By WALLACE IMMEN
Every day and night on a Carnival Cruise Lines “Fun Ship” can be a non-stop party. On my final day at sea on Carnival Liberty, I swished baskets in spirited game of Horse on the basketball court, tried somewhat unsuccessfully to stay synchronized in a swim competition in the pool, murdered a ballad in a karaoke contest and tried to sweat off a week’s worth of hearty meals walking laps around the big red and blue smoke stack on the upper deck. During the last evening’s deck party, I was coaxed into joining a 500-passenger conga line that snaked around the decks to an irresistable salsa beat. (No, it it turned out our soul train didn’t come anywhere near a conga line world record.)
But even the most fanatic of Fun Ship fun seekers needs to chill out for a while: shut down and maybe read a book, or listen to an iPod or just laze in the hedonistic Caribbean sun. Isn’t part of the appeal of a sea cruise to escape the non-stopness of life in the real world?
Fortunately, I didn’t have to search far for peace and quiet on Carnival Liberty. There’s a great advantage to being on a big ship like this because there are ample places to just hang. Let’s tiptoe through some places to time out:
Serenity Adult-Only Retreat. Carnival added this walled off space for chill seekers on two decks during its recent refit of Carnival Liberty. It’s the first to get added Fun Ship 2.0 amenities that are also coming to other ships in the fleet. Serenity is a deck area labelled “adults only,” but that doesn’t mean it’s R-rated. It’s basically just like the other decks without the constant patter of little feet. The padded deck chairs are interspersed with lounging beds big enough for two that feature a clamshell-like top to provide shade from the sun. The downside is that there’s more demand than there are sun beds and unless you get out very early, you’ll find the premium spots permanently occupied.
Antiquarian Library. The intimate panelled room is technically a library, with a fair assortment of recent hardcover novels in locked glass cupboards. But no one I asked seemed to have a key to get at the books. It’s definitely as quiet as a library for reading your own book though, unless a group of bridge players set up to take a few tricks on one of the tables. It’s got wi-fi reception, but there are more comfortable spaces for checking e-mail or browsing the web in the Internet Cafe on the same deck.
The Main Deck. The only time this broad teak deck was busy was during the lifeboat drill held on departure day before the ship set sail from Miami. Other times, I could find plenty to deck chairs whenever I wanted to curl up with a book or watch the waves.
The Sun Deck. It sounds weird to seek out quiet in a little deck that’s right above the basketball court. But the sound really doesn’t carry from the pool or the volleyball tournaments below. This top deck space is one of the calmest sunning spots on the ship, even though it can be a mite breezy if the ship is headed into the wind. It tends to be under-populated because you have to unlatch a gate on a fence that surrounds the basketball court to get to the stairs that leads to it. In the past, this was an informal deck for topless sunning, but it seems the dress code is more covered up these days.
The Lobby Bar. Aside from the occasional beanbag toss game or trivia quiz, the lobby bar area can be a sanctuary indoors that is always bright even on a cloudy day.
Carnival Spa. Even on sea days when pilates, yoga, aerobics, detox or some unpronounceable fitness fad lessons are offered throughout the day and the treadmills are packed there’s usually plenty of free space in the gym. As usual, on the first day at sea all the fitness keeners packed in during the morning, but after that, people seemed to find other places to expend their energy. The center studio room is a great place for personal mediation or yoga at times when there isn’t a class in session. That’s generally in the lunch hours on sea days and most of the time in port,
Your personal balcony. “What do I need a balcony? I’m never in my room.” Sure, there are lots of reasons to get out and explore, but the evolution of ships is the evolution of privacy on ships. Once you’ve experienced having a balcony you’ll likely find yourself reluctant to retreat to an inside cabin again. Mine on deck 10 was amply spacious. My only complaint was that on both days at sea on the cruise I was warned not to use the balcony during the morning because workers were going along the railings doing cleaning and painting. Wish they could have done that on a day in port when I was off the ship on a tour.
The Lido Deck at sunset. For the best time to enjoy the sun is after 4 on the pool deck when an acoustic guitarist takes over from the DJ, the sun is still warm but not scorching and the crowds have hit their room for a pre-dinner nap. Excuse me, I’m just going to catch a few winks, then I’ll be ready to get back on the fun circuit.