Full speed ahead! Some big new ships making their debuts this year are so innovative they count as entirely new categories of cruise ship.
The major lines – Carnival Cruises, MSC Cruises, Norwegian Cruise Line and Royal Caribbean – all have new versions of their biggest, showiest ships whose ingenious features are destined to be added to other ships in their fleets.
Celebrity Cruises is bringing out its first new ship in years, with innovations that wouldn’t have been possible or even imaginable in the era before computer design.
Another significant new arrival from river cruise company Scenic, is a luxury ocean-going expedition ship that can explore the polar ice and get into small ports not reachable by larger ships.
Here’s an insiders’ look at the many notable newcomers in 2018:
The long-anticipated new generation ship from Celebrity Cruises—the line’s first addition since 2011–is promising a revolution in design as well as unique entertainment. Among the innovative features on Celebrity Edge made possible by computer-aided design are veranda cabins that have no obstructions and feel as though they’re infinite. There’s a movable combined restaurant and embarkation platform on the flank of the ship that’s called the Magic Carpet. Even the tenders are designed to be state of the art.
The Resort Deck is designed to have no visual obstructions to the views of the sea and a Solarium will feature a three-dimensional art wall that represents the beautiful colors and movement of the ocean.
Celebrity Edge will be completed ahead of schedule and enter service earlier than planned, so Celebrity is planning two maiden voyages in December 2018. The first is a seven-night western Caribbean cruise departing from Fort Lauderdale’s Port Everglades on Dec. 9 to the Mexican Riviera and Grand Cayman. The originally scheduled eastern Caribbean cruise departing Dec. 16, will visit San Juan, Tortola and Philipsburg.
This expedition yacht is Scenic’s first foray in ocean cruising and it maintains the high standards of its river cruise ships. There are 114 suites, each with a private veranda and lounge area and the accommodations range in size from 345-square-foot Veranda Suites to a 2,659-square-foot two-bedroom Penthouse Suite.
Four new dining options have been added since Scenic first announced Scenic Eclipse, bringing the total to 10. Due to be inaugurated in Miami at an event it October, the ice-rated “discovery yacht,” carrying 228 guests (200 in the polar regions of Arctic and Antarctica), is slated to sail its inaugural voyage in the Mediterranean starting August 31. Scenic Eclipse’s small size will allow for docking in small, less-visited ports. Its GPS positioning technology will allow it to stay located in areas where the use of a real anchor would be off-limits; and its onboard seven-seat helicopters and submarines can take cruisers to remote regions, at extra costs.
AIDA Cruises AIDAnova
While it may not be heavily promoted in North America, the AIDAnova is a forerunner of a coming trend of new, more eco-friendly fuels. Carnival Corp, which owns AIDA Cruises, has ordered six fully LNG (liquefied natural gas) powered ships that are scheduled to be delivered across several Carnival brands by 2022. The 5,000 passenger ship will be the first cruise ship fully powered by LNG both in port and on the open sea – an innovation that the designers claim will come close to a goal of operating with zero -exhaust emissions.
This is the sister of the ground-breaking MSC Seaside, which technically is a graduate of the class of 2017, although her inaugural cruise in the last week of December meant most guests are getting their first glimpse of both ships this year.
With MSC Seaside concentrating on the American market with a home port in Miami, the 4,100-guest MSC Seaview will focus on the Mediterranean, with home ports in Genoa, Marseille and Barcelona.
Both ships are designed to maximize the amount of outdoor space available to passengers, with innovative a 360-degree promenade with glass railings around the entire ship where guests can shop, eat and drink alfresco, panoramic elevators with sea views, suspended glass floors, and a giant aqua park. More than 70 per cent of her 2,066 staterooms have verandas. There are twenty-eight luxury suites with a whirlpool on their balconies and 14 grand suites. Staterooms include 111 with inter-connecting doors that can be used for multi-generation family holidays.
The separate MSC Yacht Club, has a 24-hour concierge, a private pool and large private Sun Deck for the exclusive use of Yacht Club passengers, plus two dedicated massage rooms and a dedicated restaurant and lounge.
Holland America Line’s newest is aiming to raise the level already set by sister ship Koningsdam and the name marks a change in the classic line’s naming protocol.
The Nieuw Statendam is the second in the Pinnacle Class of ships, and it features the innovations of Koningsdam including Billboard Onboard, Lincoln Center Stage, and B.B. King’s Blues Club. The World Stage features LED screens that cover 270-degrees of the walls, allowing the theater to be used for stage shows as well as video presentations and parties.
Holland America ’s first ship called Statendam sailed in 1898, and this will be the sixth HAL ship to carry the legendary name, but none of the previous ones indicated a number or that they were a newer version.
