The 8 most exciting new cruise ships of 2020
Get ready for a big year in the world of cruising.
More than 20 major new ocean-going cruise vessels will debut around the globe in 2020, including 16 from lines that market to North Americans.
As anyone who follows cruising closely knows, that's a heck of a lot of new ships for one year. But it's not just the quantity of new vessels that's newsworthy. It's the makeup of the ships, too.
The newcomers will include the much-awaited first vessel from Richard Branson-backed Virgin Voyages, and luxury hotel chain Ritz-Carlton also is bringing out its very first ship.
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The year also will bring a groundbreaking new vessel for cruise giant Carnival and several significant new ships built for expedition cruising — the hottest trend in cruising these days that involves traveling to the most remote, hard-to-reach corners of the globe on small, hardy vessels. The vessels typically carry their own landing craft and plenty of outdoor gear.
Here, a list of the eight ships arriving in 2020 that we’re most itching to book.
Scarlet Lady (Virgin Voyages)
Maiden voyage: March 26
It isn’t often the cruise industry gets an entirely new line. But that’s exactly what’s happening this year with the arrival of Scarlet Lady, the first ship from Richard Branson-backed Virgin Voyages. In the works for more than five years, the 2,770-passenger vessel will cater to a hipster crowd with everything from a tattoo parlor to drag-queen brunches and a colorful karaoke lounge where you can get your Lizzo on. To ensure a proper party vibe, it’ll also be a kid-free travel zone, with a minimum age to sail of 18. Virgin is going after travelers who might think themselves too cool to cruise, and it’s promising to shake things up in the cruise world. To that end, the ship will have no buffets, no dress codes and no big Broadway-style theater shows. For entertainment, expect interactive dance parties, DJ sets and “microplays” instead, plus late-night games of dodgeball. Suites will have a rock-star theme.
The details: Scarlet Lady will sail year-round out of Miami. Four- and five-night itineraries to the Bahamas and Caribbean start at $775 per person, not including taxes and fees. For additional information, call 954-488-2955 or visit virginvoyages.com.
National Geographic Endurance (Lindblad Expeditions)
Maiden voyage: April 2
Quite a few companies have rolled out new vessels designed to operate in Antarctica and the Arctic in recent years. But there’s never been anything quite like National Geographic Endurance. Billed as the world’s most advanced polar expedition ship, the 126-passenger Lindblad Expeditions vessel is being built super tough for the most off-the-beaten-path exploring. National Geographic Endurance will have the highest ice class rating (PC5 Category A) ever for a purpose-built passenger ship, which means it will be able to go deeper into polar regions than other vessels. It’ll also have an unusual, sloping “X-bow” designed to minimize movement in the rough seas around Antarctica. Aimed at an adventure-loving crowd, it will carry a fleet of Zodiac boats, kayaks, snowshoes and cross-country skis for polar exploring. It’ll also have its very own remote operated vehicle, just in case you want to see what’s going on under the hull. An upscale Scandinavian-inspired interior will round out the experience.
The details: National Geographic Endurance will spend its initial spring and summer sailing in the Arctic before moving to Antarctica for the winter. Fares for polar trips start at $11,600 per person, not including taxes and fees, for a 10-night trip to the Arctic’s Svalbard archipelago. Thanks to a relatively new partnership between Hyatt and Lindblad, World of Hyatt members can pay for a cruise using Hyatt points — or earn 5 base points per dollar on eligible spend (excluding incidentals), plus the standard bonuses for Hyatt elite members, as well as elite tier-qualifying night credits. And all members — regardless of status — will enjoy a $250 onboard credit to use on incidentals. Call 800-397-3348 or visit expeditions.com for more information.
