The $30 billion cruise industry has reinvented itself over the last decade, as it focuses on its future. While those who have never been aboard one of the mammoth floating cities might think cruising is a sectarian pastime, that’s no longer the case. Sure, some lines such as Crystal, Celebrity and Princess still cater to the older, wealthier crowd, but the majority of new ships that have launched over the past decade have been designed for today’s connected, tech-savvy audience.
Cheap (and sometimes free) high speed internet is now the norm at sea, which allows everyone to stay connected across social media and share their adventures. But there are also some pretty cool things available on the latest cruise ships – and most of them are free. Here are five things you never thought you could do on one of these latest billion dollar ships.
Skydive On A Ship
Rock climbing walls have become the standard on any cruise line these days, so Royal Caribbean has added RipCord by iFLY to its Anthem of the Seas and Ovation of the Seas ships. Every guest (3 and older) is offered a free 60-second skydive on the top deck of the ship. Just like the 37 iFLY locations around the world, the “flight” takes place inside a 23-foot tall glass flight chamber. It’s basically an enclosed wind tunnel that replicates the sensation of jumping out of the plane – only you’re a couple feet off the deck. The glass enclosure allows others to see your flight, while you can take in the surrounding ocean vistas.
Take A Ride In the Sky
The Carnival Vista cruise ship has invented a brand new way to take in the sights while getting some exercise. The SkyRide is a pedal-powered aerial ride that’s suspended high above the seas from one of two tracks spanning 800 ft. The ride is designed so that two people can race side-by-side around the ship, or passengers can just take a leisurely ride. The track offers a few minor thrills, including a short drop and a swap half-way through so that the outside track becomes the inside track – allowing riders to look straight down at the ocean 150 ft. below. Since you’re securely strapped in by crew members before cycling out, this ride is open to all ages (3 and up) as long as it’s not windy.
Anyone can surf in the ocean while visiting ports of call in tropical locales, but now guests aboard eight Royal Caribbean ships (Freedom of the Seas, Anthem of the Seas and Oasis of the Seas, Liberty of the Seas, Independence of the Seas, Allure of the Seas, Harmony of the Seas and Quantum of the Seas) can hit the waves without leaving the ship. FlowRider is a surfing simulator located at the aft of these ships that lets guests bodyboard on a boogie board or flowboard on a specially designed surfboard that’s smaller than a traditional one. The surfing area is comprised of a water-soaked padded floor (safe for wiping out) and powerful jets provide the killer waves – no ocean required. While the surfing is free, the ship offers paid group lessons or you can rent out the entire ride.
Chill In An Ice Bar
Norwegian Cruise Line has a cure for the tropic heat. The company introduced the first and only ice bars at sea on board the Norwegian Epic, Norwegian Breakaway and Norwegian Getaway. The Svedka Ice Bar keeps things at a cool 17 degrees, which requires a parka and gloves before entering. There’s an ice bar and a variety of ice blocks to sit on, but most people will stand (it’s warmer). The room can comfortably hold 25 guests, which allows rooms for selfies with the cool backdrop. And the $20 entry fee includes two cocktails from a menu that includes Inniskillin ice wine made from frozen grapes and the Cobalt Blue (ice wine, vodka, blue curacao and club soda).
Pilot The Millennium Falcon
When Disney bought the Star Wars empire from George Lucas in 2012 for $4 billion, it opened the door for a lot more than annual Star Wars movies and a never-ending string of new merchandise. Now you can actually pilot the Millennium Falcon at sea on board the Disney Dream cruise ship. While technically the new scale-replica of the Falcon’s cockpit was designed for kids attending the Oceanner Club, it’s open for parents and anyone to check out. (And there are usually more adults than kids waiting in line during these open house hours.) There are actually three different planets from the movies to explore (Hoth, Tatooine and Kashyyyk), as well as a bonus Death Star run that’s taken from the original Star Tours ride at Walt Disney World. To the right of the cockpit is a replica of the lounge area – complete with Holochess table. And to the left is the engine room, which is filled with iPads that feature Star Wars video games. To round out the experience, R2-D2 appears on board the ship.