Cruise ships are no longer the exclusive domains of couch potatoes, whose idea of a packed itinerary is eating and drinking until bursting. Choose the right ship and you can walk the plank, surf a bona fide wave and speed down a twisting waterslide. Working up a sweat and getting that adrenalin pumping is as widespread as buffets on many of today’s newest cruise ships.
Royal Caribbean: the Game Changer for Onboard Excitement
The first to offer climbing walls more than a decade ago, Royal Caribbean is where you'll find FlowRider surf simulators that pump 30,000 gallons of water per minute up a slope to create what feels pretty darn close to a real wave. You can also ice skate in an indoor rink and inline skate up on deck around a snaking course lined with pads — just in case.
In the huge gyms aboard the line’s Oasis-class ships, a full-sized Everlast boxing ring is both the focal point and the place for sparring sessions. You can also swallow your fear and zip line nine decks above the Central Park atrium on an 82-foot-long ride of a lifetime.
Quantum of the Seas, the latest ship in Royal Caribbean’s fleet, pushes the envelope with the first ever skydiving simulator at sea (RipCord by iFLY®) and a giant, mechanical arm called the North StarSM— an observation capsule that transports passengers some 300 feet above sea level (think a cruise ship version of the London Eye or Singapore Flyer). If that weren’t enough, the ship also boasts an indoor sports complex for bumper cars, roller-skating and basketball.
Norwegian Scores Big With Adrenaline Junkies
When the 4,100-passenger Norwegian Epic debuted a few years ago, its impressive outdoor activities started a new chapter for the cruise line. From a bungee trampoline that requires you to don a harness to a climbing frame that looks like a spiderweb, Epic is a winner with adrenaline junkies.
Norwegian’s 3,969-passenger Getaway has raised the bar even higher with a three-story, Sports Complex and Aqua Park — which features five multi-story waterslides, including a pair that start out with a heart-stopping, virtual free fall. There’s also a ropes course with more than 40 elements to navigate, a climbing wall, mini-golf course and basketball court. And if that doesn’t get your heart racing, maybe a walk (in a harness) on The Plank (extending eight feet over the side of the ship) will.
Carnival: From Waterslides to Obstacle Courses
The Fun Ships line isn’t just about partying and belly flop contests anymore as Carnival has started outfitting its ships with more active pastimes. The 3,690-passenger Carnival Breeze and Carnival Magic, as well as the 3,002-passenger Carnival Sunshine, have all introduced the outdoor Sports Square area, featuring a ropes course that let’s you maneuver across swinging bridges, planks and other obstacles against the backdrop of the beautiful blue sea. Exercise machines, miniature golf and a basketball/volleyball court are also part of the mix.
Fans of waterslides rejoice for the nearly fleet-wide WaterWorks aqua park. The best and biggest iterations are aboard Carnival Breeze, Carnival Magic and the 3,646-passenger Carnival Dream, which boasts a 104-foot-long enclosed spiral slide called the DrainPipe.
Small Cruise Lines Go Big With Water Sports at Sea
Watersports aren’t just for ports of call. Windstar, SeaDream, Star Clippers and Le Ponant are all small cruise ship lines with platforms at their sterns that provide easy access to water sports. When the ship is anchored off shore, guests can revel in the freedom to jump into the water and make use of the kayaks, sail boats, paddleboards and other equipment.