Cruise ships lure passengers with roller-coasters, sky-diving simulations and robot bartenders



December 18, 2018 06:09:23

It’s a battle on the high seas, without a navy vessel in sight.

Key points:

  • The world’s first rollercoaster at sea will be unveiled on a cruise ship in 2020
  • Modern cruises have features such as robot bartenders and sky-diving simulations
  • Industry predictions flag “instagrammable cruise travel” as a top trend in 2019

In what has been dubbed a “fun arms race”, cruise ship companies are one-upping each other with theme-park like attractions — everything from 10-storey waterslides to sky-diving simulations.

The latest instalment appears to be the first roller-coaster at sea, unveiled by Carnival Cruise Line.

In an apparent challenge to the idea of a slow-travel style for older clientele, the roller-coaster has been described by the cruise company as “a heart-pounding rush of adrenaline offering nearly 800 feet (243 metres) of exhilarating twists, turns and drops with riders reaching speeds of nearly 40 miles per hour (65kph)”.

Set to debut in 2020, the on-broad roller-coaster will be built on its largest ship — the Mardis Gras — which is due to be based in Florida in the US. The name refers to the first Carnival ship fleet that entered service in 1972.

The thrill-seekers will get 360-degree views as they circle the ship in two-person motorcycle-style vehicles.

Cruise-goers willing to mix motion and seasickness will also get to choose their own speed.

According to the Cruise Line History website, in the 1960s and 1970s cruise ships faced dwindling passenger numbers and began to undergo something of a renaissance.

“Rather than serving as a more comfortable means of transport, [cruise] lines started to market the ships as destinations in themselves,” the website says.

Today, that seems to have reached new heights.

‘The ultimate playground at sea’

The gimmicks and activities offered by modern cruise ships are more reminiscent of amusement parks or sports centres, with cruising companies embracing the wild and wacky in a bid to distinguish themselves.

One vessel owned by the Norwegian Cruise Line features a two-storey go-kart track, while a Royal Caribbean Cruise ship has a “bionic bar”, where cocktails are shaken by robot bartenders.

In a press release, Carnival Cruise Line president Christine Duffy described the cruise ship as “the ultimate playground at sea for fun seekers of all ages”.

“We are so thrilled to introduce this one-of-a-kind, game-changing, exhilarating attraction,” she said of the rollercoaster.

But it’s not all about technology — some cruises are spruiking star power, with the likes of Oprah and David Hasselhoff making appearances on the vacation ships.

The Cruise Lines International Association last week released a list of cruise travel trend predictions for 2019 — top of the list was “instagrammable cruise travel”, with passengers sharing their photos and experiences on social media.

“On an average day, there can be close to 351 million posts with the tag #travel,” CLIA said in a press release.

Close behind that was “restorative travel”, with cruise liners offering spa treatments, fitness regimes, and onboard oxygen bars.

Other trends cited marketing to Gen Z, “mindful travellers”, working nomads who use on-board Wi-Fi to blend work and travel, and passengers who are focused on ticking things off their bucket list — such as climbing mountains or mastering a cuisine — rather than simply sight-seeing.

With all the bells and whistles, the cruise industry projects an estimated 30 million passengers on ships in 2019, up by 6 per cent on this year, which saw 28.2 million travellers.





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