Evrima (Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection)
Maiden voyage: June 14
Virgin Voyages isn’t the only new line debuting in 2020. Also on the way is Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection, the new luxury cruise division of Ritz-Carlton. Ritz is promising a series of small, yacht-like vessels, of which Evrima will be the first. Holding just 298 passengers, Evrima will be upscale with an elegant, residential look (as you might expect for Ritz-Carlton). Standout features will include spacious cabins, a stylish spa and lots of deck-top lounge space for sunning, plus five separate restaurants. The dining venues, notably, will include an á la carte restaurant designed by Sven Elverfeld of the three Michelin-starred Aqua in the Ritz-Carlton Wolfsburg, Germany. The one big caveat with Evrima is whether it will arrive on time. Its maiden voyage, initially scheduled for Feb. 5, already has been pushed back by four months due to problems at the shipyard in Spain where it's under construction. As of now, the line says its new arrival date is a go. But, even if it arrives on time, there are reasons why you might want to wait to book.
The details: Evrima is scheduled to spend its inaugural summer in Europe before repositioning to the Caribbean for the winter. Fares start at $4,600 per person, not including taxes and fees, for a seven-night voyage. As a bonus, Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection will announce benefits for Marriott Bonvoy members. For more information, call 833-999-7292 or visit ritzcarltonyachtcollection.com.
Silver Origin (Silversea)
Maiden voyage: July 18
There’s never been a better time to do the Galápagos in style. Just a few months ago, Celebrity Cruises deployed its head-turning, upscale Celebrity Flora to the destination, and now sister company Silversea is preparing its own elegant entry to the market. Built specifically to sail in the famously wildlife-rich archipelago, Silver Origin will be an all-suite vessel with such luxury touches as butler service with every room and the highest crew-to-passenger ratio in the Galápagos. Like Celebrity Flora, it will carry 100 passengers, the maximum allowed in the destination. In another similarity, it will feature wall-to-wall, floor-to-ceiling windows in most spaces to maximize nature viewing — something you just don’t see with other Galápagos ships. Expect an intimate, boutique hotel-like experience, just one with ever-changing scenery. Amenities will include two restaurants, indoor and outdoor lounges, a stargazing platform and a marina with an easy-on, easy-off tender boarding area.
The details: Silver Origin will operate seven-night Galápagos voyages year-round, alternating between two different itineraries that can be combined to create a 14-night trip. Fares for the seven-night sailings start at $9,720 per person, not including taxes and fees. For more information, call 877-382-7094 or visit silversea.com.
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Crystal Endeavor (Crystal Cruises)
Maiden voyage: Aug. 10
If National Geographic Endurance is the hardiest ship ever built for adventure travel, Crystal Endeavor is the most upscale. Luxury line Crystal Cruises’ first foray into expedition cruising will be an all-suite vessel with such luxury flourishes as butler service for every passenger and a restaurant serving Nobu Matsuhisa-created cuisine. There will also be five more high-end dining venues; a stylish, glass-covered solarium with a pool and Jacuzzi; a pampering spa; a cigar bar; and even a casino (a first for an expedition ship). Still, Crystal Endeavor isn’t just about luxury. On the adventure side, the 200-passenger vessel will sail with a fleet of Zodiacs for exploring, plus two helicopters and a submarine. As many as 22 guides on every voyage will include biologists, ornithologists and other experts. The ship will have a Polar Class 6 ice-class rating — not quite as high as National Geographic Endeavour, but not too shabby.
The details: Crystal Endeavor initially will sail in Asia and around Australia and New Zealand before operating two voyages to Antarctica’s remote Ross Island area. It’ll head to the Arctic in the summer of 2021 for sailings that include a rare crossing of the Northeast Passage in the Russian Arctic. Fares for the polar trips start at $14,999 per person for 11 nights, not including taxes or fees. For more information call 888-536-6390 or visit crystalcruises.com.
