Weekly Wednesday – Let’s Play!

In our recent editions of the Weekly Wednesday, we have talked about the drink packages and dining options available on the major cruise lines that service the United States. Now it’s time to have some fun and uncover all of the onboard activities that are available and discover what is included in your cruise fare and what will cost you extra (and how much). By the end of this article, you’ll have become a pro at determining which cruise line will best suit your lifestyle and needs. There’s plenty of activities to do on a cruise ship, so join in and let’s play!

Feel free to jump to one of the lines listed below, or read the whole article
American Cruise Lines | Carnival Cruise Line | Celebrity Cruises | Disney Cruise Line | Holland America Line | MSC Cruises | Norwegian Cruise Lines | Princess Cruises | Royal Caribbean International

American Cruise Lines

As part of their mission, American Cruise Lines is about simple sophistication with personalized exploration and well-designed enrichment programs. This means that they don’t have ships built with a multitude of onboard activities as they spend more time in ports on their journey. Some of their vessels feature a putting green, and they mostly focus on bringing on regional experts to educate the guests about their ports of call. This is what sets American Cruise Lines apart from the rest of the lines featured in this article.

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Carnival Cruise Line

Known as the “Fun Ship” there’s always things going on when you sail Carnival. The little tykes are sure to enjoy all things Dr. Seuss while the parents participate in the Carnival Quest! scavenger hunt where you set out on an adventure and the outcome is unknown. Whether you chose to sail 3 nights or 14, there’s a buzz of constant activities available. Let’s discuss the fun things that are included:

WaterWorks and SportSquare onboard Carnival Sunshine in Nassau
  • Miniature Golf – every Carnival ship has one, some more difficult than others, but all fun
  • Playlist Productions – the main show lounge will usually feature original productions created by Carnival. Some include pyrotechnics
  • Punchliner Comedy Club – a variety of comedians from PG to R-rated, there’s something to laugh at for everyone
  • Water Park (known by multiple names across the fleet, e.g. WaterWorks) – the onboard water park featuring options from a single water slide to the more elaborate Twister and Drain Pipe water slides
  • SportSquare (select ships) – including soccer, volleyball, basketball, billiards, foosball and ping-pong.
    • SkyCourse (select ships) – an interactive ropes course to challenge your every step and move
  • SkyRide (select ships) – a bicycle, dangling from a rail, mounted high above the decks below
  • Cooking Demonstration – attend one of the various classes offered on the ship where the lead chef of that dining establishment shows how the signature dishes are prepared and stick around for a sampling (of course, you’ll have the option to book a paid meal at said restaurant after your tour!)
  • Make it With Michaels – onboard arts and crafts session
  • Hasbro the Game Show – Carnival’s partnership with Hasbro allows it to bring multiple gameshows to life on the theater’s stage (e.g., Clue, the Murder Mystery). Players have the chance to win a Hasbro prize package

If you’re looking more ways to engage with the cruise and don’t mind spending some money, check out these options:

  • Sky Zone (Carnival Panorama) – this brings the sensational bouncing fun and challenges to sea. [$12 – one hour Open Jump (age 6+), $18 – Glow party in the evening, $5 – Toddler Time for toddlers under 6 years of age plus an adult at the same price]
  • Build-A-Bear Workshop at Sea – line up to make your very own cuddly bear to cherish and remember your cruise [starting at $20 for the bear and $5 for outfits and accessories]
  • Bingo – try your luck at this traditional game. Must be 18 years of age to play for the $5,000 jackpot. Cost varies based on number of cards/games, but there’s always some sort of “deal” to save you money
  • Warehouse – a video arcade with all of the latest and greatest video games
  • Bolt: Ultimate Sea Coaster (Mardi Gras) – High speed thrilling roller coaster at sea. Step in and pilot the coaster car around the track. You pick the speed and victim who gets to ride with you. Learn more about this attraction by checking this blog entry (pricing is yet to be announced)
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Celebrity Cruises

Catering to a more sophisticated group, Celebrity Cruises offers a much different experience for its cruisers. Once you step onboard one of their ships, you’ll immediately notice a more refined design. Just because they cater to an older crowd, doesn’t mean there aren’t things to do, however.

The activities offered are highlighted in a different way with Celebrity as they don’t have flashy water slides or daring ropes courses, rather they stay on the side of mind, body and soul. They tout a great health and wellness program with Thermal Suites, the Persian Garden (with moving water and temperature variations to provide relief for muscle and joint issues), and treatments and therapies offering more than 120 spa options.

A commonplace on most major cruise ships, they feature professional photographers around their ships who will take your photos, both candid and posed, and offer print services from individual photos to memory books. They also offer art programs where you can attend a live art auction and learn about your favorite artists in greater detail.

