SOMETHING FOR EVERYONE
Set to be unveiled in 2020, the Carnival Mardi Gras will boast the first roller coaster at sea. Called Bolt, the all-electric coaster will feature motorcycle-like cars that allow the rider full control of their speed and views from 187 feet above sea level. The under-18 set is sure to be interested.
Passengers on the Crystal Esprit have a marina platform at their disposal, meaning they can snorkel, kayak, swim and enjoy any other number of ocean activities by diving in right from their ship — well, make that "expedition yacht." But the coolest opportunity? Taking a dive in a $3 million C-Explorer 3 submersible, able to explore depths of close to 1,000 feet.
CIRQUE DU SOLEIL
In the past, cruise-ship entertainment has gotten a bad rap, but passengers on the MSC Meraviglia and Bellissima are unlikely to have any complaints. They'll get to see four exclusive Cirque du Soleil shows (two per ship) in a multi-million venue where they can enjoy dinner and drinks before the spectacle begins.
Surf's up, and no one means the waves below the ships. More than a dozen of Royal Caribbean's ships feature the FlowRider, a 40-foot surf simulator that blasts adventurous riders with 30,000 gallons of water. Boogie-board riders are welcome, too.
Called SkyRide, Carnival's sky bike is on two of its ships, the Vista and the Horizon. It lets riders strap in and pedal — or race, if you're in a competitive mood — around a two-lane course that's suspended high above the deck.
Cruise ships are working overtime to shake their old-fashioned reputation and this amenity makes that clear. This trendy activity recently made the leap to a handful of cruise ships. One of the most deluxe escape rooms, aboard Royal Caribbean's Harmony of the Seas, is called "Escape the Rubicon." Passengers work together to escape the S.S. Rubicon, packed with clues and special effects, before time runs out.
One of the most impressive ropes courses at sea is on the Norwegian Escape. It's three stories tall and packs in a whopping 99 challenges, including zip tracks and two heart-stopping "planks" that let the bravest participants walk out over the ocean.
Finally booked a Disney cruise? Buckle up for this amenity. Though many cruise ships have a water slide or two, Disney ups the ante with a water coaster. The family-friendly AquaDuck, on the Disney Dream and Fantasy, whizzes rafts up, down and around through transparent tubes for 765 feet, and even includes a four-deck drop.
Rev up the fun on the Norwegian Bliss, which has the longest go-kart track of any cruise ship. The two-level course features hairpin turns and, of course, the most pristine sea views you're likely to ever enjoy while racing.
If speed isn't your thing, perhaps a relaxing star-gazing session is in order? The Cunard Queen Mary 2 has the only on-board planetarium, called Illuminations. With the dome retracted, the venue also hosts concerts and recitals, as well as impressive 3D movies.
Available on Anthem of the Seas and other Royal Caribbean Quantum Class ships, the RipCord by iFly gives you a taste of skydiving without truly leaving the ground — er, deck. Adventurous passengers get to "fly" for about a minute, always under the eye of a watchful instructor.
The intimate Viking Sea hosts a sophisticated Nordic-inspired spa with a special feature indeed: a (supposedly) invigorating snow grotto. Watch snowflakes spiral down from the ceiling in this icy, glass-enclosed room, then head to the steam sauna to warm up.
Climbing walls have become a standard feature on many Royal Caribbean ships, some of which even feature two walls for double the fun. Passengers can climb up to 40 feet and choose from different routes according to their experience level.
Interior cruise-ship cabins can feel a little claustrophobic, so several Royal Caribbean ships have a creative solution: virtual balconies. They are actually 80-inch LED screens that show live, high-definition views from the stem and stern of the ship, and since they even have sounds and a computer-generated balcony overlay, it might be difficult to tell the difference.
Silversea bills itself as the ultimate in luxury cruising. One over-the-top amenity? Your cabin — ahem, your suite — comes with a dedicated white-gloved butler. Whether you need a stiff drink or want your shoes shined, they're ready to indulge your every whim with this luxurious cruise amenity.
Just about every cruise ship gives you the chance to kick back with a beer, but on the Carnival Vista, you can indulge in beers that are actually made on board. The ship's Redfrog Pub and Brewery has a three-barrel glass brewery that actually uses seawater for the beer, thanks to desalination and reverse osmosis technology.
Several Norwegian ships feature a Scandinavian-inspired ice bar, where guests can indulge in specialty vodka cocktails. Kept at a brisk 17 degrees, they require passengers to suit up in blanket-like parkas to enjoy the solid-ice bar, seats and glasses.
No, you haven't had too much to drink — the floor really is moving. The oval, glassed-in Rising Tide Bar, found on several Royal Caribbean ships, slowly rises four decks, stops for a while, then descends back to its starting point. Not offbeat enough for you? Some ships also have robotic bartenders.
Want to play like a kid on your cruise, whether or not you have them with you? Step aboard the Norwegian Bliss or Joy and you'll have a full-on laser tag arena at your disposal. Made to look like an abandoned space station, the arena has blasters that players can put in shield mode to thwart their opponents, or on a super-powerful setting to eliminate an opponent with just one shot.
Afraid of heights? The SeaWalk on the Regal Princess and Royal Princess might not be for you. Otherwise, this glass walkway is a show stopper. Jutting out 128 feet above the water and 28 feet from the edge of the ship, it offers unobstructed views of the churning waves below.
Everyone's favorite amusement-park staple comes to life on Royal Caribbean's Quantum class ships. Bumper cars are just one of the fun diversions you can find at the SeaPlex, a venue that also hosts a roller rink, basketball court, and even a circus school where you can swing from a trapeze.
Love the way it feels when your toes sink into the grass? It's a sensation you won't have to give up if you sail with Celebrity, which features a lush lawn on the top deck of its Solstice Class ships. Picnic, listen to some jazz, play a little croquet — the choice is yours.
Gutter balls may not hurt quite as much if you sink them during a voyage on the Norwegian Epic, which has six full-size bowling lanes: three in a family-friendly bar and grill, and three more in a swanky lounge that comes alive with neon lights at night.
Movies theaters are a staple of cruise-ship entertainment, but Carnival has upped the ante with the first IMAX theater at sea. On the Vista, passengers can take in a range of IMAX movies in a special 187-seat theater with a screen that's a whopping three decks high.
The super-sleek Eclipse fleet from Australian luxury cruise line Scenic has what might be the most eye-popping amenity of all: Two Airbus H130 helicopters that seat up to six passengers at a time, providing bird's eye views of some of the planet's most gorgeous, remote terrain.