Most Outrageous Cruise Ship Attractions
From high above the top deck to literally underneath the water, the $134 billion cruising industry has unleashed a wave of riveting amenities to prove this ain’t “The Love Boat” anymore.
Entire fleets of high-tech vessels feature activities that are way more zany and over-the-top than the standard shuffleboard and bingo games of yesteryear. Today’s amenities even make features like rock-climbing walls and bumper cars look like a yawn fest.
From on-board escape rooms to underwater lounges to actual submarines, here’s a look at the wildest attractions currently found on the high seas.
SkyRide - Carnival Cruise Line
On this one-of-a-kind joy ride, pedal a go-kart along an 800-foot-long track perched 150 feet above the ocean.
For those unafraid of heights, the cycling circuit offers 360-degree views and the potential for some real pedal power. The SkyRide can reach speeds of up to 18 miles per hour, which is plenty fast to get the heart racing.
Where to enjoy the SkyRide: Carnival’s three newest ships: the Vista, Horizon and Panorama
Cost: Free during sea and port days
Ultimate Abyss Slide - Royal Caribbean
Billed by Royal Caribbean as the world’s “tallest slide at sea,” this 100-foot-high behemoth is made of acrylic, aluminum and stainless steel, and boasts twists and turns aplenty. Each ride starts with a 420-degree spiral, followed by a pair of 360-degree turns, before ending 10 stories below the starting point. Inside, the tunnels are enhanced with LED lighting effects.
The average descent down the Ultimate Abyss lasts about 13 seconds. But these 13 seconds pack in plenty of thrills.
Interestingly, the Ultimate Abyss is not a water slide; riders coast down on toboggan-like fabric mats and arrive dry at the ships’ outdoor Boardwalk zone. Hopefully!
Where to enjoy the Ultimate Abyss: Royal Caribbean’s Harmony of the Seas and Symphony of the Seas
Cost: Free during sea and port days
Magic Carpet - Celebrity Cruises
That’s not a giant lifeboat hanging off your cruise ship — it’s an ever-changing glass-covered venue capable of moving between decks.
The function of the tennis court-sized marvel, dubbed the Magic Carpet, changes depending on where it’s positioned. On deck two, the 90-ton cantilevered platform acts as a tendering station, while it’s an extension of the seafood restaurant on deck five and of the pool area on deck 14.
When the orange-accented Magic Carpet ascends all the way up to deck 16, it’s an exclusive dining space where the ship’s chef serves dinner (at an additional cost) made with ingredients sourced from the day’s port.
Don’t be deceived: The Magic Carpet is not a gigantic elevator capable of returning guests to their cabins. It’s only open to passengers once locked into position.
Where to enjoy the Magic Carpet: Celebrity’s Edge
Cost: Dinner on the Edge is $65 per person
AquaDuck Water Coaster - Disney Cruise Line
The Walt Disney Company is known for crafting incredible theme-park attractions on land, so it’s no surprise it created a first-of-its-kind ride at sea: the AquaDuck, a totally tubular water coaster inspired by Mickey Mouse’s best friend, Donald.
Powered by a combination of magnets and H20 blasts, the elevated ride propels riders across the sides of the ships in two-person rafts. AquaDuck’s 765 feet of covered and uncovered tubes offer riders not only splashy fun but incredible views of the pool area and beyond. (One part of the track actually zooms through the ship’s teen club.)
At night, multicolored lights add a dazzling new dynamic to the AquaDuck.
Where to enjoy the AquaDuck: Disney’s Dream and Fantasy
Cost: Free to all guests
Blue Eye Underwater Lounge - Ponant
Ooh la la! While many cruise ships boast bars and lounges with impressive views overlooking the endless horizon, boutique French cruise line Ponant ventured in another direction when designing its latest vessels, which are home to a multi-sensory underwater lounge concept called Blue Eye.
Designed by architect Jacques Rougerie, the sleek spaces are located in the hull below the water line and feature two large oval portholes to admire marine life swimming near the vessels.
Blue Eye is also equipped with state-of-the-art technology that utilizes underwater cameras to project visuals onto the lounge’s curvy walls, plus speakers to transmit the calls of nearby whales.
If that wasn’t enough to make guests feel like they’ve become one with the sea, vibrating sofas pulsate in unison with the symphony of the seas.
It’s altogether totally bizarre — and completely delightful.
