Your Guide To The Best Cruise Ship Entertainment

The growing competition means cruise companies are working harder then ever to offer a diverse suite of onboard entertainment.

A couple watch outdoor cinema from the top deck of a cruise ship

2min read

Published 28 March 2024


Share


The growing competition means cruise companies are working harder then ever to offer a diverse suite of onboard entertainment.


Beyond the usual offerings that include delicious cuisine, spa and wellness packages, poolside bars, cover bands, karaoke and late night comedy, the best cruise ships have upped the ante to offer a level of floating entertainment like no other.

Of course, the beauty of a cruise is being able to do as much or as little as you please. So, whether you're keen to get down and boogie with your fellow guests at a sail away party, laugh until you cry with headliner comedians or shop till you drop at the onboard mall, rest assured that there is cruise entertainment to suit every traveller's needs.

Dancers on a Harmony Parade aboard a cruise ship
Dancers on a Harmony Parade aboard a cruise ship
Dancers on a Harmony Parade aboard a cruise ship

1. What Kind Of Entertainment Is On A Cruise?

Take your pick from daytime activities like cooking classes, water parks, rock climbing walls, scavenger hunts, cocktail and wine tastings, educational programs, fitness classes, sports courts, bingo, game shows, massages and more. Of course, if you're keen to relax then simply pack a towel and reserve a day bed by the pool, or curl up with a good book in bed.

As the sun sets, cruise ships come alive with a suite of incredible entertainment options. Dance the night away with a deck party or some cheeky drinks at the onboard nightclub, sip a nightcap at a supper club, enjoy some belly laughs with comedy shows or simply treat yourself to a luxury dinner degustation.

No cruise is complete without a trip to the theatre. Even if you're not a regular theatregoer, these shows are well worth checking out. Performed in purpose-built theatres, these productions feature huge casts, spectacular costumes and world class choreography.


2. What About Kids' Entertainment?

If you're after a holiday that has the kids covered, then cruising is a no brainer. Most megaships have kids' activities out the wazoo, meaning the little ones can have the time of their lives while you sit back, relax and have some much needed adult time.

When booking, be sure to enquire about the kids club. Beyond the regular activities and entertainment options onboard, kids clubs are often divided into age groups and offer everything from free play and games to arts and crafts, cooking classes and an onboard pyjama party.

3. Do You Pay For Cruise Ship Entertainment?

As a rule of thumb, most entertainment options are included in your cruise fare. Think nightly shows, live music, comedy, kids club, bingo, fitness classes and more.

More niche experiences like cooking classes, indoor skydiving (yes, that is a thing), laser tag, massages and boutique dining options may come at a cost. If in doubt, ask your travel agent before you book, or enquire with the booking desk while you're on board.

4. What Cruise Lines Have The Best Onboard Entertainment?

While many cruise lines have put in the hard yards to provide some evening fun, a few have gone above and beyond to offer a voyage bursting with entertainment.


A cruise ship sails on smooth ocean waters
A cruise ship sails on smooth ocean waters
A cruise ship sails on smooth ocean waters

5. Princess Cruises

Taking the top accolade for onboard entertainment by the Cruise Passenger Reader's Choice Awards, Princess Cruises knows a thing or two about putting on a good show.

First things first, Princess has partnered with award winning composer Stephen Schwartz, aka the guy that scored award winning Broadway shows like Wicked, Pippin and Godspell. Together with Stephen, Princess has created exclusive productions like The Secret Silk which uses life size puppetry, Magic to Do a song-and-dance extravaganza and Rock Opera, a one of a kind production with a soundtrack spanning classic rock, opera and musical theatre.

When you're not being wowed by the cruise line's award-winning theatre offering, consider venturing to the Spotlight Bar to connect with local storytellers sharing tales of colourful lives. Pick up the pace with high-energy dance classes, or kickstart your singing career by competing in The Voice of the Ocean which comes with rotating chairs and all!

Kids will love watching magicians, illusionists and street performers in the piazza, with a chance to learn something new with the Camp Discovery programs as well. Last, but certainly not least, finish your day with Movies Under the Stars on the top deck, or by watching the latest blockbuster in your stateroom.

Two people indoor skydive high on deck
Two people indoor skydive high on deck
Two people indoor skydive high on deck

6. Royal Caribbean

When it comes to innovative cruise ship entertainment, Royal Caribbean has gone above and beyond to push the boundaries of what is possible at sea. There's a lot to cover here, so let's just dive in.

First up is the ice skating shows with world-class figure skaters performing lifts, spins and dance in an onboard rink. Worried about catching a chill? Thaw out from the ice and head to the open air Aqua Theater, which plays host to water-based acrobatic shows, synchronised swimming and high dives.

Royal Caribbean has also brought Broadway to the high seas, with shows like Mamma Mia, Grease, Saturday Night Fever and Hairspray all making an appearance on different ships. Those keen on a laugh can also watch live comedy inspired by NYC's stand-up scene. Once the kids are asleep, adults can compete in game shows like Love and Marriage and Battle of the Sexes, before sipping a cocktail courtesy of a robot mixologist.

Quantum Class ships feature the expansive Two70 entertainment venue, a multimedia theatre that combines virtual concerts, robotics, aerial shows and video projection. Harmony of the Seas also boasts it's very own escape room set in outer space.

Add in the onboard Casino Royale, original theatre productions featuring talent musicians, FlowRider surf simulators, the tallest slides at sea and a youth Adventure Ocean program, and you'll be flat out finding time to relax.

