Cruises famously offer travelers lots of amenities and activities: port excursions, fine dining, luxurious accommodations, on-board entertainment, and gorgeous ocean views every day of their trip. (Sign us up!) But if you want to experience something a little more adventurous on your vacation, don’t write off a cruise just yet. Many cruises offer amazing excursions and unexpected activities — the kinds of things you never knew you could do on a cruise.
Below, check out some of the most surprising and exciting things you can do if you choose the right cruise.
1. Get a 360-degree view of the ocean
Wherever you are on a cruise ship, you can probably see the ocean in at least one direction. But did you know if you choose the right ship, you could get a 360-degree view? Travel + Leisure reports on select Royal Caribbean ships, you can check out the North Star. This glass capsule will transport you 300 feet above the water, where you can see the ocean stretching out in every direction.
2. Go skydiving — or at least feel like you’re skydiving
Have you ever wanted to go skydiving? You may be able to give it a try the next time you take a cruise. Cruise Critic reports that on Royal Caribbean’s Quantum-class ships, you’ll be able to check out the RipCord by iFLY skydiving simulator. The 23-foot, glass-enclosed tunnel gives you a taste of simulated skydiving — all while you remain under the supervision of a seasoned pro. You’ll even get an unparalleled view of the ocean around you as you float in the glass tunnel.
3. Enjoy a surf simulator
Another kind of simulator you can find on Royal Caribbean ships? The FlowRider, a surf simulator that generates waves on top of a platform. You can bodyboard or stand up to catch a wave. But Cruise Critic warns, “Though the tide is faux, the pain and humiliation can be real: one slip on the board, and you may hurtle back up the wave and promptly wipe out. Added pressure: Patrons of the Wipe Out Bar are watching, so be sure to flash a smile as you topple over.”
4. Go bobsledding
U.S. News reports that if you want to go bobsledding, you might want to consider a cruise to Jamaica. Choose the right trip with MSC Cruises, and you’ll get to check out the world-famous Dunn’s River Falls and go bobsledding, all in one shore excursion. You’ll also get to learn about Jamaican culture and history, in addition to experiencing 2,780 feet of thrilling twists and turns.
5. Take a helicopter tour
If you want to venture off the cruise ship, you’ll have plenty of options for amazing shore excursions. One of the most exciting? The opportunity to take a helicopter tour over Hong Kong or Dubai when you go on a Yachts of Seaborn cruise. Travel + Leisure reports, “In Hong Kong, a twin-engined copter takes off from the rooftop helipad of the Peninsula Hotel for a dramatic swoop over the Kowloon skyline and Victoria Harbour, while a ‘flightseeing’ tour of Dubai surveys the desert coast before touching down at the suspended helipad at the iconic Burj Al Arab.”
6. Sightsee on a motorcycle
Licensed motorcyclists can go sightseeing on a Harley Davidson motorcycle. Travel + Leisure reports that several cruise lines, including Carnival, Princess, and Holland America, offer Harley excursions in St. Martin, Nassau, and Cozumel year-round. They also have motorcycles available in Ketchikan, Alaska, in the summer.
7. Ride a seaplane across British Columbia
Who knew that going for a cruise could get you a ride on a seaplane, too? U.S. News reports if you take the right cruise with Regent Seven Seas Cruises, you can get a birds-eye view of the beautiful British Columbia wilderness. This shore excursion will get you views of forests, fjords, a glacial waterfall, and Khutzeymateen Valley, a region known for its large population of grizzly bears.
8. Explore the Arctic Circle
U.S. News reports that on some Holland America cruises to Alaska, travelers can actually explore the Arctic Circle. You’ll depart from Denali National Park and Preserve, make your way across the Yukon River Valley and Alaskan Rockies, and enter the Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve. Then, you’ll get to see two wilderness communities to learn how people survived in this remote and rugged landscape.
