Unique Experiences and Attractions at Sea

Unique Experiences and Attractions at Sea

Travel insights from Jenna Buege, senior editor of The Compass

Cruising has always been a popular way to travel, and according to the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), it’s only getting more popular with 35.7 million passengers planning to set sail in 2024. That’s up 6% from 31.5 million in 2023. Its clear people have their sights on the seas, but while travelers are certainly aware of the dreamy nature of waking up in a new port each day, what they might not realize is cruise ships offer tons of fun activities onboard, too.

And, as the industry continues to boom, cruise lines are always looking to incorporate the next big thing to set their ships apart from the rest. In addition to the usual perks like fancy swimming pools, live workouts and trendy workout classes, we found these 11 experiences stand out from the crowd by way of food, fun and entertainment.


Chocolate Journeys, Princess Cruises

Dessert lovers rejoice, sailors can indulge in master sweets maker Norman Love’s “Chocolate Journeys” experience onboard all Princess Cruises ships. Comprising 15 signature desserts, travelers will find items from the Chocolate Journeys partnership in various places including the main dining room, specialty restaurants, the buffet, chocolate-flavored cocktails, chocolate-themed spa treatments and an exclusive wine and chocolate pairing.

The Culinary Center was the first hands-on cooking school at sea. (Courtesy of Oceania Cruises)
The Culinary Center was the first hands-on cooking school at sea. (Courtesy of Oceania Cruises)

The Culinary Center, Oceania Cruises

The first hands-on cooking school at sea, Oceania Cruises’ The Culinary Center offers guests the opportunity to level up their kitchen skills with immersive classes led by professional chefs. From the comfort of the ship’s state-of-the-art culinary center, participants will prepare, cook and sample delicious creations in classes with names like “Ancient Cuisines,” “If It Swims …,” “Greek Tonight,” “Pucker Up: Love and Lemons” and more.

Afternoon Tea is a daily affair aboard Cunard cruise ships. (Courtesy of Cunard)
Afternoon Tea is a daily affair aboard Cunard cruise ships. (Courtesy of Cunard)

Afternoon Tea, Cunard 

A daily ritual from 3:30 to 4:30 p.m., luxury cruise liner Cunard devotes what it calls an “indulgent hour” to Afternoon Tea. And indulgent it is, taking place in the Queens Room, a grand bar and ballroom with tall ceilings, sparkling chandeliers and ornate furnishings. As for the menu, the offerings served at Afternoon Tea change daily, but always include a variety of scrumptious finger sandwiches, tasty scones and elegant patisserie alongside a selection of Twining’s fine-leaf tea, all served on fine bone china.  


A Zipline, MSC Cruises

MSC Cruises has taken the adrenaline rush of zip-lining to new heights aboard MSC Seaview and MSC Seaside. Featuring two racing zip lines that stretch from Deck 20 to Deck 18, thrill-seekers will find this unique attraction offers unrivaled ocean views from an unconventional vantage point as they whiz above the open water and race to the finish line. Note: Zip-lining comes at an extra cost of $10 per ride.

Norwegian Encore's open-air laser tag arena. (Courtesy of Norwegian Cruise Line)
Norwegian Encore’s open-air laser tag arena. (Courtesy of Norwegian Cruise Line)

Laser Tag, Norwegian Cruise Line

The competitive thrill of laser tag has found its way to the sea on board Norwegian Cruise Line’s (NCL) Norwegian Bliss, Norwegian Joy and Norwegian Encore. At just $9.95 a round, cruise-goers will find it hard to resist the pull of this family-friendly activity allowing travelers of all ages to dart throughout the course, waiting for the perfect shot. Don’t have much experience with laser tag? Don’t worry, players have unlimited lives and must work together to be named the winning team, just watch out for snakes and aliens!

