A name like 'Robotron' might suggest a long-forgotten Transformers character or an obscure 1980s science fiction movie. But on board MSC Seascape, it's the latest amusement ride at sea -- a robotic arm that spins, turns, twirls and flips passengers 174 feet above water.
Reminiscent of a high-tech carnival ride, the three-seater thrill ride is the first of its kind at sea. It also happens to be the one attraction that sets MSC Seascape apart from its nearly identical sister ship MSC Seashore.
And it's also the latest addition to an ever-expanding list of thrill rides and wacky contraptions across cruise lines that includes roller coasters, drop slides, zip lines, go-kart racetracks, water slides and surf simulators, among others.
We sailed on MSC Seascape's maiden voyage to New York City, where the vessel was officially christened as MSC's newest EVO-class ship on Dec. 7, 2022. And while the ship was docked at Manhattan Cruise Terminal's Pier 88, we came face to face with Robotron and experienced its gravity-defying thrills.
Perched on Deck 20, overlooking the ship's marina pool, Robotron cuts a commanding presence on board MSC Seascape. The brainchild of German robotics company Kuka (Keller und Knappich Augsburg), the robotic arm also goes by the less-impressive name Kuka Coaster. Curiously, the robotic arm's primary purpose is automated manufacturing, and it's widely used in the automotive industry for assembly. But by adding a three-seat extension at the end of Kuka's robotic arm, Robotron is born.
The ride comes in three speeds: light, moderate and fast. My colleague and I chose moderate, filling two of Robotron's three seats. Another feature is that each rider can select a song from a list that will accompany them during the spin. Each song blares loudly from the ride's accompanying speakers for about one minute, again giving the experience that theme park feel. On our ride, we weren't allowed to choose our songs but the Backstreet Boys and Nicky Minaj tunes were recognizable enough.
The twists and turns on Robotron are mildly reminiscent of a roller coaster ride, if more contained due to the physics of the robotic arm. The most rewarding aspect is to enjoy the views from 174 feet (that is, if you manage to keep your eyes open).
The backdrop of a wintry, hazy Hudson River is probably not what MSC had in mind for Robotron riders. But it's easy to imagine how sunny Caribbean vistas or views of MSC's Ocean Cay can add to the charm of this robotic ride.
As for the ride itself, the herky-jerky movements were more abrupt than the moderate setting suggests, and we were suspended upside down a couple of times during the three-minute ride. The U-shaped harness is snug, but keeping your head tilted back against the seat is a must to avoid unwanted bumps. We screamed a couple of times, but not as much as others who did the highest setting.
If you’re prone to motion sickness (or are just coming back from the buffet), then Robotron may not be the ride for you. Other rules to consider: Passengers must be at least 7 years old to ride Robotron, as well as no less than 4 feet tall and can't weigh no more than 298 pounds. And because you'll be twisting and flipping through the air, be sure to remove any items from your pockets or other loose items -- cell phones, sunglasses, keys, etc. -- and don't wear flip-flops or other loose-fitting footwear.
Being one of the three intrepid passengers on Robotron comes at a price: each ride costs $10. But considering that the ride lasts about three minutes, that's a pretty good value for a non-complimentary attraction.
By comparison, Carnival Mardi Gras' and Carnival Celebration's Bolt rollercoaster costs $15 per ride and lasts about 20 seconds. On the other hand, a ride on Norwegian Prima's go-kart racetrack lasts about 8 minutes and costs $15 per ride and $20 if you wish to ride alone. The experiences on these rides are quite different, but the cost-to-time-spent-on-the-ride ratio places Robotron somewhere in the middle in terms of value.
Additionally, passengers have the option to purchase 'Fun Pass' packages on their MSC Seascape cruise, which represents wholesale value. The $25 package, for example, includes $30 in credits, while the $150 package has a credit value of $220, good for 22 rides on Robotron.
Moreover, the Fun Pass packages also entitle you to enjoy other attractions on board MSC Seascape, including the signature Formula 1 racer simulator, the interactive XD cinema and video arcades on the ship's Hall of Gameson Deck 18.
Despite the abundance of wacky amusement-park-like rides onboard cruise ships, Robotron does manage to offer passengers a unique experience. The three-minute duration is (and certainly feels) longer than most carnivalesque thrill rides, whether on land or at sea. And at $10 a ride, the price tag is reasonable.
On the flip side, Robotron can only sit three thrill-seekers at a time, so it is conceivable that lines can reach amusement park levels on a ship that can accommodate up to 5,632 passengers.
All in all, however, Robotron is a fine and exciting addition to a family-friendly vessel with many other attractions that include numerous pools, a water park with a handful of slides and a well-stocked video arcade. Your kids will get a kick out of Robotron; and if thrill rides are your cup of tea, so will you.
Updated December 13, 2022