Nieuw Statendam is scheduled to do a 14-day trans-Atlantic voyage starting Dec. 5 and then spend the winter season cruising roundtrip from Ft. Lauderdale on Caribbean itineraries, with options of up to 10 days.
Carnival Horizon sports deck–Image courtesy Carnival Cruise Line
Carnival Cruise Line’s second Vista-class ship Carnival Horizon will have innovative artwork throughout the public areas. New additions are a Dr. Seuss themed water park and new Family Harbor Cabins. Horizon will also premiere Guy’s Pig & Anchor restaurant, an expansion of the partnership between Carnival and TV host Guy Fieri. The 3,954-passenger ship will do a short spring series of cruises in the Mediterranean before heading to a summer home port of New York for round trips to Bermuda and the Caribbean.
After September, the ship home ports in Miami to sail alternating weeks to the Eastern and Western Caribbean from Miami. The ship will have all of the features of sister ship Carnival Vista including an IMAX, the Sky Ride, LED centerpiece in the atrium, and the Havana cabins.
Norwegian Cruise Line’s third Breakaway Plus-class ship will be the largest ever to cruise to the Last Frontier, accommodating 4,000 guests. The hull of Norwegian Bliss will be painted with a mural by marine artist Wyland featuring a humpback whale.
Innovations include almost twice as many Haven suites as in Norwegian’s previous Breakaway-class ships, including two owner’s suites that feature two balconies and floor-ceiling windows, as well as 24 Family Villas.
Norwegian Bliss will also feature a two-level electric-car race track, a first for a North American-based cruise ship, and an open-air “intergalactic laser tag” course. Entertainment highlights are the Tony-award winning musical, Jersey Boys, and an exclusive, original musical theater show created and produced specifically for the ship.
A trans-Atlantic cruise in April and a Mexican Riviera cruise in May will get the ship to the home port of Seattle for seven-day round-trips with a stop in Victoria. After October, Bliss will cruise out of Los Angeles and after November, home port will be Miami, with calls in St. Thomas, US Virgin Islands; Tortola, British Virgin Islands and Nassau.
In the winter of 2019/20 the Bliss will be sailing to the Caribbean from New York.
Symphony of the Seas
Symphony of the Seas will claim the title largest cruise ship ever built at its inauguration in April, 2018. This fourth Oasis-class ship from Royal Caribbean International (actually only a couple of inches longer and wider than her sisters) can accommodate 5,535 guests at double occupancy with the ability to carry over 6,000 with its family suites.
The ship will pack even more experiences that before into its seven distinct neighborhoods: Boardwalk, Central Park, Royal Promenade, Pool and Sports Zone, Entertainment Place, Youth Zone, and Vitality Spa and Fitness. Key attractions include novel upgrades to features first seen on Harmony of the Seas in 2016, including the Ultimate Abyss 10-story slide, the bar with robot bartenders, the ice skating and aqua theaters. There will be more than 20 restaurants on board.
Symphony of the Seas will sail Caribbean itineraries from Miami, Florida after a season of cruises in the Mediterranean.
The applause for Seabourn Encore, which debuted in 2016, has brought a reprise this year that adds some new features. Designed by Adam D. Tihany, the ship will be configured as an additional deck taller than its sister and feature expanded public areas.
Unique offerings will be Seabourn’s signature restaurant The Grill in a culinary partnership with restaurateur Thomas Keller, and a new holistic spa and wellness program in mindful living program advised by Dr. Andrew Weil. Both of the 600-passenger, all-veranda suite ships boast among the highest staff to guest ratios in the cruise industry.
Following the ship’s delivery, Seabourn Ovation will embark on an 11-day inaugural voyage departing May 5, 2018, from Venice, Italy, to Barcelona, Spain. The ship will go on to spend the majority of her maiden season cruising in Northern Europe, In 2019, Ovation will offer Asian cruises from Singapore and Hong Kong to ports in Vietnam, Thailand, Philippines, Malaysia and Myanmar.
They’ve been calling it Viking Spirit until now, but the company’s fifth ocean vessel, has a new name inspired by the ship’s godmother, astronaut Dr. Anna Fisher, who worked on NASA’s Project Orion before soaring into the heavens herself.
Like her fleet mates starting with Viking Star, Viking Orion will have 465 cabins and accommodate 930 guests. Guests can choose from five stateroom categories, starting from a 270 sq. ft. veranda stateroom, all with private verandas and premium amenities that include king-size beds with luxury linens, large showers, luxury toiletries, heated bathroom floors and large interactive flat-screen LCD TVs with movies-on-demand.
The first summer itinerary will be in the Mediterranean, then Orion heads to a fall and winter season in Asia and Australia and a summer season in Alaska in 2019.