With ocean cruising as popular as ever among travelers of all ages, cruise lines across-the-board are trying to outbest each other by introducing new ships, amenities and itineraries. Here’s the latest and greatest for this year from the major cruise operators.
Azamara Club Cruises
Azamara will hit a record 250 ports of call in 2019 and, for the first time, the line will sail to Alaska. Azamara will offer 11 different Alaskan voyages, ranging from eight to 10 days, starting in May. The itineraries include late-night stays and complimentary AzAmazing Evenings events; and will include stops in marquee Alaskan ports of call along with some others less-well-known.
Carnival Cruise Line
Carnival will debut the 4,008-passenger Carnival Panorama in December 2019. The third ship in the Vista-class joining Vista and Horizon, Panorama will be the first Carnival ship to be stationed on the West Coast in 20 years and will sail Mexican Riviera itineraries.
Panorama will sport many of the features of its sister ships, including the Fahrenheit 555 steakhouse, Library Bar, Bonsai Sushi, SkyRide, Waterworks aqua park, and the SportSquare recreation area. The ship will have its own Cuba-themed area with tropics-inspired staterooms, as well as a themed bar and pool. Carnival’s Family Harbor area also will feature accommodations with extra space and its own lounge.
Carnival Panorama. Photo: Carnival Cruise Line.
Costa Venezia, one of the new Costa ships that is dedicated to the hometown of Marco Polo and Casanova, will debut in 2019 as the first Costa ship specifically built for the Chinese market. The vessel will officially launch on Mar. 8 with a three-stage itinerary that goes from Trieste, Italy, to the Persian Gulf, then Dubai and Singapore, and finally Yokohoma.
Venezia’s Lido deck will have an aqua park that features a waterslide, a high-rope garden, and a mini-golf course. It will also include an adults-only pool area called The Beach Club; panoramic glass elevators; and a glass-bottomed skywalk.
Costa Smeralda, the other big Costa addition for 2019, will enter the fleet in October and will be Costa’s first ship to be powered in port and at sea by liquefied natural gas (LNG). Accommodating more than 5,000 passengers, the ship has brand new public areas including two piazza-like spaces called the Colosseo and the Trastevere.
Smeralda will also feature 11 different eateries; a design museum called CoDe; and the Piazza di Spagna, a three-decked, glass-floor area located at the back of the ship.
In 2019, Crystal Cruises will embark on nine new Crystal Getaways, shorter segments of longer Crystal itineraries that range from six to 16 days aboard Crystal Symphony and Serenity. The ships will take guests all around the world, from South America to Australia and Indonesia and South Africa.
Both Symphony and Serenity are fresh off of redesigns.
Holland America Line
Holland America ended 2018 in a big way, debuting the Nieuw Statendam.
For 2019, Holland America will offer a number of new itineraries across its fleet. Noordam will head to Australia, New Zealand, and the South Pacific, offering a variety of itineraries including roundtrip sailings from Sydney.
Maasdam, one of the ships Holland America has earmarked for its EXC In-depth Voyages, will start the year in the South Pacific with a 17-day sailing from Brisbane to Auckland. It will then head to North America on a 24-day “Polynesian Crossing” that ends in San Francisco.
Holland America will also offer 13 Collectors’ Voyage sailings in 2019, six on Noordam and seven on Maasdam. Those sailings range from 24 to 51 days, combining back-to-back itineraries.
Statendam. Photo: HAL.
Fresh off of the christening of Seaview, MSC Cruises will christen two ships in 2019: MSC Bellissima will be christened in Southhampton on Mar. 2, and MSC Grandiosa will follow in Hamburg in November.
Bellissima, which will join MSC Meraviglia in the line’s Meraviglia-class of ships, will mark the launch of MSC for Me, the line’s technology platform that integrates a mobile app with smart technology that will allow crew members to identify guests before even speaking with them.
In other news, Grandiosa is expected to have a larger Mediterranean-style promenade; a Grand Canyon-themed Aquapark; a DOREMI Studio Lounge on its family deck; more features from MSC’s partnership with LEGO; and two completely new Cirque du Soleil at Sea shows that cannot be seen anywhere else in the world.
Norwegian Cruise Line
The 3,998-passenger Norwegian Encore will be the fourth and final ship in Norwegian’s Breakaway-Plus class when it debuts in Miami on Nov. 2, 2019.
The ship will push Norwegian’s onboard activities to another level with the biggest racecourse at sea; two giant water slides spanning multiple stories on its water deck; a virtual reality complex; an open-air laser tag arena; and “Kinky Boots,” the Tony award-winning Broadway musical.
Norweigan Cruise Line's Encore. Photo: NCL.
Two more Oceania Cruises ships will return to service after the first phase of their OceaniaNEXT renovations in 2019: Sirena in May 2019 and Regatta in September 2019. Insignia has already returned to service in 2018, and Nautica will do so in June 2020.
Sirena and Regatta will have 342 new designer suites and staterooms; as well as new décor inspired by Oceania’s destinations in its restaurants, lounges, and bars.
Later phases of OceaniaNEXT will include new menus and dining experiences onboard; additional ports visited; and enhanced onshore experiences.
Paul Gauguin Cruises
Paul Gauguin’s 2019 itineraries include Tahiti, French Polynesia, Fiji, and the South Pacific. The Gauguin will sail two itineraries that feature Tonga, the Cook Islands, and the Society Islands.