Squid Ink is a tattoo parlor on board Virgin Voyages' Scarlet Lady. (Courtesy of Virgin Voyages)
Squid Ink is a tattoo parlor on board Virgin Voyages’ Scarlet Lady. (Courtesy of Virgin Voyages)

Squid Ink, Virgin Voyages

Sailors can lean into tattooing’s nautical origins when they get inked at Squid Ink, Virgin Voyages’ one-of-a-kind tattoo parlor. Located on board the Scarlet Lady, Virgin Voyages partnered with World Famous Tattoo Ink, a cruelty-free, vegan tattoo ink company, to bring guests a new way to create lifelong memories on the high sea. In addition to tattoos, Squid Ink also specializes in piercings and permanent makeup.

The Snow Grotto is a unique feature of Viking's Scandinavian-inspired spas. (Courtesy of Viking)
The Snow Grotto is a unique feature of Viking’s Scandinavian-inspired spas. (Courtesy of Viking)

A Snow Grotto, Viking

Self-care inspired by the Viking Age, at The Spa — a “soothing sanctuary of Nordic wellness” aboard all Viking ships — visitors can recharge and unwind through traditional Scandinavian bathing rituals. To leave feeling their best, the cruise line recommends guests partake in hot and cold therapy by way of The Spa’s many amenities, one of the most notable of which being the Snow Grotto, a small, glass-enclosed room blanketed in manmade snow.


The Carousel Lounge, MSC Cruises

The wonder of live acrobatics, dance and music come together at the Carousel Lounge, an intimate, state-of-the-art venue on board MSC Cruises’ Meraviglia class ships. Through the fusion of over-the-top performances and innovative technology, shows at the Carousel Lounge offer guests cruise ship entertainment as they’ve never seen before. Speaking of never seen before, all seven shows running at the Carousel Lounge are new and exclusive to MSC via its production company Carousel Productions at Sea.

Guests can catch a show at the planetarium when they sail with Cunard. (Courtesy of Cunard)
Guests can catch a show at the planetarium when they sail with Cunard. (Courtesy of Cunard)

A Planetarium, Cunard

A journey to the stars is footsteps away aboard Cunard’s Queen Mary 2, a luxury cruise ship that doubles as home to the largest planetarium at sea. Hosting up to four screenings a day, the planetarium offers a variety of programming from solar-themed flicks to other science and natural history films. Additionally, when its dome is retracted, Queen Mary 2’s planetarium becomes Illuminations, a top-tier 3D cinema and classical music venue.

Chilly fun awaits at Norwegian Epic's Skyy Vodka Ice Bar. (Courtesy of Norwegian Cruise Line)
Chilly fun awaits at Norwegian Epic’s Skyy Vodka Ice Bar. (Courtesy of Norwegian Cruise Line)

An Ice Bar, Norwegian Cruise Line

Inspired by the ice hotels of Scandinavia, cruise-goers can sip their favorite vodka-infused cocktails at a crisp 17 degrees Fahrenheit when they visit the Skyy Vodka Ice Bars aboard Norwegian Getaway, Norwegian Epic and Norwegian Escape. Travelers will love the novelty of this unique venue as they enjoy boozy concoctions served in, you guessed it, glasses made of ice. Note: Norwegian Breakaway also has an ice bar, but it is sponsored by Svedka.  

Contemporary Art, Celebrity Cruises

Housing over 4,000 works of art in the form of photos, paintings, models, sculptures and more, Celebrity Cruises’ Celebrity Edge is akin to a floating gallery. Here, mundane activities like waiting for the elevator, walking to dinner and sitting on the deck are transformed into something more with hints of creativity everywhere you look. To help travelers take in all the artsy goodness, Celebrity launched “Edge Exposed: The Art, Architecture and Design Tour,” a guided tour that dives into the artists, architects and designers behind the ship’s unique collection.

About the Author

Senior Editor for VAX VacationAccess and world explorer, Jenna loves writing about all things travel. When she’s not busy creating content, she spends her time exploring the great outdoors, cuddling with her two black cats and researching her next big (sometimes strange) adventure.

Visit Cruise Trip Planner for more information about these unique cruise experiences.

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