Looking over the pool deck and horizon onboard Carnival Splendor cruise ship
Looking over the pool deck and horizon onboard Carnival Splendor cruise ship
Looking over the pool deck and horizon onboard Carnival Splendor cruise ship

7. Carnival Cruise Line

With a name like Carnival, you'd expect a little pizazz when it comes to onboard entertainment. Luckily, this cruise line does not disappoint.

Known for ships boasting a wide variety of live music performances, elaborate productions and top-rated comedy, Carnival's fleet are floating havens of fun. Aboard more than half of the fleet you'll find music-driven Playlist Productions, which use LED screens and special effects to enhance the performances.

Take your pick from Motown, RnB and rock-inspired evening shows, sip cocktails at the piano bar or tickle your funny bone with some laughs at the Punchliner Comedy Club. Up the stakes with some friendly banter and participate in the onboard Family Feud game, or go all out planning Hasbro, The Game Show.

Go-karts dart round the funnel of an NCL cruise ship
Go-karts dart round the funnel of an NCL cruise ship
Go-karts dart round the funnel of an NCL cruise ship

8. Norwegian Cruise Line

Set sail and settle into an unmatched offering of live performances with Norwegian Cruise Line. Musical theatre buffs will be wowed by top Broadway productions like Six, Choir of Man, Rock of Ages, and Priscilla, Queen of the Desert.

Prefer to shake your tail feather? Let loose and unleash your inner dancing queen as you watch the Latin and Ballroom dance teams perform Burn the Floor.

Beyond the epic theatre productions, cruise ships also come with comedians, game shows, laser tag and even onboard go-karts on Norwegian Bliss and Norwegian Joy.

Goofy, Pluto and friends wave to the distant horizon aboard a Disney Cruise line vessel
Goofy, Pluto and friends wave to the distant horizon aboard a Disney Cruise line vessel
Goofy, Pluto and friends wave to the distant horizon aboard a Disney Cruise line vessel

9. Disney Cruises

For the little ones and those young at heart, it's no surprise that Disney Cruises knows how to have a good time. Offering everything from grand scale production shows to intimate interactions with characters like Goofy and Snow White at mealtimes, there is entertainment laced into every minute.

While onboard, we recommend enjoying dinner and a show at restaurants like Animator's Palate and Tiana's Place before heading to the theatre to watch Disney films come to life. These kid-friendly 45-60 minute shows feature show and song highlights from classic films like Beauty and The Beast and Frozen.

Adult cruisers aren't left behind, either, with the option to watch newly released Disney and Marvel movies on the big screen in the theatre or pool deck.

A cruise ship sails on calm waters with a mountainous background
A cruise ship sails on calm waters with a mountainous background
A cruise ship sails on calm waters with a mountainous background

10. Cunard Cruises

Seeking a more upper crust approach to cruising and entertainment? Luxury line Cunard is ready to impress even the most discerning sailors with symphony performances and Shakespeare.

Cunard has partnered with the Royal Shakespeare Company to bring the famous bard on board Queen Mary 2. Here, you're invited to Q&A sessions and workshops with the cast before watching the exclusive theatrical piece Boundless as the Sea - a unique blend of Shakespeare's iconic love scenes.

As if that isn't enough, Queen Mary 2 also boasts an onboard planetarium that plays host to a range of space shows in partnership with the American Museum of Natural History's Hayden Planetarium.

A cruise ship sails along a channel where mountains and glaciers meet the sea
A cruise ship sails along a channel where mountains and glaciers meet the sea
A cruise ship sails along a channel where mountains and glaciers meet the sea

11. Holland America

So... you like jazz? If you're a fan of smooth tunes, look no further than Holland America. Boasting a trio of partnerships, patrons can enjoy world-class entertainment at the ship's Music Walk complex every night.

Take your pick from classical music inspired by the Lincoln Centre Stage, Memphis-style blues with B.B. King's Blues Club, and popular hits played by duelling pianos courtesy of Billboard. Better yet, those on newer ships will be wowed by the two-story World Stage fitted out with a 270-degree LED projection screen.

Virgin Voyages Scarlet Lady cruise ship
Virgin Voyages Scarlet Lady cruise ship
Virgin Voyages Scarlet Lady cruise ship

12. Virgin Voyages

Richard Branson wasn't mucking around when he appointed Jennifer Lopez as the Chief Entertainment and Lifestyle Officer on board Virgin Voyages.

With JLO at the helm, Virgin promises rowdy, fun and sometimes controversial entertainment for anyone over 18. The main theatre on board all of Virgin Voyages cruise ships features a variety of live performances and musical numbers that are guaranteed to get you dancing.

Virgin Voyages is also renowned for its pop-up performances that occur randomly throughout sailing. Combine this with the club-like atmosphere of the ships, a scattering of Drag Queen brunches at the Razzle Dazzle restaurant and some fresh ink from the world's first floating tattoo studio, and it's safe to say Virgin is beckoning a new era of onboard entertainment.

13. Are You Ready To Be Entertained?

As you can see, there is no shortage of things to keep you and the family entertained at sea. Chat with Flight Centre's team of experts to choose and book your next cruise today.

...loading
Flight Centre

© Flight Centre (NZ) Limited.

Lowest Airfare Guarantee is no longer valid at Flight Centre stores in New Zealand as of Thursday 14 July 2022. Click here for more information.

A Travel Expert Service Fee will be applied to bookings made in store, over the phone or via email, and is charged in addition to the advertised price. Click here for more information.

*Travel restrictions & conditions apply. Review any specific conditions stated and our general terms at Terms and Conditions. Prices & taxes are in NZD and are correct as at the date of publication & are subject to availability and change without notice. Prices quoted are on sale until the dates specified unless otherwise stated or sold out prior. Prices are per person.