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Scaling a Climbing Wall on a Cruise Ship

Are you looking for an adrenaline-pumping adventure on your next cruise vacation? Look no further than the rock climbing walls at sea! While some may picture lazy days by the pool, Royal Caribbean has taken it up a notch by offering guests the chance to scale towering walls high above the ocean. Since the debut of the first climbing wall on the Voyager of the Seas, these thrilling activities have become a staple on all of the cruise line’s new ships. From beginner to advanced, climbers of all skill levels can test their physical and mental limits while taking in breathtaking ocean views. So, are you ready to take on the challenge?

girl climbing rock wall on liberty of the seas cruise ship

The first climbing wall at sea

Royal Caribbean debuted the first climbing wall aboard the Voyager of the Seas when it set sail in 1999. At the time, it was the largest ship in the world and saw the introduction of many firsts for the cruise industry, like the ice skating rink (read more here). When they designed the ship, Royal Caribbean realized they could use the ship’s funnel to mount a large, gray climbing wall.  

voyager of the seas activity deck with climbing wall
Voyager of the Seas was the first ship to get a climbing wall.

Since the Voyager of the Seas, Royal Caribbean has installed a climbing wall on all their new ships. These walls can range from around 30 – 43 feet high. That’s the size of a 4-story building! 

Since then, thousands of guests of all ages have tried their hands at the rock walls. Over the years, Royal Caribbean has tweaked and improved the design with more complex courses and different configurations. On the Oasis-class ships, they added two rock walls (although they’re mostly similar on both sides).

climbing wall on a cruise ship
Adrenaline Peak on Icon of the Seas is an evolution of the standard climbing wall.

On the Icon of the Seas, they’ve raised the bar again with timed runs so you can race your friends up the wall. 

How rock climbing works on Royal Caribbean ships

You start by going to the rock climbing desk, where the staff will provide you with climbing shoes. You put them on, they strap you into a climbing harness, and you’re good to go. 

With traditional climbing walls, the climber gets into a harness, and a second person, called a belayer, secures the rope and removes any slack while the climber ascends. The climbing wall on Royal Caribbean ships uses an auto-belay system instead. This device, located at the top of the wall, holds the climber’s safety line. When the climber leaves the wall, it slowly lowers them to safety. The Royal Caribbean’s climbing walls can have anywhere from 4 to 8 auto belay devices, depending on the ship.  

liberty of the seas
Liberty of the Seas has 6 auto belay systems really speeding up the lines.

The attendant can tell you which are the easier and harder courses. For beginners, use any hand or foot hold that works for you. For skilled climbers, use the same colored hand holds and foot holds as you scale the wall. 

When you reach the top, you ring the bell to announce your accomplishment to everyone. Then you lean back, let go, and the auto belay system slowly lowers you to the ground. 

climbing wall on Harmony of the Seas
Oasis-class ships have two climbing walls overlooking the AquaTheater.

What is the cost to try the climbing wall on the Royal Caribbean ship?

The climbing wall is included in your cruise fare, so there’s no additional charge to try scaling the wall. There is no limit to how many times you can try it during your cruise. 

How long are the lines for the climbing wall?

In my experience, the wait has varied from a couple of minutes to 25 minutes. 

Tip: If you want the shortest lines, try climbing the wall on embarkation day or port days when you return from an excursion.

climbing wall on ovation of the seas
You can beat the views from a climbing wall on an Alaskan cruise.

When is the climbing wall open on a Royal Caribbean ship?

The climbing wall is typically open throughout the day and sometimes at night. Once onboard the ship and connected to Wifi, check the Royal Caribbean app to see when they’re open. You don’t need to register ahead of time. 

The most popular option is open climb, where any age or skill level can try it. There are also specialty sessions like advanced climbing, teen climb, and even climbing competitions.

What are the restrictions for the climbing wall on a Royal Caribbean ship?

Considering that the climbing wall is a physical activity, there are relatively few restrictions for trying it. You don’t even have to sign a waiver or swipe your card to try it. 

The only publicized restriction is that guests must be at least 6 years old to climb. 

liberty of the seas climbing wall
You’ll see people of all ages trying the wall during your cruise.

What do I need to bring with me to rock climb on a Royal Caribbean ship?

The staff will provide you with climbing shoes, just make sure to have socks and dry clothes. 

My experience on Royal Caribbean climbing walls

I’ve never tried a climbing wall on land, but I have attempted to scale some on several Royal Caribbean ships. I loved being able to push my limits, both physically and mentally. The walls are 3 to 4 stories high, but you’re also over 100 feet above sea level. That means even if you’re just a few feet up on the wall. When you look out at the horizon, it feels SO much higher.

My favorite climb was on the Ovation of the Seas on an Alaska cruise (follow along here). I went to try the wall after a day in Sitka as the ship was heading back to sea. There were no lines, and the views were incredible. 

I’m not a huge fan of heights, so I remember forcing myself not to look down, but I couldn’t help but look out at the beautiful landscape. My heart was pounding as I got further and further up the wall. Finding suitable hand holds and foot holds became more difficult, and the muscles in my arms were screaming with exhaustion (don’t do what I did; use the proper technique of pushing up with your legs rather than pulling with your arms). 

climbing rock wall on royal caribbean ovation of the seas
While there was no bell to ring at the top, I thankfully have photographic evidence I made it to the top.

I kept pushing myself, and in the end, I made it to the top of the wall. Unfortunately, there wasn’t a bell to ring on this ship, so it was a tad anti-climatic when I reached the top. 

Then I had to get down. I put all my faith in the auto-belay system and leaned back. Good climbers will repel down the wall. I kind of spun around inelegantly as it lowered me down to the floor. It went faster than I thought, but I felt completely safe. I wasn’t prepared for the landing, though, and landed on my butt. I almost laughed when the attendant asked if I wanted to go again; I was wiped. 

I got out of the harness and stood back to admire the scale of what I had just achieved. The wall was really high, and I was glad I pushed myself to try it. That moment provided such a rush of adrenaline and a feeling of accomplishment. I highly recommend you try it next time you’re on a Royal Caribbean ship. It’s no cost and something unique you might never attempt on land. 

Which Royal Caribbean ships have a climbing wall?

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Randy Young

Randy Young is the founder and editor-in-chief at Cruise Spotlight. He has been in marketing for 19 years and has been cruising for just as long. Over the years, he's worked with products like TVs, copiers, light bulbs, and EV chargers, but cruising has always been his passion. There's nothing Randy likes more than the first couple of hours on a ship, exploring every nook and cranny and seeing how it's different from everything else out there. He's known for providing detailed and analytical coverage of cruising to help cruisers get a comprehensive picture of a ship's offerings.