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Remember when a fancy Broadway-style show was the coolest amenity on a cruise ship?
These days, cruise lines go far beyond buffets and traditional entertainment to entice cruise-wary travelers. New vessels debut with snaking waterslides that loop out over the ocean, skydiving simulators, tattoo parlors and virtual reality bungee jumping. And because bigger seems to be the preferred strategy, you could soon add onboard roller coaster to the list of available cruise amenities.
In 2020, Carnival Cruise Line plans to debut BOLT: Ultimate Sea Coaster on its new ship, Mardi Gras. When it sets sail from its home in Port Canaveral, Florida, Mardi Gras will be Carnival’s largest vessel — and potentially the sixth-largest cruise ship on Earth. According to Carnival, it could also be crowned with the first-ever roller coaster at sea.
The all-electric coaster will be nearly 800 feet long and reach speeds of 40 miles per hour on a track more than 180 feet above sea level. Interestingly, from the start of the ride, passengers will be able to control their speed. Want a super-fast rocket launch? You’re in control! If you want to slow down to admire the view, you can put on the brakes and coast at a more moderate speed.
Once you’ve completed the ride, your speed will be displayed on a board along with all other riders. (Apparently, Carnival wants to promote a bit of friendly competition.)
In a statement, Carnival president Christine Duffy described BOLT as “game-changing” and “exhilarating.” Duffy rode a prototype of the attraction assembled by its manufacturer, Munich-based Maurer Rides, and described it as “a really cool innovation” for the line’s forthcoming Mardi Gras ship.
A roller coaster may seem like a strange addition to a cruise ship, but it’s actually a logical progression for Carnival. After all, Disney’s Dream and Fantasy ships both already boast AquaDuck water coasters, and MSC Cruises has a Formula One racing simulator available on several ships. For other adrenaline-fueled cruise ship rides, there’s also the two-level go-kart racetrack onboard the Norwegian Joy and Carnival Vista’s SkyRide: a sort of bike suspended on a track high above the ship.
Royal Caribbean also continues to push the boundaries of cruise ship entertainment. Onboard the Symphony of the Seas, currently the world’s largest cruise ship, there may be no roller coasters to speak of. But cruisers will find a zip line, rock climbing wall, a 10-story waterslide and an ice-skating rink, among other diversions.
You have to imagine that when Mardi Gras makes her maiden voyage, a significant percentage of the passengers on board (as many as 6,500 at maximum capacity) will eagerly line up for a ride on the roller coaster. After waiting in a queue, guests may even feel like they’ve had a traditional theme park experience.
So, is a roller coaster the ultimate amenity for cruise passengers? It definitely pushes the envelope, but is it enough to convince travelers to opt for one cruise line over another — or to book a cruise at all?
If you plan to reserve a sailing on Carnival Mardi Gras (or any other ship), be sure to use one of the best credit cards for booking cruises.
Featured image courtesy of Carnival Cruise Line.
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