The cruising industry has experienced a significant transformation over the past few decades, driven by innovation and technology.
Cruising has a long history that dates all the way back to 1901. The most famous cruise ship, the Titanic, was revolutionary in its time, featuring impressive design elements such as pools, restaurants and onboard activities. Today, modern cruise ships are nearly five times as large as the Titanic. These massive mega-ships are designed to be floating resorts.
As the industry has evolved, traditional cruise ship activities have seen changes in popularity and some have been abandoned altogether. Factors such as changing consumer preferences, evolving regulations and the impact of technology have reshaped the landscape of onboard activities on modern cruise ships.
Here are six abandoned cruise ship activities that were once popular but have now faded into maritime history.
Skeet shooting, also known as trap shooting, was a popular activity on cruise ships in the 1980s and 1990s. This involved guests using a shotgun to shoot at clay pigeons flung into the air by crew members on sea days. It’s not hard to understand why this activity is no longer an option. Not only is having a loaded firearm on a ship a major safety hazard, but throwing foreign objects into the ocean is now strictly forbidden due to environmental regulations and efforts to protect marine life.
Another issue is the noise, can you imagine trying to enjoy a cocktail on the deck with a background of shotgun blasts?
Wooden horse racing
Another favourite cruise activity of the ’80s and ’90s was horse decorating. Wooden horses were used for a gambling derby and passengers could participate by purchasing and decorating their own horse to take part in the race.
Each horse would be given a name and an imaginative backstory, which would be shared with the audience before the race. These humorous biographies added to the fun and excitement of the event.
The derby itself would typically take place in a lounge or on the pool deck, where six horses would compete in a dice betting game. Passengers would place their bets on the horse they thought would win, and then cheer on their chosen horse during the race. The winning horse would receive a cash prize.
Onboard driving range
Can you imagine hitting golf balls off the back of a ship at full power? Well, cruise ship passengers used to have that option. A section of the railing would be removed, and with a bucket of balls and a club, guests could take aim at the ocean from the top deck. Of course, concerns about the environmental impact arose as the golf balls were not biodegradable, and the more eco-friendly options were expensive.
As cruise ship activities evolved and new options emerged, this practice was eventually abandoned. The thrill of hitting golf balls into the ocean was replaced with onboard golf simulators, offering a virtual golfing experience to passengers.
While you may still come across ice sculptures on display during modern cruises, in previous decades, these frozen works of art were much more prevalent and spectacular. Ice sculpture carvings on the pool deck were a highlight, where talented chefs would showcase their master carving skills using massive blocks of ice, creating intricate displays in a matter of minutes to the awe of the crowds.
The ice sculptures were then featured at the popular midnight buffet, adding an extra touch of elegance to the dining experience.
Throughout the history of cruise ships, dining has always been a central activity for guests. However, in recent years, the tradition of the midnight buffet has been slowly phased out. Once considered a “cannot be missed” event onboard, midnight buffets were known for their extravagant displays of food, including fondue, ice carvings, chocolate and more.
Most cruise ships now offer multiple dining options with food available nearly 24/7, so the need for a midnight buffet to provide late-night snacks has diminished. Another factor contributing to the decline of the midnight buffet is the concern over waste. These grand events often resulted in significant food waste.
Passenger talent nights
While karaoke remains a popular cruise ship activity, one abandoned cruising tradition is the passenger talent show. In the past, passengers onboard cruise ships had the opportunity to take the stage and showcase their talents to fellow travellers. This could include singing, dancing, magic, comedy or any other skill they wanted to share. The shows would typically have a wide range of talent on display, from mediocre to outstanding.
These days, passenger talent shows are less common. Some cruise ships may host crew talent shows, which are typically more regulated in nature.
Cigar bars and smoking
Cigar bars, once a staple of some cruise ships, have become less common due to changing attitudes towards smoking and increasing restrictions on smoking in public areas. Many modern cruise lines have reduced the size of their onboard cigar bars, or eliminated them altogether to comply with stricter smoking regulations.
Which of these abandoned cruise ship activities would you most like to see make a comeback? Let us know in the comments section below.
Also read: Who enforces the law on cruise ships?