CRUISE AND PLAY PICKLEBALL

North Carolina Pickleball

“On The High Seas”

SOUTH CHINA SEA – Pickleball, one of the fastest growing sports in America, is starting to make a splash on the high seas.

The sport, hugely popular in the Phoenix area, especially in active-retirement communities, recently was added to the sports offered on all 14 Holland America ships. And the line’s newest ship, the Nieuw Statendam, which debuts in December, will feature the game as well.

Other cruise lines, including Princess and Regent Seven Seas, also have added pickleball to some of their ships.

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Erik Elvejord, Holland America’s director of public relations, says adding pickleball to the company’s ships was a no-brainer “because of many requests we were getting from guests.”

As an avid pickleball player myself, I was pleasantly surprised to see “meet for a game of pickleball” in the daily program on a recent 14-day Asian cruise on the Holland America Volendam.

The nets may not quite be to exact specifications and the swirling winds can blow a well-executed shot off course. But despite some of the challenges, I was delighted – after years of cruising – to finally have the chance to play the game at sea while working off a few calories from the Volendam’s tempting desserts.

 Cruise passengers like pickleball

Jack Thomas, the national president of the pickleball association and a Scottsdale resident, says it’s about time cruise lines started hopping on the pickleball bandwagon.

“I think the cruise industry has figured out that pickleball is a very inexpensive way to attract and entertain their passengers and will soon become a must-have onboard activity,” he says. “It is super easy to learn to play, great fun for all ages and creates camaraderie among fellow shipmates.”

Tino Carrillo, the Volendam’s assistant cruise director who overseas the ship’s sports – table tennis, shuffleboard, basketball and pickleball – says the latter has been a hit with the ship’s mostly older clientele.

“You typically play doubles, so it’s less tiring than some other sports,” he says. “It’s more accessible for everybody. It’s something fresh and new that more and more people are enjoying playing.”

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