The dual delights of ship and shore have always been part of the secret sauce that makes cruising special. But if sea gazing from a lounge chair and a traditional game of shuffleboard aren’t enough to fulfill your days at sea, don’t worry. There are plenty of things to do on a cruise ship that will satisfy the adventurous, the adrenaline-seeking and the curious.
Corkscrew waterslides, rock climbing walls, bowling alleys, escape rooms, rope courses and even zip lines readily await aboard some of the most incredible vessels at sea.
These over-the-top cruise ship activities and attractions are sure to blow your mind. Can’t wait to experience them for yourself? Book a cruise with a AAA travel advisor.
Go-Karts & Bumper Cars
Rev your engine and burn rubber on the multi-deck speedways aboard ships from Norwegian Cruise Line. Helmets with intuitive sound, hairpin turns, sections of track that swerve over the sea and competitive timing systems up the adrenaline ante. If demolition derby is more your style, bumper cars beckon on select Royal Caribbean ships.
Don a flight suit and defy gravity while floating on air in the RipCord by iFly skydiving simulators aboard Royal Caribbean’s Quantum-class ships. These clear, vertical wind tunnels soar nearly 25 feet. Diving into one is a surreal adrenaline rush, but even kids as young as three can try to fly.
BOLT Roller Coaster
Zoom motorcycle-style above the upper decks and careen around the iconic whale tail funnels of Carnival’s latest ships on the first roller coasters at sea. The electric coasters reach speeds of up to 40mph, but the coolest feature puts passengers in the driver’s seat. So, you can slow down and enjoy the view whenever you want.
Disney’s AquaDuck and AquaDunk water coasters deserve kudos, but its newest boat, Wish, makes an even bigger splash with AquaMouse. Hop in a two-seater raft and prepare to get flushed through a tunnel of animation, swept inside the ship’s forward smokestack and shot out over the ocean in a translucent tube. This flume also boasts surprise special effects and an overriding storyline.
Pedal your way to jaw-dropping views and an exhilarating workout on this creative contraption composed of recumbent-style bikes suspended from aerial tracks 150 feet above the ocean. Carnival ships sport the attraction, which comes courtesy of the same person who invented rollerblades.
Rise 300 feet above the surface of the sea in this observation pod, which looks like the elegant cousin of a construction crane with a crystal ornament dangling from its arm. North Star rotates over the open water and earned Royal Caribbean a Guinness World Record for highest viewing deck on a cruise ship.
Stargazing is a shipboard rite-of-passage, but Cunard’s Queen Mary 2 invites guests to journey beyond the boat to galaxies far, far away via the first planetarium at sea.
Real grass? That’s right! Fields of green adorn the top decks of Celebrity Cruises’ Solstice-class ships. Frolic barefoot, play bocce ball or grab a basket and picnic. You can even grill grub like it’s your own backyard.
Ultimate Abyss and The Drop
Waterslides abound on cruise ships, but these dry slides (from Royal Caribbean and Norwegian, respectively) deliver a daring 10-story plunge with no bathing suit required. Dueling tubes characterize Ultimate Abyss, while The Drop distinguishes itself as the first free-fall dry slide at sea.
Hone skills in the hands-on teaching kitchens aboard select Oceania ships, including the recently inaugurated, Vista. Culinary excellence and experiencing travel through the lens of cuisine and cooking is core to Oceania, so the tricked-out workstations are top-notch. Expect everything from private prep sinks and stoves to utensils and gadgets guaranteed to make foodies swoon.
It’s not a ride, but this external platform does travel up and down the side of Celebrity’s newest ships, defining their profile and morphing into unique venues – from stable tendering dock to exclusive dining pad – depending upon where it rests.
Tap into your inner child and merry-go-round to your heart’s content on Royal Caribbean’s Oasis-class ships. Or, simply delight in watching real kids ride, while you appreciate the detail on these hand-carved works of art. Either way, it’s trippy nostalgia.
All mainstream ships have theaters and most offer lovely poolside “dive-in” movies, but Carnival takes cinema to another level with multi-sensory 4D and IMAX theaters. Strap into your full-tilt seat and prepare for wind, rain, fog and even nose-tingling aromas.
Slip on a parka and sip vodka at one of Norwegian’s Ice Bars, where everything – from the frosty glasses to the tables, chairs and artwork – is carved from ice and maintained at a nippy 17 degrees. Or, belly up to Royal Caribbean’s Bionic Bar, where robot mixologists guarantee perfect cocktails. Rising Tide Bar, another Royal Caribbean treat, levitates like an extravagant elevator. And, for flights of craft beer and brewmaster tours, Carnival weighs in as the first line with brewpubs.
Enchanted Art, Magic Portholes and Virtual balconies … oh, my!
Revel in the tech takeover at sea. Enjoy inside cabins with outside views via Royal Caribbean’s Virtual Balconies (floor-to-ceiling LED screens complete with railing overlays that make them look legit) and Disney’s Magic Portholes (round LEDs displaying live scenery augmented with character cameos). Disney also touts Enchanted Art. These pieces recognize the presence of an admirer, triggering animated sequences.
Revitalize circulation Scandi-style at a Viking Ocean Cruises’ spa, where passengers literally chill out as snowflakes fall. These frosty chambers are part of a superb thermal suite, so warming rituals counterbalance the cold.
Famous skyscrapers sport thrilling, see-through floors and Princess Cruises presents the high-seas equivalent. Muster your courage and traipse across this 60-foot, glass-enclosed walkway suspended nearly 130 feet above the churning ocean and 30 feet from the ship’s edge.
Trapezes & Trampolines
Cruise away and join the circus with Royal Caribbean. Its SeaPlex activity center includes a trapeze school. Prefer bouncing? Lose your shoes and romp around Carnival’s Sky Zone trampoline park.
In Royal Caribbean’s Boardwalk “neighborhoods,” marvel over dancing fountains, synchronized swimmers, aerialists and daring high divers, who plunge from 30-foot platforms into the deepest pool afloat. Cameras reveal underwater shenanigans, too.
Hang ten or just boogie board in one of Royal Caribbean’s iconic FlowRider surf simulators, where the waves never end. You’ll feel 30,000 gallons of water rushing at 20mph, yet the pools are less than three inches deep. Thankfully, they’re well-padded, too, which makes wipe-outs a softer affair.
A sea day aboard a boat stacked with wild attractions is like the cherry on top of a vacation sundae already loaded with delicious destination fun ashore.
What are your favorite things to do on a cruise ship? Tell us in the comments.
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Featured image: Courtesy of Norwegian Cruise Line