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Don’t Miss These 21 Types of Entertainment on Cruise Ships (Free, Paid & More)

If you are taking a cruise you may be wondering what there is to do when onboard. Cruise ship entertainment varies a lot by cruise line but some common types are found on many ships.

In this post, we will explore what you are likely to do with your time onboard as well as some hints and tips to make sure that you don’t miss out.

Daily Schedule / Cruise Ship App

Most cruise lines deliver a paper daily schedule to your cabin every evening.

This will tell you what is going on the next day, and where.

You can get the same information on your phone by using the cruise line App.

Make sure you check out the schedule, so you can see any entertainment that interests you – remember you might have to book theatre shows in advance on larger ships.

You don’t need to buy the ship’s WiFi to use the App, find out why here:

You Don’t Need to Pay For Wi-Fi To Use a Cruise Line App – Here’s Why

Theatre Shows

Large cruise ships all have purpose-built theatres, and most put on two shows a night to give the guests dining at different times the opportunity to see the show.

Smaller ships, like the Azamara Fleet that don’t have purpose-built theatres will put their shows on in the biggest lounge onboard,

If you sail on Norwegian Cruiseline or Royal Caribbean ships you may get the opportunity to see Broadway-style shows, like Hairspray or Mama Mia.

If you cruise with MSC, their shows have to be tailored to suit an audience who speak multiple different languages.

Their shows tend to have singing, dancing and impressive costumes – but often no real story or theme.

On a traditional cruise line like Cunard, you might get classic concerts or operatic singing.

The shows are organised to suit the cruiselines target audience.

You May Have To Pre-Book Theatre Shows

On larger cruise ships you will have to prebook theatre seats. This can easily be done via the cruise ship’s App.

If you don’t want to use the App, sometimes ships have “Box Offices” where you can book the show, or you can go to Reception.

If you book via the App, you may be able to book shows before you even board the ship – so it is worth checking and downloading the App if possible.

MSC theatre entertainment

I tend to book to see all the theatre shows as soon as I get onboard, via the App. I can always cancel if my plans change.

Magicians, Comedians, Jugglers And More

As well as theatre shows, there are often magicians, comedians and other entertainers like jugglers or acrobats.

These can normally be found in the theatre, or sometimes in the larger bars onboard.

On P&O’s Arvia, they have acrobatic shows that are held in the central atrium of the ship, which is a large area over many floors. The audience can watch the performers from the circular stair or from many levels.

On Costa Smeralda, they have similar acrobatic shows in the Colosseum area – also in the central atrium area of the ship.

There was one major drawback to Colosseum shows though. Find out about that, in my full-ship review video here:


I really enjoy going to Trivia quizzes when I cruise. My family and I often take part, we all have different areas of knowledge.

Trivia can be on any number of subjects

  • General knowledge
    • Anything and everything!
  • Music
    • Often with different genres – 1980’s, Motown, Rock ‘n’ Roll, 1960s etc
  • Geography
    • Name that landmark etc
  • Films/Movies
  • Specific themed quizzes
    • Harry Potter, Star Wars, Beatles etc
  • Sport
    • We tend to avoid these!

Sometimes you take part in the trivia by yourself or with your party, otherwise, you are invited to get into a larger team.

This is a great way of meeting new people and having some fun!

Prizes include bottles of prosecco, t-shirts, cruise line drinks, etc.

When I cruised to Asia on Spectrum of the Seas, I noticed that Trivia attracted the British, American, Canadian and Australian cruisers.

Cruises from Singapore, Hong Kong and other Asian countries seemed far more interested in Karaoke – something that I would never consider taking part in.

Find out about that interesting Asian Cruise here:


The bigger cruise ships often put on game shows in the theatre for example

  • Deal or No Deal
  • The Price is Right
  • Love and Marriage / Mr & Mrs
  • Wheel of Fortune

Princess cruise ships often have a show called “Voice of the Ocean” which is similar to “The Voice” TV programme. Passengers volunteer to sing and are then judged!

