Aug. 13, 2012 at 10:03 AM ET
As you speed along the ship’s top-deck raft ride, waves break at the ocean’s surface 150 feet below. It’s an acrophobe’s nightmare—and could be the most thrilling moment of your next cruise vacation.
We’ve come a long way in the century since the Titanic, when that ship’s heated swimming pool was a mind-boggling luxury. Now it’s AquaDuck, the cruise industry’s first water coaster, that’s making a splash on board the Disney Dream and Disney Fantasy. From within the raft ride’s clear acrylic aerial flume (which extends 12 feet over the side of the ship), you’ll experience that heady ocean view.
It takes pluck to stare down the AquaDuck and the rest of the world’s craziest, record-breaking waterslides. Some, like Brazil’s 135-foot-high Insano, are traditional body slides, while others resemble intricate roller coasters and showcase innovation in waterslide technology and design. Case in point: Italy’s new Divertical, which features a unique elevator lift system and speeds more than 65 miles per hour.
Like the Divertical, which is also now the world’s tallest waterslide at 197 feet, many of the craziest rides have set new records. Title of longest slide now goes to Mammoth at Indiana’s Holiday World and Splashin’ Safari, where six-person rafts are propelled up and down hills across three acres—and partially in the dark.
Then there are the aquatic attractions making waves for their aesthetic appeal. Consider the slide that cascades down a replica of a Mayan temple at the Atlantis resort or Beijing’s colorful RideHouse, with its corkscrews, climb nets and other quirky design elements. It was customized for the Happy Magic Water Cube Waterpark, a new use for the Water Cube, one of the most iconic venues at the Beijing 2008 Olympics.
“This level of theming is relatively new to the water park industry, and what we did with RideHouse was groundbreaking when we put it in the Water Cube,” says Brad Goodbody of ProSlide.
The lavish theatrics of China’s water parks have earned them praise—and patrons. Guangzhou’s Chimelong Water Park entertained nearly 2 million visitors in 2011, making it the second most popular water park in the world (Disney’s Typhoon Lagoon takes the top spot).
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