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Jason

Tired of crowds on ship? Find your own quiet nook

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Aboard Royal Caribbean's Radiance, every elevator landing on the nine-floor atrium has a quiet nook with comfortable chairs - good places to get away from the crowd on this 2,100-passenger cruise ship.

Passengers headed for the Renoir restaurant on Carnival Cruise Line's 2,124-passenger Carnival Spirit can duck into the Salon, a little-used, waiting room with a simulated fireplace, leather couches and chairs, and tables made of burled woods.

Disney Cruise Line's two ships have a restaurant for adults only, giving them a welcome chance to get away from the throngs of children who are always aboard.

These are some of the venues that are islands of quiet and privacy on cruise ships that carry thousands of passengers. Not that you'll always want to avoid where the action is, but there are times when anyone may want a little down time.

"I think that's an important part of the cruise experience. There need to be areas that are quieter than others," said Joe Farcus, who has designed the interiors of most of Carnival Cruise Lines' ships.

"Experienced cruisers may want to read a book one day, be in the middle of things on another," said Farcus. "My mantra is to give people the maximum amount of choice."

True to his word, Farcus has created many spaces on Carnival ships where one can get away from the crowd. His libraries, for example, always are oases of quiet and good taste - perfect places to sit down with a book or simply get away from it all. So are card rooms and Internet cafes. The elegant waiting room with a fireplace, now on Carnival's newest ships, is one he is particularly proud of.

His most unusual quiet space is a U-shaped passageway 10 feet wide and more than 300 feet long, found on the Spirit-class ships. Curving around the bow of the vessel, it has round windows perhaps 4 feet in diameter looking out upon the sea, and beside each a pair of seats. You hardly could find a better spot to gaze at the ever-changing sea or to settle in with a book.

Some quiet places are found in unlikely places - would you believe in a disco? High above the stern on Princess Cruises' 2,600-passenger Grand-class ships, the Skywalkers disco is one of the quietest spots aboard - during the day.

"Hardly anyone thinks to go there. It's a nice place to sit and read," says Princess' Suzanne Ferrell.

Even a main corridor through a ship's public rooms may spawn a haven from the flow of passengers.

On Holland America's new 1,848-passenger Zuiderdam, the curving corridors create small nooks here and there among the public spaces, lending an air of intimacy to this large vessel.

"It's like a path through the woods, with little villages here and there," said Frans Dingemans, the interior designer. "There will always be something to discover as you walk around. That's the completely new element we have tried to achieve on these ships."

On ships of old, two particular locales were always havens of quiet for passengers, and they still are today. The ship library was one, and some on modern ships have chairs equipped with headphones so you can listen to music or readings.

The other popular spot for down time on the old liners was the open Promenade deck, where passengers could gaze at the sea while lolling on teak chaise lounges. Today's ships have the same decks, the same chaises and the same sea scenes, but fewer users - except for veteran cruisers.

Another half-hidden hideaway on Royal Caribbean's Radiance-class ships is the Thermal Suite in the spa. Here spa customers can relax as long as they like on heated tile chaise lounges after a sauna, fog shower or aromatherapy. The room, tucked away on one side of the ship, has a heated tile floor and looks out on the sea. A charge of $15 a day or $50 a week is assessed for its use.

Princess Cruises' new Caribbean Princess also has a Thermal Suite, for use by spa customers.

A special out-of-the-way space on the Queen Elizabeth 2 is the small, topmost Sun Deck, "used only by those in the know," said Cunard's Gary Gerbino. To reserve a chaise lounge there, passengers pay only $17 for the entire cruise.

Even more secluded are the small topmost outside decks on some Carnival ships, where topless sunbathing is permitted.

There's one other place on every ship where you can always be assured of peace and quiet, and that's your own stateroom. At one time or another, most passengers hole up there there to rest, read or watch television.

Cabins with a balcony make even better retreats. You can enjoy the sea in total privacy on your own balcony, even take breakfast, lunch or dinner there via room service.

The ultimate getaway can be yours, but only if you have very deep pockets. On Norwegian Cruise Line's Norwegian Dawn, you may never have to leave the Garden Villas, which are suites with a living room, dining room, three bedrooms, and a private garden with hot tub, outdoor dining area, babbling brook and your very own large terrace.

Of course, not everybody will want to pay the freight for a week of seaborne quiet in such expansive digs: The fare starts at about $14,000 per person.

Jay Clarke, a retired travel editor for The Miami Herald, is a freelance writer who lives in Miami.

Quiet onboard

Places to look for:

- Promenade deck (where you gather for the lifeboat drill).

- Small outside deck spaces at the stern or on the topmost deck.

- Window-side nooks off the foyer or main passages.

- Any lounge or bar that's not busy during the day.

- Wind-down rooms in the spa.

- Check out the library, card room, wedding chapel and Internet cafe.

- Last resort: your own stateroom.

Places to avoid:

- Poolside (often busy with bands and bodies).

- Discos (except during the day).

- Lounges with ongoing activities such as bingo, horse races, dance classes and trivia games.

- Any restaurant at meal time, lobby bars at cocktail time, show lounges in the evening.

- Also shy away from the casino, karaoke singalongs, sports bars, video arcades and art auctions.

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Great article, Jason. Thanks for posting.

I still seek out the library. The ones I've seen on HAL are beautiful. Nice writing desks, too.

And, as you might guess, I am one of those veterans seeking solace on the promenade deck. The author's right -- few people are there.

Norwegian Majesty has an area with comfortable window seats overlooking the sea. It's in a corridor, but somehow looking at the sea makes all the distractions go away. :smiley:

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We're always amazed as to how empty the promenade deck always is. We constantly look for quiet places, and usually end up there.

Jason, great article. thanks. :grin:

Howard

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I found Celebrity especially had lots of quiet places where I could go alone to read in quiet.

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