Where to enjoy the Blue Eye: Ponant’s Le Lapérouse, Le Champlain, Le Bougainville and Le Dumont-d’Urville
Cost: Free to all guests
Cirque du Soleil - MSC Cruises
Yes, every mega-ship on the high seas has some sort of theatrical stage show, but Italian-owned MSC Cruises is the only cruise line to exclusively host acrobatic extravaganzas created by the one-and-only Canadian powerhouse Cirque du Soleil.
In the Carousel Lounge, a high-tech venue that accommodates 400 guests around a 360-degree rotating stage, performers show off jaw-dropping feats of physical prowess.
The original productions include the medieval-themed romance “Varelia – Love in Full Colour” and “SYMA – Sail Beyond Imagination,” which follows a young sailor traveling to a mysterious island. For an extra fee, passengers can enjoy a show-themed cocktail and dinner in the theater before the performances begin.
Where to enjoy Cirque du Soleil: MSC’s Meraviglia and Bellissima
Cost: Free to all guests; €35 for dinner; €15 for the signature cocktail
Submarine - Crystal Cruises
Crystal is a boutique cruise line best known for luxurious ships that transport about 1,000 passengers at a time to exotic destinations around the world, but its much-smaller Crystal Esprit yacht is armed with the company’s most unusual amenity: a submarine worthy of appearing in a James Bond film.
The C-Explorer sub, which can accommodate two passengers and a pilot, plunges to depths of almost 1,000 feet. The vessel’s acrylic bubble provides 180-degree views of exotic marine life, such as tropical fish, sea turtles and sharks.
However, the cost to ride the C-Explorer is much more than a shaken martini.
Where to enjoy the Submarine: Crystal’s Espirit
Cost: $599 per person for a 30-minute ride
Escape Rooms - Royal Caribbean
Royal Caribbean is locking up passengers — but not because they did something wrong and were sent to the brig. The cruise line has brought the escape room craze to the open ocean.
Designed by L.A. effects studio ShowFX and escape room pioneer Puzzle Break, the “Escape the Rubicon” experience invites a group of six puzzle-loving guests to team up to solve riddles in order to evacuate a room resembling the bridge of the steampunk starship Rubicon.
The challenge is available for an extra fee and lasts about 60 minutes. It’s a popular diversion, so reserve a spot early — if you dare!
Where to enjoy Escape Rooms: Royal Caribbean’s Harmony of the Seas and Symphony of the Seas
Cost: $8.99 per guest
Lawn Club - Celebrity Cruise Line
The latest innovations in cruising aren’t all made of glass and steel. On the top decks of some Celebrity ships, you’ll find half-acre, freshly manicured lawns, a first for the industry.
During the day, the greenery is available for passengers to kick off their shoes and enjoy a game of bocce or croquet. At night, they can plop down on a blanket to sip a glass of wine while listening to live music as the world drifts by in the distance.
On the Silhouette and Reflection ships, country club-inspired eateries adjacent to the Lawn Club provide an opportunity for alfresco dining for an extra fee. Those ships also have alcove cabanas available for rent on the lawn.
Where to enjoy the Lawn Club: Celebrity’s Solstice, Equinox, Eclipse, Silhouette and Reflection
Cost: Free to all guests; private alcove cabana rentals are $149 on sea days and $99 on port days; dining at Lawn Club Grill is $45 per person
RedFrog Pub & Brewery - Carnival Cruise Line
What’s better than drinking a craft beer on a cruise ship? How about drinking a craft beer actually brewed on that cruise ship? Carnival’s shipboard breweries prove that beer really can be made anywhere in the world.
The exclusive creations at the Caribbean-themed brewery include the flavor-packed ThirstyFrog Port Hoppin’ IPA, the rich FriskyFrog Java Stout and the citrus-y ThirstyFrog Caribbean Wheat. The brewing setup is similar to those found on land, but the kettles are actually heated by the ship's steam system.
For passengers interested in the process, an on-board brewmaster offers tours and tastings for an extra fee during the cruise. Those who complete the tour are presented with a certificate that can be shown at the pub for, you guessed it, another pint.
Where to enjoy RedFrog: Carnival’s Vista and Horizon
Cost: $24.95 for the tour and tasting
The Voice of the Ocean - Princess Cruises
If you’ve ever dreamed of competing on “The Voice,” your fantasy can become a reality aboard several Princess vessels, which produce full-scale recreations of the popular NBC singing contest, with passengers serving as contestants.
The competition, open to guests ages 16 and up, starts with karaoke tryouts at the beginning of each cruise. Those selected to move on are assigned a musician or vocalist, and rehearse with the ship’s band and backup singers.
