AquaDuck Water Coaster on the Disney DreamSlides, flumes, coasters, bucket dumps: cruise ship water parks have all the bells, whistles, jets and bubblers – panoramic ocean views, too. Floating in all their water-soaked glory on the world’s waterways, these shipboard water parks are debuting some first-time thrills this summer, including a floor that drops from beneath riders.

Derring-do with drop-away floor

Norwegian Cruise Line brings the first full-size five-slide water park to the high seas with Aqua Park, the cruise line’s biggest yet. Five full-size waterslides, including twin Free Fall slides – another seafaring first that also sets a record in the fastest department – rise from the top decks aboard the new Norwegian Breakaway.

Screw your courage to the sticking place and take your position: Free Fall comprises two side-by-side slides where thrill seekers stand up and have the floor drop away, propelling them into a breathtaking loop. Need more excitement? Get in line for The Whip, two side-by-side twister slides that plunge riders on a spiral race to the finish line.

NCL Breakaway Aqua Park smCatch your breath on the family-friendly open-flume body slide or in one of two swimming pools or four hot tubs. The Aqua Park also has a Nickelodeon-themed Kids’ Aqua Park where little ones can hang out with characters from Bikini Bottom, including SpongeBob SquarePants, Patrick and Squidward, while playing at the kid-sized pool area with slide, squirters, bubblers and sprays.

A three-story sports complex – Norwegian’s largest – complements the Aqua Park and includes the largest ropes course at sea, a multi-level structure with more than 40 different elements, including a zip track. Adrenaline junkies won’t be able to resist walking The Plank, a platform that extends eight feet over the side of the ship. Just remember to smile while you’re gritting your teeth because it’s also a shipboard photo op.

Rounding out the fun are a special ropes course for kids; Norwegian’s first nine-hole ocean-themed miniature golf course; and a  rock climbing wall, bungee trampoline and spider web – a 24-foot enclosed climbing cage complete with a spiral slide.

First shipboard water coaster creates a splash

Disney Mickey slideMickey Mouse has a few firsts up his own sleeve for water park fun aboard the Disney Fantasy and Disney Dream: The AquaDuck flume ride exhilarates with twists, turns, drops, acceleration and river rapids.

The first shipboard water coaster stretches 765 feet long and four and a half stories high, and is propelled onward and upward by high-powered water jets that shoot 10,000 gallons of water a minute through the ride. A swing-out loop whips riders a dozen feet beyond the side of the ship, where, surrounded only by a clear acrylic flume, they’ll have an unobstructed view of the ocean surface 150 feet below. A stretch of river rapids shows off another sweep of ocean and the ship’s upper decks before splashdown.

The Disney Fantasy’s AquaLab provides for tamer pursuits. Located near the entrance to AquaDuck, this water play area has pop jets, geysers and bubblers, plus water “experiments” created by Donald Duck’s nephews, Huey, Dewey and Louie, designed to drench all. There are wheels and levers, squirting and spurting pipes and, of course, a bucket set to soak everyone in its path.

Other water features aboard ship are the Mickey Pool with winding slide and Nemo’s Reef water-play area; Donald’s Pool and giant Funnel Vision LED screen where Disney films are shown; a wading pool with fountain on Deck 12; the Quiet Cove Pool for adults only; and Satellite Falls, a circular splash pool with benches and gently falling rain curtain.

On your mark, get set

Carnival Sunshine WaterWorks Speedway Splash smThe Carnival Sunshine, Carnival Cruise Lines’ former Destiny cruise ship that underwent a $155 million renovation, unveiled the massive WaterWorks water park when it returned to the seas in May.

Race to the finish on Speedway Splash. Carnival’s newest water thrill has dual side-by-side 235-foot-long slides with special lighting effects and displays racers’ times on a scoreboard. Take the plunge on Carnival’s longest slide, the enclosed 334-foot-long Twister slide. You’ll be whooshed over the edge of the ship by way of a crystal clear flume for dramatic views at each twist and turn.

WaterWorks also has five slides and 40 different interactive water features, including the cruise lines’ signature drenching bucket in the SplashZone kids’ water play area.

The multi-million dollar redesign also made way for Carnival’s first three-deck Serenity space, an adults-only retreat with cascading waterfall, and the SportSquare complex with ropes course, mini-golf, lighted half-court for basketball and volleyball, jogging track and more.

If You Go

Carnival Cruise Lines,

Disney Cruise Line,

Norwegian Cruise Line,