Image: Carnival Dream
Carnival
The 3,652-passenger Carnival Dream made her maiden voyage on Sept. 21.
By Travel writer
msnbc.com contributor
updated 11/30/2009 6:03:07 PM ET 2009-11-30T23:03:07

Hey cruisers! Are you bored with bingo? Had enough of art auctions and pain-inducing performances of “Eye of the Tiger”? Not to worry. The cruise industry is rolling out some of the most innovative ships to hit the high seas since the RMS Olympic set sail in 1911 with a swimming pool and Turkish bath.

Of course, even the newest onboard amenity will eventually become old hat, which is why the cruise industry is always on the lookout for the next big thing. Read on to see some of the latest additions and a few more we’d like to see.

Coming soon to a cruise ship near you
Celebrity Equinox: If you’ve ever wandered around a cruise ship and found yourself thinking, boy, I could really go for a glass-blowing demonstration right about now, Equinox is for you. Launched in August, the 2,850-passenger ship has its very own hot shop, staffed by artists from the Corning Museum of Glass. I’m not sure if this is something Celebrity cruisers have been clamoring for; then again, how many times can you watch the kitchen crew turn cantaloupes into cartoon characters?

Carnival Dream: The 130,000-ton, 3,652-passenger Carnival Dream made her maiden voyage on Sept. 21. Among the amenities of the cruise line’s largest and most innovative ship, guests will find a waterpark with a four-story slide, hot tubs cantilevered over the water and a two-deck miniature golf course.

The ship will also feature cabins with so-called “cove balconies” a few decks above the waterline. Designed to provide an up-close-and-personal view of the water, they’ll be equipped with weather doors that can be sealed if the view gets too close and/or personal during high seas. Pity — if the waves got big enough, you could have your very own Finding Nemo Submarine adventure.

Oasis of the Seas: Maybe they should call it Mo’asis of the Seas because it’s got mo’ of just about everything. At 220,000 tons, this Royal Caribbean behemoth is so big, it features seven neighborhoods, 2,700 cabins and space for 6,300 passengers (with all beds filled). On a week’s cruise, the towel animals alone would constitute one of the world’s great animal migrations.

The heart of the ship will likely be the Boardwalk, a floating throwback to the seaside piers of old, complete with carousel, carnival games and a zip line high overhead. Alas, there won’t be a funhouse or freak show — sorry, kids, no bearded lady or human pincushion — and frolicking under the boardwalk à la The Drifters won’t be an option.

Worse yet, Oasis will be hitting the high seas minus at least one proposed amenity: an aerostat or tethered-blimp ride designed to let passengers float through the sky high above the ship. Apparently, the lighter-than-air craft lived up to its name during testing after it became untethered and drifted away. Apparently, Oasis passengers who want to slip the surly bonds of the ship will have to fall overboard just like everybody else.

The real fun begins beyond the railings
Nevertheless, I think the folks at Royal Caribbean deserve credit for thinking outside the boat, and I’m sure they’ve got some other exciting ideas up their sleeves. After all, someone has to keep the “zing” in cruising, which is why I offer the following ideas to them or any other cruise line gutsy enough to put them in place:

99 Loftballoons: Aerostat, schmaerostat. Why mess around with cables and winches when all you really need is a deck chair and some helium balloons? A similar system worked just fine for “Lawn Chair Larry” Walters, who sailed 11,000 feet over Los Angeles in 1982, and for the dozens of imitators who have taken flight since. Needless to say, there are logistical problems with untethered flight at sea, but it’s nothing a pellet gun and well-deployed lifeboat can’t handle.

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Cruise-ship catapults: Sure, a zip line’s a lot of fun, but for a real thrill, how about a catapult? Simply keep your life jacket from the muster drill, climb into the bucket and awaaaaayyyyy you go! (Again, make sure they deploy a lifeboat before you sign the waiver.) This would also come in handy for those insufferable types who can’t wait their turn when disembarking. In a hurry? Step right up.

Wipeout at sea: If you can recreate “American Idol” and “The Newlywed Game” on board, why not “Wipeout,” the summer hit in which contestants tackle an obstacle course of spinning disks, sweeper arms and other hazards above a pool of muddy water? Set it up on a platform aft of the fantail; position a few more lifeboats to scoop up the losers, and get ready for the biggest belly flops you’ve ever seen.

Would that be awesome or what? In fact, with a big enough ship with enough onboard activities, you’d never have to cruise anywhere at all.

Rob Lovitt is a frequent contributor to msnbc.com. If you'd like to respond to one of his columns or suggest a story idea, drop him an e-mail.

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