If you think you've got to be on land to try out some of the most popular adventure activities, you're in for a treat. Cruise ship activities have grown exponentially over the last 10 years, and now encompass everything from onboard rollercoasters to racetracks and thrilling waterparks. Features cruisers may once have marveled at onboard – specialty dining venues, elaborate spa facilities, live production shows and more – have all become standard on ships.
You'll never be bored on a megaship. These days, cruise lines are in a race to bring the biggest, best and the most unexpected activities onboard -- and that includes smaller luxury ships, too. From suspended ropes courses and skydiving to helicopters and onboard submarines, cruise ships are packed with loads of fun adventure activities. We may be biased, but we think there's no better place to experience them than on a cruise.
Ready for some fun? Here are 18 adventure activities you probably had no idea you could find on a cruise ship.
The idea of a bungee trampoline may seem like a contradiction, but somehow Royal Caribbean has managed to make it a reality. On both Mariner of the Seas and Independence of the Seas, cruisers can rocket their adrenaline on the Sky Pad Bungee Trampoline. Not for the faint of heart, this activity begins with a heart-thumping bungee jump that quickly transitions into a fun and bouncy trampoline experience.
Cruise ships are great to get off land and out on the water, but even they have their limits -- unless you're aboard Scenic Eclipse, Crystal Endeavor or Seabourn Venture, all of which feature their very own cruise ship submarine excursions. Lucky passengers on these expedition cruises have the opportunity, when permitted, to hop inside a private submersible and grab a glimpse below the surface in remote places like the Arctic and Antarctica. We don't know about you, but we're in – literally.
Royal Caribbean's Flowrider is a surfing simulator that tests your balance -- and maybe your ability to not take yourself too seriously. If you're cruise isn't heading to a destination offering shore excursions where you can learn to surf -- or you just want to practice before you get there -- you can hang ten right on the ship. Royal Caribbean has offered this onboard surfing experience for quite some time meaning you can try it out on practically any one of their ships, and a few vessels -- most of the Oasis-class ships -- even have two onboard Flowriders for extra fun.
Think rollercoasters are just for theme parks? Think again. The debut of Carnival Mardi Gras in 2021 introduced the cruise community to BOLT, the first-ever rollercoaster at sea. One thing we like about this cruise ship rollercoaster that you won't find on any rollercoaster on land is that you have the ability to control how fast or slow you go, putting riders in control of how chill or thrill they want the ride to be.
Think you're good at solving puzzles? Put your skills to the test with an escape room, right from the comfort of your cruise ship. For now, Royal Caribbean seems to be taking the lead on some of the best cruise ship escape room options, with one-hour puzzle-break rooms featuring space to submarine themes. You'll find these on Anthem of the Seas, Symphony of the Seas, Ovation of the Seas, Independence of the Seas, and a few other ships. Norwegian Encore also has a noteworthy Spanish galleon-themed escape room, while the escape room on Enchanted Princess was made in partnership with Discovery Channel.
It's only appropriate that the two ships outfitted with a bona fide watercoaster (yep, you read that right) are Disney Dream and Disney Fantasy. Years ago, having an onboard watercoaster would have been just that, a dream or outright fantasy. However, not to be outdone with the mere limits of the seemingly impossible, Disney Cruises delivered. Riders on the AquaDuck on Disney Dream or Disney Fantasy will be rewarded with phenomenal views of both the ship and the surrounding sea as their raft swishes through the coaster's 360-degree clear tube. It's fun for the kids, but don't be surprised if you see a fair number of adults lined up waiting for their turn.
Looking for a fun and safe challenge aboard your ship? Give one of Royal Caribbean's cruise ship rock climbing walls a go. We actually prefer this to some rock climbing gyms because, let's face it, the view is so much nicer. Don't worry, all the right precautions and safety measures are followed, and you'll be strapped in, helmeted up and maybe even a bit sore afterwards. (Did someone say 'hot tub'?)
Royal Caribbean isn't the only game in town when it comes to rock climbing walls: several Norwegian Cruise Line ships also boast these active outdoor spaces.
Believe it or not, some cruise ships have racetracks onboard. We’re talking about the go-kart tracks on Norwegian Bliss, Norwegian Joy, and Norwegian Encore -- plus the forthcoming Norwegian Prima and Norwegian Viva. Race your friends, family or even a complete stranger as you take laps in one of the ship's electric racetrack cars. The experience is amplified with zooming engine sounds played over the loudspeakers, stands where your fans can cheer you on and even a pit stop area. And again, the views at sea are better than anything you'll find at a fun center on land.
At 82 feet long, one of Royal Caribbean's cruise ship ziplines may not be as long as what you'll find back on land, but it isn't too shabby either, especially for a cruise ship. Truthfully, it's the novelty of the experience that keeps us coming back to this one-of-a-kind experience, which can be found on the line's Oasis-class. We can't get over the thrill of soaring nine decks high over the lively Boardwalk below.
