Last updated: 03:00 AM ET, Thu September 03 2015

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  • Amber Nolan | September 3, 2015 3:00 AM ET

    9 Best Cruise Line Observation Areas

    9 Best Cruise Line Observation Areas

    PHOTO: North Star rendering courtesy of Royal Caribbean

    For many cruise ships, part of the blueprint includes an area set aside for passengers to sit back and watch the world go by. And while they vary from ship to ship, these observation sections tend to fall into two camps — traditional lounges with plenty of windows, or fresh, innovative experiences. Here are the best ones out there:

    Aqua Expeditions’ Observation Deck

    Boutique cruise line Aqua Expeditions plies the Amazon River for three- to seven-night cruises. On the Aria Amazon, guests gather on the open-air observation deck for views of small villages, natural settings and exotic wildlife. The outdoor lounge on this deck features comfortably cushioned reclining chairs, shaded areas and an inviting Jacuzzi. There’s also an air-conditioned, indoor lounge with floor-to-ceiling windows and a bar for cocktails and light fare.

    The North Star on Royal Caribbean

    Royal Caribbean’s Quantum-class ships feature the North Star, a giant glass pod that extends out over the ocean. The rotating capsule offers 360-degree views at 300 feet above sea level. The catch is that the North Star only holds 14 people, so visitors have to wait in line and can’t remain in the pod after the ride is over. 

    Viking Star’s Two-Story Lounge

    The Viking Star is Viking Cruises’ first oceangoing vessel, and it is fitted with several dazzling new features including the Explorer’s Lounge, a gorgeous observation area in the front of the ship. Spanning two decks, the Explorer’s Lounge is ideal for a craft beer or to peruse the library’s reading selection. There’s even a small outdoor area, lofty second level and an artificial fireplace — all with a nautical, worldly design. Viking’s itineraries to the Mediterranean and Northern Europe offer opportunities for soaking in the scenery of fjords and postcard-perfect coastlines.

    Zambezi Queen’s Lounge and Sun Deck

    Sailing the Chobe River on two- to four-night cruises, the luxurious Zambezi Queen is part river cruise, part African safari. The chic and elegant lounge features a cocktail bar, designer furnishings and unobstructed views of the riverbank. The lounge spills out onto a sun deck with a plunge pool and comfortable loungers.

    Haimark’s Open-Air Lounge on Mekong Navigator

    The new Mekong Navigator explores Vietnam and Cambodia past dramatic landscapes, and cruises include visits to ancient markets and historical sites. The sun deck grants shaded areas and cozy chaise lounges with warm breezes, while the adjacent, covered observation lounge features waiter service, colonial decor and a casual atmosphere.

    The Sea Walk on Princess Cruises

    Stretching 60 feet long and spanning 128 feet over the ocean, the innovative Sea Walk offers a glass-bottomed pathway and full-length windows for a gorgeous stroll. The Sea Walk is available on the Royal Princess and Regal Princess.

    Norwegian Spirit’s Galaxy of the Stars

    Located on the 12th deck of the Norwegian Spirit, the Galaxy of the Stars is a sprawling space with a celestial theme and panoramic windows. It also doubles as an entertainment venue with a dance floor and stage, as well as a bar for cocktails and a changing menu of appetizers.

    The Forward Lounges on Stella Australis

    A Chile-based cruise line, Australis, operates two vessels in the most remote parts of Patagonia. The newer Stella Australis is fitted with two forward-facing observation lounges: the intimate Yamana and the larger Darwin Lounge. During the journey to Cape Horn, nearly the entire voyage is lined with fjords, glaciers, and jaw-dropping scenery on both sides of the vessel — making these cozy lounges an important part of the cruise.

    Celebrity Cruises’ Sky Observation Lounge

    Celebrity’s Solstice-class ships are fitted with the sleek and airy, Sky Observation Lounge (although the lounge is significantly smaller on Reflection). Floor-to-ceiling windows, a cocktail bar and a large dance floor as the centerpiece make this area an attractive place to relax. In the evenings, there’s live music straight from the 1940s. 


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Amber Nolan Captain’s Blog: Cruise Tips and Advice

Amber Nolan Amber Nolan loves to be on the water, and although she enjoys the fun and excitement of larger cruise ships, she prefers setting sail on smaller vessels to unique destinations. Originally from western New York, this restless traveler has a knack for finding creative ways to travel and befriending interesting characters along the way. On her most recent adventure, she hitchhiked on private aircraft across the United States. She previously served as the cruise editor at Sherman’s Travel but her work can also be found on and USA Today Travel. She current resides in South Florida.
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