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Are you experiencing post-Symphony of the Seas letdown? For at least some big-ship cruise fans, it’s a real thing.
The arrival of the insanely-large, activity-packed Royal Caribbean vessel — at 228,081 tons, the biggest cruise vessel ever — was the big cruise story of 2018, and no doubt about it, there’s nothing coming this year that quite measures up.
Still, we’re here to tell you all is not lost if you’re a devotee of big new ships. Three of the most popular big-ship lines (Carnival, Norwegian and Princess) have significant new vessels debuting this year. There are also several innovative new ships coming from lines specializing in smaller vessels. In fact, it’s what’s coming at the smaller end of the spectrum that has us the most excited.
Here, a list of the seven new ships arriving in 2019 that we’re most itching to book.
MS Roald Amundsen
Maiden Voyage: May 17
You may have never heard of Hurtigruten, the Norway-based cruise and ferry operator that soon will unveil the 530-passenger Roald Amundsen. But the company has a long and storied history in polar travel, and this unusual new ship is destined to make waves in the fast-growing niche of adventurous “expedition” cruising to such polar destinations as Antarctica and the Arctic’s Northwest Passage. Named after the famous Norwegian explorer who was first to the South Pole, Roald Amundsen will, notably, be the cruise industry’s first vessel to run on electric hybrid engines. This not only will save fuel but also allow for silent operation in sensitive areas where silence can make all the difference (near a penguin rookery, for instance, or a calving glacier). Other unusual features include a full-blown science center with state-of-the-art gadgets and underwater drones for passenger use. Fares start at $2,717 per person for an eight-night repositioning voyage.
Information: 888-317-0951; hurtigruten.com
Maiden Voyage: May 26
It isn’t often that a new ship debuts in the Galápagos, which is why we’re so jazzed about the arrival of Celebrity Flora. Built specifically to sail in the famously wildlife-rich archipelago, the stylish, yacht-like Celebrity Cruises vessel 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. It’ll also have the most expansive accommodations in the destination, including suites over 1,000 square feet. Celebrity is known for big ships, of course. But this one will carry just 100 passengers, the maximum allowed in the Galápagos. Expect an intimate, boutique hotel-like experience, just one with ever-changing scenery. Amenities will include two restaurants, an indoor lounge, an outdoor lounge and a marina with an easy-on, easy-off tender boarding area.
Information: 888-751-9303; celebritycruises.com.
Maiden Voyage: Aug. 15
Some things are worth waiting for, and we think that’s the case for this super-swanky, 228-passenger “discovery yacht” under development for luxury purveyor Scenic Luxury Cruises & Tours. Originally scheduled to debut in 2018, it’s been delayed time and again due to problems at the shipyard where it’s under construction — something to keep in mind when booking. But when it finally arrives, it should be a head-turner. Known for luxurious (if pricey) river cruises, Scenic is promising a go-anywhere “expedition” vessel with a groundbreaking level of luxury, including all-suite accommodations (and we’re talking real suites, with separate living rooms), butler service for all and 10 onboard dining options including a sushi restaurant. Designed for exploring places like Antarctica in style, it’ll sail not just with a fleet of Zodiacs but also two helicopters and a six-person submarine. Sounds epic, right? There’s just one drawback: The cost. Rates for some voyages start at more than $1,000 per person, per day.
Information: 857-228-5807; scenicusa.com.
Maiden Voyage: Oct. 20
The fourth vessel in Princess Cruises’ Royal Class will offer many of the same features as its sisters, including an elegant, three-deck-high Piazza filled with cafes and eateries, a spacious pool deck and a giant spa. But the 3,660-passenger ship also will have a few innovative new twists that have us eager for a look-see, including what are being billed as two of the most spectacular suites on a mass-market vessel. Dubbed the Sky Suites, the sprawling, top-of-the-ship complexes will accommodate up to five people (a first for Princess) and offer stunning, 270-degree views from some of the biggest balconies at sea. Also new on Sky Princess will be an aft pool called Wakeview. (Read: more stunning sea views.) And the ship’s adults-only Sanctuary will have a new design with more private cabanas. Sky Princess initially will cruise in the Mediterranean with week-long trips starting around $1,300 per person.
Information: 800-774-6237; princess.com.
Maiden Voyage: Nov. 2
Norwegian Cruise Line has given big-ship leader Royal Caribbean a run for its money in recent years with the rollout of three giant “Breakaway Plus-class” vessels full of everything a mega-resort lover could want and more. Now, it’s ready for an even bigger “encore” performance with this 20-deck-high giant packed with eateries, bars, showrooms and over-the-top amusements. We’re particularly excited to try Norwegian Encore’s sprawling go-kart track, which will careen around two decks at the back of the ship. Yes, this is something Norwegian has done before, but never at this level. Nearly 1,150 feet long, it’ll include four sections that extend over the sides of the vessel. Encore also will feature the Tony Award-winning show “Kinky Boots,” an open-air laser tag arena and a virtual reality complex. It will initially operate seven-night voyages to the Eastern Caribbean out of Miami with fares starting around $800 per person.
Information: 888-625-2784; ncl.com
Maiden Voyage: Dec. 11
Carnival fans living on the West Coast have been eagerly awaiting this ship for more than a year, and for good reason: It’ll be the first new Carnival vessel based in the region in two decades. If you haven’t noticed, cruise lines traditionally deploy their newest, hottest ships on the East Coast, so this is a big “get” for the West. Fifteen decks high with room for up to 5,097 people, it’ll sail year-round to the Mexican Riviera out of Long Beach, California, becoming the ship-to-beat for inexpensive, lively, fun-focused cruises to the destination. Expect lots of bustling lounges, bars and restaurants, and all sorts of amusements, including an 800-foot-long pedal ride, a water slide-filled aqua park and a trampoline park — the latter is an industry first. Fares for week-long voyages start around $500 per person.
Information: 800-764-7419; carnival.com.
Maiden Voyage: Not yet announced
Like Scenic Eclipse, the arrival of this vessel has been delayed so many times we’ve lost count, and it still doesn’t have an official unveiling date. But if it comes together by the summer, as expected, it will be the cruise story of the year, hands-down — and trust us, you’ll want to snag an early booking. The brainchild of Swedish entrepreneur Mikael Krafft, the owner of sailing-ship line Star Clippers, it will be a fully-rigged tall ship on a scale not seen in a century, and it’s sure to become an instant icon of the cruise world. Being built to hold 300 passengers, with five masts and more than 39,000 square feet of sails, it’s modeled on France II, a legendary vessel of the early 1900s. Itineraries and fares have yet to be set.
Information: 800-442-0551; starclippers.com
Featured photo by Rawpixel/Getty Images
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