Forget lounging by the pool with a sleepy novel as you drift from port to port. Cruise ships today are working hard to outdo each other when it comes to thrills. Here are the latest on-board attractions that pack a serious adrenaline rush.
Inspired by the London Eye, the North Star glass capsule will load on the top deck of Royal Caribbean’s new Quantum of the Seas, set to make its maiden voyage in November. From the deck, a mechanical arm will rotate 14 passengers out over the water, where you’ll enjoy 360-degree views 300 feet above the ocean. The first-of-its-kind experience is complimentary. For another over-the-water-experience, check out the SeaWalk on Princess Cruises' Regal Princess, a glass-bottomed walkway that extends 28 feet from the ship’s hull and hovers 128 feet above the ocean on the starboard side. You'll get a new perspective not only of the ocean but also of the ship’s side.
Quantum of the Seas boasts another first -- skydiving at sea, also complimentary. Don’t worry, you won’t actually have to jump from a plane. Just head to the ship’s two-story, vertical wind tunnel to experience what skydivers feel as they soar with the birds. Since the wind tunnel is made of glass, you might actually get to see the birds as they fly by.
Ropes Courses & Ziplines
Several cruise ships have at-sea rope courses -- like Carnival Magic's Skycourse -- but only one encourages you to “walk the plank.” In addition to a zipline, Norwegian Breakaway’s 40-element rope course includes an eight-foot platform that allows you to step out, tethered, over the water.
Surf & Waves
Want to catch a wave? Hop onto FlowRider, a 40-foot-long surf simulator on Royal Caribbean’s Freedom- and Oasis-class ships as well as Quantum of the Seas. Newbies can take group ($60) or private ($300) lessons while experienced surfers and body boarders can show off their skills with approved tricks such as the layback, boogie shuvit, and show pony.
Carnival Magic lays claim to the largest water park at sea, WaterWorks, but it doesn't stop there. The Norwegian Breakaway has five multi-story water slides -- including side-by-side free fall slides that drop the floor out from underneath you.
Bonus: If it's getting submerged that gives you a thrill, you don't even need to disembark for that experience on Royal Caribbean’s Oasis of the Seas and Allure of the Seas. Both ships offer instructor-accompanied dives at the pool ($29.95) and even PADI scuba certification ($249) in their 18-foot-deep AquaTheaters.