Jason Leppert | November 12, 2015 4:30 PM ET
Who Needs Port Calls, Anyway?
Very rarely does bad weather preclude cruise ships from arriving at their scheduled port destinations, but as I recently discovered, when two planned sea days of my expedition cruise turned into six due to unusually heavy seas, it does happen. The best case scenario is surely to have only a handful of sea days in any given itinerary or at least a transoceanic crossing full of them onboard a true ocean liner – read stable – like Cunard Line’s illustrious Queen Mary 2.
Regardless of the circumstances, there is usually plenty to keep you entertained. Only on a small expedition ship with few onboard activities might you feel prone to cabin fever or motion sickness while at sea. In the case of larger cruise ships, they’re often more of a desirable attraction than the destination.
Gone are the days of shuffleboard and bingo being the only cruise activities to pass the time. Of course, those options are still available today, as is the option to simply relax with a good book by the pool or at a number of cruise lines’ quiet retreats, usually reserved just for adults. Carnival Cruise Line’s Serenity deck has to be the best iteration of this, mainly because it's entirely free of charge.
Nonetheless, onboard attractions continue to get more and more elaborate to keep the otherwise tunnel-visioned Facebook generation engaged. (I’m included, so I can admit to it.) Firstly this means providing a stable internet connection should you choose to devote all of your attention to your iPhone. Thankfully, cruise lines have listened to the demand, and service has improved dramatically over the last few months even. It’s nowhere near as fast as on shore, but it’s finally getting there.
For those willing to break away from the screen, however, thrills are aplenty, and no line is pushing those boundaries as much as Royal Caribbean International. Only on the Quantum of the Seas and Anthem of the Seas can you board a gondola that is then craned high above the ship for stunning views or literally feel the wind in your face at an onboard skydiving simulator. Bumper cars at sea? They’ve got those too.
Even waterslides continue to captivate the imagination of all ages onboard, and the simple twister variety has now become somewhat passé. Now we have translucent aqua coasters that ride up and down like a roller coaster in the AquaDuck aboard Disney Cruise Line’s Disney Dream and Disney Fantasy and even a free fall variety called the AquaDunk on the newly refurbished Disney Magic.
Also popular at keeping guests’ attentions these days are franchises. Disney already has its synergy built in (hello Star Wars), but Royal Caribbean International’s partnership with DreamWorks Animation is steaming ahead with popularity among kids and kids-at-heart as well.
What remains to be seen is just how far onboard attractions will be taken. I have often wondered if a full-blown amusement park ride might ever make it on to a ship. Carnival Cruise Line’s upcoming Carnival Vista is going to feature a thrilling bicycle path suspended from a track above and high over the ocean below, so a roller coaster at sea might not be far behind. In the meantime, it’s neck and neck among mainstream cruise lines for winning the title of best attractions at sea.
Still, the one thing that captivates me after all of this time of cruising, since before I was even two years old, is the hypnotic power of the ocean itself. I’d suggest taking a breather from all the high-energy merriment above from time to time to just step out onto the promenade deck and bask in the glorious sight of the roaring sea.
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