Engineering Fun and Thrills for the High Seas

High winds, weight restrictions, rocky conditions, and a really, really tight footprint? At WhiteWater, we say, “Bring it on!”

We are talking about cruise ships—these sailing resorts that have become the main destinations for guests and relegated the ports of call to secondary considerations. Between 2009 and 2019, the number of cruise passengers worldwide grew by 67%1. According to Cruise Industry News, 91 new ships are on order over the next six years2, which means competition between cruise lines is not slowing, and each company is looking for something no one else has.

WhiteWater has been working with cruise ships since 1990 on over 100 projects, from newbuilds to retrofits. In the beginning, it was simple water slides that sent guests into the pool. Since then, the projects have become bigger and bolder.

What Water Attractions Can You Put on Cruise Ships?

Today, cruise guests can experience thrills such as speeding down AquaTubes through mesmerizing bursts of colourful AquaLucent effects, sliding over the side of a cruise ship in a clear tube and back in again, or going uphill on a Master Blaster water coaster before heading for stomach-tickling drops.

Other ways cruise ships can differentiate themselves include water play structures, such as AquaPlay, or splash pads with interactive AquaSplash toys, which are family-pleasers. To impress tweens, teens, and younger adults, a FlowRider® surf machine will introduce them to a cool new sport that they will definitely be posting about.

Everything can be themed to fit a ship’s look and feel.

What to Consider When Designing for Cruise Ships

Designing for a cruise ship comes down to practicalities: size, weight, footprint, and number of crew required to operate, while taking into consideration stability, deck space, and wind force.

And special attention is paid to sustainability.

Essentially a floating city at sea, we know that water usage and energy efficiency are extremely important on a cruise ship. WhiteWater uses proprietary software to model the behavior of a slide and different parameters to specify the waterflow. The amount of water then dictates the mechanical room requirements and the surge capacity, pump power, and tank size needed. Every effort is made on the ride to contain water and avoid splash out.

For water play areas, Life Floor, a special impact-absorbing foam flooring system, can be used not just to prevent slipping but to reduce water evaporation.

Another key consideration is aesthetics. Cruise ship guests are not only paying for the experience, they are paying for getting away from it all in a beautiful environment, which means the water attractions must look bright and clean. WhiteWater uses a special resin transfer molding process to manufacture fiberglass (which, by the way, produces less waste) so that the water slides are not only smooth on the inside, they are smooth and shiny on the outside as well.

The smooth outer surface doesn’t just look nice, it also makes maintenance easy. To keep it clean, you only need to hose it down with water, avoiding scrubs or chemicals.

Turning an Idea into Reality

For a water slide installation, planning should start a year in advance. Slides are custom-built, with the WhiteWater engineers eager to challenge themselves with new ideas.

To better cater to shipbuilders and operators in their regions, Canada-based WhiteWater has full-service offices in Munich, Dubai, and Shanghai.

“The important thing is to get the conversation going with us early so we can deliver on their dreams. We bring the technical aspect, the engineering, the manufacturing, delivery, and installation to the table. It’s always exciting to explore new and exciting ideas and to make them happen,” said Andrew Mowatt, WhiteWater’s Executive Vice President, Global Key Accounts.

To create fun and thrilling water attractions aboard a cruise ship, please contact


1 Statista: Number of ocean cruise passengers worldwide from 2009 to 2020  

2 Cruise Industry News: November 2021 Cruise Ship Orderbook Update

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