Many games are interactive, you have a box with buttons to press to cast your vote on various things.

When I sailed on Norwegian Prima, I found that you had to pay to play the game show “Deal or No Deal.

You can buy your game card through the Norwegian App, and they pick people who have bought one to be contestants. If you aren’t picked, you can play along on your phone from your seat in the audience.

Prices include money, onboard credit, free photos, casino credit – and occasionally, free cruises.


Karaoke is very popular on cruise ships – particularly in Asia, I have discovered.

As well as the normal type of Karaoke, where you choose the song you want to sing, some cruise lines – like Princess have “Karaoke Roulette” where you don’t get to choose. You are told what to sing, based on where the roulette wheel has stopped.

msc world europa karaoke bar
karaoke Bar, MSC World Europa


Roller Skating

I was able to go rollerskating onboard MSC’s World Europa.

You had to sign a waiver, and you were lent a helmet and roller skates.

It was free to do and wasn’t very busy.

Roller Skating on MSC World Europa

Other ships – like some Royal Caribbean ships – also have roller skating or rollerblading rinks.

Ice Skating

Many Royal Caribbean ships have Ice Skating rinks onboard.

You can ice skate free of charge at certain times of the day.

They also use these ice rinks to put on Ice skating shows, which are very impressive – considering they are on a moving ship, and the ice rinks tend to be far smaller than on land.

independence of the seas ice skating rink royal caribbean skaters dancers
Ice Skating Show – Independence of the Seas

Dance Classes

Many ships offer free dance classes – Line Dancing, Zumba, ballroom dancing – all sorts.

The more traditional cruise line Cunard, actually employs “Dance Hosts” so that you can try out the ballroom dancing skills you have learnt, even if you don’t have a partner. Dance Hosts will be available in the ballroom for you to dance with.

Whether you’re an absolute beginner or simply keen to perfect your steps you’ll love the opportunity to join the variety of dance classes on offer. Available on voyages of 7 nights or more, classes are lead by coupled instructors and include ballroom as well as Latin and line dance. And when evening falls, what better way to showcase your new moves than in the chandeliered grandeur of the Queens Room?


MSC regularly have dance classes held in various bars across their shipwide fleet. Lessons last about 30 minutes, and they teach you a dance to go with one particular song. Adults and children are all welcome to join in.


Movies are often shown in the main theatre, in individual movie theatres, or on the top deck on large screens.

Princess cruise lines are famous for their “Movies under the stars” – they even serve free popcorn!

princess cruise line cruises cruise ship movies under the stars tv screen popcorn pool

Live Music

There is often live music going on around the ship, in different bars.

Often there are singers, accompanied by one or more musicians.

Ships may have a “House Bnd.” On P&O’s fleet, they have a house band called Pulse, who’s members vary, but the generic name stays the same.

They often have themed nights, playing Motown, Rock ‘n’ Roll or hits from the 1980s.

Some of these bands are far better than others, it has to be said…

norwegian bliss Q venue country music
Norwegian Bliss – Country Music Band

Tribute Acts

Many cruise ships have tribute acts – George Michael, The Beatles, U2, Neil Diamond, Dolly Parton – I also saw the “Take That” theatre show, on P&O’s Arvia.

The bands suit their audience – for example, Take That or Madness is suitable on a British Cruise Line, whereas The Beatles are suitable for cruise audiences the world over.

Pool Parties

Many cruse lines have pool parties on the top deck.

The adult only Virgin Voyages take Pool parties to a whole new level

As you approach the pool area, you’ll be struck by the dazzling red LED lighting and the giant inflatable octopus that seemingly reaches its arms around the entire space. The entire area transforms into an undersea fantasy land, creating a magical ambiance that’s perfect for letting loose.

Virgin Voyages

They have a resident DJ to provide the music, and cruise ship dancers lead the dancing in and around the pool area.

Silent Disco, Celebrity Edge

Silent Discos

Silent Disco’s are very popular on cruises.