Ziplines are also found on MSC Cruises Seaside-class ships.
The planetarium onboard Cunard's Queen Mary 2, Illuminations, makes the night sky available to cruisers at any time of day (within the limits of scheduled planetarium shows, of course). The first of its kind at sea, it really serves as a supplement to Cunard's onboard space programming such as real-sky constellation spotting and astro-lectures.
Best of all, the "dome" for the planetarium retracts into the ceiling when not in use, enabling Illuminations to act as a lecture hall and even an onboard cinema when not in use for its celestial purpose.
Planetarium-lovers can also find one of these rare gems aboard the aptly named Viking Orion.
Put your cruise experience on ice with Royal Caribbean's onboard ice skating rinks. Impressively sized, passengers are invited to lace up and take to the ice themselves, but there are also ice skating theater performances that are available throughout the sailing for those who'd rather not take to the ice. Still, there's nothing quite like donning a pair of ice skates in the afternoon following a morning of snorkeling in the sun. You can ice skate on a cruise ship by booking most Royal Caribbean ships, including Allure of the Seas, Mariner of the Seas and Symphony of the Seas.
Who says you need to bike on solid ground? Not Carnival. Cruisers on three Carnival ships – Carnival Vista, Carnival Horizon and Carnival Panorama – can pedal their way around the ship high, high, high above sea level on the line's Sky Ride It's basically an open-air gondola that you power with your legs that circumnavigates the better part of the ship's uppermost deck surrounding the funnel.
Fair warning, though: this activity may not be ideal for anyone with a fear of heights since riders are basically in a seat with large open sides -- though you are harnessed in safely.
You may have done laser tag on land, but have you ever done laser tag on a cruise? Well, if you book a cruise on a Norwegian Plus-class ship or any of the mega Royal Caribbean ships, you'll have your chance to take down the onboard competition. We find it a fun and active way to spend a small portion of a day at sea, though fair warning: it will cost you extra. We also suggest possibly going in with strangers in case there are any hard feelings after you dominate the game.
No, we're not talking about skydiving onto -- or off of -- a cruise ship, but Royal Caribbean's Quantum-class ships offer passengers the chance to try their hand at an onboard simulated skydiving experience with the RipCord by iFly. Think of it as indoor skydiving…but outside on a cruise ship, encased in a clear panoramic wind tunnel. Plus, it's a great family-friendly activity since kids as young as three can participate.
In fact, trying this bad boy out ourselves while aboard Anthem of the Seas was one of the last things we did before the pandemic kicked in. You can also find this feature on Quantum of the Seas, Ovation of the Seas and Spectrum of the Seas.
Rollercoasters or watercoasters not really your thing? Several cruise ships now offer different types of slides that can offer a similar experience. For example, Carnival's WaterWorks onboard waterpark is available on almost all its ships and sports body slide tubes that twist and turn without the hubbub of a raft or strapping into an open-air coaster -- all you need is you and a little gumption. Select Carnival ships even offer sets of racing slides to up the competitive ante. You'll also find slide options on most Royal Caribbean ships, Norwegian Cruise Line's Epic, Breakaway and Breakaway Plus-class vessels, and MSC's Seaside and Seaside EVO ships.
Don't think you've got to go to New York City to catch a Tony Award-winning Broadway musical. Royal Caribbean has original Broadway classics right onboard the ship – and you don't even have to buy a ticket. So far, the line has put on productions of the Broadway favorites Cats, Mamma Mia and Hairspray. And, having seen an onboard show or two ourselves, we can honestly say we were impressed.
Good to know: Some lines, like Cunard, offer special themed transatlantic crossings that include the unique 'London Theatre at Sea' sailing.
In the past, if there was a helipad on your cruise ship, it was used only in critical situations, to transport passengers in a medical or other emergency. However, in 2019, Scenic Eclipse changed the game by offering passengers the chance to bling out like a billionaire with private helicopter flyover tours that departed right from the cruise ship using the vessel's own onboard Airbus helicopter that's stored in a special hangar when not in use. It doesn't take long for a luxe idea like this to spread, and now thrill-seeking luxury passengers can also find a helicopter onboard Crystal Endeavor. And don't worry -- you don't have to pilot it yourself.
The ropes course onboard Norwegian Escape is for serious adventurers only. Just watching videos of people doing the course may cause even the most daring of cruisers to pause (or at least make your palms sweat a little). That said, it's another unique experience that you can't really replicate off a cruise ship thanks to the unparalleled views and sometimes vertigo-inducing locations. However, don’t let this psych you out; it's one of the most fun adventure activities you can do on a ship.
Norwegian Escape may have the largest multi-level ropes course on a cruise, but you can also find them strung up on all other Norwegian Breakaway and Norwegian Breakaway Plus-class ships; all Carnival Excel, Sunshine and Vista-class ships; and on MSC Cruises' MSC Virtuosa, MSC Meraviglia and MSC Bellissima.
Updated January 14, 2022