By John Pedler
Published: Tuesday, December 8, 2020
Updated: August 3, 2021 at 11:46 am
What wouldn’t Australia’s early settlers have given for a poolside cinema, surf simulator or a mini-golf course to keep them entertained on their long sea voyage?
Passenger facilities have certainly improved over the past 200 years.
And as the competition among cruise companies heats up, travellers can expect to see even quirkier features adorn the world’s floating resorts. Here are a few of the more recent additions.
A magic portal
Trying to decide between an interior or outside stateroom? Well now there’s a third option – sort of. The wizards of entertainment at Disney have come up with the Magical Porthole.
Interior staterooms on Disney Dream and Disney Fantasy are fitted with circular, porthole-like screens that stream real-time vision from cameras mounted on the ship’s exterior.
Taking the concept to the next level, Royal Caribbean interior staterooms now come with a floor to ceiling virtual balcony, which also includes audio from the outside world. It’s remarkably realistic, so when you return to your cabin at the end of the night, be sure to remember you booked an inside room.
Passengers, start your engines. Way up on the top decks of Norwegian Encore, Joy and Bliss, zippy go-karts race around a two-level outdoor track at up to 50km/h.
Although their environmentally responsible electric motors are whisper quiet, the throaty roar of a petrol engine can be heard through speakers in the driver’s racing helmet.
From this height the views are stunning, whether you’re out on the open ocean or passing through the jaw-dropping scenery of a Norwegian fiord – adding the extra challenge of keeping your eyes on the road. For more thrills, head out for a session of night racing on the flood-lit circuit.
An homage to the Scandinavian tradition of enjoying a steaming hot sauna and then inexplicably heading outside to roll in the snow, Viking Ocean Cruises have introduced the Snow Grotto as part of their free spa service.
It might sound harrowing, but standing in the snow after a sauna session is surprisingly invigorating and is said to help detoxify the body. While you’re in the mood for Viking Cruises’ watery delights, take a dip in the infinity pool that hangs off the back of deck seven.
Tired of having humans mix your martinis? The good folk at Royal Caribbean have come up with the bionic bar, staffed by state-of-the-art robot bartenders. While they’re not big on conversation, they can whip up a cocktail, mocktail or drink of your choice in a mechanical flurry.
While they have more in common with production-line robots than C-3PO from Star Wars, their agile flourishes are modelled on the movements of skilled dancers, so you get a drink and a show for the one price.
Roller coaster at sea
If land-based roller coasters have become a bit ho-hum, then Carnival Cruise Line has the answer. BOLT is yet another contender in the race to pack as much fun stuff on cruise ships as possible.
High above the top deck, it twists, turns, dips and climbs – all the while offering 360-degree views of the surrounding ocean.
What makes BOLT unique (apart from being on a ship in the middle of the sea), is that you get to control the speed. Throttle up for an adrenalin rush, or power down to enjoy the ocean views.
It’s quite literally all the fun of the fair.
Ocean Medallion Class
To make cruising life even easier, Princess have introduced Medallion Class. Download the app to organise contactless boarding at a time you choose, make onboard dining reservations, view activities to see how busy they are, and much more.
You’ll also get a coin-sized medallion, which can be worn like a watch or a pendant and allows keyless entry to your stateroom. With limited mobile connection available at sea, you and your friends can activate your medallions’ tracking feature and use the app to find each other anywhere on the ship.
You can also arrange for extra towels, sunscreen etc., to be delivered direct to your door. And, if you’re plonked by the pool and don’t want to move, why not order a cocktail or snack to be delivered right to your deckchair? Maybe one day there’ll be an app that gently feeds lobster into passengers’ mouths. Ahh, cruising.