If you haven’t paid attention to cruise ships in a while it might surprise you at just how many things you can do at sea now.
With today’s cruise ships being bigger than ever and having more innovative technology than ever before, there are some very unique features and activities you can enjoy that most people don’t know about.
In this article we will look at some of the most surprising things found on cruise ships. For those who don’t keep up with recent moves in the cruise industry these innovative features at sea may change some perspective as to what a cruise vacation could actually look like.
Even the casual traveler may know there are mini golf courses, fitness centers, and steam rooms on many cruise ships. But what about ice skating rinks, bowling alleys, and escape rooms? Let’s dig in to what you can find on some of the newest cruise ships at sea today.
1. Escape Rooms
Some of the most innovative and creative escape rooms I’ve ever been in were on cruise ships. The first time I checked out an escape room on a cruise ship was on Norwegian Encore. The dedicated escape room space in Galaxy Pavilion was packed with all kinds of tech that guests could engage with during the 45-minute puzzle-solving quest.
The activity could even be adaptive to the guests, so challenges could be made easier or more difficult depending on the pace or knowledge level of the cruisers.
Not every cruise ship has an escape room and you should do some research on your particular cruise before assuming slots will be available. Besides several Breakaway-class ships with Norwegian Cruise Line, some of Royal Caribbean’s Oasis-class ships have escape rooms.
2. Ice Skating Rinks
This is actual ice and not the fake, plastic stuff some places try to pass off for ice-skating. Currently, if you want to go ice skating on a cruise ship you will have to sail with Royal Caribbean International. 10 cruise ships with the line currently have ice skating rinks.
These spaces on the ship allow for some of the best entertainment you can get at sea. The ice skating shows I’ve seen with Royal Caribbean are really spectacular. Not only are these skaters doing spins and tricks on a moving ship, but there’s tons of tech, lighting effects, and even the use of drones to elevate the experience.
Additionally, cruisers can do some skating on the ice themselves. During certain times during the cruise the rink is opened for cruisers of all ages to enjoy some ice skating. Just be sure to check the Cruise Compass for what times the space is available.
3. Pickleball Courts
As the fastest growing sport in America continues to catch fire, cruise ships are realizing the demand for pickleball and have made room on top decks for cruisers to play.
We recently put together a list of all of the current cruise lines and cruise ships that have pickleball courts for enthusiasts of the sport.
Royal Caribbean has courts on at least 16 of their ships, Celebrity has it on 9, and Holland America offers pickleball courts on almost every ship that has a basketball court.
See the full list of cruise ships with pickleball courts here.
I just picked up pickleball myself and will admit how addicting it is to play. I can’t wait to play it on a cruise ship soon and will let our readers know what it’s like playing the game while at sea.
4. Go-Kart Track
Norwegian Cruise Line was the first to introduce go-karts to a cruise ship and it’s still the only cruise line that allows passengers to enjoy this activity at sea. Norwegian Viva (set to debut in 2023) will be the 5th ship in the fleet to have a racing track on the top 3 decks. The other ships include Norwegian Joy, Bliss, Encore, and Prima.
These electric go-karts are a lot of fun and can exceed speeds over 20 miles per hour (the company advertises speeds of 30 miles per hour) on the almost 1,400-foot-long track.
This activity is an extra cost per ride (lasts about 10 minutes) but you can pay for unlimited rides on an Unlimited Weekly Pass if you really love racing at sea. And yes, the races are competitive so bragging rights are definitely a thing with up to 10 drivers racing at once.
There are also two-seaters available for those driving with a smaller child.
5. Roller Coasters
Thanks to Carnival Cruise Line, cruisers can enjoy a theme-park-style thrill ride on Bolt, the first of its kind roller coaster on a cruise ship. Reaching speeds over 40 miles per hour the roller coaster is over 800 feet long and offers stunning views high above the ship.
There’s an extra cost of $15 per ride for this ride, and time slots can be booked through Carnival’s Hub app.
Two people can ride in the same Bolt car at once, and the ride is over quickly but moves faster than most people think before they actually ride it.
Carnival also has Sky Ride on Vista-class ships. Think of it as a bike ride on an overhead track that goes all around the top of the ship. It’s a two-lane track and can give you a bit of a work out as well, as you pedal your way through the course.
6. Sky Diving Simulators
Royal Caribbean has partnered with iFLY to allow passengers to experience the thrill of skydiving all from the safety and convenience of a cruise ship. Located on the top deck of Quantum-class cruise ships with Royal Caribbean RipCord by iFLY is available on 5 cruise ships with the company.
There is an extra cost for enjoying this sky diving simulator and you should try to book it through the cruise planner app as soon as you connect to the ship’s WiFi on embarkation day if you want to reserve a time slot.