Something unique to Celebrity Cruise ships is their Hot Glass Class where you can dip your talent into scorching ovens to form the most amazing flower, starfish, bowl, vase or other memento to take home. Head to the main show lounge to cash in on the popular TV game show, Deal or No Deal. If you get called on to play, you could win a free cruise or $5,000 cash prize!

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Disney Cruise Line

If there’s one cruise line that is known for fun experiences created just for kids, it’s going to be Disney Cruise Lines. As we uncovered in the article about Premier Cruise Lines the fun for kids on a cruise ship was handed off to Disney Cruise Lines in the late 1990’s. Here’s what you can expect on a Disney ship that’s included in your cruise fare:

AquaDuck entrance on Disney Dream – Photo: wikipedia.org
  • AquaDuck (select ships) – power blast on this innovative water slide, the first of its kind at sea
  • Goofy’s Sports Deck (select ships) – this is Disney’s take on the place to go if you want to play basketball, mini golf, or any of their virtual sports simulators
  • Wide World of Sports (select ships) – if the ship you sail on doesn’t offer Goofy’s Sports Deck, this will be the alternative offer. Here, you can catch a game of ping pong or play basketball
  • Edge – activity center designated for tweens to be able to gather to watch movies, play games, enjoy arts and crafts and more
  • Quiet Cove Pool – an area designated exclusively for guests 18 years and older where you can enjoy pool time, sports and recreation, or just to lay out
  • AquaLab – it’s always a splashin’ good time hanging out at the AquaLab where the young, and young-at-heart can play in the water
  • Pirate Night – come join the fun in a party, pirate-style
  • Character Greetings – what Disney experience would be complete without the opportunity to meet some of your favorite characters

Disney doesn’t charge extra for any of their offerings. You can even catch first run movies while at sea in the Buena Vista Theater, available on all ships. The only items that will set you back are adult drinks, up-charge restaurants, and the onboard shopping.

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Holland America Line

Another sophisticated cruise line that you can sail with, Holland America Line offers some unique experiences. While their ships are smaller, let’s take a look at what’s included in your basic cruise fare:

  • BBC Earth in Concert – this is available in the show lounge and you can experience all of the unique options that are part of the areas where you’re sailing
  • Club HAL – this is the place for kids to spend their time while on the cruise. It’s open to cruisers ages 3 to 17
  • Explorations Central – presents you with local insights, activities and cultural encounters that make your journey
  • O the Oprah Magazine – a specific set of experiences personally curated by Oprah Winfrey. Programs include uplifting complimentary activities to energize and inspire you
  • Port to Table – cooking demonstrations that feature local dishes prepared right before your eyes

Reviewing the activities that will cost you more:

  • Blend – this venue gives you the opportunity to mix different wines and create your own special pour. You can enjoy your blend at dinner or in your stateroom
  • Greenhouse Spa & Salon – get a massage or enjoy other relaxing options at the onboard spa
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MSC Cruises

One of the newer players in the United States, MSC Cruises has done a lot to compete with the other big cruise lines. Take a look at the options available when you sail:

MSC Seaside waterpark – Photo: wikipedia.org
  • Broadway Theater – stop in to catch one of the many unique shows that features live performers who sing and dance
  • Waterpark – offering several water slide experiences and fun interactive water play features
  • Himalayan Bridge – test your abilities on this obstacle course located high above the decks of the ship

The list is much larger of activities that you can purchase while sailing:

  • 4D Cinemas – don’t just sit there, experience the film in front of you while you wear 3D glasses and your seat moves
  • Bowling & Mini Bowling – many of the ships feature bowling alleys where you can test your ability to get a strike
  • F1 Simulator – if the 4D simulator isn’t enough of a thrill for you, get behind the wheel of a F1 race car and feel the car hug the road as you careen around tight turns, don’t worry about flying over the edge of the ship, though, it’s a motion simulator
  • Flight Simulator – step into the cockpit of an airplane and do exciting maneuvers
  • Zip Line – zip across the top decks of the cruise ship on this fun suspended cable system
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Norwegian Cruise Lines

Looking to set themselves apart from the competition, Norwegian has been hard at work to create the most unique and memorable experiences on their newer ships. The Breakaway class of ships and newer include a lot of activities. Let’s take a look at what’s available on some of the Norwegian ships:

  • Aqua Park – slip and slide down the crazy water slides including some that hang over the edge of the ship
  • Sports Court – basketball, mini golf and outdoor weight training equipment are available on a first-come-first-served basis
  • Ropes Course (select ships) – challenge yourself on the ropes course found high in the sky on the Breakaway- and Breakaway Plus-Class ships
    • The Plank – if you’ve mastered the ropes course, experience the thrill of walking on a single rail that is extended 8 feet over the side of the ship. Live just like a pirate

