19 fun sports you can play on a cruise ship. Background image is mini golf on a cruise ship

19 Fun Sports You Can Play on a Cruise Ship

Do you love sports and get a little antsy sitting down too long? Don’t worry, there are lots of sports you can play on a cruise ship.  In this article we’ll look at 19 sports and activities you can do on a cruise. Just note, not all cruise ships have the same amenities

So check that the ship has your favorite sports before booking your cruise.

(Or, try playing a different sport or join the other sports fans in the onboard sports bars. Either which way, I’m sure you’ll have fun.)

Sports you can play on a cruise ship. Background image is the flow rider surf simulator on Royal Caribbean Mariner of the Seas cruise ship


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What sports can you play on a cruise ship? – 19 fun activities and sports to play on a cruise

Basketball

When you think of sports on a cruise ship, what comes to mind first? Is it basketball?

Modern cruise ships with larger sports decks often have large basketball courts. These are great for just shooting hoops or playing pickup games, and some even have organized tournaments. 

Playing basketball at sea with the ocean as your backdrop is a memorable experience. 

Cruise ship basket ball court before dawn
Mariner of the Seas. Photo taken before dawn






Table Tennis

Who doesn’t love ping pong!

Table tennis, also known as ping pong or paddle tennis, is a fun and social sport you can enjoy on many cruise ships.  It is one of those activities I seem to only do when on a cruise ship.

It’s a game that’s easy to learn and perfect for players of all ages. In fact, the famous psychiatrist Dr. Amen says that table tennis is great for the brain.

Many cruisers love challenging their family and other passengers to friendly matches. It can be a great way to meet new friends onboard.

One good thing about table tennis on cruise ships is that the equipment is provided, so you don’t need to bring your own paddles and balls. 

However, keep in mind that these tables can get busy during peak hours, so consider playing during less crowded times if you want to have more space to enjoy your game.






Jogging and Running

For serious runners and for those who like to stay active while on a cruise, the jogging track is a fantastic amenity. 

It’s often located on the upper decks of the ship, offering a refreshing ocean breeze and panoramic views as you exercise. 

Jogging tracks vary in length, so consider checking the ship’s layout to see how many laps you’ll need to complete a mile or kilometer. 

For instance, the Oasis of the Seas ship has a really long running track. You only have to run 2.4 laps to equal one mile. (Reference) Whereas on the the Norwegian Cruise Line Breakaway ship, you’d have to run 8 laps on the shorter track to equal one mile.

The only drawback might be the occasional congestion on the track, especially during prime hours, so plan your workouts accordingly.

Jogging track on Royal Caribbean's Mariner of the Seas
Mariner of the Seas






Billiards

If you’re a fan of billiards, you can find pool tables onboard many cruise ships. 

Playing a game of pool with friends or fellow passengers can be a great way to unwind, meet some new friends and socialize. 

But these tables get crowded during peak hours especially during rainy or windy days at sea. 

Some cruise ships have pool tables outside in their sports square areas (like some Carnival cruise ships) while others have billiard tables in their pubs (like Playmakers Bar on Royal Caribbean’s Mariner of the Seas).

Billiards table in Playmakers Sports Bar on Mariner of the Seas
Playmakers Bar Mariner of the Seas






Pickleball Courts

Pickleball is becoming a super popular sport because it is easy for beginners to pick up yet takes practice to get good at. It is also one of the sports you can play on a cruise ship. 

Some cruise lines such as Celebrity cruises even offer dedicated pickleball courts where you can play and participate in organized tournaments. Others use their sports court (basketball court) for pickleball at select times.






Rock Climbing

For adventurous cruisers, rock climbing walls are available on some larger cruise ships. These walls offer varying levels of difficulty, making them suitable for both beginners and experienced climbers. Safety equipment and instruction are typically provided, so you can enjoy this thrilling activity even if you’re new to rock climbing.

Mariner of the Seas rock climbing wall
Royal Caribbean’s Mariner of the Seas






Ice Skating

It may sound surreal – skating while in the middle of the ocean – but many Royal Caribbean cruise ships have real ice skating rinks.  

These same ice rinks host amazing shows on ice featuring professional skaters, and then turn into public skating venues during certain hours.

The good news is that this is a free activity and you do NOT have to bring your own skates.  Be sure to pack long pants and socks.

 Keep in mind that ice rinks are not be available on all cruise ships, just select Royal Caribbean cruise ships.






Swimming

Most cruise ships have a swimming pool and many of the newer ships even have amazing water slides.

And no, you likely won’t be competitive swimming against other passengers,  but it is a great way to get some exercise and cool off.

But since they are one of the main attractions on warm weather cruises, they can get crowded on sea days and admittingly actual swimming can be tough.

Many cruise ships have an adult only pool area where the pool is often less crowded.  






Golf Simulators

For golf enthusiasts, some cruise ships offer golf simulators that allow you to practice your swing and play virtual rounds on famous courses. These simulators are usually equipped with clubs and provide a fun way to hone your golf skills while at sea.

The Disney Cruise Line has golf simulators on the Disney Dream and Disney Fantasy ships are on the “Goofy’s Sports Deck“.  These golf simulations do cost money though and need to be reserved. You can book either a 30-minute session or 60-minute session.