Unfortunately, Adam Levine and Blake Shelton don’t sail around offering their critiques. Instead, three members of the crew, ranging from bridge officers to entertainers, sit in the iconic rotating red chairs and act as coaches, with the audience ultimately choosing who is crowned “The Voice of the Ocean.”
Where to enjoy The Voice of the Ocean: Aboard all Princess ships except the Diamond, Sapphire and Pacific
Cost: Free to all guests
Race Track - Norwegian Cruise Line
Those with a need for speed can whiz up to 30 miles per hour in a go-kart across nearly 1,000 feet of bi-level track.
Norwegian’s whips are 100-percent electric, but speakers located inside the headrests blast engine-revving sounds to simulate the real thing. The 10 cars are also outfitted with boost buttons that can be used once per lap for extra juice to zip around the eight hairpin turns.
No driver’s license required.
Where to enjoy the Race Track: Norwegian’s Joy and Bliss
Cost: $9.95 for a single eight-lap race on the track; $29.95 and $199.95 for unlimited day and weekly passes, respectively, which also include access to a speedier queue
North Star - Royal Caribbean
For those unafraid of heights, the best view is from inside a glass-enclosed capsule soaring 300 feet above the sea.
This London Eye-style pod offers 360-degree visibility as it slowly ascends on a 135-foot-long mechanical arm up and over the vessel. The experience, which is more like riding a Ferris wheel than the Tower of Terror, lasts about 15 minutes and can accommodate up to 14 passengers.
The North Star is available to be booked for marriage proposals and wedding ceremonies, too. The private time includes a pre-flight reception, champagne toast, commemorative certificate and post-flight brunch or dinner. However, it’s probably a good idea to make sure no one will have cold feet before booking.
Where to enjoy the North Star: Royal Caribbean’s Quantum of the Seas, Anthem of the Seas and Ovation of the Seas
Cost: Free to all guests; private rental starts at $750
Dr. Seuss WaterWorks - Carnival Cruise Line
Would you take a dip on a ship if it had a water park? What if there was also a Cat in a Hat? Well, well, well, Carnival has provided passengers just that.
Its wet and wild Dr. Seuss-themed water park area is populated with waterproof statues of popular Seuss characters, a 213-foot-long body slide inspired by mischievous duo Thing 1 and Thing 2, and a red-and-white raft slide themed after the Cat in the Hat’s famous headwear.
For those craving even more Seuss (you can’t have too much Seuss!), there’s also a “Green Eggs and Ham” breakfast, a parade of costumed Seuss critters and special storytime sessions inside the ship.
Where to enjoy Dr. Seuss WaterWorks: Carnival’s Horizon
Cost: Free to all guests
Oceaneer Youth Club and Lab - Disney Cruise Line
The Millennium Falcon from “Star Wars,” Andy’s room from “Toy Story” and Oaken's Trading Post from “Frozen” are just a few of the fictional locales that Disney has fantastically brought to life for little ones.
The over-the-top themed spaces are part of the Oceaneer Club and Lab youth areas. They’re open to children ages 3 to 12 to participate in such activities as piloting the fastest hunk of junk in the galaxy, playing with a giant Mr. Potato Head, and being coronated by princesses Anna and Elsa after learning lessons about kindness.
Other areas found on the ships include Tinkerbell’s Pixie Hollow headquarters and a Marvel superhero academy.
For older children and adults who want in on the action, the Oceaneer Club and Lab hosts open houses at specific times throughout cruises. Otherwise, sorry, this is for kids only!
Where to enjoy the Oceaneer Youth Club and Lab: Disney’s Magic, Wonder, Dream and Fantasy
Cost: Free to guests under 12
Glamping - Celebrity Cruises
Besides the chance to spot giant tortoises and blue-footed birds, the first cruise ship built specifically for exploring the Galapagos Islands provides guests with the option of spending the night under the stars on the top deck.
During this stargazing adventure, available for up to four guests a night, a pair of cabanas are transformed into a private retreat: One is outfitted with a bed for sleeping, while the other is used for alfresco dining.
The outdoor escape includes cocktails, a campfire-inspired dinner (with s’mores for dessert, of course) and breakfast. Guests also receive nighttime visits from the captain and a shipboard naturalist, who can help point out constellations while sailing along the equator.
Where to enjoy Galapagos glamping: Celebrity’s Flora
Cost: $299 per couple