The classic cruise liners like the Norway and the Queen Elizabeth II were designed for the formal cruiser who wanted to dress up for dinner and then dance the night away. They have ballrooms that cater to dancers. Newer ships often have more bars and clubs, but the dance floor size might be limited. In addition, today's cruise ships have so many onboard activities to choose from that dancing is only one option of many to pick from while cruising.
Today's cruise passenger is different from the passenger of 25 years ago. Cruise prices have remained somewhat flat as more ships have been built. As our society has become more affluent, this has opened up cruising as a vacation option for more and more of us. The baby boomer generation (and the generation X'ers to follow) want lots of variety in shipboard activities, ports of call, dining options, and onboard music. Today's cruiser is often very active, and dancing has become a favorite way to exercise for many seniors (and others). Dancing is so much fun that cruisers don't even realize that they are getting a great cardiovascular workout! Dance also gives passengers a chance to burn off the calories from some of those lavish cruise dinners.
Let's say you are planning a cruise and your dance skills are rusty or non-existent. There are several options. You can take lessons at home at a private dance studio or community center. There are also video tapes and Internet programs that will teach you to dance. Don't worry, though, if you don't get time to practice before you sail. There will be many others who also haven't danced since the prom (or their last cruise). You can have fun together learning new steps. Many ships offer dance lessons on board, so you can take lessons and try out what you've learned all in the same trip.
Being single doesn't prevent you from dancing at sea. Many cruise ships feature a dance host program. These dance hosts usually get to sail for free in exchange for serving as dance partners for single women (and sometimes men) on board. Several companies such as the Gentlemen Host Program and Ballroom Dancing Without Partners provide pre-screened, skilled dancers for ships. Tour companies that specialize in dance-themed trips also sometimes provide dance hosts as part of their tour package.
Onboard dance facilities vary greatly among ships. As noted above, some of the classic liners like the Norway and the QE2 cater to ballroom dance lovers. They both have good dance floors and great dance music. You can't just go by the age or the size of the ship, however. Nor can you always tell how good the dance facilities are by the cruise line brochures. The good thing is that almost all cruise ships have dance opportunities of some sort, but the bad thing is that the number of hours per day, the music variety, or the dance facilities can vary from ship to ship, not just amongst cruise lines. If dancing is very important to you, work with your travel agent to research the dance options among cruise ships. You or your agent may need to contact the ship to clarify what is outlined about dance options in the official brochure. If a ship has dance hosts or dance-themed cruises, it is probably serious about attracting dancers. The cruise line should also be able to tell you the numbers of hours dancing is available each day, the types of music, and a description of the facilities. One word of caution. Sometimes dance-themed cruises are so popular with dancers that you can't find a spot on the dance floor! Cruises with a "big band" or other music theme will also attract many dance lovers. Check out the Web sites of dance cruise resources in the box at the right. They will help you become more informed about dancing at sea.
Most cruise ships have dancing available from three to five hours daily, with a wide variety of music scattered in the lounges and rooms throughout the ship. Most have wood floors, but some of the floors are elevated, not flat. Many have dance hosts, but sometimes they are only on "selected sailings".
What does all of this mean? It means that like everything else on cruising, you need to determine how important good dancing is to you. If it is very important, do your research. Decide if you want a dance-themed cruise, a cruise dance tour, or just good opportunities to dance onboard. Book you trip. Finally, and most important, don't forget to pack your favorite dancing shoes!