Last updated: 01:00 AM ET, Wed September 14 2016

Cruise Ship Observation Lounges: Why Do They Matter?

Cruise Line & Cruise Ship | Viking Cruises | Jason Leppert | September 14, 2016

Cruise Ship Observation Lounges: Why Do They Matter?

Photo by Jason Leppert

There once was a time when an observation lounge – the forward-facing venue with wraparound windows at the top of the ship – was a cruise staple. Nowadays, they are infrequently included, but they should make a comeback for one reason alone: the destination.

As cruise ships grow increasingly more elaborate in size and features, they also become destinations unto themselves, but they should also not lose sight of the ports-of-call they visit. Certainly larger ships can manage to spare some space dedicated to the passing scenery, but it’s often the big ones that forego an observation lounge.

READ MORE: The 7 Best Cruise Ship Observation Lounges

Royal Caribbean International’s new Harmony of the Seas, the largest cruise ship in the world, for instance, still features, at least architecturally, the line’s signature Viking Crown Lounge, but its glass-enclosed footprint is accessible only to suite guests for the Coastal Kitchen restaurant on the port side and the Suite Lounge on the starboard side. No longer is the space available to everyone onboard. Worse yet though are ships opting to exclude an observation lounge altogether in favor of more staterooms in these spaces like on Princess Cruises’ newest Royal Princess and Regal Princess.

Sure most ships at least offer plenty of outdoor deck space toward the front of the ship in which to gaze out onto the horizon, but an observation lounge affords the opportunity to sit inside comfortably out of any inclement weather for extended periods of time with a drink in hand and a view unlike any other.

Save for the welcome likes of large ships such as Holland America Line’s Koningsdam and its great Crow’s Nest, most modern observation lounges are found now on smaller vessels, the best example of which is Viking Ocean Cruises’ new fleet beginning with the Viking Star and Viking Sea. For ships that only carry 930 guests, they certainly put their money where their mouths are in being destination-centric by presenting an outstanding double-decker observation lounge.

READ MORE: 9 Best Cruise Line Observation Areas

The Explorers’ Lounge (pictured above) is an exemplary model of what this kind of venue should be. Expansive floor-to-ceiling windows and glass-floored stairwells ensure that plenty of sun naturally lights the space during the day by being virtually transparent to the outside while passengers are indeed comfortably inside. Plus, not only is there a drink bar to serve guests, but there is also Mamsen’s Norwegian deli for snacks throughout the day. Truly, you can camp out here for the duration of the day and not need to go elsewhere.

Now, more and more ships, regardless of their size, would do well to consider what Viking and few others are doing and implement it to draw the focus back to the destination. After all, a ship looking in only on itself might as well just be a stationary shoreside resort.

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