The Best Theaters on Cruise Ships

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Great entertainment has always been a hallmark of cruise travel, and the theaters and cinemas that host it are just as important to the formula as the performances and films themselves. Here we pick our top six at sea.

Buena Vista Theater ~ Disney Cruise Line

Few cruise ships have dedicated cinemas, but all four of the Disney Cruise Line ones have their own Buena Vista Theater for screening classic and first-run films from the cherished Disney library. What’s more, the audio and visuals in the venue are stunning thanks to a Dolby 3D picture and Dolby 7.1 surround sound.

Illuminations ~ Queen Mary 2, Cunard Line

Even before Cunard Line recently upgraded its flagship Queen Mary 2, it featured one of the most unique theaters at sea. Illuminations is the only planetarium on a cruise ship that has a dome screen that descends from the ceiling for literally all-encompassing films. Plus, the art deco space doubles as a lecture hall for the line’s signature enrichment program.

IMAX Theatre ~ Carnival Vista, Carnival Cruise Line

What is known as “the world’s most immersive movie experience” has come to a cruise ship aboard Carnival Cruise Line’s newest Carnival Vista with the first IMAX cinema at sea. That means first-run films and documentaries are screened in a larger format with higher resolutions and a bigger sound than in typical theaters. After all, the theater’s speakers weigh over 1,000 pounds.

Royal Theater ~ Harmony of the Seas, Royal Caribbean International

Royal Caribbean International’s Harmony of the Seas is the biggest cruise ship in the world, and its Royal Theater is an expansive space to match. Its spectacular production of “Grease” is supported by a full live orchestra in its very own studio, and creative staging even extends to a suspended performer and lighting gantry that can be uniquely lowered into place.

Walt Disney Theater ~ Disney Cruise Line

Not only does the Disney Cruise Line feature one of the best cinemas across its ships but also a live performance venue in the fleet-wide Walt Disney Theater. The handsome venue seemingly employs every theatrical technique from puppetry to pyrotechnics and, of course, some unmistakable Disney magic to even bring Tinker Bell to life. All kinds of expert rigging activates the space to enhance the vocal and dance performances. Plus, the theater can serve as a large scale cinema for special screenings.

World Stage ~ Koningsdam, Holland America Line

Video walls are petty common digital display elements to be seen in cruise ship theaters these days, but Holland America Line’s newest Koningsdam uses them like on no other. 270 feet of the technology encircles 270 degrees of the central World Stage, from floor to ceiling, incorporating the widest motion graphics into live productions and extending them out into the audience like never before.