The Carnival “Mardi Gras” cruise ship has finally set sail with her first guests. In addition to being the first cruise ship with its atrium on the side of the ship, and the first in the Americas powered by eco-friendly Liquefied Natural Gas, the most exciting first (as far as we’re concerned) is that it’s the first cruise ship with a roller coaster onboard. It’s called Bolt and we have ridden it.
First, some ride stats: It’s 800 feet long and goes up to 40 miles per hour. The coaster sits 187 feet above sea level, but since it barely goes out over the edge of the ship, it’s also about 20 feet above the 18th deck of the ship. It runs above the miniature golf course and jogging track.
We should also get this out of the way for those who want to get technical: Bolt is not actually a roller coaster. It looks like a roller coaster and feels like a roller coaster (and we still call it one), but it neither rolls nor coasts. Many roller coasters on land will sometimes valley, meaning the coaster doesn’t make it all the way up a hill, rolls back between two hills, and leads to guests needing to be evacuated. Now just imagine how many times this would happen if the coaster track itself were moving around, as this one does because of the ocean waves.
How it Works
So how does Bolt run if it’s not using any gravity? The coaster is electric-powered all the way around the track. In fact, you can control how fast you go. Each front seat driver (two can ride per vehicle, front and back) has two controls for speed. You straddle the vehicle like a motorcycle and also have handlebars like a motorcycle. To go faster, you turn the right handlebar back just like a throttle. There’s also a button near the left handlebar that you can push for a boost.
If you want to go as fast as you can, keep the throttle back all the way and keep pushing the button the whole time. You can also use the button as a speed boost, and just press it at certain times, such as when you’re going around a curve or about to go over a hill. If you’d rather take in the views as you spin around the top deck, don’t pull the throttle back or push the button, although it’s not much slower when you just ride and don’t do anything but hold on. In our tests, it was only about a second or two different.
We reached out to Maurer Rides, the coaster’s manufacturer, to find out exactly how the boost button works. It seems you’ll have to experiment yourself to see exactly where it gives the most boost. Here’s their response: “With the boost button, you can increase the maximum speed again. How much additional energy you still have is shown on the Boost Tank on the display. The tank is not enough for the entire route. When the energy is used up, the button is deactivated. The idea of the game is to find out where the use of the boost button has the greatest effect. It increases the speed everywhere on the track, but in some places the effect is more intense than in others. Where? Find out.”
So how is it? Our quick review is that it’s fun, but over too soon. Although you sit on the vehicle like a motorcycle, you don’t actually lean over much, depending on the length of your arms. You and your passenger are both pretty much sitting up straight. The initial launch is much faster than we were expecting, and offers a great boost of speed. Racing lights turn from red to green so you know when you’ll be launched. After launch, you go around a banked circle then up and over a hill down the side of the ship, before slowing down and returning to the start. There are no loops and you don’t go upside down. As we said before, it’s short, but lots of fun.
UPDATE: We have been told starting with future cruises, each guest will get two laps instead of one. If true, and they can go around again without stopping, this will be great. It effectively fixes the only thing we didn’t like about the ride, the length.
Things to Know
Currently, it’s $15 per ride, per person, but that’s listed as an “inaugural special” and the price may go up to as much as $25 on future cruises. You must weigh less than 300 pounds and be between 52 inches and 6-foot-5-inches tall to ride. They will weigh you. You must wear closed-toe shoes and dresses aren’t allowed, so remember to dress appropriately for it. You must empty your pockets completely. Not even glasses are allowed to be worn unless they have a strap on them. No cameras or Go-Pros are allowed, either, even with a strap.
The ride will close for high winds and inclement weather.
Our cabin was on Deck 15, four decks below the coaster and we could hear it running and feel a little vibration in our room. It wasn’t loud, just something that could be annoying if you prefer a very quiet room. During our cruise, the coaster was open as early as 9 a.m., but only ran until 6 p.m. (so no night rides).
Once you’re onboard the ship, you can book times to ride in the Carnival Hub app, so be sure to download it before you sail. Carnival’s next ship will be called “Celebration,” and will be modeled after the “Mardi Gras.” It will also include a Bolt roller coaster.
We hope one of their future ships expands on the roller coaster idea and stretches it all the way around the whole ship instead of just one side. Heck, why not make it a delayed drop like some coasters have, but have it drop down the side of the ship?
Check out our video of the Bolt roller coaster on this page. Visit our YouTube channel for the full version, including the ribbon cutting.