Ultimate Abyss on Royal Caribbean's Harmony of the Seas promises big thrills

In:
23May2016
By: 
Matt Hochberg

Royal Caribbean's Harmony of the Seas is the world's largest cruise ship and offers the world's tallest slide at sea in the Ultimate Abyss.

The hair-raising, 10-story slide is “possibly the most thrilling manmade adventure at sea,” according to thrill engineer Professor Brendan Walker, Thrill Laboratory, U.K., director.

Walker was enlisted by Royal Caribbean to identify the level of "thrill" triggered by the Ultimate Abyss.  To do this, Walker measured physical reactions of testers brave enough to accept the challenge. Walker also compared the latest innovation by the global cruise line known for many firsts-at-sea to other Royal Caribbean signatures, the FlowRider surf simulator and RockWall, to compare the varying levels of thrill available onboard Harmony of the Seas.

Ultimate Abyss scored a Walker Thrill Factor of 45.35 percent as compared to the FlowRider (36.15 percent) and RockWall (34.59 percent). According to Walker, these scores are understood to be at the highend of thrill attractions; therefore, making Harmony the ultimate cruise ship for adrenaline junkies.

The tests

A two-day testing perior occurding during the final days of construction at the STX France shipyard and were observed 10 individuals who had never experienced Ultimate Abyss and only limited exposure to the two other activities. 

Demonstrating the effect that Ultimate Abyss has on the body, Walker’s data revealed that the slide experience caused heartbeats to increase by an average of 44 beats per minute compared to the resting rate for a 30-year-old adult of average fitness. Overall, Ultimate Abyss caused facial expressions of extreme pleasure to be activated more than 40 percent of the time, with the sympathetic nervous system – the body’s primary process in stimulating the fight-or-flight response – becoming 15.74 percent more active than when at rest. Riders on the Ultimate Abyss experienced a complex and unique set of sensations at each of the five stages of thrill, all culminating in a euphoric crescendo to guarantee the ultimate rider satisfaction. 

Walker believes that even though not all rides are the same, they need to deliver thrill across the following five separate stages in order to be classified as thrilling:

  • Imagining: When the rider consciously entertains the idea of riding. The stronger the rider can imagine riding the ride, the stronger the moments of thrill
  • Approaching: As the thought of riding becomes a reality, the moments of thrill created through imagination become intensified in a "countdown to thrill"
  • Committing: The rider passes through a stage of no return such as being strapped into a ride or being urged on by friends. At this stage, the only way to proceed is forward
  • Doing: The ride begins. If it’s thrilling, the ride will provide intense novel sensations that will immerse the rider and transport them into a state of flow
  • Celebrating: The ride ends. The rider experiences an afterglow as adrenaline and dopamine - the results of arousal and pleasure – continue to course through their brains

Results

Walker commented: “Across the three rides we tested, the combination of thrill levels achieved at each stage caused riders to experience an overwhelming sense of elation - and Harmony of the Seas’ Ultimate Abyss recorded the highest combined thrill score across all stages. The initial arrival experience – riders climb the stairs leading up to the slide platform, walk over the clear platform suspended above a more than 90-foot drop – sets the tone for the experience, and when combined with the multisensory experience during the slide, Ultimate Abyss has a hugely thrilling effect. This combination of a natural phenomenon – the feeling of being small in comparison to the endless ocean view – coupled with a manmade experience (i.e. a stainless steel slide) is defining a new genre of thrill that is setting the standard for future attractions as people demand more extreme and expertly crafted thrill-seeking adventures.”

“Royal Caribbean's legacy of imagination and innovation is reflected in all of the ships we build and Harmony of the Seas is no exception. It's not about building the largest cruise ships in the world, it's about creating the most amazing collection of unexpected experiences and activities at sea," said Michael Bayley, President and CEO, Royal Caribbean International. "Having experienced it myself, I have no doubt that the Ultimate Abyss will be absoluately thrilling for our guests but it is really gratifying to get confirmation from such a thrill expert as Professor Brendan Walker. The exciting multisensory experience that this tallest slide at sea offers, combined with other Royal Caribbean firsts such as the Flowrider and the RockWall, confirms that Harmony isn't just the largest cruise ship in the world but also the ultimate adventure at sea."