Underwater Lounges, Go Karts, and 7 More Unique Cruise Experiences
Broadway-style shows, water slides, and celebrity chef restaurants have become fairly standard across the cruise industry, but some ships still surprise when it comes to fun experiences you can't find anywhere else at sea. Here are nine unique cruise experiences you'll only find on a couple of ships:
1. A Hot Glass Show
The first three ships in Celebrity Cruises’ Solstice class all feature a hot glass demonstration studio on the top deck, right next to the Lawn Club. On the first day of the voyage, a hot glass show is presented, where you can learn how different types of pieces are made and see a live demonstration. After that, you can sign up for a 20 minute Hot Glass Class, which is offered several times throughout the voyage. There, you work with an instructor to create your own glass souvenir, which is included in the class fee.
2. Skydiving Simulators
Royal Caribbean’s self-proclaimed “smart ships” feature a one-of-a-kind, heart pumping onboard experience called RipCord by iFly. iFly skydiving simulators are already available at a variety of land-based venues, but the company’s partnership with Royal to create RipCord is the first of its kind at sea. Passengers suit up and step into a wind tunnel cylinder with a trained instructor to experience the weightlessness of skydiving, all while staying close to solid ground (well, solid ship anyway) at all times. Fees apply for RipCord on China sailings.
3. Submarine Rides
Ship: Crystal Esprit
Crystal Cruises’ yacht Crystal Esprit comes equipped with its very own submarine, the C-Explorer 3, with space for a pilot and two guests. Passengers sit in what is essential a big plexiglass bubble, with 360-degree views of the marine life around them. On most itineraries the sub explores reefs, but sometimes they even dive near a shipwreck, too. Most submarine excursions last 20 to 30 minutes, and the sub can go up to 300 meters deep (although it usually only goes about 20 meters deep with Crystal passengers). We’ve even heard that the pilot plays the ‘Finding Nemo’ soundtrack during this underwater adventure. The exciting activity costs extra and isn't included in the cruise fare.
4. Go Karts
Norwegian Cruise Line’s three newest ships all have a special, adrenaline-inducing attraction in common: a Go Kart track. The open-air track utilizes not one, but two decks at the aft of the ship. Racers can whip around the track at speeds of up to 30 miles per hour, though you can drive at whatever speed you’d like. Be warned though, the slower you go, the more likely you are to be accidentally hit by other drivers! An extra fee applies for Go Karting.
Here’s something you might not think would ever be at sea: a planetarium onboard both Cunard’s flagship Queen Mary 2 and Viking’s ocean ship Viking Orion. QM2’s planetarium, called Illuminations, not only serves as a spot for stargazing shows but also a lecture hall for guest speakers. Planetarium shows are offered several times a day, almost every day of the cruise. The Explorer’s Dome is Viking Orion’s name for its planetarium, and is touted as the “highest-definition 7K planetarium in the world” by the line’s executive director of operations, Ralph de Klijn. Multiple shows will be available in The Explorer’s Dome, including a fitting segment on NASA’s new Orion spacecraft.
6. Roller Coaster
Ship: Mardi Gras (debuting in 2020)
Carnival Cruise Line recently announced they’ve begun construction on a new ship called Mardi Gras (the same name as their first ship), which will be the largest vessel in the line’s history. It was also revealed that Mardi Gras would have an exciting new feature, the first of its kind in the cruising industry: an onboard roller coaster. BOLT: Ultimate Sea Coaster will zip passengers around the open-air, top-deck track, which is nearly 800 feet long and can go close to 40 miles per hour. Each car holds two riders on motorcycle-like seats, and in an interesting twist, riders will be able to control their speed of their car, which can go close to 40 miles per hour.
Fun Fact: Did you know that Disney Dream was the first cruise ship to have a water coaster? A water coaster is like a waterslide, but with G forces, uphill sections, and drops more reminiscent of a roller coaster. The attraction, called the AquaDuck, is located on both Dream and her sister ship Disney Fantasy.
7. Multi-Sensory Underwater Lounge
We’ve all heard of glass-bottom boats, but we’ve never seen anything quite like Ponant’s underwater Blue Eye lounges, which will be available on six of their new yachts. Two portholes are shaped like the eyes of a whale, and digital screens in the space show live feeds from three underwater cameras in strategic spots around the ship, such as at the front to catch dolphins playing in the bow waves. Passengers can relax in the Body Listening sofas, which softly vibrate in unison offering a unique sensory experience through the whole body. The yachts will also be equipped with “hydrophones”, where loungers will be able to hear marine animals within a 3 mile radius.
8. Ice Bars
If you’re getting a bit overheated on your Caribbean cruise (or you find yourself with a particularly nasty sunburn), sitting on a block of ice drinking a cocktail from a glass made of ice at a bar made of ice might be the most refreshing moment of your trip. Inspired by the ice hotels in Scandinavia, patrons at the Skyy Vodka Ice Bar pay $20 for a 45 minute slot to enjoy the 17 degree Fahrenheit bar. And don’t worry about getting too cold, as the price includes use of gloves and a big puffy parka.
9. Sleeping Under the Stars
Sleeping outside under the moonlight isn’t just for camping or backpacking trips! Three luxury cruise ships offer a special experience where passengers can sleep on the top deck: Azamara Club Cruises’ Journey and Quest, and Celebrity Cruises’ brand new expedition ship Celebrity Flora. On Azamara, passengers enjoy champagne and a delectable buffet with fresh seafood and meats cooked on a stone grill before settling into the outdoor bed, all the while attended to by a butler. The experience is similar on Celebrity Flora, but with a campfire-themed meal and the added perk of a stargazing session with a naturalist who points out the constellations. In the morning, a private breakfast is provided before the day’s adventures. An extra fee per couple applies.