The 2019 lineup also includes a number of big names for its expert sailings, including: photographer Douglas Peebles, singer Jonny Ross, entertainers Marc Otway and Abi Uttley, winegrower Jody Bogle, and Dr. Mary Hagedorn.
Regent Seven Seas
In 2019, Regent will launch two new excursion options: Go Local and Regent Choice.
Go Local excursions will give passengers a chance to experience a destination’s culture more directly than ever. The 122 different offerings — such as spending a day at a family-owned goat farm in Andalusia or fishing with residents of Portofino — will all be available during sailings in the Mediterranean and North Europe as well as in Buenos Aires, Argentina, and Montevideo, Uruguay. Nearly 50 excursions will be included in the cruise fare.
Regent Choice small group tours are smaller versions of the cruise line’s Free Unlimited Shore Excursions and Regent Choice options. Groups no larger than 16 will be able to experience an excursion centered around food, wine, art, architecture, or UNESCO World Heritage sites. About 250 of the Regent Choice tours will be available on Mediterranean and Northern Europe sailings in 2019.
Royal Caribbean International
For 2019, Royal Caribbean will debut the much-anticipated Spectrum of the Seas, the first of its Quantum Ultra class ships.
The 4,246-guest ship, the first that Royal has built specifically for Chinese guests, will start sailing in April 2019 with a 51-night world cruise from Barcelona to Shanghai that visits 13 different countries.
The ship will be the first Royal vessel to get the brand’s new suites-only area, a private enclave on decks 13 through 16 available to guests staying in Golden and Silver suites. It will also offer Royal’s two-level family suite that first debuted on Symphony of the Seas.
Aside from Spectrum, 2019 will also mark the first full year for the line’s flagship Terminal A at PortMiami. Earlier this year, Royal Caribbean said it expects nearly one million passengers to travel through the terminal in 2019.
In addition, five Royal ships will undergo refurbishments in 2019: Navigator starting in January, Empress starting in February, Voyager in September, Oasis in September through November, and Quantum in November.
Spectrum of the Seas' Sky Pad on its top deck.. Photo: RCCL.
Seabourn became the third Carnival Corp. brand approved to sail to Cuba by the U.S. government in 2018, and those sailings will kick off in fall 2019. It will officially launch its Cuba schedule with an 11-day sailing on Seabourn Sojourn on Nov. 4. The rest of its schedule will include 11-day, 12-day, and 14-day sailings out of Miami with visits to five Cuban ports — Antilla (Nipe Bay), Cienfuegos, Havana, Punta Francés in Isla de Juventud, and Santiago de Cuba. All sailings will include overnight stops in Havana.
Seabourn will also roll out its a la carte dinner experience, “Earth & Ocean at The Patio,” fleetwide after debuting it on Seabourn Ovation last year.
Also in 2019, the cruise line will debut four new productions on Odyssey, including: “That’s Life,” a big band show filled with music from Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Bobby Darin, and others from the Rat Pack era; and “A Stroke of Genius,” which tells the stories of some of the world’s most famous masterpieces — including works of art from Monet, Picasso, Van Gogh, and Warhol — through music, song, and dance.
After making headlines when it was purchased by Royal Caribbean Cruises in 2018, Silversea Cruises will celebrate its 10th anniversary in 2019.
During the year, Silversea will sail its first Northeast Passage crossing in 2019, when the Silver Explorer journeys there during a 25-day sailing that departs on Aug. 10. The 5,019-mile route will go from Nome, Alaska, to Tromsø, Norway, stopping at Wrangel Island (a UNESCO World Heritage Site inhabited by polar bears and walruses); Champ Island (an island located in Franz Josef Land, Russia, and home to mysterious stone spheres); Tikhaya Bay’s Rubini Rock; and Severnaya Zemlya, where travelers will be able to see iconic dome-shaped glaciers.
Silversea will also make its first sailing to Cuba in 2019. Silver Wind, Silver Spirit, and Silver Whisper will all voyage to Cuba during the year on sailings that Silversea said are intended to showcase the country’s history and culture.
Viking Ocean Cruises
The sixth ocean ship from Viking, the 930-guest Viking Jupiter, will start sailing on Feb.16. It will debut with a similar design to Viking’s other ocean ships, including all-balcony staterooms, two-room suites, free WiFi, and more time in port during sailings.
Also like the other Viking ships, Jupiter will feature an onboard “snow room” — a spa with snow falling from the ceiling.
Jupiter is scheduled to sail a variety of itineraries when it enters service, including journeys departing out of Bergen, Norway; Barcelona, Spain; Buenos Aires, Argentina; Stockholm, Sweden; and Santiago, Chile.
October 2019 will mark the start of Windstar’s Star Class ship expansion. The $250 million project will see each of its three Star Class ships — Star Breeze, Star Legend, and Star Pride — cut to allow the installation of a new 84-foot section, bringing the ships' total length to 453 feet. The ships will still be small enough to access the smaller ports and harbors that Windstar favors.
The project will also see the creation of state-of-the-art public spaces, including two new dining locations; new shops and retail space; a much larger fitness center; and a new world-class spa. Two new dining experiences include an "intimate, alternative dining restaurant" and a casual barbecue space adjacent to the top-deck Star Bar. The ships' Veranda restaurant will be expanded; and the swimming pool will be enlarged, reconfigured and elevated to offer better views, along with an enhanced outdoor deck area.
All ships in the fleet will be lengthened to increase capacity from 212 to 312 passengers.