Everyone is given a set of headphones and you can select a number of different channels to listen to different music – for example everyone with red on their headsets might be listening to Dancing Queen by Abba.

This is a great way for guests to enjoy themselves, without creating lots of noise that might disturb other guests elsewhere.

Themed Nights

A themed night on a cruise ship is where guests and staff dress up with a specific theme in mind.

Colour-themed nights are very popular – particularly White Night, which is held on many different cruise lines.

Find out all about themed nights here:

Theme Nights On Cruise Ships (Everything You Need to Know) – Examples

Local Entertainers

Some cruise lines, like Azamara or Princess bring local entertainers in from the ports of call.

We saw some amazing Japanese dancers when cruising with Princess Cruises in Asia.

When we cruised around the British Isles, they bought on guest speaker Pete Best – the original drummer of the Beatles, who was replaced by Ringo Starr in 1962. It was fascinating.

I have seen Spanish Flamenco Dancers, French Folk Dancing – all sorts.

Find out about the entertainment on the smaller ship Azamara Onward here:

Azamara Cruise Review – Food, Ship, Entertainment and More


I have seen all sorts of interesting lecturers on cruise ships.

They normally lecture in the main theatre, with a screen behind them to show slides.

Often the lectures are about the ports of call you are visiting, or just interesting subjects and people.

I have listened to talks about Concorde, The British Royal Family, and Aviation across history.

Some of my favourite lecturers are:

  • Chris Frame – who lectures, mostly on Cunard ships about Maritime History
  • and David Nikel who spoke on my Fred Olsen cruise about life in Norway when I sailed to Norway in Search of Northern Lights.

Find out about that amazing cruise here:

When I cruised on P&O’s Arvia they had a new guest lecturer who was supposed to be speaking about the ports of call we were visiting.

Unfortunately, we never got to see her speak, as she would turn up for the early morning lecture, but by the time we arrived for the second lecture of the day, she had begun to feel seasick!

I never felt seasick at all, so she must have been very sensitive to the movement of the ship. I hope she eventually found her “sea legs!”

Some cruise lines replay the lectures on the TV, so you can watch them from the comfort of your own cabin. P&O don’t do this though, so I never saw any of the lectures.

Zip Lines / Flowrider And Other Paid Extras

Some cruise ships have Zip lines, FlowRider surf simulators, Go-kart tracks, and Laser Quest – all are available at an additional charge.

When I sailed onboard Norwegian Prima, I tried the Go Karts.

Instead of having tracks over two decks like other Norwegian ships, the Norwegian Prima’s 1,400-foot go-kart track is spread over the ship’s top three decks

See how I got on with that here:

Ropes Courses

Some of the newer MSC ships have ropes courses, that are completely free to use. P&O have similar, smaller ropes courses, but they make a charge.

If you did a similar thing on land in the UK, it would cost you upwards of £18 / $22!

To find out about other free things that MSC offers, read this post next

12 Free Things You Have to Try on MSC Cruises (Tried and Tested!)

msc meraviglia ropes course and waterslides
MSC Ropes Course

Slides and Waterparks

Lots of ships have free slides and water parks on the top deck that can keep both adults and children amused for hours.

These are free of charge, although you might have to sign a waiver before you use them.

Water slides on MSC Seaview

The Ultimate Abyss slide on Royal Caribbean’s Symphony of the Seas is over ten decks high.

The Venom drop slide on MSC World Europa is over eleven decks – but I found it to be far slower and less scary than the Royal Caribbean version.

Before You Go

See how Royal Caribbean’s Symphony of the Seas and MSC’s similar version, World Europa compare here:

MSC vs Royal Caribbean – I Cruised on The Biggest Ships: (Differences)

Find out about the weirdest things we have ever seen guests do on a cruise ship here:

The Weirdest Things We’ve Ever Seen Guests Do On A Cruise – 29 Examples

Free Insiders Cruise Line Guide

Ever wondered how the mainstream cruise lines compare? Cruise lines won’t tell you this, but I will.

This FREE guide shows you everything you need to know to find your perfect cruise line.