What It’s Like to Skydive on a Cruise Ship
If you’d asked me just this morning if I’d ever allow myself to be launched 15 feet into the air in a transparent tube on the back of a cruise ship I’d have offered you medication.
I’m notoriously fearful of heights, so the idea of skydiving – even simulated skydiving – seemed preposterous. But I’d been coerced (OK, bullied) into trying it by my friend and first-time cruiser Claudine, who reasoned that I could just watch the short instructional video beforehand, and if I still wasn’t into it, I could always back out.
So, swallowing my fear, we sign up for the two-minute “flight,” offered complimentary to every Anthem guest. About a dozen of us, from a six-year old to a blazer-and-boat shoes-wearing gentleman old enough to be my grandfather, file into a small classroom where instructor Justin welcomes us and cues up a three-minute instructional video.
Justin leads us to the dressing area where we put on jumpsuits, goggles, helmets and optional earplugs before heading upstairs to the RipCord. Claudine looks at me, and I know I have to make a decision: Will I watch from the sidelines or choose to (literally) go with the flow? I take a deep breath and decide to go for it.
I can feel my legs trembling as we climb the wooden steps to the deck and up to the skydiving simulator. One by one we file into the acrylic chamber and seat ourselves on two benches curved around the tube. I’m the fourth person on my bench, and I console myself with the idea that three people (including my so-called friend) will have to go before I have to face my fear. There are six minutes to back out!
But my heart leaps into my mouth as Justin, who’s now in the tunnel, points and signals that it’s my turn. Whaat?!
I nervously shuffle toward the entry. When I get there, I glance down at the tunnel floor, where a giant turbine is generating enough wind, it seems, to separate me from my clothes. Justin takes my hands and positions them over my head, looks me square in the eye and motions for me to enter the tunnel. I swallow hard and lean forward into the airflow.
I’m immediately shocked by the force of the wind, which is forcing my lids open even behind the goggles, and feels like its manipulating my face into Edvard Munch’s “The Scream.” Justin’s head appears in front of me and motions for to me raise my chin, and as I do, I notice the digital display counting down my remaining flight time: 1:53 … 1:52 … 1:51 …
Justin grips the foam pads attached to the back of my jumpsuit and guides me around the tunnel; I swoop and dip, and it feels as if I’m flying totally by myself. And when my foot touches the tunnel’s surface and I push off, my body launches so high that I can see the North Star observation capsule all way at the other end of the ship. I’m filled with a feeling of lightness and exhilaration I’ve never known on land. I’m flying! And I love it!
What seems like just a couple of seconds later, I feel the airflow decrease and my body lower.
Justin maneuvers me so I’m facing the tunnel portal. I grab on to its sides and launch myself back into the antechamber, my Adidas sneakers thudding onto the deck and back to earth. Wow! I feel so pumped, so joyous, so alive, I wonder what I was ever scared of. And how soon I can do it all over again.
Ready to let it Rip? Here are my tips for getting a flying start.
Sign Up RipCord is one of Anthem’s most popular features. Every guest five years and older who weighs under 250 pounds gets a two-minute complimentary experience. I strongly recommend making a reservation as soon as you board the ship. Depending on demand, “flights” depart every 20 to 30 minutes from 8:00 a.m. until sunset. You’ll need to complete an electronic waiver, wear closed-toe shoes (sneakers are perfect), and ditch your glasses, cameras and any dangly jewelry.
Mouth Closed When air is being blasted at you at a high speed, it creates decidedly unflattering ripples across your face. And if your mouth opens as you smile wide for the onboard photographer outside the capsule, it’s likely to send strings of saliva flying too! Do yourself a favor and keep your lips together. You’ll thank me when you see the photos.
Just Let Go It sounds counterintuitive, but you’ll enjoy your “flight” so much more if you just relax into it. As you step into the wind tunnel, take a deep breath and fall forward into the airflow. Keep your legs slightly bent at the knee and your hands in front of your face, with palms down, index fingers toward each other and elbows bent. It sounds like a lot to remember but if you just fight the temptation to stiffen your limbs and just go with the flow, you’ll find yourself floating as easily as an autumn leaf in the breeze.