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Las Vegas of the Seas: The Very Best Onboard Nightlife

Tired clichés are very true: Many cruise ships are indeed floating cities with discos, nightclubs, casinos, and lounges aplenty. Here are some of the best night spots.

For those night owls out there, a cruise can be a great place to party on, both below decks and above. Some tired clichés are actually very true -- many cruise ships are indeed floating cities with discos, nightclubs, casinos, show lounges, bars and lounges aplenty. Here are some of the best night spots.

The discos aboard the Carnival fleet

Outrageous décor is in Carnival's blood. The entire fleet's discos harbor some of the wackiest props on the high seas (check out the glowing Frankenstein on the Miracle!), with two of the most unforgettable looks being aboard the Valor and Victory. The One Small Step disco on Valor takes the lunar theme to extremes with little volcano-like craters that stand several feet tall and glow with LED lighting. It's all about icicles and black faux-fur bar stools in the Club Artic aboard the Victory. Dance the night away in these fun escapist spaces, a DJ spins tunes until 3am nightly.

Skywalkers nightclubs aboard Princess Cruises' Caribbean, Crown, Diamond, Emerald, Golden, Sapphire & Ruby Princess

Party on another planet when you take the domed escalator up to the ships' spoiler, the iconic span that stretches high above the stern, and step into a futuristic-style Skywalkers nightclub. Funky lighting, shiny surfaces and way-out sound and video effects create an exciting nether-world for night owls who want to sip cocktails and dance the night away.

The White Hot Party thrown across the Norwegian Cruise Line fleet

This new party is held once per sailing fleetwide. On warm-weather itineraries it's up on the pool deck and the fun includes a laser light show, and in cooler climes, the party is in a lounge and features fun fake "snow" from a snow machine. In keeping with the theme, passengers are asked to come decked out in all white and the cruise staff dons white feather angel wings. Souvenir-seekers can buy White Hot T-shirts and white feather boas. Ice sculptures are also a part of the look and goofy "White Hot" cocktails range from the Angel-tini to the Heavenlycolada and Iceburg.

Boleros lounges aboard Royal Caribbean's Freedom Class

This lounge in the thick of things on deck 4 near the Centrum Atrium is the place for sizzling Latin music. As a live band plays mesmerizing Latin tunes, have a mojito (or five), sit back and enjoy the beat -- and the décor. Aboard the Freedom, for instance, huge hand-blown glass sculptures resemble a Georgia O'Keefe flower and fit in perfectly with the Latin vibe. Large glass shapes in deep reds and oranges are designed to look like the petals and buds of imaginary tequila-producing agave plants.

Karaoke aboard Crystal Symphony & Serenity

Crystal's roving a capella group Full Sail perform not just spine-tingling songs sans instruments around the ships, but host late-night karaoke in the sleek nightclubs. Both have funky bar stools, back lighting, and a cool futuristic feel. During karaoke, the four belt out a few tunes, plus spend plenty of time encouraging passengers to crooner and generally make karaoke a much higher quality experience than it usually is in the real world. On a typical 11- to 12-night sailings, karaoke is offered three nights and the a capella singers are typically on the Serenity's world cruise segments and the Symphony's non-European itineraries (for instance, Asia, ocean crossings and Panama Canal routes), and sometimes a handful of Mediterranean and Baltic cruises as well.

Ballroom dancing aboard Cunard's Queen Mary 2

This modern classic has a bona fide ballroom that could be straight out of a Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers movie, with a high arched ceiling and crystal chandeliers. Called the Queens Room, there's nightly dancing as the Queens Room Orchestra plays the oldies and Latin stuff that's so perfect for the classic steps, from swing and waltzes, to tango, meringue and chachacha. A vocalist hits all the right notes. Some evening theme parties are worked into the repertoire -- from a black and white ball to a lady's hat theme -- and ballroom dance demos are usually performed each evening by the ship's entertainment staff.

Sky Observation lounge aboard Celebrity Solstice

This amazing space is a sea of cool white and blue, with accents of orange. Check out the funky white chairs designed in 1958 by Arne Jacobson, white marble dance floor, white and silvery wall covering and screens, and of course a white baby grand piano. This top-deck lounge with a futuristic feel is wrapped in floor-to-ceiling glass windows for panoramic views. An inky black sky dotted with stars goes perfectly with the décor. Evenings, relax here with a drink to enjoy music and dance as the room is literally transformed for themes from wild red tango night to midnight blue for ballroom dancing.

The aft lounges aboard Costa Serena

The well-dressed Euro crowd fits right in with the high style of the hip aft entertainment hub on this ship and sisters Concordia and new Pacifica as well. The Serena's Luna Lounge is decked out in a funky mauve and lime color scheme, with arced seating and a circle motif that carries over into the ceiling design, carpeting, walls coverings and cocktail tables. Next door the Pan Disco is draw-dropping with its ruby red high-backed banquettes, zebra-print carpeting, plush black swivel chairs and cocktail tables kissed with a big pair of pouty lips. The icing on the cake: a pit stop at the Chocolate Bar down the hall to dip some berries into a decadent chocolate fountain.

Outdoor movies aboard SeaDream I and SeaDream II

"Movies Under the Stars" is a weekly event offered aboard this pair of 110-passenger yachty cruisers. Unlike the big ships that now offer something similar, these twins are small and close enough to the sea to actually hear lapping waves and taste the salty air. A large screen is set up on deck near the pool and classics like Casablanca are screened, plus James Bond flicks, recent films, and musical documentaries and concerts featuring the likes of Rod Stewart and the Rolling Stones. Waiters circulate taking drink orders and popcorn is served as guests relax on padded lounge chairs and drink in the cool night air. Sure beats the local Cineplex.

Deck parties aboard Windstar Spirit & Star

Windstar's deck parties are tops because you actually feel like you're on a real ship. The tall masts towering overhead and the teak decks are all reminders that these aren't homogenous mega ships, but yachts oozing charm and character. On Caribbean and Mediterranean itineraries, barbecue parties on deck feature great food, spirits and the thrill of dining under the stars with the wind in your hair and some gorgeous port like Santorini fading into the distance. The ship's musicians serenade guests during the party, and when the tables and buffet are cleared, a dance floor is born.

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