9. Go snorkeling in Alaska
Another unexpected activity to try on an Alaskan cruise? A snorkeling excursion with Princess Cruises. U.S. News reports that on this excursion, you’ll put on a “state-of-the-art wetsuit outfitted with a hood and gloves before diving into the waters to hover over Alaskan sea life.” You’ll get an up-close view of underwater flora and fauna. Expect to see sea urchins, sea cucumbers, and other amazing forms of sea life.
10. Explore shipwrecks
If you want to go diving in warmer waters, an adventure with Crystal Cruises may be right for you. The cruise line offers many different underwater experiences. One that’s tailor-made for the most adventurous travelers is an excursion to St. Anne’s Island in the Seychelles. There, you can get up close and personal with schools of colorful fish and explore ancient shipwrecks. (For those who aren’t certified divers, the cruise line has plenty of options for snorkeling or even learning beginner scuba diving, too.)
11. Check out an on-board planetarium
Not every amazing activity requires an excursion ashore. Travel + Leisure reports that on Cunard’s Queen Mary 2, you can check out the only planetarium at sea. “Celestial programs of the night sky or outer space — developed with New York’s Hayden Planetarium — are projected on a large overhead dome,” the publication explains. The seats in the planetarium are even designed to lean back, so you can get comfortable learning about the stars.
12. Explore Game of Thrones filming locations
Game of Thrones has famously filmed in numerous gorgeous destinations. So it’s no surprise that if you end up in Dubrovnik, Croatia, with MSC Cruises, you can take a Game of Thrones-themed tour with an experienced guide. U.S. News reports that you can see specific filming locations for memorable scenes, like the location of the Battle of Blackwater. You’ll also get to visit a reproduction of the Iron Throne.
13. Check out some Lord of the Rings filming locations
Prefer Lord of the Rings to Game of Thrones? Then, you may want to choose a cruise that will set you up with a trek in the footsteps of your favorite Lord of the Rings characters. On some Princess Cruises itineraries, you can disembark the ship in New Zealand to go with a guide to see where the cast and crew filmed important scenes in the series. You’ll be able to check out locations for the Outer Shire, where Frodo and the other hobbits begin their journey. You’ll also get access to some fun behind-the-scenes secrets and learn some inside information about how the films were produced.
14. Go truffle hunting
If you find yourself on a SeaDream Yacht Club cruise that takes you to Croatia, you can sign up for a shore excursion that will give you the inside look at the truffle-hunting trade. Travel + Leisure reports that you can search for the elusive white truffle — which fetches prices of up to $6,000 per pound — on an trek through the oak forests near Livade village, in northwestern Croatia. Your guide will be a real-life truffle forager — along with specially trained dogs.
15. Enjoy 24/7 butler service in any stateroom
Not everybody wants to spend their vacation trekking around the wilderness. Silversea Cruises understands — and gives every guest access to 24/7 butler service. You don’t even have to book a premium cabin to get 24-hour room service, to ask for help making dinner reservations, or to book shore excursions. If you want your cruise to be as relaxing as possible, this is definitely the amenity for you.
16. Relax in a snow room
Another amazing experience you can have without leaving the ship? You can relax in a snow room on some Viking Cruises ships. As Travel + Leisure explains, “This room in the onboard spa is the last step of a circuit based on Scandinavian tradition: relax in a sauna to open pores, soak in a cold pool, go back to the sauna, and finally sit under the snow.” You can always keep the snowfall light — and keep yourself from freezing — by setting the snow to a light flurry.
17. Order a cocktail at a bar made entirely of ice
This is another bucket list item for travelers who aren’t afraid of a little cold weather indoors. Cruise Critic reports that on some Norwegian Cruise Lines ships, travelers can visit an ice bar that’s set to a temperature of 17 degrees. The bar is made entirely of ice, including the furniture and the sculptures. To make the cold bearable long enough for you to enjoy a drink, the bar provides hooded coats and gloves.