The Solarium pool aboard Mariner of the Seas.
Photo © 2010 Aaron Saunders

These days, swimming pools – somtimes two or even three – are as standard as lifeboats on cruise ships.  It wasn’t always this way, though – in fact, pools have been a staple on ships for just over one hundred years.

The first swimming pool at sea was installed on White Star Line‘s RMS Adriatic in 1907.  The indoor pool and Turkish Bath concept was so popular, the line drew up plans to install this new feature on its two largest ships, which were then in the planning stage: Olympic and Titanic.

The official White Star Line brochure for the Adriatic lists the particulars of the pool and baths for each voyage:

The TURKISH BATHS, which are located on the main deck,
consist of the usual steam, hot, temperate, and cooling rooms,
shampooing rooms, massage couch and electric baths.  
A plunge bath is also provided in conjunction with the same.
Experienced attendants are in charge.

These baths will be available for:
LADIES from 10 am to 1 pm  4/ $1.00
GENTLEMEN from 2 pm to 7 pm  4/$1.00
ELECTRIC BATHS (by appointment only)  4/$1.00


In many ways, not only were the pools and amenities aboard the Adriatic the first at sea, but they can also be thought of as the first spa at sea, as many of the amenities closely mirror the modern cruise ships of today, one hundred and three years later.  One dollar in 1907 is roughly equal to $23.00 in 2010 currency – considerably more expensive than spa prices today when you consider most lines charge between $30 and $50 per day – not per four hours – for use of the onboard hydro pool and thermal loungers.
 The pool deck aboard Grandeur of the Seas.
Photo © Aaron Saunders
Outdoor pools were gradually introduced, and quickly became a hub for activity, prompting lines to devote more deck space to this and other related amenities, like areas for lounging, suntanning, and nearby bars.  
 Pool aboard Holland America’s Veendam, 
showing the open Magrodome roof.
Photo © Aaron Saunders
Many ships have more than one pool, and some lines, like Holland America have pools with a magrodome cover – that is, a roof that can be opened or closed during inclement weather.  Other ships feature a similar arrangement, but with the caveat that the glass roof is stationary and cannot be opened.   The first ship to feature this innovation was the Oceanic, built in 1965 for Home Lines – which, perhaps not surprisingly, was acquired by Holland America in 1988.
Hydro-pool located in QM2’s Canyon Ranch Spa.
Photo © Aaron Saunders 
Indoor pools have also returned to popularity with the introduction of Thalassotherapy Pools, also known as “hydro” pools.   These usually carry a fee – not too dissimilar from the Adriatic in 1907, and frequently include use of the various steam rooms, rain showers, and heated thermal loungers.  In the case of the Queen Mary 2, pictured above, the comprehensive area also includes a hot tub, a foot soak, and an ice bath for quick cooling.  These areas have become extremely popular with passengers, and almost every line offers such an area on at least a few of their ships.
For those who wonder if these areas are worth the price of admission: the answer is yes.  Many, many times over. 
Heated thermal loungers on the Crown Princess.
Photo © Aaron Saunders

What does the future hold for indoor and outdoor pools aboard the cruise ships of tomorrow?  Larger ships give interior designers more space to play with, allowing them to create unprecedented pool decks and spas that could only be dreamed of a few years ago.  Passengers are looking to relax completely, and cruise lines have answered that call.
The Adriatic‘s designers would no doubt be impressed.


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