This surprising sport has cruisers obsessed, and 1 cruise line is stepping up its game
What's fast and slow, appeals to all ages and will soon be amplified across Holland America's fleet? The answer might surprise you — particularly because it's a sport, and sports aren't exactly synonymous with cruises.
It's pickleball, a tennislike game played on a smaller court with solid, rectangular paddles, Wiffle balls and different rules. It was previously a game popular among retirees but is now one of the fastest-growing sports in the United States, even for younger age groups.
So, what does pickleball have to do with cruising? For years, Holland America Line has had courts on all of its ships, and now it has been named the official cruise line of the Professional Pickleball Association.
Per the new partnership, the line will outfit every single one of its vessels with a new pickleball court by April 2023, and members of each onboard fitness crew will offer free beginner-level lessons for passengers interested in learning the game.
"Wait a minute," you might be thinking. "I remember playing this in high school gym class. There's such a thing as professional pickleball?" The answer is yes, and it's serious, with several major competitions held each year.
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"We're proud to offer our guests an elevated pickleball experience as they travel to spectacular and scenic cruise destinations," said Kacy Cole, vice president of marketing for Holland America Line, in a statement. "Mirroring its rapid growth as the fastest growing sport in the U.S., pickleball is the most popular sport on our ships."
In addition to in-person lessons, Holland America will also offer video tutorials on the TVs in its passenger cabins, and cruisers can purchase PPA Tour-branded equipment kits (prices to be determined) in the vessels' onboard shops.
For anyone not needing instruction, there will be scheduled open-play pickleball time on every voyage, and equipment will be made available to borrow for cruisers not wishing to purchase their own kits.
But Holland America isn't the only cruise line that includes the sport on its list of activities. Several ships in the Carnival Cruise Line, Royal Caribbean, Princess Cruises and Regent Seven Seas Cruises fleets also have sports courts that can be used to play pickleball, along with set times for play throughout each sailing.
"Pickleball has become immensely popular among travel and leisure business categories because it is uniquely accessible, compatible with a variety of brands, and transcends a wide spectrum of age groups and lifestyles," said Connor Pardoe, commissioner and CEO of the PPA Tour, in a statement.
"This ageless sport welcomes players young and old, fast or slow," added Theresa Haynie, a founding board member of the Seattle Metro Pickleball Association and an International Pickleball Teaching Professional Association instructor. "It's a fun game to teach and even more fun to learn. Now with pickleball on board ships with this wonderful partnership, cruisers and players have one more adventure to experience and take home with them."
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