Though not often taken into consideration when booking a cruise, onboard marinas can greatly improve your next voyage, particularly for active travelers who love the water. Depending on the ship's marina type, where you're sailing, and sea/weather conditions, you'll be able to swim, snorkel, or take out watercraft like kayaks, sailboats, pedal boats, and WaveRunners. Marinas also offers pastimes like banana boat rides or water-skiing. Enjoying these activities from the comfort of your own ship is an extraordinary experience, not to mention extremely convenient. Here are the cruise lines and ships that offer onboard marinas.
Seabourn's trio of 450-passenger ships—Odyssey, Quest, and Sojourn—as well as the smaller Spirit and Legend (which will soon transfer to Windstar's fleet) all offer an aft marina. During specific hours on designated sea days, head to the marina where you can lounge on the deck, swim in a specially fabricated pool, or take out a watercraft.
When the marina is deployed, a pool liner is lowered into the water, so you'll be swimming in the ocean but still protected. Seabourn's marinas are also outfitted with a variety of watercraft, from banana boats to Hobie Cats to kayaks to pedal boats. You can even go water-skiing or simply float the day away in an inflatable tube. If you're cruising the Mediterranean, Seabourn does its best to deploy the marina at least once per cruise for voyages during the months of May through September. If you're sailing the Caribbean, chances are you'll enjoy a marina day almost any time of the year. Note that the marina is only deployed when the ship is at anchor and sea and weather conditions are safe.
Paul Gauguin Cruises
French Polynesia is one of the best destinations in the world to enjoy a variety of watersports. The waters are warm, crystal clear, and home to thriving coral reefs that are home to parrotfish, clownfish, and turtles. While you can't swim from MS Paul Gauguin marina, you can launch a kayak, borrow a windsurfer, or hop aboard a Zodiac for an optional dive or snorkel excursion. The ship offers PADI certification for novice divers, and many cruisers take part in the program. The dive team also offers a variety of classes, from beginner to advanced, to teach you the finer points of diving. It's important to note that while Tere Moana, Paul Gauguin Cruises' other ship) is also outfitted with an aft marina, watersports are not available directly from the ship.
SeaDream Yacht Club
Are you a speed demon? Then board the SeaDream I or SeaDream II, both of which offer high-speed personal watercraft from the retractable watersports platform on Deck 1. (These WaveRunners can't be launched at all destinations, but SeaDream does put them in the water wherever it can.) The marinas also have amazing glass-bottom kayaks, stand-up paddleboards, and Laser sailboats.
You'll find swim steps aboard Un-Cruise Adventures' luxury ships: the 22-passenger Safari Quest and the 36-guest Safari Explorer. Kayak launch platforms are installed aboard the three adventure ships—Wilderness Adventurer, Wilderness Explorer, and Wilderness Discoverer—as well as the 84-passenger Safari Endeavour. The line has plans to add a kayak launch platform to the stern of Safari Voyager this fall/winter when she returns to Seattle for some additional upgrades.
Andrea M. Rotondo is a freelance writer based in New York City. She covers cruise news and luxury travel trends for Fodor's, Condé Nast Traveler, Cruise Critic, and other websites and magazines. Follow her on Twitter: @luxtravelmavens.