Cruise lines are striving to become more creative, offering innovative opportunities for travelers.
Princess Cruises says it is the only big North American line to offer wedding ceremonies at sea performed by the ship's captain. Other lines offer wedding packages, but Princess ships are registered in Bermuda, which grants captains the authority to perform marriages on the high seas.
Norwegian Cruise Line boasts the first full-size bowling alley, aboard the Norwegian Pearl.
Royal Caribbean, which offers rock-climbing walls and ice skating rinks, sports a regulation-size boxing ring on Freedom of the Seas.
Royal Caribbean's Freedom of the Seas also takes the swimming pool to the next level with its Flow Rider surf simulator and an interactive water park called the H2O Zone.
Carnival Cruise Line water activities include signature four-deck high twister waterslides, and Seaside Theatres, 12-by-22-foot screens poolside that show movies, sporting events, and concerts.
For those who prefer interactive excitement, Norwegian Cruise Line has begun offering
Race car enthusiasts will be happy to discover that passengers age 16 and older can try out the Grand Prix racing simulators on the Costa Serena and Costa Concordia. Guests can virtually compete in races reaching speeds of over 200 miles per hour.
For those whose tastes favor quieter pursuits, Cunard offers twice-daily watercolor classes on trans-Atlantic cruises aboard Queen Mary 2.
Queen Mary 2 is also home to the only planetarium at sea, with a 150-seat theater that offers three shows, including two developed by the American Museum of Natural History's Hayden Planetarium.
Costa's Samsara Spas, on the Serena and Concordia, are the largest at sea, measuring over 21,000 square feet each.
The only floating branch of the Canyon Ranch SpaClub, aboard the Queen Mary 2, includes chiropractic services.
Celebrity Cruises offers acupuncture treatments with practitioners of Asian medicine.
Crystal Cruises offers feng shui-designed spas with furnishings placed according to ancient Chinese principles.
For more in ultimate pampering, luxury Silversea Cruises offers poolside cabana massages.
Carnival has formed an alliance with the International SeaKeepers Society. Scientific data-gathering devices on the Carnival Triumph and Carnival Spirit monitor ocean water quality and transmit the information to various government and university groups to assess pollution and climate changes.
Royal Caribbean's Explorer of the Seas is home to oceanographic and atmospheric lab facilities in partnerships with the National Science Foundation, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and the University of Miami.
An innovative program at Norwegian Cruise Line donated 1,300 gallons of used cooking oil from two of its ships to an organic farmer in Vero Beach, Fla. The farmer converted it into 870 gallons of usable biodiesel fuel to operate his farming equipment.
Holland America was the initiator of On Deck for the Cure. In one year, 31,000 guests on 400 sailings participated in 5K deck walks, raising $400,000 for the Susan G. Komen For the Cure Foundation, a global leader in the fight against breast cancer. Each walker is provided a T-shirt and wrist band and asked for a $15 pledge.
Holland's parent company,
Susan Klibanoff is a freelance writer in Waltham.