The first of its kind, BOLT: Ultimate Sea Coaster is the most exciting, hotly anticipated feature to be introduced on a cruise ship in years – a rollercoaster! This thrilling attraction has debuted on Carnival Cruise Line’s new flagship, Mardi Gras, but what is a rollercoaster at sea really like? Cruise Hive brings you an exclusive, firsthand insight of what it’s really like to ride BOLT.
In This Article…
About the First Roller Coaster at Sea!
Since BOLT was first announced in 2018, the ride has generated much speculation about how a rollercoaster would be mounted and operated on a cruise ship. The project required multiple innovations and adaptations to ensure ride safety, ship integrity, and a truly outstanding experience, and BOLT delivers.
Designed and built by German manufacturer Maurer Rides, BOLT isn’t a rollercoaster in the classic sense in that it isn’t powered by gravity. Instead, it is an all-electric ride that gives the rider some control over the ride’s speed. Still, the look and feel of the ride is very much a rollercoaster, and an exciting, unique one at that.
BOLT is part of the Ultimate Playground on Mardi Gras, and is planned for Carnival Celebration debuting in 2022 as well. The track is 800 feet long and 187 feet above sea level, though it does not pass over the side of the ship and is never directly above open water.
The jazzy red and blue ride cars with their flashy lighting bolt accent can reach 35-40 miles per hour, depending on how much extra speed each rider chooses for their experience.
Where is BOLT Located?
BOLT is unmistakable to see as it circles the ship’s signature whale-tail funnel, but it can be a bit challenging to find once on the ship. The ride is located aft on Mardi Gras’ deck 19, though the entrance is on deck 18 and eager riders must climb stairs to reach the waiting and loading area for the coaster.
The waiting area is covered with sun shades but there are no fans to circulate air, and on sunny days it can be a bit warm while waiting to board the ride. Guests are advised to reserve their ride on BOLT through Carnival’s Hub app, which should shorten wait times and help the experience go more smoothly.
Guests should note that the feature will not operate in adverse weather conditions, including high winds, and everyone should be patient as this new attraction is brought to full operation.
BOLT is not suitable for everyone. Riders must be at least 52 inches (4 feet, 4 inches) tall to ride, and the maximum allowable height is 77 inches (6 feet, 5 inches). There is a weight limit as well, and each rider must be no more than 300 pounds (136 kilograms).
A test car is located near the ride’s entrance so guests can see how they feel in the seats and whether or not they will be comfortable riding BOLT.
Guests must be dressed appropriately to ride BOLT. No wet clothing or swimwear is permitted, and riders may not be wearing dresses or skirts. Close-toed shoes are also required, and riders may not go barefoot. High heels are also prohibited.
No loose articles are permitted, and riders must leave behind all cameras, phones, hats, wallets, keys, lanyards, and other items. Glasses and sunglasses may only be worn if they are firmly secured with a strap around the head. Individual cubbies are provided on the ride platform for guests to safely stow loose articles while riding.
Similarly, food, drinks, and gum are not permitted on BOLT.
Because of the nature of the ride’s motion and sudden acceleration, the roller coaster is not recommended for guests who may have heart, back, neck, or joint problems, or guests with structural body damage such as casts or amputations. Guests who may be pregnant or guests with health conditions such as epilepsy, high blood pressure, or fear of heights should also avoid riding BOLT.
The Ride Experience
Cruise Hive’s Managing Editor, also a rollercoaster enthusiast who has ridden more than 100 rollercoasters, had the pleasure and privilege of riding BOLT during Mardi Gras’ Sip and Sea day before the ship’s first sailing from Port Canaveral. How does the cruise ship thrill compare?
First, a warning – the ride has motorcycle-style seats that riders must straddle, rather than more traditional seating. Riders who may have joint or hip problems may find these firm seats, which are closer to ATV or jet ski size rather than motorcycles, uncomfortable or even painful during the ride.
The handlebar grips, where the “driver” can control the ride’s extra speed, are comfortable to use and do not require excessive strength to activate. Single riders must ride in the front seat, and each car holds just two riders – a driver and a passenger. The seats are arranged so that even the passenger has outstanding views and can enjoy a great ride experience.
Before boarding, riders are instructed to leave behind all loose objects and empty their pockets into the cubbies provided in the loading/unloading area. Riders may also be weighed or measured to be sure they meet BOLT’s weight and height restrictions.
When you board, the ride operator will help secure the broad seat belt and ensure it is locked. The operator will also instruct the driver about how to control the ride’s extra speed. The rider in the back seat has no speed controls.
BOLT’s initial acceleration is a surprisingly intense thrill, yet not overwhelming. After a brief straightaway, the ride curves smoothly up and over the miniature golf course, banking slightly and completing a full 430-degree turn before turning yet again to run along the starboard side of the ship, above the jogging track.
Two “floater” hills along the ship’s starboard side provide brief weightless sensations, then the track curves to port around the iconic Carnival funnel. A bit of a dip after the track curves again brings BOLT back to the station, and riders disembark at the same location where they boarded.
The full ride lasts just about 25-30 seconds from first acceleration to returning to the station, depending on how much extra speed individual riders opt to use. At full operation, the ride can accommodate up to 190 passengers per hour.
Before riding, it may seem like it is little more than a kiddie coaster mounted on a cruise ship, but that impression is vastly misleading. The smooth acceleration and rider speed control, unique position far above the sea, and sheer thrill of riding a rollercoaster on a cruise ship make BOLT outstanding.
The zero-G sensation on the ride was also an unexpected and pleasant surprise, amping up the thrill factor and making BOLT a fine experience.
Riders seeking the maximum thrill and accustomed to the world’s most intense rollercoasters may find BOLT a bit mild and the ride experience short.
Considering the ride’s innovations, however, it truly is the ultimate thrill for Carnival’s Ultimate Playground, yet it’s not so strenuous that only the most daring riders can challenge it. Overall, BOLT is a fantastic addition to Carnival’s lineup of exciting attractions onboard Mardi Gras.
Tips for Riding BOLT: Ultimate Sea Coaster
As with any new attraction, whether it is at an amusement park or on a cruise ship, there will undoubtedly be glitches as BOLT is put to the test during Mardi Gras’ initial sailings. Guests should be patient and familiarize themselves with all requirements before riding. Reservations through the Carnival Hub App are highly recommended to avoid longer lines.
While the ride itself is neither long nor extremely intense, riders subject to motion sickness may want to reconsider tackling the roller coaster. The broad seats can be painful on tender hips, and a couple of rough patches during the ride might aggravate existing pain. In general, however, the ride is smooth and exciting, perfectly appropriate for riders of different ages who enjoy a burst of thrill.
During the first few voyages of Mardi Gras, BOLT is priced at $15 per person per ride, though the cost may be adjusted as the ride’s operation is refined and passenger interest is determined.
Is BOLT a worthwhile ride? For the uniqueness of the experience, for the pride of conquering such an unusual thrill, and for being an overall part of Mardi Gras, absolutely. Let’s ride!