Each passenger only gets about a minute in the wind tunnel so this time does go by quickly, but who ever thought you’d be able to try something like this while on a cruise in the middle of the ocean?
7. 4D Theaters
Several cruise lines have 4D theaters onboard that immerse passengers in an interactive setting. The seats move and vibrate, the audience wears 3D glasses, and special effects like wind and water can be felt.
I recently enjoyed a 4D theater on MSC Meraviglia in which the audience competed against each other in shooting zombies on the screen. It was more fun than I thought and it’s a great option for families that want to try something different on a cruise ship.
Besides certain MSC cruise ships that have 4D cinemas, other cruise lines with this feature include Carnival and Costa.
Norwegian Cruise Line has what’s called the Galaxy Pavilion, which is like a VR arcade jam packed visually immersive rides. There’s a shooting-style special-effect cinema (actually referred to as 7D) in this area as well which I’ve done before and really enjoyed. Galaxy Pavilion is currently available on Norwegian Joy, Encore, and Prima.
8. Laser Tag
You don’t have to be a kid to enjoy a great game of laser tag on a cruise ship.
Some ships have dedicated laser tag spaces, like on several of the Norwegian Breakaway-class ships. Norwegian charges around a $10 fee per session for playing laser tag but you can also purchase a pass for the whole week for unlimited play.
Royal Caribbean’s Battle for Planet Z utilizes Studio B, which is the same space used for ice skating. An inflatable maze is used so it can be easily taken down when it’s turned back into an ice skating rink. Laser tag is free on Royal Caribbean ships that have it, which are currently Mariner of the Seas, Freedom of the Seas, Oasis of the Seas, Quantum of the Seas, Symphony of the Seas, Wonder of the Seas and a few others.
9. Bowling Alleys
A more relaxed sport that has been on some cruise ships for some time, bowling can be found on quite a few Norwegian Cruise Line ships and MSC Cruises vessels.
I’ve bowled on ships from both of these cruise lines. It is a paid experience but a fun way to enjoy a relaxed sea day, as long as the rolling motion of the ocean doesn’t put my ball in the gutter. At least I have an excuse.
Norwegian started the trend of bowling on a cruise ship and is usually found near one of the arcades on the ship.
Some of the ships that offer bowling include: Norwegian Pearl, Norwegian Gem, Norwegian Epic, Norwegian Escape, Norwegian Getaway, Norwegian Breakaway, Norwegian Bliss, Norwegian Encore, MSC Seaside, MSC Seaview, MSC Meraviglia, MSC Bellissima, MSC Grandiosa, and MSC Virtuosa just to name a few.
10. Robotic Arm Thrill Ride
MSC turned a few heads when it unveiled Robotron, the robotic stationary “rollercoaster” that flips passengers upside down, sideways, and in every direction over 150 feet above the ocean. The ride is available on MSC Seascape and does have an extra charge for those who want to try it. The three-seater robotic arm thrill ride is not for the faint of heart, but adrenaline junkies who don’t feel like relaxing should definitely try it out. The ride is played to synchronized music with up to 20 popular songs in the selection. If nothing else, it’s entertaining just to watch those who are on this ride.
Submarines on a cruise ship is more for the expedition type of voyages. At least two Seabourn expedition ships have submarines that can carry 7 passengers and a pilot.
Viking also has two expedition ships that have submarines that can dive almost 1,000 feet below the surface. Viking Octanis and Viking Polaris are 30,150 gross ton vessels that sail everywhere from America’s Great Lakes region to Patagonia and Antarctica.
Scenic Eclipse is another expedition vessel that offers views under the ocean with a U-Boat Worx Cruise Submarine, seating six guests along with the pilot and can stay under water for up to 18 hours in an air-conditioned space.
This list could go on. Many cruise ships now have entire water parks onboard that can rival some land-based water parks. You can also find bumper cars, surfing simulators, ropes courses, and zip lines on many mainstream cruise lines.
Royal Caribbean International is a cruise line that strives to cater to families and so it has some of the most innovative rides and features built with the family in mind. But other cruise lines like Norwegian Cruise Line, MSC Cruises, and Carnival Cruise Line have ramped up their newer ships with new “things to do” that are designed to crank up the heart rate and get the kids and kids at heart excited.
A cruise ship offers more than just a relaxing experience for someone who wants to see the world. Today’s ships are destinations themselves and offer a wide variety of features. You don’t have to do them all, but cruise lines are striving to cater to every member of a group on a cruise. So there really is something for everyone.
Whether you’re an adrenaline junkie who wants to try skydiving, surfing, and zooming around a cruise ship on a roller coaster or you just want to watch other members of your group enjoy these amenities, cruise travel is evolving. And I can’t wait to see what cruise lines come up with next.
What’s your favorite fun thing to do on a cruise ship? Let us know in the comments below.