Archive for the ‘Costa Cruises’ Category

Theme park style water slides make a big splash

Sunday, April 18th, 2010

A million years ago cruise ships had basic pools with four sides and a ladder. Then three decades ago, things started getting interesting when Carnival introduced its first real water slide on the Festivale, a basic L-shaped slide about 10 feet high. The rest is history.

Along with amenities like multiple restaurants and huge spas, water parks and elaborate multi-deck-high slides with catchy names like Super Bowl and Twister are becoming standard aboard ships carrying more than 2,000 passengers. In 2009, the new Carnival Dream debuted with four water slides, one currently the longest in the biz at 303 feet. This year the Norwegian Epic will turns heads with a slide that has a big bowl feature that users spin around in, though the Disney Dream will take the cake when she debuts in early 2011 with a truly theme-park-style water flume ride that shoots guests over the side of the ship. As far as water parks, Royal Caribbean is the leader. Its Freedom class ships boast an impressive pool deck water park as well as the industry’s first surfing simulator, called the FlowRider. When Royal Caribbean’s newest class of ship rolled out earlier this year, the gigantic Oasis of the Seas had not only a sprawling water park, but two FlowRiders.

Andrew Mowatt, a vice president at WhiteWater West Industries, the firm that manufactures and designs most of the cruise industry’s water slides, says cruise ship water features will only get wilder, larger and more exciting. Mowatt says viable ideas include a slide that drops 10 stories in a 15-second free fall while zipping through the ship’s main atrium. Zowie, that’s amazing. So much for shuffleboard and pina coladas.

Here are the most fun and thrilling water features at sea.

Carnival Dream
Twister & Drain Pipe

As part of its “WaterWorks,” Carnival’s new 3,646-passenger, 130,000-ton Carnival Dream, has a pair of twin 80-foot-long racing slides, a 104-foot-long enclosed spiral slide called the DrainPipe, and a huge 303-foot-long four-deck high enclosed corkscrew waterslide called Twister. Tamer water pursuits include squirting fountains, splash zones and dump buckets.

The Carnival Splendor and six of Carnival’s eight Fantasy-class ships have all been retro-fitted with Waterworks features that comprise a Twister slide, dual racing slides and water spray toys. Elation and Paradise each have 2-deck-high Twister slides and are slated to get Waterworks installed within the next few years. The rest of the Carnival fleet all have 3-deck-high Twister slides, ranging in length from 72 feet on the Spirit class to 214 feet on the Conquest class ships.

Norwegian Epic
Epic Plunge & Super Bowl

When NCL’s new 4,200-passenger, 153,000-ton Norwegian Epic debuts this summer, one of its most talked about features will be 240-foot-long “Epic Plunge” bowl slide and a slide called the “Super Bowl, ” a four-deck high slide that starts with a ride down a covered tunnel in an inner tube before riders land up in a the “bowl” to do some spins. There are also water slides aboard NCL’s four Jewel-class ships, the Norwegian Jewel, Jade, Pearl and Gem.

Disney Dream
Aqua Duck

The 2,500-passenger (double occupancy), 128,000-ton Disney Dream will debut next year with a massive 765-foot-long, four-deck-high flume ride called the AquaDuck. Clearly the most theme-park-ride-like of any cruise ship water feature so far, passengers will board a two-person inflatable raft and get swept away on a high-speed ride around the perimeter of the ship’s top deck propelled by high-powered water jets. Part coaster and part water slide, passengers ride 13 feet out over the ocean inside a transparent acrylic flume, 150 feet above the sea. Part of the ride even zips past windows in the “tweens” kids’ club. The ride ends with passengers zooming through a 335-foot-long stretch of river rapids before a final splashdown.

Freedom of the Seas & Oasis of the Seas
H2O Zone and FlowRiders

Instead of major water slides, the most notable water features aboard the Freedom ships and the Oasis of the Seas are the whimsical H2O Zone water parks that are equipped with various water sprayers and Wave-Loch’s FlowRider surf simulators. The surfing machines give passengers a very realistic surfing experience. Thousands of gallons of water per minute shoot out to create a wavelike flow on which boarders can (try to) ride.

Costa Cruises

Though not as over-the-top as the theme park slides on the above ships, Costa does offer serpentine-style 200-foot-long slides aboard seven of its ships, including Costa Fortuna, Costa Magica, Costa Concordia, Costa Serena, Costa Pacifica, Costa Mediterranea and Costa Atlantica.

Family Affair: Cruising with the Whole Crew, Grandpa, Grandma & The Kids

Sunday, March 21st, 2010

I had cruised with my mom, my dad, and my children, but never all at once. The “idea” of cruising with both offspring and parents always had seemed like a great idea, but yet there was that nagging fear we’d all drive each other crazy. Still, I had to give it a try. When opportunity knocked I forged ahead and not only planned a cruise for us, but vowed to enjoy it. My husband claimed he couldn’t take leave from work (oh sure), so it would be the five us.

Want to cruise with your extended family? See Heidi’s seven tips to make yours a successful and fun family cruise at the bottom of this post. Got some tips of your own? Share them in our comments section below.

I booked the brood on a 10-night cruise roundtrip out of Singapore to Thailand and Malaysia aboard the Costa Marina (these days fleetmate Costa Romantica is doing similar routes). The cozy, homey Marina was a great way for my folks to get a taste of Asia and by far the most convenient mode of transport for a pair of testosterone-fueled little boys, two 60-somethings with medical issues, and a tightly-wound mother-child who still struggles with not sweating the small stuff.


Norwegian Fjords Cruises and Kids: A Perfect Combination

Monday, January 18th, 2010

Beautiful Norway: Made For Cruising

I cruised with my family last summer aboard the Costa Atlantic round-trip out of Copenhagen to the Norwegian fjords. In a word: ohmygod.

My boys were six at the time, and the stunning scenery even kept their attention on all-day bus tours and long hikes. The 7-night itinerary called on five ports, with a convenient sea day at the start of the trip. We called on Flam, Hellesylt /Geiranger, Bergen, Stavanger and Oslo, with long 9- to 12-hour stays in each port, with the exception of a five-hour stay in Stavanger.