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Amazing Cruise Ship Amenities

Cruise lines are upping the ante with ice bars, surf simulators, snow rooms and more.

U.S. News & World Report

Amazing Cruise Ship Amenities

Couple holding hands on a cruise

Whether you want to take in new heights from a 300-foot observation pod or sip cocktails in a 17 degree ice bar, there's plenty to keep you entertained at sea.(Getty Images)

Taking a cruise isn't what it used to be. With increasingly innovative and enriching activities onboard and ashore, cruise lines are reinventing the cruise experience and breaking away from buffets and miniature golf. Whether you want to cruise to absorb exciting new destinations or enjoy superlative amenities on the high seas, with whiz-bang features, such as skydiving and surf simulators, a planetarium and even a frosty ice bar, there are plenty of perks to pique your interest. Here are some of the latest ship amenities that are making a splash.

Skydiving Simulators and an Observational Pod

Royal Caribbean's Anthem of the Seas and Quantum of the Seas have quite a few fun and noteworthy amenities for adventurous cruisers. Daredevils can get their adrenaline pumping on the RipCord by iFLY skydiving simulator, an exclusive skydiving at sea experience that gives cruisers the sensation and rush of skydiving in a safe and controlled air tunnel. And for intrepid types who would prefer to master the art of surfing, the onboard surf simulator, Flowrider, makes learning to catch the waves a breeze. By pushing water in a confined area and at an intense, supercharged speed that mimics the intensity of surfing in the ocean, the simulator enables cruisers to ride waves like the pros.

When you're ready to reach new heights, you can hop in the North Star, an observation pod that gives you unparalleled 360-degree views of the ship, the ocean and everything around you. The North Star, inspired by the London Eye, sits 300 feet above sea level and accommodates up to 13 guests, giving you plenty of space to move around and relish several vantage points. Best of all, these high-tech onboard features are included in the price of your cruise.

A Svedka and Inniskillin Ice Bar

The Svedka and Inniskillin Ice Bar on Norwegian Epic (as well as Norwegian Breakaway and Norwegian Getaway) ups the cool factor. The trendy bar is so cool, in fact, that the room's temperature does not rise above 17 degrees Fahrenheit. As you take in your icy surroundings, you can leisurely sip on cocktails at sub-zero temperatures in a frozen ice pod. Make sure to check out the decorative ice sculptures, the frozen stools line the bar and the lighting scheme, which mimics that of the northern lights. Complementary gear is available to help you stay warm as you enjoy your icy experience.

A Planetarium at Sea

Cunard's Queen Mary 2 features its own full-scale planetarium. As you go on a voyage across the ocean, you can navigate the cosmos in outer space with engaging visual rides and other cutting-edge features. The 150-seat theater features short programs curated by the Hayden Planetarium at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City. Similar to the American Museum of Natural History, the planetarium on the Queen Mary 2 is narrated by renowned celebrities like Harrison Ford and of Tom Hanks.

Onboard Zip Lining and Rock Climbing

Royal Caribbean's Oasis of the Seas and other vessels within the fleet, including Quantum-class ships (Anthem of the Seas and Quantum of the Seas), feature a thrilling zip lining adventure. One of the best aspects of the ship zip line is the chance to be suspended nine decks above the ship's boardwalk as you enjoy an exhilarating 82-foot journey across the ship and loved ones snap photos from below.

If zip lining isn't your thing, many of Royal Caribbean's action-packed ships also boast 30-foot rock climbing walls built for a variety of skill levels. With different tracks for diverse rock climbing experiences, no climb is the same. The wall is open for most of the day; access is included in your package and all safety equipment including helmets, harnesses and shoes. Perfect for getting your heart racing after a day lounging by the pool and indulging at the ship buffet, the rock climbing wall is well-suited for climbers ages 6 and up.  

A "Snow Room"

Inside Viking's first oceangoing ship, the Viking Star, guests can retreat to an icy, snow-covered room inside the wellness-oriented LivNordic Spa. Billed as an onboard area designed to helps guests boost their circulatory systems, the so-called Snow Grotto is continually blanketed in snow throughout the day. Outside the frosty area, guests can enjoy replenishing massages and spa treatments or warm up at the sauna.

About En Route

Practical advice on the art of traveling smarter with tips, tricks and intel from En Route's panel of experts.

Contributors have experience in areas ranging from family travel, adventure travel, experiential travel and budget travel to hotels, cruises and travel rewards and include Amy Whitley, Claire Volkman, Holly Johnson, Marsha Dubrow, Lyn Mettler, Sery Kim, Kyle McCarthy, Erica Lamberg, Jess Moss, Sheryl Nance-Nash, Sherry Laskin, Katie Jackson, Erin Gifford, Roger Sands, Steve Larese, Gwen Pratesi, Erin Block, Dave Parfitt, Kacey Mya, Kimberly Wilson, Susan Portnoy, Donna Tabbert Long and Kitty Bean Yancey.

Edited by Liz Weiss.

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