on Britannia, The Retreat is an exclusive, for-fee sun deck area with its own private terrace, sun beds (some double beds are available, too), a cabana for outdoor spa treatments, a duo of whirlpools and personal waiter service. During summer Mediterranean cruises, the adults-only space offers a perfect respite from the main sun deck area, which can be overrun with kids, pool games and bands. You have easy access to the Oasis Pool, located immediately below, plus The Retreat fee includes a pass to the Thermal Spa. Notable, as well, on Britannia is the adults-only, quiet zone found at the Serenity Pool, set just adjacent to The Retreat area -- while touting less frills, it's fringed with its own batch of loungers and complimentary cabanas, and has its own bar, to boot. (Bonus: Unlike The Retreat, which requires guests passes, the Serenity area is completely free to use.)  

Serenity Secret: A word of advice: Book early for The Retreat. It can sell out quickly. Note that sun lounger positions are not guaranteed.

Reality Intrudes: Passes for The Retreat cannot be pre-booked, but they're available to purchase onboard at the Oasis Spa. They tend to book up quickly on the first day of the cruise, though passes to The Retreat can also be obtained when booking a spa package. A day pass costs £25 per person. Prices for full-cruise passes for one person (or a couple) are £120 per person (£200 per couple) for seven nights. If you're booked in the spa cabins, you'll have VIP access to The Retreat.

Vibe Beach Club on Norwegian Getaway

6. Norwegian's Posh, Vibe and Spice H20

Where to Find Serenity: Posh Beach Club and Spice H20 on Norwegian Epic; Vibe and Spice H20 on Norwegian Breakaway, Norwegian Getaway and Norwegian Escape

Pampering Elements: Spice H20 is a kids-free lounge area, located on Deck 15 aboard Norwegian Epic, Norwegian Breakaway and Norwegian Getaway. During the day, the area serves as a quiet escape, complete with hot tubs, loungers and a serene waterfall. Just don't expect serenity at night, when the space is converted into an open-air dance club. Passengers reach Norwegian Epic's exclusive Posh Beach Club by private glass elevator. The area has a Mediterranean flair with cushioned daybeds, a full bar, water spritzers, cold towels and fruit skewers. It's complimentary to passengers staying in Villas.

The Vibe Beach Club aboard the Breakaway-class ships and Norwegian Escape -- which features ocean views, an oversized hot tub, chaise-style loungers and a soothing water feature -- functions similarly to Posh and offers the same amenities.

Serenity Secret: Only a limited number of passes for Vibe and Posh are available, so you'll want to purchase them as early as possible.

Reality Intrudes: There's no fee for Spice H20, but Posh and Vibe will cost you. Passengers can purchase one-day ($15), one-week ($59) or 10-day ($119) passes to Posh, with access for weekly and longer passes beginning the second day of the cruise. While Posh is free for Villa suite passengers, Haven suite cruisers on Norwegian's newest ships will have to pay the standard rates to gain access to Vibe. A daily pass is $25, a weekly pass is $99, a cabana rental for two passengers on a sea day is $99 and includes a $30 credit toward food and beverage, and a cabana rental for two passengers for the full cruise length is $329, which includes a $100 food and beverage credit. Aside from the credit allotted for cabana rentals at Vibe, passengers in all three venues must pay regular prices for all bar purchases.

The Apollo Pool on Costa Mediterranea

7. Costa's Lido Bar Saint-Tropez, Lido dell'Amore and Apollo Pool Deck

Where to Find Serenity: Find fee-free adults-only sun decks on three Costa ships: at the Lido Bar Saint-Tropez on Deck 10 of Costa neoRomantica; Lido dell'Amore on Deck 11 of Costa neoRiviera; and the Apollo Pool on Deck 9 of Costa Mediterranea

Pampering Elements: On Costa neoRomantica, the Lido Bar Saint-Tropez offers a sun deck with plenty of seating and lounging options (sun beds, wicker seats and couches), including complimentary first-come, first-serve cabanas. Plus, there's a dedicated bar touting light bites and drinks. On Costa neoRiviera, the Lido Via dell'Amore area affords another complimentary adults-only space, with a swimming pool, spa pool and Jacuzzi, framed by sun loungers and a bar. Or, on Costa Mediterranea, the adults-exclusive Apollo Pool sun deck is situated at the ship's aft, featuring a lounger-flanked pool along with a Jacuzzi.

Serenity Secret: The Apollo Pool deck offers daily sunset cocktail specials (from 5 p.m. to 6 p.m.), accompanied by live music. Tip: The bars at Lido Via dell'Amore and Apollo Pool are equipped to serve up complimentary smoothies, too.

Reality Intrudes: There's no shade at the Apollo Pool deck, so bring your sunscreen. While there is an adjacent shaded bar area, be forewarned that half of the tables are designated as smoking and the seating there is open to families, some of which choose to dine alfresco here.