Princess cruises is another cruise line that offers golf simulators on select ships.






Mini Golf

Many cruise ships have mini golf courses or putting greens onboard.

It’s a family-friendly activity that provides tons of fun while working on your putting.

Mini golf course on Mariner of the Seas cruise ship
Mariner of the Seas

Carnival cruise line has a free mini golf course on most ships as do other cruise lines.

Keep an eye on your cruise schedule for tournaments or hole-in-one competitions.






Shuffleboard Court

I really don’t know if this is classified as a sport or a physical activity, but regardless, shuffleboard is a classic cruise ship activity for passengers of all ages.

Cruise ships often have shuffleboard courts on their decks.

It can be a great way to meet new people or to hang out with your family. 

shuffleboard court on a cruise ship






Body Board or Surf

Some Royal Caribbean cruise ships feature FlowRider┬« surf simulators, which allow you to try bodyboarding and surfing right on the ship!

These are thrilling experiences, especially for those who love the water and adventure sports. And the best part – it’s free.

Royal Caribbean has set times for advanced standup surfing, mixed wave, and boogie boarding. Check your Cruise Compass (daily schedule) or the app for times.

Even if you don’t plan on participating in this free activity, it can be a lot of fun to watch.

Flowrider surf simulator on Mariner of the Seas






Ropes course

Some ships have ropes courses.  Make sure to bring closed-toe shoes to participate in this activity.

Ropes course on a Carnival cruise ship
Carnival Vista






Volleyball

If you love to bump, set, spike then you’ll be pleased to learn that many cruise ships offer volleyball.  Often the ship’s basketball court is converted to a volleyball court at select times. Check you daily cruise schedule.

Some cruises even organize onboard volleyball tournaments.






Dodgeball

This is one sport I don’t see often on cruise ships, but a dodgeball tournament was scheduled twice on our Carnival Vista cruise.  You had to be 18+ to play in the dodgeball tournaments.  

Check the cruise line’s app or your printed daily schedule if dodgeball is of interest to you.  

This is another cruise sport that is played on the basketball court.  Both Carnival Cruises and Royal Caribbean call their basketball court, sports courts since so many other sports and games are played here.






Soccer tournament

This is another cruise sport that isn’t offered very often but was offered once on our Carnival Vista cruise so it’s worth keeping your eye out for.  

This is yet another sport that’s played on the sports court (basketball court). 






Archery

Select Royal Caribbean ships, including Mariner of the Seas offers archery at select times in their sports court.  This was one of the many free activities.






Bean bag toss

While you won’t likely work up a sweat playing bean bag toss (aka corn hole), it is a competitive activity.  Many cruise ships have these set out for open play and at times will host a bean bag toss tournament.

Bean bag toss in the Sports Square on Carnival Vista






Boxing

The Virgin Voyages adults-only cruise ships have a boxing ring on deck 16 in a section they call Training Camp.

I haven’t been on a Virgin cruise ship yet, so I don’t know how busy it is. If you’ve been on a Virgin Voyage cruise, I’d love to hear about your experience.

Interestingly, some Royal Caribbean ships like the Freedom of the Seas used to have a boxing ring too, but they have been removed. Many people said the rings were usually empty.






Other ways to stay active on a cruise

There are plenty of ways to stay active on a cruise ship. In addition to the above sports you can play on a cruise ship there are other fun ways to stay active.  Again, the activities and amenities vary cruise line to cruise line and even ship to ship, but here are some ways to keep moving.

  • take the stairs instead of the elevator
  • fitness classes (some are fee others are paid)
  • fitness center
  • yoga classes
  • aqua fit classes
  • dance classes
  • laser tag – available on some cruise lines like select cruise ships.  While this seems like just a fun game, you can definitely work up a sweat.






Interesting Notes about Sports and Activities removed from Cruise ships

So far we’ve talked about sports and activities you can play on cruise ships. But what about sports you can’t play on cruises anymore?


Royal Caribbean’s Sky Pad

SkyPad was a trampoline experience on the top deck of four different Royal Caribbean ships where participants would be attached to a bungee cord system while jumping on small trampolines. And you could even wear virtual reality headsets while jumping to feel like you’re part of a video game.

Skypad was on the Mariner of the Seas, Odyssey of the Seas, Independence of the Seas, and Spectrum of the Seas.

Mariner of the Seas sky pad, a discontinued activity


But in March 2023 Royal Caribbean announced this activity would be discontinued and the space inside the large yellow and orange domes that housed this attraction would be used for something else.

Why was Sky Pad discontinued? They didn’t specifically state this as the reason, but this attraction resulted in a couple of lawsuits being filed against Royal Caribbean and passengers complained that it was often closed due to weather.



Remember that the amenities and activities vary cruise line to cruise line and even ship to ship and that while these sports and activities are available on many cruise ships, the specific offerings will vary. It’s a good idea to check with the cruise line or review the amenities of your chosen cruise to see which sports and activities are available during your voyage. Be sure to research your ship ahead of time.

Whether you’re a sports enthusiast or looking to try something new, cruise ships offer a wide range of options to stay active and have fun while at sea. Give these sports you can play on a cruise ship a try.