Before the prevalence of veranda staterooms, I remember enjoying hours at a time lounging out on a padded deck chair of a full promenade as our ship navigated Alaska's scenic Inside Passage.
Now, most vessels feature more private balcony cabins, though the traditional wraparound public deck remains a prominent feature.
It's true that lots of cruise ship guests have their very own deck attached to their accommodations, so one could argue that a promenade deck is no longer as necessary. Inversely, the absence of verandas was once justified by the presence of other abundant deck spaces to utilize. Of course, back in the day, such venues also consistently extended to observation lounges, and even those are currently less common.
Some ships are skimping on promenade decks while others are embracing them and even innovating on their design.
Let's first look at Oceania Cruises' Marina and Riviera versus Viking Ocean Cruises' Viking Star, Viking Sea and Viking Sky. The competing sister-ships are similar in size, but Oceania's feature no promenade of any kind while Viking's have full ones. I've sailed on both ship classes, and the absence was felt.
Meanwhile, Viking's Venice-class ships delightfully have excellent promenades that fully extend to the stern and pass through the bow. A fun added touch are windows at the forward section that look into the behind-the-scenes workings of the mooring deck as docking procedures occur.
As wonderful as a private veranda is for providing a taste of the outdoors, even the largest can't compare to the grandeur of a traditional promenade.
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Ships often visit Glacier Bay or Hubbard Glacier in Alaska, favoring one side of the ship to calving ice faces. It will only do so for a period of time before pivoting to give equal time to the other side. Unless you have a ship-wide veranda, a promenade deck is still the best way to maximize your viewing.
Some new ships are taking it a step further by letting the promenade evolve into something even better.
When Norwegian Cruise Line first launched the Norwegian Breakaway in 2013, it introduced The Waterfront. Rather than simply being an access deck for lifeboats at its core, this boardwalk sits independently above for al fresco dining and entertainment venues. Guests can enjoy onboard daytime scenery and nightlife inside and out like never before.
Norwegian has repeated The Waterfront on all of its vessels since the Breakaway, and it will be included on its next Norwegian Bliss, which will be the first of its kind heading to aforementioned Alaska. It will even include a massive observation lounge in addition to its clever promenade.
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Come its December 2017 inaugural sailing from Miami, Florida, MSC Cruises' new MSC Seaside will feature an even larger al fresco promenade, literally expanding on The Waterfront concept.
I've only had a glimpse of it under construction at the shipyard. Even strewn with scaffolding, it was an impressive sight. The overall width of the outdoor decking that flanks the Seaside is considerably larger than what the Breakaway and its sisters present. It will offer plenty of space for dining, strolling and sunbathing alike.
Some cruise lines may be foregoing promenade decks altogether, but they're definitely paying off for those that are deciding to keep them around while adding to their original utility.
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