"Crazy" Cruise Ideas That Actually Turned Out Pretty Well

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Massive water parks are one of the cruise ship features that many weren't sure would go over very well, but did. - Photo by MSC Cruises

Just like any other company struggling to compete in an industry where innovation is key, cruise lines are under constant pressure to come up with new ideas to keep travelers flocking to their ships. Plenty of these concepts are greeted with a healthy dose of skepticism when they’re first announced, and in many cases, that skepticism is warranted. Some ideas, though, end up exceeding everyone’s expectations and leave their critics speechless.

1. Oasis-Class Ships / Megaships

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Oasis, Allure, and Harmony of the Seas - Photo by Royal Caribbean

The Idea: When Royal Caribbean first revealed the designs for their Oasis-class ships, the 5,500 passenger count dwarfed every other ship in the industry.

What People Said: Critics were doubtful that there would be enough demand to fill up not just one, but two 5,500+ passenger megaships every single week.

What Actually Happened: Not only did Royal Caribbean have little trouble selling all the cabins on Oasis and Allure (which are now two of the highest-rated ships on Cruiseline.com), they’ve since added two more Oasis-class ships to their fleet: Harmony of the Seas and Symphony of the Seas, with a fifth ship on the way.


2. Huge Onboard Water Slides

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Water slides on Norwegian Escape - Photo by Norwegian Cruise Line

The Idea: Add water slides to cruise ships that would rival what you would find at a water park on land.

What People Said: Some brushed this off as a publicity stunt, while others questioned whether travelers would deal with the long lines that would inevitably form on sea days as hundreds of passengers all decided they wanted a turn.

What Actually Happened: Just like amusement-park goers are willing to wait in long lines for a two-minute roller-coaster ride, children and adults alike queue up for these slides multiple times a day. Today, many of the newest ships from Carnival, Royal Caribbean, and Norwegian come with not just one, but often two or three huge slides.


3. 7 Night Hawaii Cruises

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Pride of America in Hawaii - Photo by Norwegian Cruise Line

The Idea: Up until the early 2000s, there were a few ways to sail to Hawaii, but none of them were easy. You could depart from a west coast port like Los Angeles, but these cruises were often at least 10 days long, and the trip was mostly made up of sea days with only a few actual port stops in Hawaii. Transpacific sailings were also an option, but then these trips were even longer, and required a flight back home to the US. Finally, you could also enjoy just a few days cruising in Hawaii before spending several days sailing to the small island nation of Kiribati, the only foreign port within a reasonable distance of Hawaii to make these cruises sailing from Honolulu “legal” under archaic US laws relating to cruise ship operations. Norwegian Cruise Line attempted to change that by sending three different ships to sail one-week Hawaii cruises, circumventing the laws by sailing each of them under the US flag.

What People Said: Not enough people would want to fly all the way to Hawaii just to explore it by cruise ship, and the ship crews made up of US citizens who would work these ships wouldn’t be as service-oriented as the foreign crews that typically staff cruise ships.

What Actually Happened: To be fair, it’s true that there wasn’t enough demand to sustain three ships Norwegian placed there originally, but Pride of America is still sailing year round Hawaii sailings to this day.


4. Pool Tables and Bowling Lanes on Ships

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The bowling alley on MSC Seaside - Photo by MSC Cruises

The Idea: Royal Caribbean announced their plans to put a pool table and bowling lanes on a cruise ship. It might sound mundane, but without the proper technology, playing during rough seas would be like playing during an earthquake.

What People Said: The natural sway of the ship would ruin the games, and no one would be able to actually take advantage of them. 

What Actually Happened: The advanced gyroscopes and stabilizers actually worked phenomenally well to keep everything balanced.


5. Ice Skating Rinks

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Ice rink on a Royal Caribbean ship - Photo by Royal Caribbean

The Idea: Royal Caribbean’s Voyager-class ships were the first to feature onboard ice skating rinks where passengers could don a pair of skates during the day or watch a professional figure-skating show at night.

What People Said: Plenty of naysayers assumed that no one would want to go ice skating on a cruise. For many travelers, the whole point of a Caribbean sailing was to escape the cold, right?

What Actually Happened: Royal Caribbean’s ice skating rinks are packed on just about every sailing, and the shows are a huge hit.


6. Relaxing the Dress Code

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Moderno on Norwegian Breakaway - Photo by Norwegian Cruise Line

The Idea: Ok, so this might not seem as “crazy” as multi-story water slides, but the idea of relaxing the onboard dress code was a huge change to cruise ship tradition.

What People Said: Cruise purists hated the idea that formal night was going to be “optional”, and that flip-flops and bathing suits were going to be acceptable dining room attire (they still aren’t, thankfully).

What Actually Happened: This one is actually still pretty controversial today, and you could make the case that the naysayers were right on this one. With that said, most cruisers seem to prefer the “come as you are” approach to cruising, and those who don’t are still happy on slightly more upscale lines like Celebrity or Princess.


Join the discussion

What's your favorite thing on this list?


Posted by Lenny

The only one of these "crazy ideas" that appeal to us is the relaxed dress codes.

Posted by MJtraveler

I love the relaxed attire for dining. With bag fees climbing on flights, we no longer pack gowns and tux. We are there to relax and feel no need to dress up for the MDR. The entertainment venues are great for families ang active adults. We don't use them but the grandkids do!

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