We’ve outlined some of the most outrageous features on cruise ships -- like go-kart racing, which is now coming to the Norwegian Bliss. However, there are still plenty of other exciting attractions and unique experiences that you might not expect to find on a cruise ship. Here are seven of our favorites -- proof that there is far more to do onboard beyond attending an art auction or playing a round of bingo.
1. Escape Rooms
You’ve probably heard of the growing trend of small groups being locked in a themed space only to be freed if a series of puzzles are solved within a set period of time. (Of course, even the unsuccessful are let out, as it’s all just for fun.) Now, the interactive concept has made its way on cruise ships, first introduced as a pop-up experience in existing venues on Norwegian Cruise Line and Royal Caribbean International. Harmony of the Seas and Symphony of the Seas even have permanent facilities dedicated to the experience. On these vessels, the level of narrative play is far more immersive, with complex and high-tech challenges involving Hollywood-grade sets, props, and effects. It requires a sharp mind to put all the right clues into proper action. Do you have what it takes?
2. Surf Simulators
Many ships in the Royal Caribbean fleet feature FlowRider surf simulators. Not only are they fun to ride, but they’re also great to watch. Passengers may not be able to waterski off the back of the vessel, but they can get a comparable sensation onboard. Best of all, it’s fully padded, so it’s always a safe experience -- not to mention, an excellent way to learn a new skill.
Proving again that Royal Caribbean is at the forefront of innovative cruise ship attractions, the brand was the first to introduce zip-lining at sea on its Oasis-class ships. Guests can strap into a singular run and zoom high across the open-air Boardwalk below. One-upping the competition, MSC Cruises’ MSC Seaside sports the longest zip line at sea (it stretches from the midship smokestack all the way to the stern). The cables glide over the ship’s aqua park, sports court, and main pool deck, offering stunning views and an exciting passage.
4. Free-Fall Waterslides
Though waterslides have been available on cruise ships for some time, the free-fall varieties are a recent thrilling addition. You'll stand up with a slight recline in a body tube before the floor literally drops out from below. A swift descent ensures enough momentum to level off and make an upward incline across the path prior to the splashy finale. Such free-fall waterslides can be found on Carnival Cruise Line, Disney Cruise Line, and Norwegian Cruise Line, but only Disney’s has a backstory. The Disney Magic’s AquaDunk was crafted by Donald Duck’s mischievous nephews -- Huey, Dewey, and Louie -- to subject their uncle and fellow passengers to playful testing.
5. Dry Slides
Royal Caribbean once again went all out for its Harmony and Symphony ships with the Ultimate Abyss dry slide. When asked why it was chosen not to be a waterslide, it was explained that this was actually scarier. And so riders scoot in a frictionless bag and spiral down 10 stories in 13.14 seconds. The super-fast 27-degree incline is indeed a bit frightening, but also a total blast.
6. Ice Skating
Another favorite that has been around for a long time, but still surprises many, is an ice rink at sea. Beginning with the Voyager of the Seas back in 1999, Royal Caribbean unveiled the feature as Studio B, and it has since been reprised on many of its ships. Not only does it allow guests to skate on real ice, but it also presents a venue for fully-staged ice shows. Kinetic skating performances combine expert set design and projection mapping for musical productions like none other.
7. Laser Tag
As it turns out, Studio B also hosts laser tag aboard Symphony of the Seas in the form of Battle for Planet Z. Even Independence of the Seas and Mariner of the Seas are slated to receive the interactive experience. Plus, Norwegian Cruise Line’s Norwegian Bliss has a dedicated science-fiction-themed upper deck complex for its own laser tag gaming. The detailed setting resembles an abandoned spaceship and beckons your participation to help find lost human colonizers.
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