Sea Cloud Spirit (Sea Cloud Cruises)
Maiden voyage: Aug. 29
Now for something truly rare and wonderful: A multi-deck, three-masted sailing ship of the sort that hasn’t been commonplace on the world’s oceans for more than a century. Under development by Sea Cloud Cruises for years, Sea Cloud Spirit will be a throwback to a bygone era with 44,000 square feet of billowing sails that are raised and lowered by a small army of deck mates. Still, it’ll be no relic of the grand age of sail. Designed for up to 136 passengers, it’ll offer modern cabins (25 with balconies); a wellness center and spa; an upscale restaurant; an outdoor bar and bistro; and a sunning deck. It’ll also have a diesel motor for propulsion on days when the winds don’t quite measure up. One caveat for English speakers thinking of booking: Germany-based Sea Cloud Cruises draws a lot of German speakers. That said, the line’s ships officially are bilingual, with crew speaking both languages.
The details: Sea Cloud Spirit initially will sail in the Mediterranean before repositioning to the Caribbean for the winter. Fares start at $3,165 per person for a four-night voyage in the Canary Islands, not including taxes and fees. For more information call 888-732-2568 or visit seacloud.com.
Odyssey of the Seas (Royal Caribbean)
Maiden voyage: Nov. 5
Royal Caribbean fans in North America had reason to grumble last year when the line sent its very first Quantum Ultra Class vessel to Shanghai to serve the growing Chinese market. But now they’re finally getting one of the snazzy new megaships to call their own. The 4,198-passenger Odyssey of the Seas will spend its winters sailing to the Bahamas and Caribbean out of Fort Lauderdale. It’ll spend summers in the Mediterranean, becoming the first Quantum Ultra Class vessel there, too. While not quite as big as Royal Caribbean’s record-breaking Symphony of the Seas (the world’s largest cruise ship), Odyssey of the Seas will have all the trappings of a major megaresort, including multiple pool areas, a kiddie aqua park and such amusements as a sky-diving simulator, a surfing simulator and a bumper car pavilion. A something-for-everyone array of cabin classes will range from tiny, 166-square-foot “interior” cabins without a window to massive, two-deck-high Royal Loft Suites that are nearly 10 times that size.
The details: Odyssey of the Seas will sail mostly six- to nine-night voyages out of Fort Lauderdale. Fares start at $661 per person for six nights, not including taxes and fees. Call 866-562-7625 or visit royalcaribbean.com for more information.
Mardi Gras (Carnival Cruise Line)
Maiden voyage: Nov. 14
Cruise giant Carnival finally is hitting the supersize button. At 180,000 tons, Mardi Gras — the line’s new flagship — will be nearly 35% bigger than the biggest ship currently in its fleet, the just-unveiled Carnival Panorama, and one of the 10 biggest cruise ships ever from any line. That’s a big deal, as Carnival until now has resisted the trend among major lines to build ever-bigger vessels (Carnival Panorama doesn’t even crack the top 40 list of biggest ships). Carnival will be entering the Big Ship Wars with a splash, adorning Mardi Gras with the first roller coaster at sea (no, this is not a joke), Carnival’s largest waterpark ever, a far broader array of suites than earlier Carnival ships and new dining venues such as the first Emeril Lagasse restaurant at sea. It’ll be able to hold up to 6,630 passengers per sailing with every berth filled.
The details: Mardi Gras will sail six- to eight-day voyages to the Bahamas and Caribbean out of Port Canaveral, Florida. Fares start at $539 per person, not including taxes and fees. Get more information at 800-764-7419 or carnival.com.
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In addition to the above, newcomers for 2020 also include Seven Seas Splendor, a swanky new luxury ship from Regent Seven Seas Cruises. It'll have an eye-popping, $11,000-a-night suite that's bigger than a house.
There also will be significant new vessels from Princess Cruises, Celebrity Cruises and MSC Cruises. All of the ships will be sisters to existing vessels, with many of the same features. But each of them will have at least a few new twists.
Other lines with new ships include expedition cruise specialists Ponant and Hurtigruten. Silversea also has a second vessel debuting in Europe just days after Silver Origin.
And this doesn't even consider forthcoming river cruise ships. More than a dozen new river vessels are on the way for 2020 from such lines as AmaWaterways, Avalon Waterways, Viking and the American Queen Steamboat Company.
Will you book a cruise on one of the new ships of 2020? Share your thoughts on the new vessels in the comments below.
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