Last updated: 11:00 PM ET, Mon October 19 2015

Opinion Home | Captain’s Blog: Cruise Tips and Advice

  • Amber Nolan | October 19, 2015 11:00 PM ET

    Cruise Ship Activities That Deserve More Attention

    Cruise Ship Activities That Deserve More Attention

    Photo courtesy of Carnival Cruise Line

    While cruise companies continue to set the cruise world abuzz by unveiling outlandish features like zip lines and sky diving simulators, the growing list of creative onboard activities doesn’t stop there.

    From adults-only retreats, interactive games, and popular television shows brought to life at sea, here are some trendy (and often free) things to do on a cruise ship that haven’t received as much attention.

    TV Shows at Sea and Celebrity Appearances

    Favorite television shows have made their way to the cruise industry, giving passengers opportunities to be a contestant or part of the audience.

    On Holland America Line, the popular “Dancing with the Stars at Sea” program will host its final champions cruises departing Ft. Lauderdale on January 3 and 10, 2016. Celebrity Cruises features “Top Chef at Sea” with “Quickfire” challenges and Top Chef night in the main restaurant, plus special sailings with television celebrities. In October, Princess will debut “The Voice of the Ocean,” a version of the popular musical show, “The Voice.”

    Fitness Classes, Educational Lectures and Creative Workshops

    Guests can learn something new with the “Scholarship at Sea” program hosted by Princess that includes informational talks about destinations, cooking, art history and navigation, while Royal Caribbean has jewelry making classes, towel-animal folding instruction, and language lessons.

    Celebrity offers wine glass tasting workshops (to see how the glass affects the flavor), and a hot glass blowing show on several Solstice-class ships.

    When it comes to fitness, Royal Caribbean has boxing instructions with a trained professional (in a boxing ring), NCL and Princess have Zumba classes, and MSC offers unique “AquaCycling” classes.

    Adults-Only Retreats Within the Ships

    One recent trend is the concept of adults-only sections of the cruise ship for rest, relaxation, and refreshments. On nearly the entire Princess fleet, the Sanctuary is a quiet oasis with "Serenity Stewards" on hand to deliver fresh juices, snacks, chilled towels and even headphones with calming sounds. There are also private cabanas for open-air massages.

    On almost every Carnival ship, guests can relax in Serenity, a secluded area with lounge chairs — and often whirlpools. On the Carnival Sunshine, there’s also a cascading waterfall and pool, and when Vista debuts, it will also have two massage huts and a complimentary chopped salad station. Other cruise lines, including Holland America, Celebrity, and MSC, all offer their own versions of a quiet retreat.

    Seriously Impressive Water Parks

    Elaborate water parks have become the norm on cruise ships and they continue to evolve with each new vessel. On MSC’s Preziosa, there’s Doremi Castle Aqua Park, complete with water guns, a drench bucket, and Vertigo, a nearly 400-foot-long waterslide that includes a stretch featuring see-through walls over the ocean.

    When the Norwegian Escape debuts in November, it will not only be the largest at sea, but will also feature four waterslides — including the fastest at sea.  On several ships, Carnival has its signature Waterworks with side-by-side racing slides as well as a drainpipe, and — on the Carnival Sunshine — a speedway-themed slide.

    Movie Screenings

    Princess has been hosting the “Movies Under the Stars” series since 2004 with massive LED screens located in the pool area on the top deck. Sun loungers are beefed up with cushions and blankets for the evening shows, along with the requisite free popcorn and beverages.

    Carnival has a similar program with its “Dive in Movies,” and will also debut its IMAX experience on the Carnival Vista. On eight ships in the Royal Caribbean Fleet, passengers can watch movies “come to life” with 3-D Dreamworks productions like “How to Train Your Dragon,” “Monsters vs. Aliens” and “Shrek Forever After.”

    Spa Areas at No Additional Charge

    While soothing massages and therapy treatments are an additional cost, guests can sample the spa area at no extra charge with several cruise lines. On Celebrity’s Millennium class ships, guests have access to saltwater thalassotherapy pools, and on Costa’s ships, the Turkish steam room, sauna, and cool-water Jacuzzi are included in the fare.

    While Carnival’s swanky Cloud 9 spa found on the newer ships requires an access pass to the sauna and steam rooms, the Spa Carnival on the older vessels does not require one. The thermal suite on the Viking Star features a saltwater thermal pool, Jacuzzi, sauna and “snow grotto” and can be visited at no added cost.

    Interactive Games for the Entire Family

    Carnival hosts a family-friendly production called "Hasbro, The Game Show," that allows passengers to play giant versions of their favorite games in an on-stage competition. Games like “Connect 4” basketball “Operation Sam Dunk,” and “Simon Flash” all pay tribute to the classics and give families a chance to win prizes in front of a live audience.

    On Costa Diadema, both adults and kids can find their way through a laser maze, or try out the laser shooting match. Disney also hosts a Muppet’s Adventure game, where families use a map and clue card to navigate the ship and solve a mystery.


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Amber Nolan Captain’s Blog: Cruise Tips and Advice

Amber Nolan Amber Nolan loves to be on the water, and although she enjoys the fun and excitement of larger cruise ships, she prefers setting sail on smaller vessels to unique destinations. Originally from western New York, this restless traveler has a knack for finding creative ways to travel and befriending interesting characters along the way. On her most recent adventure, she hitchhiked on private aircraft across the United States. She previously served as the cruise editor at Sherman’s Travel but her work can also be found on and USA Today Travel. She current resides in South Florida.
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