There was already incredible competition between cruise ship companies to lure passengers, resulting in gigantic ships with over-the-top amenities like go-kart tracks. But after the nightmarish stories of cruise ships dealing with Covid-19 outbreaks, and the pandemic, there’s even more pressure for the cruise ship industry to convince vacationers to book a trip: but is an onboard roller coaster enough of a selling point?
Although the Bolt Ultimate Sea Coaster was announced years ago as part of Carnival Cruise Line’s latest and greatest ship: the Carnival Mardi Gras, the attraction was only officially launched a little over a week ago. The Mardi Gras was expected to welcome guests on its first official sailing the week of November 14, 2020, after the Meyer Turku shipyard announced delays that meant the cruise line wouldn’t take delivery of the new ship until October of 2020, months after it was originally expected to set sail, requiring Carnival to cancel bookings.
Further delays meant the Mardi Gras wasn’t actually delivered until late December of last year, but it arrived almost nine months after cruise lines around the world were forced to pause service and cancel thousands of trips as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, meaning the massive ship that can accommodate over 5,200 guests in almost 2,800 rooms continued to sit empty. Although many feel it might be too early to resume cruises given the ships have often been the source of other outbreaks such as gastrointestinal illnesses like noroviruses, the Mardi Gras was officially set to start operating cruises from Port Canaveral in Florida on July 31, with the Bolt coaster officially making its debut several days prior.
Roller coasters usually rely on gravity to send guests hurdling down a track full of twists and loops after either being hauled to the top of a steep hill using a motorized lift or quickly launched up to speed using an electromagnetic catapult. But the twists and turns of a traditional roller coaster are strategically designed and positioned so that the coaster itself always has enough momentum to carry itself through to the end. The rocking and rolling motions of a cruise ship, however, mean a gravity-powered coaster isn’t possible, so the Bolt functions more like a self-propelled electric motorcycle during every run.
The Bolt coaster can accommodate two riders, but the front passenger gets to control its speed at all times as it snakes its way around an 800-foot long track that makes a full lap of the rear of the ship. There are no loops, and as coasters go it looks like a fairly tame ride, but the track sits 187 feet above the ocean so it should offer spectacular views the entire time, and it can hit a top speed of 40 miles per hour so if you’re already seasick, climbing aboard won’t make you feel any better. The only catch? According to the Carnival Cruise Line website, the Bolt actually requires an additional cost to ride. Cruise lines are struggling to make up for a year of lost revenues, but charging passengers to use one of the most prominently promoted features of a new cruise ship doesn’t seem like the best way to return to profitability.