Forget everything you think you know about cruises. The latest ships have more activities than you can poke a selfie stick at, and crazy new features that almost make no sense at sea. Roller-skating, anyone? There are surf simulators, car-racing simulators, sky-diving simulators, as well as stimulators of all senses. Bingo has been bumped by dodgem cars and shuffleboard swapped for slideboarding (a water slide that bombards you with lights, music and video games).
This year alone has seen the debut of ships with robotic bartenders, trapezes, fire pits, infinity pools, outdoor nightclubs and London Eye-inspired observation pods. Next year the list of things to do gets even longer. On one megaliner, passengers will find the industry’s first pedal-powered, open-air aerial ride on a track suspended over the ocean, as well as an IMAX theatre, ropes course, mini-bowling, a microbrewery, rum and tequila bars and a Latin dance club. Another ship is installing a whopping 10-storey waterslide, ice rink, rock-climbing and an arcade with ring tosses, skee-ball and other carnival games.
One of the hottest developments across several fleets is the ramping up of water parks – as if cruising in the middle of the ocean wasn’t watery enough. Major cruise lines are making a splash in super-duper slides and rides, seeking to be wetter and wilder than ever. Kids can race each other in side-by-side slides or compete in aquatic obstacle courses, while kidults float along on inner tubes or flumes. An enclosed water tube will see riders navigate a series of twists and turns on one- or two-person rafts. For younger children, family-friendly areas have sprinklers and spray cannons.
Adventure playgrounds are also advancing, often using the ship’s hardware as apparatus. Abseiling across the bow, walking the plank, climbing the funnel or even the giant poolside movie screen are all possible. Ever heard of bungee-trampolining or a slackline bouncing bridge? Tightrope-walking on the top deck sound like a nice afternoon? Take a cruise on a ship with a circus school to find out. Flying foxes, also known as ziplines, and laser tag are firm favourites afloat – and as much or more fun as doing them on land. In fact, doing anything on a ship is a novelty if you get into the spirit.
Moving indoors, entertainment spaces are high on tech and big on thrills. Multiple-deck theatres combine robots and live performers, panoramic walls are transformed into dazzling video screens, acrobats plunge from the ceiling. At night, pool areas become party zones with glow-in-the-dark cocktails, shadow dancers and mermaids. If that all too exhausting, rest assured not every cruise activity has to be active. Adults can escape the theme-park madness in kid-free sections, hire a private cabana, watch a movie in a hot tub or wrapped in a blanket under the stars.
So embrace the experience, try something new – usually at no extra charge – and you’ll never run out of things to do on a cruise.