Vacations are supposed to be relaxing, but by the time our overworked brains get the message the vacation is often nearly over. Understanding this dilemma, cruise lines have devised some outstanding spaces that entice guests to slow down, relax and enjoy. These are the ones I love best.
Library, Oceania Marina I immediately fell in love with Oceania Marina’s library, and I had plenty of company. It looks like a P.G. Wodehouse or Agatha Christie setting with guests who are reading, sipping and dozing while sprawled out on huge leather chairs.
Be sure to explore the nooks created by the shelves holding 2,000 books and periodicals to find your perfect place. You have to get up very early on sea days to stake out a chair and a favorite nook. On my cruise, some people come to the library at 4 a.m. to grab a chair near the fireplace. The library’s English country house atmosphere is beyond soothing. With the availability of coffees and snacks at the adjoining Baristas Coffee Bar, and computers for Internet access, some passengers make a day of it.
Spa Recovery Room, Costa Luminosa
Most ships’ spa recovery rooms have elegant, minimalistic loungers with a view of the sea, but not onboard Costa Luminosa. Here, guests who have had a massage or other spa treatment can chill out on canopied beds with filmy curtains in a shady, quiet room that seems to inhabit another world altogether. And if you prefer a sunnier spot to let the pampering soak in, you can push open the picket gate to the outside garden from your treatment room, step out and relax in a chair.
Explorations Cafe, Nieuw Amsterdam
Explorations Cafe, powered by the New York Times, is my fantasy of what a retreat should be, and guests are constantly saying they need one at home. The ingredients speak for themselves: blissful, squashy leather chairs and couches, Internet stations, pastries, brownies, cupcakes, specialty coffees and thousands of books, magazines, DVDs, newspapers and table games — not to mention vast views of the sea. It’s full of guests from morning to night, sending emails, reading, chatting and playing games.
The Hideaway, Celebrity Silhouette
Many ships have comfortable chairs, but Silhouette has nests that for me brought back memories of childhood retreats. Tucked away near an impressive 20-foot live tree that stands over the atrium, the intimate The Hideaway is an irresistible stylized tree house, with comfortable seating and suspended nests where guests can enjoy the peace, read or play with the Apple products from the Celebrity iLounge.
Seabourn Square, Seabourn Sojourn
I never thought I’d choose a purser’s desk for relaxation, but Seabourn Sojourn’s Seabourn Square makes dealing with questions both serene and pleasurable. The core of the ship and its collective living room, Seabourn Square includes purser and concierge functions but guests sit across from staff — there is no standing and waiting. And the atmosphere is eons away from a typical front desk. This open space at the heart of the ship is gently divided into areas for Internet access, a very fine library of books and magazines and plenty of seating options, from easy chairs and couches to tables and chairs perfect for enjoying the specialty coffees, teas and pastries that are always readily available.