It's a sport that has been gaining popularity for almost two decades.
Now, it's really exploding. I know pickleball has been called the fastest-growing sport for quite a while, but I am seeing more TV broadcasts and hearing from more and more friends who are eager to play these days.
In fact, by the end of 2022, 36.5 million people played the sport in 2022, according to the Association of Pickleball Professionals. That's a massive 630 percent spike from the 5 million who played this fun sport in 2021.
Even sports superstars are veering from their main sports to get a piece of the pickleball craze. NFL quarterback Tom Brady and NBA legend LeBron James have bought teams in Major League Pickleball. Yes, there is a pro pickleball league!
Indeed, pickleball-mania is sweeping the nation, and people want access to courts when they travel. That includes playing on cruise ships, too.
Let's have a look at the cruise ships that offer this fun sport that is easy to learn and quite addictive.
Well, first of all, it's sport that most closely resembles tennis, and it's no longer just for the senior communities that initially embraced it decades ago.
Pickleball is actually a mix of tennis, ping pong and badminton. The court looks like a tennis court, with the same surfaces and a net across, but it's about one-third the size of a regulation tennis court, making it the same dimensions as a badminton court, but the pickleball net is 34 inches high at the center.
Players use a large paddle (like a bigger ping-pong paddle) and hit a plastic ball that has holes. The ball is similar to a Wiffle ball, and its design makes it easy to track and hit because it can't gain too much speed after being struck.
Game play looks similar to tennis, and playing doubles is probably the most popular version of this fun and social sport. Points are scored by the serving team, and you typically play a game to 11 (win by 2 points).
Here are the cruise ships (the list is quickly growing, mind you) where you can play pickleball. Also note that some ships feature pickleball theme cruises (partial-ship charters for groups who get together for tournaments and games onboard the ships throughout their voyage).
In fact, Royal Caribbean's Odyssey of the Seas is hosting a pickleball cruise on a six-night Western Caribbean cruise out of Fort Lauderdale, November 27 to December 3, 2022. This theme cruise goes all-out for the pickleballers, with clinics and drills from pro pickleball players (yes, there are pros in this sport) and indoor courts reserved just for the players.
Carnival started offering pickleball on Carnival Panorama in May 2022. The line continued by putting the first dedicated pickleball court on a Carnival Cruise ship when it built at pickelball court on Carnival Conquest during the ship's refurbishment in October 2022.
Pickleball on Carnival Conquest joins several other popular activities as part of the line's Carnival SportSquare, which includes facilities for games such as minigolf, volleyball and basketball.
Carnival says it will be adding pickleball to more and more of its cruise ships. Also, avid players have often packed their paddles and used the basketball courts onboard to stay sharp with practice while hitting without the nets.
Royal Caribbean Ships with Pickleball
Numerous Royal Caribbean ships offer pickleball sessions on the sports courts. The nicest is the setup on Odyssey of the Seas in the indoor SeaPlex sports area.
You can also find the sport on the program on Adventure of the Seas, Allure of the Seas, Anthem of the Seas, Explorer of the Seas, Freedom of the Seas, Harmony of the Seas, Independence of the Seas, Jewel of the Seas, Liberty of the Seas, Mariner of the Seas, Navigator of the Seas, Oasis of the Seas, Serenade of the Seas, Symphony of the Seas and Wonder of the Seas. More will likely add pickleball, too.
Holland America Ships with Pickleball
All Holland America cruise ships have pickleball. The line features the sport on Rotterdam, Eurodam, Koningsdam, Nieuw Amsterdam, Nieuw Statendam, Noordam, Oosterdam, Volendam, Westerdam, Zaandam and Zuiderdam.
Also, Holland America Line has been named the official cruise line of the Professional Pickleball Association (PPA). This is good news for pickleballers who will be cruising with Holland America because the line will expand the pickleball offerings on its cruise ships for passengers.
All Holland America ships feature pickleball courts, and these are set to be refreshed in February 2023, including adding new PPA Tour partner logos. As part of this new program and partnership, cruisers can get complimentary beginner lessons from onboard instructors who will teach you the rules and how to hit certain shots.
Holland America cruises also offer "How to Play Pickleball" tutorial videos on your in-cabin TVs. Cruisers also will be able to purchase branded pickleball starter kits at the onboard shops starting.
Celebrity Cruise Ships with Pickleball
There are no dedicated pickleball courts on Celebrity Cruises' ships, but those with all-purpose sports courts for basketball, soccer, dodgeball, etc., will also offer sessions for pickleball with nets set up for the sport.
Several Princess ships offer pickleball in the program as of this writing. Like Carnival and other cruise lines, I'm sure you'll see more cruise ships added to the list.
You can play pickleball (on a makeshift-style court) by heading to the sports courts on Coral Princess, Regal Princess, Royal Princess and Emerald Princess (during the times it's listed in the daily program). The newer ships Discovery Princess, Sky Princess and Enchanted Princess, however, have pickleball courts built in as part of the Center Court areas up on Deck 18 on these cruise ships.
Queen Mary 2, the world's only ocean liner, offers a netted-in "paddle tennis" court where you could play pickleball if you bring your official "pickleball" balls; the ship has racquets already. You'll find the same style of enclosed courts for paddle ball on the ships Queen Elizabeth, Queen Victoria and Queen Anne.
The court surface is grass turf instead of a hard court, so you can play the Wimbledon of pickleball competitions while onboard.
This popular major cruise line features one dedicated pickleball court on each of its new ships Norwegian Prima and Norwegian Viva. I have sailed on Norwegian Prima a couple of times, and the caged court within the top deck activities complex called The Stadium is the nicest I've seen on a cruise ship yet.
Regent Seven Seas Ships with Pickleball
This all-inclusive cruise line features pickleball courts on its super-luxurious ships Regent Seven Seas Splendor and Regent Seven Seas Explorer. These are fully dedicated pickleball courts on the top of the cruise ship, and they are enclosed in a netting and offer a pristine surface for excellent play.
Oceania Cruises Ships with Pickleball
Pickleball is listed in the programs for cruises on both Oceania Riviera and Oceania Marina. Cruisers who have played and posted about it on the Cruise Critic message boards, however, say that it is best to play when the ships are in port because it can be far too windy to enjoy the games while at sea.
OK, who's ready to get in the swing with a little pickleball on their next cruise?
Thanks for reading,