11 Things You Didn’t Know You Could Do on a Cruise Ship

The high seas are riding the wave of all that’s trending on land—skydiving and ice bars included.

It used to be that a cruise ship’s main attraction was the piles of food on the buffet. Not anymore.  Do you see yourself zip lining across the ship while in open water? How about blending your own wine or steering a car around a race track? These floating hotels have never offered as much as they do now. There’s even something for the chillaxing crowd to indulge in, such as stargazing, seeing an IMAX film, or grilling steaks. Remember, a vacation is supposed to be about getting outside of your comfort zone and into new territory.

PHOTO: Princess Cruises
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Blend Wine

Sipping a fruity cocktail poolside is so passé. Princess Cruises partners with Napa Valley’s Silverado Vineyards on a wine-blending class (using the winery’s Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and other red-wine varieties) while Holland America’s ms Koningsdam BLEND is in collaboration with Chateau Ste. Michelle in Washington State, where you get to make your own wine by tapping five barrels of red wine. These are both great activities during the “down” time between arriving back on the ship and heading to dinner.

PHOTO: Rob Kalmbach/Royal Caribbean
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Zip Line Across the Top Deck

Royal Caribbean’s Ocean Class ships (Harmony of the Seas, Oasis of the Seas, and Allure of the Seas) continually roll out first-at-sea options. One of those is zip lining, proof that you don’t have to do that only in the Jamaican jungle or Riviera Maya ruins. Now you can squeeze in some adrenaline after breakfast. The zip line sails nine levels above the Boardwalk, providing a bird’s-eye view of the ship’s activities.

PHOTO: Norwegian Cruise Line
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Play Laser Tag

Norwegian Cruise Line has a laser tag course where you get to shoot your friends with beams of light. If you’re looking for a less physical group activity, try the mind-bending Escape Room, where you must work together to solve a mystery using puzzles and riddles. Escape Rooms are found on four Norwegian Cruise Line ships: Breakaway, Epic, Escape and Getaway. They’re called “Escape the Big Top” and carry a carnival theme.

INSIDER TIPSign up as soon as you’re on board, as spots fill up fast.


PHOTO: Norwegian Cruise Line
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Chill out in an Ice Bar

Quebec isn’t the only spot with an ice bar. Norwegian Cruise Line’s Breakaway ship wants guests to belly up to a block of ice and order a cocktail. Just be forewarned that the temp hovers around 17 degrees, staying true to the concept’s Scandinavian roots, so definitely grab a jacket from your stateroom. Everything is made from ice, including the glassware, walls, bar, and seats.

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Drive on a Race Track

Racecar fans know that Formula One is the real deal. MSC Cruises’ Fantastia and Meraviglia ships—which riff on Italy whenever possible, linking back to their Italian headquarters—boast Formula One simulators with cars that include Ferrari.

INSIDER TIPThe Meraviglia is the fourth-largest cruise ship ever built, outnumbered (in space) only by Royal Caribbean’s three Oasis Class ships.

PHOTO: Princess Cruises
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Gaze at the Stars

City dwellers can appreciate how, on a clear night, uninhibited by skyscrapers and light pollution, constellations come into full view. This is very true at night when in the open water. Cunard’s Queen Mary 2 has its very own planetarium, in concert with Royal Astronomical Society, and Princess Cruises has a partnership with Discovery at Sea, which hosts guided evening viewings.

PHOTO: sbw-photo
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When you think about skydiving, you probably imagine a vista where there’s a lot of land, like a desert or a prairie, for soft landings. The world’s oceans and seas are another matter. RipCord by iFly is a skydiving simulator on the deck of Royal Caribbean’s Anthem of the Seas ship, allowing guests the opportunity to float in a glass capsule. Ever wanted to be a spectacle? This might be it, as fellow passengers gawk at you while strolling by.

PHOTO: Andy Newman/Carnival Cruise Line
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See an IMAX Movie

Taking in a movie on the ship is cool, yes, but in 3D it’s a whole new dimension, literally. Carnival Vista, which hit the waters in 2016, flaunts a full-on IMAX Theatre showing nature documentaries, Hollywood flicks, and other hit films.

PHOTO: Viking Cruises
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Chill in a Snow Grotto

A spa on board a cruise ship is nothing new but a “snow grotto?” Now we’re talking. Onboard Viking Cruises’  LiV Nordic Spa, passengers can alternate between cold and hot therapies, such as sauna and a glass-enclosed room filled with snow (that’s the snow grotto).


PHOTO: Michel Verdure/Royal Caribbean
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Go Ice Skating

Particularly during the winter months, most cruise-ship passengers want to escape cold-weather sports. But what’s—pardon the pun—cooler than ice skating on board? Royal Caribbean’s Navigator of the Seas, Liberty of the Seas and Freedom of the Seas have an ice-skating rink. No need to pack skates (you can rent onboard), just a sweater.

PHOTO: Celebrity Cruises
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Grill Out

When you board a ship, you expect to be served your meals, but for some people, the itch to cook never goes away. Celebrity Cruises’ Reflection and Silhouette ships feature Lawn Club Grill, which is not only set up with grills but a companion chef can coach you into being the next “grill master.” Choose from 12 different meats and several rubs, spices, and glazes.