With the sheer amount of things to do on a cruise, both on and off the ship, it’s important to get the right balance of exploration and downtime when you’re travelling. We’re here to help with some handy advice on what type of cruise to choose, as well as the best ways to relax onboard a cruise, from spas to private areas, and bars to chilled out activities.

Choosing your cruise

Before you think about what activities you can enjoy onboard, you might want to take a moment to think about the kind of cruise you’re going on and how it will impact relaxation. If you choose a cruise with more days at sea that travels to low-key destinations like the Caribbean, you’re one step ahead already in making downtime. Even if you go on a port intensive cruise, like one to the Mediterranean, it’s still possible to relax – but the environment may be a little more intense. Still, you can go around ports at your own pace and don’t have the pressure of having to socialise onboard so much.

A good tip is to travel off peak if you can. Lower temperatures will keep your energy up and there’ll be fewer people in ports, allowing for time and stress saving. If you’ve already visited a particular port in the past, you could always opt for a ship day instead and make the most of the boat’s facilities with few other people about.

When it comes to choosing a cruise line, go for one with a high staff to passenger ratio and you’ll be pampered in every way. Choosing an All Inclusive cruise also takes the stress out of planning finances while you’re away, with lines like Regent Seven SeasSeabourn and Silversea including just about everything in the price, although you’ll pay more upfront. The majority of river cruise lines are All Inclusive, such as Avalon Waterways and Viking Cruises. They also have the benefit of being more intimate ships, meaning they’re often able to travel to smaller, less populated ports.

Top relaxing cruise activities

Spa and massages

Onboard spas provide one of the best ways to switch off and loosen those muscles, especially after doing lots of walking around exciting cities or going on energetic activity excursions. The largest at sea is on Norwegian Epic, which boasts 24 treatment rooms, 39 spa cabins and two private couple’s villas for unwinding together. While you’re waiting for your treatment, lie back at the Hydrotherapy Courtyard and Thermal Suite in a tropical garden, which features massage jets in the pool.

Another winner is P&O Cruises’ Oasis spa, where private treatment rooms all get ocean views. One of the most relaxing treatments is the warming stone massage, which encourages blood flow and relieves aching muscles.

Do some lengths

If you like to exercise to wind down, the options for fitness are wide on cruise ships. Go for a bigger ship and you’re likely to find a full line-up of equipment in the gym, as well as the opportunity to play ball games in the on-deck courts. For a more chilled out pace, nearly all cruise ships have a walking/running track where you can do laps on the top deck with some impressive views.

If you’re a water baby, an early morning dip will rejuvenate you for the day – and cruise ships certainly provide some stunning places to do it. MSC Cruises has infinity pools on the stern of its MSC Preziosaand MSC Divina ships, which even have sculptures playing bird sounds. This year, Viking Cruises also added infinity pools to Viking StarViking Sea and Viking Sky, with glass below the waters surface for horizon views from underwater. Situated at the stern beside the Winter Gardens and a hidden movie screen, the whole area can be covered by a retractable glass dome.

If you’re travelling without kids, each of Celebrity Cruises®’ ships, except Celebrity Xpedition, has an adults-only solarium pool in a glass atrium. Onboard Millennium-class ships, there’s also a thalassotherapy pool for extra chill-out time.

Low key entertainment

Steer clear of the surf or sky-diving simulators, rope courses and waterslides and you’ll find heaps of quiet cruise activities. Princess Cruises was the first to bring movie screens to cruise ships with its Movies Under the Stars nights. Here you can sit poolside with free popcorn, cookies, milk and blankets while watching the big screen – huge in fact. Also on Princess’ pool deck is the spectacular Watercolor Fantasy light and water show, which features impressive 33-feet-high water jets.

To get some private time with your nearest and dearest, Celebrity Cruises lays on picnics for two at the top-deck Lawn Club. These real grass lawns are found on its Solstice class of ships. Many cruise lines allow you to rent a private cabana for sunbathing – Oceania or Holland America, for example – but Azamara Club Cruises does it one better with its Nights in Private Places package. You can privately book the aft spa deck for a night to use the thalassotherapy pool under the stars, have a private butler serve candlelit dinner and sleep in a canopied daybed.

Child-free areas

Just the thought of screaming children may raise your blood pressure, but you don’t have to go for a full-on adults-only cruise as many cruise ships have places that over-18s can slip away to for peace. Choose to travel during school term time, or on a cruise that’s longer than seven days, and you’ll also find yourself around less families.

Anyone over 21 can recline on a padded lounger or hammock on Carnival’s Serenity deck or use the pool for free. There’s also a bar on hand for drinks in peace. P&O’s The Retreat is a little more exclusive however, and is chargeable at £25 a day or £130 for a seven-night cruise. Available on AzuraVenturaand Britannia, it’s a private deck with cabanas and sunbeds, plus easy access to the Oasis Pool below. You get a free pass to the Thermal Spa too, as well as VIP access to The Retreat if you’ve booked a spa cabin.

You’re on holiday after all

On a cruise ship you get to enjoy all the standard holiday activities of sunbathing, reading a book and having a few drinks, only with added doses of luxury. Book worms will love Viking Cruises’ ships, given that Viking Star and Viking Sea have books in the Living Room, Explorer’s Lounge and even beside the pool. Or for more traditional reading spaces, Azamara Journey and Azamara Quest are elegant, wood-clad spaces with excellent natural light.

When it comes to letting your hair down with a glass of something cold, cruise ships go big. Norwegian Cruises’ Bliss Ultra Lounge and Night Club has comfy sofas on Norwegian Gem and canopied beds on Norwegian Pearl. For evenings with a view, travel on Celebrity and take in the spectacular Sunset Bar, or visit Regent Seven Seas with the 180-degree Observation Lounge.

Take a look at our deals page to plan your next relaxing getaway.

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