Cruise ships invest billions in extreme vacation experiences

Carnival alone has invested $2 billion to renovate its ships

Roller coasters, go-cart racing and a skydiving simulator are just a few new adventurous additions cruise lovers can expect onboard ships this year.

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Cruise lines are investing billions of dollars to ramp up their amenities with over-the-top offerings geared toward family fun and thrill-seekers alike.

Passengers onboard Carnival Cruise Line’s new Mardi Gras ship, setting sail later this year, can ride a 180,000-ton roller coaster above deck and 187 feet above the sea with speeds up to 37 miles per hour. The ship is roughly 50 percent larger than any other the company has built and can hold 5,200 passengers with plans to carry 6 million people per year, Vance Gulliksen, a spokesman for Carnival, told FOX Business.

The Carnival Mardi Gras has a motorcycle-inspired roller coaster on its top deck along with water slides and multiple pools. (Carnival Cruise Line)

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“The industry is always looking for ways to attract people who have never been on a cruise whether it's with a chance to go down a 450-foot water slide, massive water parks or roller coaster ride,” Guillisken said of open deck attractions for fun in the sun.

Carnival alone has invested $2 billion to renovate its ships, Gulliksen said. And guests can enjoy a theme park-packed vacation onboard the Mardi Gras for under $1,000 per person. The average ticket price for a seven-day cruise with a cabin room including food and activities is $769 per person.

Cruise lines have been attracting families by introducing more eye-catching amenities onboard becoming more than just a vehicle to a destination and the main-event instead, travel industry insiders say.

"The family market is a huge growth opportunity for the cruise industry and one that we see continuing to grow year after year," Colleen McDaniel, Editor-in-Chief of Crusie Critic told FOX Business. "It's an important market for lines to invest in, as it opens cruising to the next generation of travelers."

The family market is a huge growth opportunity for the cruise industry and one that we see continuing to grow year after year

- Colleen McDaniel, Cruise Critic Editor-in-Chief

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A number of other cruise companies have introduced adrenaline-inducing amenities. Royal Caribbean has a skydiving simulator that allows passengers to feel like they’re jumping out of an actual plane in the middle of the ocean. RipCord by iFly, as it’s called, will be featured on the lines four ships: Anthem of the Seas, Quantum of the Seas, Ovation of the Seas and Spectrum of the Seas.

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And Norwegian Cruise Line has go-kart race tracks for drivers to speed at sea up to 30 miles per hour. Passengers can spend up to $199 for unlimited access to the race track above the deck during a week-long cruise onboard the Joy, Bliss and Encore ships.

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"They’re investing in the full family experience, to help deliver an incredible vacation to every member of the family. They’re evolving onboard kids clubs to be truly exciting places for kids to go, while also building adults-only sanctuaries onboard for some quiet time for the adults in the group," McDaniel said.

Building a cruise ship with action-packed amenities doesn't come cheap. Cruise companies spent more than $1 billion on new ships. And they can command millions in revenue, particularly during winter months when bookings are at their peak. A whopping 32 million people plan to book a cruise in 2020, according to the Cruise Lines International Association, which estimates that 60 percent more cruises will be booked between Jan. and April.

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