Wet and Wild
The evolution of cruise ship water parks
By Felicity Long
When I was a child cruising with my parents, shipboard pool decks weren’t very interesting. For one thing, the pools themselves were disappointingly small, dwarfed by rows of deck chairs — usually claimed before lunch by die-hard sunbathers — and sometimes a hot tub or two.
These days, no self-respecting megaship would think of offering such an unexciting pool area. In fact, Lido Decks have been transformed into true water parks with splash zones, surfing simulators, giant movie screens, and, most impressively, waterslides that rival anything you can experience at land-based resorts.
There are challenges to designing shipboard pool decks that aren’t factors on land, particularly that water is heavy and that vertical space is limited. This means that pool areas can’t sprawl. But they can dazzle.
“Designing for a cruise ship requires us to think differently about deck space, waterslides, and steel joints because of the ships constant movement, the weight of the attractions, and the dry dock time required for installation,” said Andrew Mowatt, executive vice president business development for WhiteWater, a Vancouver-based company that designs many of the waterparks currently at sea, including on Carnival Cruise Line, Norwegian Cruise Line, and Disney Cruise Line.
Carnival is generally credited for having started the big-slide trend aboard Festivale in the late 1970s, although the slide was very simple by today’s standards. Fast forward two decades, and Norwegian, Disney, MSC Cruises, and Royal Caribbean International joined Carnival as key players in the transformation of pool areas from ho hum to fabulous.
On Carnival, for example, Twister slides have been installed fleetwide, ranging from 115 to 312 feet in length, and twin 235-foot-long Speedway Splash racing slides are highlights on Carnival Sunshine. Adrenaline junkies can test their mettle on the Green Thunder on Carnival Spirit, Carnival Pride, and Carnival Legend, which features a floor that drops out beneath cruisers propelling them to rush down the slide. The upcoming Carnival Vista will feature the line’s longest waterslide ever — the 455-foot-long Kaleid-O-Slide, which is a tube slide that riders navigate by raft.
“Building a waterpark that floats is no easy task,” said Caroline Lombardi, Carnival’s director of youth, family, and outer decks. “There are many considerations that influence our slide design — wind, ship movement, vibrations, salt water exposure,” she said. “We involve a huge….
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Photo: Disney Cruise Line