Editor’s note: TPG’s Ashley Kosciolek accepted a free trip from MSC Cruises to sail on MSC Seascape. The opinions expressed below are entirely hers and weren’t subject to review by the line.
What crazy top-deck attraction will cruise lines think of next?
On previous cruises, I’ve tried zip lines, surf simulators and 10-story slides. Last year, I zoomed around the top decks of Carnival’s Mardi Gras on the very first roller coaster at sea. This year, as cruise lines continue their quest to outdo one another, I’ve ridden the latest theme park-style attraction — this one on MSC Cruises‘ MSC Seascape.
Robotron is a robotic arm that cantilevers passengers over the ship’s pool deck for a fee. It wowed me more than I expected with what I can only describe as an experience that’s equal parts startling (rather than terrifying) and delightful.
Put it this way: There are few cruise-ship attractions I’d consider riding more than once, and this is one of them.
Here, I’ll cover the details of what Robotron is like, how much it costs and whether a ride is worth your time.
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What is Robotron on MSC cruises?
Robotron is another name for the Kuka Coaster — a robotic arm built by German robotics company Kuka that serves as a top-deck attraction on MSC’s newest Seaside-class ship, MSC Seascape.
Perched on a sliver of the vessel’s 19th deck, just above the outdoor pool area, the arm holds a trio of seats that restrain passengers as the ride sends them twisting and turning through the air.
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Should riders be able to keep their eyes open, they’re rewarded with sweeping views of the surrounding scenery that sometimes might be upside down. (Yes, the ride flips passengers onto their backs, stomachs and completely upside down as they’re suspended 174 feet above the water.)
Before climbing into a seat, each rider chooses a song from a pre-selected list. That song will pump through nearby speakers for roughly one-third of the three-minute session. Behind the ride, an LED screen pulses with lighting effects that wiggle and morph to eventually spell out “Robotron.”
The ride has three speeds — slow, medium and fast — and participants must agree on one of them. I rode alone and went with medium speed. There were a few heart-pounding stomach-dropping moments but it was fairly tame overall. (If you’re partial to roller coasters and other high-adrenaline attractions, definitely choose the fast option.)
As for restrictions, you must be at least 7 years old, 4 feet tall and weigh no more than 298 pounds. Closed-toed shoes are required; no sandals or flip-flops are allowed.
Also, you must remove everything from your pockets. No phones, cameras, jewelry, food, drinks, alcohol, chewing gum or smoking are permitted on Robotron. However, you can wear a GoPro if it’s strapped to you. If you’re wearing a chest strap, keep in mind that the ride has a U-shaped harness that comes down across the front of your body.
As far as what Robotron is like, I found it to be loud, thanks to the music, and also unexpectedly abrupt in its movements. Instead of swirling fluidly through the air, it was a bit stop-and-go.
I expect the intent is to keep riders on their toes in terms of which way the arm will move them next — and it works well. For example, a couple of times, it stopped completely to allow me to take in the views of Manhattan, where the ship was docked, before suddenly flipping forward, eliciting a shriek or two.
Some advice, though: Be sure to keep your head back against the seat to avoid it being bumped around. Also, bring the harness down firmly against you before the ride starts, or you’ll feel like you’re sliding out of your seat a bit when you’re upside down — a mildly scary experience.
How much does it cost to ride Robotron?
Robotron costs $10 per person per ride, and the amount is charged to each rider’s onboard account via their cruise card.
The attraction is tied to the Hall of Games, the onboard arcade on each of MSC’s Seaside EVO vessels, which are a souped-up version of the original Seaside class.
That means passengers can either pay individually for their turns on Robotron, or they can purchase packages that preload a set amount of money onto their cruise cards and then deduct from it as they play arcade games or use the ship’s virtual-reality simulators, Formula 1 racer and other rides, including Robotron.
When passengers purchase a package, they’ll receive additional funds for gameplay as a bonus. The prices are as follows:
- Pay $25, and get $30.
- Pay $50, and get $60.
- Pay $70, and get $90.
- Pay $100, and get $140.
- Pay $150, and get $220.
Is a ride on Robotron worth it?
The answer here is a resounding YES, with caveats.
It wasn’t as over-the-top scary as some other rides I’ve tried on other ships or at theme parks, but it was definitely unique. Also, for $10, the three-minute duration is a great value, beating the pants off of Bolt, Carnival’s roller coaster (which costs $15 for two laps around the deck, less than a minute of ride time).
Given its variable speeds, Robotron is also suitable for most adventurous children, as long as they meet the age and height requirements.
That said, it won’t be for you if you’re afraid of heights, if you’re pregnant, if you have certain health conditions or if you’re prone to motion sickness.
Although Carnival Cruise Line’s Bolt was the first traditional amusement ride on a cruise ship, and Royal Caribbean introduced robotic-arm gimmicks years ago with its Bionic Bar robotic bartender and North Star observation pod, MSC has found something fun and innovative for passengers with Robotron.
The attraction offers a ride that’s surprisingly thrilling, and if you’re someone who likes rare experiences, a ride on Robotron is definitely worth the price tag.
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