Cruise TipsBest Theaters on Cruise Ships

Best Theaters on Cruise Ships

We are a movie-watching culture. Of that, there is no doubt.
The total box office for the United States and Canada reached nearly $12 billion in 2018.

I think it’s easy to understand why people find movies and big-screen experiences so attractive. It’s fun to settle in for a couple hours of escape, enjoying a visually stunning movie or presentation with family and friends.

Did you know that many cruise vacations feature fun ways to watch the big stars on the big screen while sailing on a big ship?

Last year, thousands of cruisers viewed “Black Panther”, “Avengers: Infinity War”, “Crazy Rich Asians”, “Mary Poppins Returns” and many other productions and programs in cruise ship theaters and on big screens outdoors under open skies.

But not all cruise ship theater experiences are the same. The best cruise ship theaters can make your voyage even more fun. Check out our favorites.

Princess Cruises’ “Movies Under the Stars”

Princess offers one of the best movie-viewing experiences you can have on a cruise with its “Movies Under the Stars” program. There’s nothing like easing into a lounger under dark starry skies as balmy breezes and sweet salty air fills your senses as you catch a movie you have been wanting to see (or re-watch one of your favorites) on the big screen at the ship poolside amphitheater.

The cruise line pulls out all the stops, covering loungers with comfy soft cloth liners, providing fleece blankets and serving up fresh popcorn. It all makes for an entertainment option you can only find on a cruise ship.

Disney Cruise Line’s Buena Vista Theatre

These fancy theater venues on Disney ships are a wonder themselves, with glitzy Art Deco stylings that take you back to the golden age of film. Theaters on Disney Dream and Disney Fantasy can hold up to 400 passengers, and the venues on Disney Wonder and Disney Magic hold up to 278.

Buena Vista Theatre offers all the latest hi-tech motion picture and sound technology, allowing the line to show full-length feature films shot in Disney Digital 3D. Disney Cruise Line shows first-run movies, all-time favorites, and, of course, plenty of Disney classics. You can also get drinks, popcorn and other refreshments at the concession stand.

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Cunard’s Royal Court Theatre and Illuminations

Cunard offers classics and first-run movies in a glamorous setting its Royal Court Theatre facilities on Queen Victoria and Queen Elizabeth cruise ships. These theaters have almost 900 seats available in the large venues that span three decks and have been upgraded with the latest hi-tech sound systems.

Passengers can also reserve private boxes on these two ships for the movie showings. The boxes (fee) feature attentive wait service with desserts, chocolates and Champagne cocktails.

On Queen Mary 2, Illuminations is the ship’s planetarium facility, the first venue of its type on a cruise ship. A dome screen descends around viewers who gaze skyward for an immersive extra-terrestrial experience. The facility seats 150 for planetarium programs.

The dome is retracted for 3D movies or other enrichment programming. Illuminations then accommodates up to 500 passengers for these shows.

Carnival Vista and Carnival Horizon IMAX Theatre

The newest Carnival cruise ships feature the first IMAX cinemas at sea. The facilities seat 187 passengers and show brand-new blockbuster movies, recent hit films and documentaries in the hi-resolution, wide-screen and immersive IMAX format.

Passengers purchase tickets at the kiosks or from staff at the counters, and you’ll find a full concession stand outside the theater where you can buy drinks and treats, like popcorn and candy.

Viking Orion Explorers’ Dome

This innovation offers shows and programming highlighting space exploration and what we can see in the skies and stars above. Viking Orion is the first Viking Ocean cruise ship to offer the facility, which sits atop the ship in the Explorers’ Lounge. The 26-seat venue is the highest-definition 7K planetarium in the world, Viking says.

Passengers can view two 3D films, “Journey to Space” and “Under the Arctic Sky” and sit down for enrichment talks and other films and programming in 2D and 3D.

The ship has a resident astronomer who leads stargazing sessions with the aid of Viking Orion’s portable telescope that can be trained on particularly interesting sky events or constellations that come into view while sailing.

John Roberts is a freelance writer and operator of He writes about cruising and active travel, highlighting how people can connect with the world and other cultures through rewarding travel experiences.

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John Roberts
John Roberts
John Roberts is a freelance writer and operator of He writes about cruising and active travel, highlighting how people can connect with the world and other cultures through rewarding travel experiences.
Cruise TipsBest Theaters on Cruise Ships

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