15 Quintessential Cruise Experiences You Must Try at Least Once

On the best vacations, the journey is just as enjoyable as the destination. Step on board a cruise ship and prepare for a start-to-finish adventure, from exciting onboard activities to shore excursions in beautiful ports of call. If you’re looking to tick items off your bucket list, try these 15 quintessential cruise experiences at least once.

1. Book a Balcony Stateroom

Sometimes, a little extra luxury offers a lot more enjoyment. With a balcony stateroom, you’re just steps away from your own private retreat. For a quiet couple’s moment, order up your favorite cocktails, breathe the fresh air, and drink in stunning ocean views next to your significant other.

couple enjoying their stateroom balcony on a carnival cruise

2. Dine at The Chef’s Table

When you book a reservation for dinner at The Chef’s Table, your taste buds truly get the royal treatment. This VIP cruise experience for a select group of travelers usually comes with an introduction to the chef, cocktails and appetizers, special entrees, desserts and a tour of the galley.

guests being served delicious meals at the chef’s table on board a carnival cruise

3. Find Your Zen at the Spa

Few activities ease your mind, body and spirit like a trip to the spa. At Carnival’s Cloud 9 Spa, you can relax in the steam room or sauna, get a hot-stone massage or enjoy a soothing mud treatment, body wrap or facial. For an extra-special experience, treat yourself to a new haircut and a luxurious mani-pedi.

friends laying in the thermal lounge at cloud 9 spa on board a carnival cruise

4. Meet Storybook Characters

Carnival cruises offer activities for every member of the family. If you’re traveling with children, nothing makes little hearts skip a beat like meeting life-size storybook characters at Green Eggs and Ham breakfast. Pint-sized passengers can enjoy activities like story time, arts and crafts, and special character-hosted parades.

red and white pancakes resembling cat in the hat’s hat at the green eggs and ham breakfast

5. Get a Bird’s-Eye View

When sailing the ocean waters, why not go to the extreme? Nothing gets the blood flowing like SkyRide on select Carnival cruise ships. Climb into bicycle-style cars suspended high above deck for a thrilling adventure and a bird’s-eye-view. This exhilarating pursuit is definitely not your classic cruise activity.

girl gliding over the deck as she rides on carnival’s skyride

6. Canoodle with Your Sweetheart

A cruise makes the perfect vacation for canoodling with the one you love. Find a comfy, double-chaise lounge on the “adults-only” deck and enjoy an afternoon for two. Bring your favorite novels, order up cocktails, or just hold hands while soaking up the warm, tropical rays.

couple laying on a lounge bed at serenity, adults only retreat

7. Catch a Dive-In Movie

It’s one thing to see a movie in the park on a warm summer evening, but imagine watching your favorite flick from the comfort of your cruise ship swimming pool. If a cozy lounge chair sounds better, grab a snuggly blanket and a box of popcorn for outdoor entertainment at its finest.

guests eating popcorn as they watch a movie on carnival’s seaside theater

8. Party Under the Stars

If you love music, dancing and meeting new people, there’s no better place than a party by the pool. The Mega Deck Party on Carnival cruise ships features a DJ, games, giveaways and plenty of adult beverages for an ultra-enjoyable evening under the stars.

guests dancing under the stars during the mega deck party

9. Try a Martini Tasting

Got a craving for a craft cocktail? Attend a martini tasting and tickle your palate with exciting flavors like melon crush, blackberry bramble or spicy chipotle pineapple. Once you’ve tried them all, you can order your favorite martini in a full-size glass.

couple watching bartender prepare cocktails at the alchemy bar

10. Snorkel Ocean Reefs

When it comes to shore excursions, nothing connects you to nature more than snorkeling. Put on your mask and fins and explore beautiful reefs off the coasts of Hawaii, Mexico, Bermuda or The Bahamas. A knowledgeable crew offers plenty of handy pointers for a must-do cruise experience.

couple snorkeling in the caribbean

11. Tour the Mexican Wine Country by ATV

Lovers of whites and reds find their happy place with a tour through the Mexican wine country, and traveling by ATV makes this adventure even more exciting. Enjoy stunning mountain and valley views before stopping to taste local wines and artisan breads and cheeses.

guests driving an atv as they tour the mexican wine country

12. Bask in Mediterranean Culture

If you’re an aficionado of Old World culture, a Mediterranean cruise makes a must-try vacation. Seaports along the coasts of Croatia, France, Italy and Spain offer plenty of sights to see, including cobblestone streets, outdoor markets, historic statues, sidewalk cafes and centuries-old architecture.

aerial view of the city of dubrovnik croatia as a carnival ship sails away

13. Explore Ancient Mayan Cities

As if a cruise to the Mexican Riviera weren’t exciting enough, you can explore your adventurous side with a tour of the ancient Mayan city of Tulum. Channel your inner action hero as you make your way to age-old temples and visit a nearby Mayan village to feast on delicious local dishes. For even more fun, cool off with a dip in a cenote or take a siesta in a handmade hammock.

man kissing woman on the cheek as the pose in front of a mayan temple

14. Swim with Dolphins

When you’re looking for fun things to do on a cruise, few shore excursions beat swimming with dolphins. Watch them glide, turn and jump into the air for a once-in-a-lifetime show. Take time to get up close and personal with a friendly dolphin handshake, or a thrilling pull across the crystal-clear lagoon.

girl kissing dolphin on the nose during a shore excursion

15. Take to the Sand and Surf on Horseback

If you thought riding horseback along the beach was romantic, try heading straight into the Caribbean surf with your equine friend. This popular, must-do shore excursion comes with gentle, well-trained horses and friendly, knowledgeable staff.

guests getting ready to go on a horse back adventure in the caribbean

A cruise is a vacation travelers take to make memories. Add some or all of these 15 cruise experiences to your travel itinerary for a sea-to-shore adventure you won’t ever forget.