The Sounds of Silence

Quiet and cruise aren't often mentioned in the same breath. The very nature of a cruise is community—upward of 3,000 customers share their vacations with perfect strangers. Not that they mind: Plenty of people enjoy the gaiety and conviviality of a group. But even the staunchest extroverts want a little time to themselves at some point during their voyage, right? A moment of quiet time to relax, revitalize and re-energize in peace. Royal Caribbean offers adults-only Solariums on its Vision-, Radiance-and Freedom-class ships

Many cruise lines have taken steps to ensure their guests get just that when they are so inclined. Areas onboard have been fashioned and cordoned off for use only by passengers 18 years of age and older. Cruise lines are not looking to alienate their clientele who travel with children—far from it. It's a matter of giving adult guests an option that frees them from some of the headaches—such as screaming children, loud music, gratuitous pool folly—that can take away from one's vacation.

Special adults-only areas on cruise ships can be likened to VIP sections in nightclubs, only a tad less pretentious and sycophantic. And, unlike VIP sections for the famous, affluent or well connected, these specially designated onboard spots do not discriminate beyond age. On Princess ships, the Sanctuary is situated just outside the Lotus Spa

They do, on occasion, carry a usage charge, similar to what you'd expect when dining at a ship's specialty restaurant. Though the price tag to use these areas is not exorbitant, it is another way cruise lines are increasing onboard revenues.

Many cruisers, however, do not mind the extra fee. These special ship areas, which are often marketed as bastions of tranquility, reside primarily on the mass-market lines or ships that carry a high volume of guests. A luxury cruise ship seems to have no use for this sort of extra for two reasons. One, children do not make up a significant portion of a luxury line's clientele; two, luxury ships usually have smaller passenger capacities than mass-market liners, so they don't need to reserve onboard venues for exclusive use.

That leaves such cruise lines as Carnival, Royal Caribbean and Princess to cultivate and serve the demand for these dedicated areas, which offer amenities and features that are a step above what is delivered elsewhere on the ships. Not only do these places increase the value of a cruise vacation, they also enable guests to personalize their onboard experience and take their cruise up-market.

While the aforementioned lines are not considered luxury, equipping their ships with haute elements allows guests to choose their level of comfort. Yes, lying out by the main pool on a regular deck chair is satisfactory for some; others enjoy the idea of a secluded premium area that is patronized only by a select group of people. The best part: Instead of shoveling out $4,000 for a luxury cruise, customers can buy a $500 cruise and, with the money saved, splurge on the $20 fee to use a ship's private space.

Place for Pampering

So what can you expect? Usually a pool serves as the focal point, surrounded by hot tubs. What sets these secluded areas apart from other spots on the ship, though, is pampering. Whether they offer steward service, a special menu or something as small (but noticeable) as a chilled face towel, adult-only areas are an opportunity for contemporary cruise lines to proffer a more upscale experience.

In many instances, these areas are near a ship's spa. It makes sense: The spa is often the epicenter of indulgence. Many cruise ships maintain spaces that evoke Turkish baths of old, with multiple steam and sauna rooms, ergonomic resting chairs and soaking tubs. Known as thermal spas, these areas almost always carry a fee; if you're a spa fanatic, purchase a pass good for the entire cruise. Note: Thermal spas are coed, so it is highly advisable to wear a swimsuit instead of your birthday suit. There have been documented cases of unaware guests learning this the hard way!

For the most part, you can expect a heightened degree of privacy in an adult-only spot on a cruise ship. But in some cases, the area is not as secluded as you might hope; it may be identified just by a sign and have no supervision. It comes down to what cruise line you sail with and on which ship.

The cruise lines are doing a tremendous job of coming up with more options for passengers. While many guests are satisfied hanging out on the main pool deck, as long as they've got some shade and a good book, others crave that extra dose of privacy and serenity that these exclusive spaces provide. Who can blame them? Where else are you going to let off steam after a deflating evening at the casino?

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