Looking at all of the up-charge options available on the Norwegian ships, there’s a lot to offer:

Go Kart track on Norwegian Bliss – Photo: ncl.com
  • Galaxy Pavilion – a full-scale arcade with motion simulators will set you back $8 per play. There are two different packages available for those who will be spending more time in the arcade: Ultimate Galaxy Pavilion Package and Ultimate Trio Package.
    • Formula 1 Grand Prix Racing – while located within the Galaxy Pavilion, it costs $20 to experience
  • Joy Speedway – traditional go kart track located on the top-most deck of the epic-class ships. Cost is $15.00 for a single ride. The Ultimate Speedway Package is available for $199 which grants unlimited rides during operating hours during a 7-day sailing
  • Laser Tag – found on the Breakaway- and Breakaway Plus-Class ships, features different themes on each ship. Fully interactive course that has nighttime fun with lights and sounds. Cost is $9.95 per person per session
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Princess Cruises

While princess is known to cater to the older crowds, they still have enough fun and entertainment on their ships to keep everyone satisfied. Here’s the complimentary offerings:

  • Discovery at SEA – immerse yourself in Discovery & Animal Planet experiences onboard. Attend seminars and learn about local historical facts and the animals that are native to the region
    • As a bonus, enjoy excursions off the ship that are tied to the items you learned while in the seminar
    • Stargazing – available on select itineraries, you can head to the upper decks and identify different constellations with a Princess Stargazing Specialist
    • Encounters – learn the stories behind the destinations you’ll visit from regional residents who know the areas personally
  • The Voice of the Ocean – your favorite vocal talent competition comes to the high seas in this exciting show
  • World-Class Magicians & illusionists – check out the mystery and magic of these shows onboard
  • “The Love Boat” Disco Deck Party – a tribute nod to the classic movie whose scenes took place onboard a Princess ship
  • Sporting Pursuits – try your hand at Basketball, ping pong, mini golf, a golf driving range and shuffleboard

If you don’t mind spending a little extra while on your cruise, here’s some additional options for you:

  • Phantom Bridge, the Escape Room – for a low cost, work your way through one of the many different scenarios and see if you have what it takes to unlock the mystery within 23 minutes
  • High Seas Heist with Detective Joe Kenda – help solve a mystery case with limited clues and helpful hints
  • Wine Tastings – get a sampling of a variety of different wines while at sea
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Royal Caribbean International

Competing against the other brands of similar size, Royal Caribbean ships have a plethora of activities being available. Many are included in your cruise fare and some can be added on. We’ll start by looking at what’s complimentary with your sailing:

Harmony of the Seas Ultimate Abyss – Photo: wikipedia.org
  • Typhoon and Cyclone – thrilling water slides that have scary clear tubes for part of the journey
  • Supercell – check out this crazy bowl slide
  • Royal Escape Room – try your skill at escaping the mysteries of these locked rooms
  • North Star (select ships) – reach 300 feet above sea level on this Guinness World Record breaking observation tower
  • Zip Line (select ships) – fly across the open atrium of the ship below
  • Flowrider – surf like a pro on this simulated wave high on the decks of the ship
  • Ultimate Abyss (select ships) – brave this massive 100-foot slide that takes you from the highest point on the ship down to the lower promenade deck
  • RipCord by iFLY – go skydiving while sailing across the ocean. No need to worry about crashing as this experience is in a controlled environment
  • SeaPlex – check out this open space and challenge yourself with the activities that are available:
    • Bumper Cars – that’s right, you can drive, bump, and careen your way around the floor in a bumper car
    • Ice Skating – strap on the ice skates and perform your triple-axle. Come later in the evening and enjoy acrobatic shows on the ice
  • Laser Tag: Battle for Planet Z – face off against your opponents in this laser tag battle
  • Sky Pad (select ships) – strap into your bungee suit and take to the trampolines. Flip, twirl and show what you’re capable of
  • Rock Climbing Wall (select ships) – find the next rock to support your weight on as you scale your way up to the top

Get more from your sailing with these add-ons:

  • Mystery Dinner Theater (select ships) – enjoy dinner and mystery when you try to work to figure out who the murderer was
  • Trapeze School – If you’ve ever wanted to learn how to work on the tight rope or swing from the rafters above, this is the place for you
  • Scuba Certification – plan ahead for your upcoming port-of-call and get your scuba certification so you don’t miss anything under the sea
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There are so many activities available on the cruise ships out there, I don’t know which cruise to take! All of the things to do make me more and more excited to sail on the different lines. Do you prefer to sail on one cruise line over another because of the onboard activities? Let’s talk about it!

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