A new wave of cruise-ship attractions
A lounge under the sea, 130-metre zip line and craft-beer brewery are among the latest ocean-liner diversions
Whether you get excited about cruise ships depends on multiple factors, including your thoughts on sea sickness, group exercise classes, buffets and bingo.
Most cruise stereotypes are hopelessly outdated, of course, and you certainly don't need us to tell you that many modern ships have casinos, luxury restaurants and even – if you choose your week carefully – the rock band Kiss.
But these are mere trifling distractions compared with some of the newest attractions available, or coming soon, to a cruise ship near you.
Arriving starting in 2018 on four luxurious new cruise liners from French company Ponant, underwater lounges will let passengers see beneath the very waves that their 127-metre vessels (relatively dainty in cruise-ship terms) are plowing through. The idea is to order a drink, sit back and see if anything interesting swims by, though the chances of you spotting it arguably decrease with each passing martini.
The 326-metre Norwegian Joy is a shiny new addition to the Norwegian Cruise Line fleet coming next summer, and its go-kart track has people talking. Billed as a "thrilling two-level racetrack," it's claimed to be a world first, which it surely is, unless Formula 1 supremo Lewis Hamilton has secretly had one installed on his luxury yacht. The company is also promising a "virtual-reality world" on their sleek new vessel – which is set to debut in China – as well as some rather lush parkland, too.
If you're going to build something fun-packed that is designed to float on water, why not make the most of things and bring water onto the boat itself? No, not in the ill-fated Titanic style; we're talking about a state-of-the art water park with five water slides. Then add what's set to be the world's longest zip line at sea – a whopping 130-metre cheek rattler across the length of the ship – and MSC Cruises' new MSC Seaside sounds like a winner. It's coming to the Caribbean next December, and rum-loving seafarers may be interested to learn that the boat is apparently going to feature 20 bars.
Swedish company Star Clippers sails joyously traditional-looking tall ships that take passengers back to a more romantic era where the boat – rather than fancy gadgets – is the star of the show. It's little surprise that climbing the rigging is an activity on offer – but that doesn't mean mast-free megaliners can't give guests a vertical workout, too: Royal Caribbean has added impressive rock-climbing walls to their whole fleet.
The Carnival Vista's very own on-board microbrewery serves its pub, the RedFrog, as the vessel sails through shimmering seas. The ship only launched this year, and its brewery has been a big hit with beer lovers who relish the chance to join brewmaster Colin Presby for a behind-
the-scenes tour and tasting session. There are several beers to choose from, including the ThirstyFrog Port Hoppin' IPA and the ThirstyFrog Caribbean Wheat.
Well, almost – Royal Caribbean's Quantum class ships have a RipCord by iFLY skydiving simulator. In more prosaic terms, you're lying prone inside a large transparent tube as a massive jet of air is fired at your underbelly, but that doesn't detract from the fact that you're making like Superman and you're on a boat! These liners also each boast a pod attached to a giant metal arm that you can step into for a slow-speed (but thrilling) journey right over the edge of the ship. They call it North Star and it's a bit like being picked up by the Iron Giant.