Talking BOLT with Glenn Aprile, Director of Innovation for Carnival Cruise Line

Now that the calendar has officially turned to 2019, it means that next year, we will see the unveiling of the “first roller coaster at sea,” BOLT: Ultimate Sea Coaster, set to debut on Carnival Cruise Line‘s new Mardi Gras ship in 2020.

Bolt, a “Spike Coaster” from German-based manufacturer Maurer, will take guests on an 800′ journey nearly 200′ above sea level. We wanted to learn a little more about the decision process to add a roller coaster to a cruise ship, and thankfully, Glenn Aprile, Director of Innovation for Carnival Cruise Line, was kind enough to answer a few of our questions. Cruise Ship Entertainment Options are always evolving, and it feels like a bit of an “arms race” to see how various cruise lines can differentiate themselves from the competition. How was the decision made to add the “first roller coaster at sea” to the Carnival Mardi Gras?

Glenn Aprile: We wanted to do something really special, really fun and something that has never been done before.  Introducing the first roller coaster at sea certainly fit the bill.

Coaster101: Why was it deemed the right time to add a roller coaster to a cruise ship? Is there a reason that ships haven’t added roller coasters in the past?

Aprile: I would say that this is probably due to the complexity.  Adding something as complex as a roller coaster needs to be developed early on in the processes of designing the ship. The development of our new class of ship coinciding with Maurer’s development of the Spike Coaster system worked out to be perfect timing.  Mardi Gras’ BOLT roller coaster does not rely on gravity to get around the track and it will be an extremely quiet ride, these were two key considerations for us in selecting this particular system from Maurer.

Coaster101: When designing the overall layout of the Carnival Mardi Gras, how easy was it to “place” a roller coaster with over 800’ of track? How did planning for the addition of BOLT to the Carnival Mardi Gras differ from the planning of other entertainment options on ships in your fleet?

Aprile: One of the many advantages of this feature is that the 800 feet of track is suspended above the deck of our ship leaving a lot of space below available for the many other exciting amenities and features that we will be introducing.  The planning and development of this feature is different because it has never been done before, so it requires extreme attention to detail and close collaboration with the shipyard, as well as Maurer’s engineering team, experts in safety, noise and vibration, etc.

Coaster101: As an industry first, how will the roller coaster structure have to differ from other entertainment options on board, (water slides, etc.)?

Aprile: Some of the structural elements like supporting columns are quite similar in appearance to other attractions onboard, the difference comes in the engineering and design to account the movement of the vehicle around the track as well as the movement of the ship itself.

Coaster101: Is the layout of BOLT contained entirely within the “vertical envelope” of the Mardi Gras, or are there moments where you’re over the ocean?

Aprile: Riders are never directly over the ocean but I am certain that the views from 187 feet above sea level will be absolutely amazing!

Coaster101: How was the decision made to go with Maurer and their “Spike” coaster as opposed to another manufacturer that produces more of a “traditional” roller coaster experience?

Aprile: Traditional roller coasters tend to be very noisy.  This wouldn’t work for us on a ship where guests are also relaxing and enjoying other activities in the area.  The Spike Coaster system is so quiet that guests will barely hear it.  It is also a powered ride all the way through and the vehicle has constant traction with the track making it a perfect fit for a roller coaster experience on a moving ship.

Coaster101: How has it been working with Maurer on the project?

Aprile: Working with Maurer Rides has been a great experience.  You need a talented partner that is willing to put in the extra effort to overcome any obstacles that might come along in order to make a project like this possible. In the release, it noted that guests can choose their own speed. How does that option work?

Aprile: The vehicle has controls enabling the rider to modulate the speed up or down throughout the ride. This may be more of a question for Maurer, but what was it like designing a roller coaster that is constantly in motion on the deck of a ship instead of stationary on the ground?

Aprile: It would be best to talk to Maurer on this as they will have a better perspective.  The design and movement of the ship needs to be factored in to the engineering and design and these are variables that Maurer wouldn’t need to contend with in the same way for a land-based project. Are there plans to build the “next” BOLT with newer ships in the fleet that “improve” on the first version? Any plans to retrofit older ships in the fleet with roller coasters of their own?

Aprile: Right now, we are only offering BOLT on Mardi Gras when it debuts in 2020 and haven’t announced any features for its sister ship set to debut in 2022.  Adding a roller coaster to an existing ship would be extremely complex so we don’t have any plans for that at this time. With the cruise line industry constantly innovating, are you allowed to tell us what’s next for Carnival, as it relates to entertainment? Will we ever get the “first roller coaster inversion at sea?” Is the sky the limit?

Aprile: When it comes to innovation, I believe the sky is the limit when you take on a challenge with an open mind and the right people around the table!

Thanks to Glenn for his time and for Vance Gulliksen at Carnival Cruise Line for facilitating this interview. For more information about BOLT, be sure to visit the Carnival Website!