2004 New Ship Preview

Highly anticipated ships include Queen Mary 2 and Pride of America

By: M.T. Schwartzman

One queen, three princesses, a bit of magic, plus a miracle and that’s just the beginning. All told, about a dozen new ships are scheduled to enter service in 2004, including two that are the first of their kind in a very long time.

Long Live the Queen

No newbuild has attracted more attention than Cunard Line’s Queen Mary 2, the first true ocean liner in 35 years. Not only is the 150,000-ton, 2,620-passenger QM2 a blast from the past, it’s also a marvel of modern naval architecture. It’s the largest, longest and, at $780 million, the most expensive cruise ship ever built. On-board advancements include a full-scale planetarium, a new “Chef’s Galley” for culinary demonstrations, an ambitious enrichment program and the first Canyon Ranch spa at sea.

Three Times a Lady

Princess Cruises will introduce not one, not two, but three giant ships in the first six months of 2004. All are bigger than anything Princess has built to date. Sailing from the West Coast to Alaska and the Mexican Riviera are the Diamond Princess and Sapphire Princess. In the Atlantic, the Caribbean Princess becomes the cornerstone of Princess Cruises’ strategy to establish a leading position in the world’s number one cruise destination. Among the drawing cards of the Caribbean Princess are its poolside LED movie screen, Caribbean-themed restaurant, and nearly 900 cabins with balconies the most aboard any ship sailing year-round in the Caribbean, according to the line.

Stars and Stripes Forever

In another eagerly awaited debut, NCL’s Pride of America becomes the first brand-new U.S.-flag passenger ship in nearly 50 years. Appropriately and symbolically, the vessel launches its seven-day Hawaii cruises on July 4 from Honolulu. Besides its all-American officers and crew, the Pride’s interior decor will be American through and through. Public rooms include Jefferson’s Bistro, the Cadillac Diner and the Lone Star Steak House. Even the hull gets a patriotic treatment, emblazoned with a mural of the stars and bars.

Westward Ho

Few cruise lines trade on their history as effectively as Holland America Line. In April, HAL introduces the 82,000-ton, 1,848-passenger Westerdam, which takes its name from the westward point on the compass plus the suffix “dam” used for all Holland America ships since the late 1880s. The first Westerdam was a combination cargo/passenger ship registering 12,149 tons. Its modern namesake would dwarf the original and offers a range of creature comforts, from private verandahs to multiple dining venues that make good use of its spacious interior.

Magic Act

Abracadabra: The 105,000-ton, 2,720-passenger Costa Magica, due in the fall, finishes a remarkable resurgence for the venerable Italian line. Along with its 2003 sister, the Costa Fortuna, these post-Panamax twins are “the largest passenger ships in Italian seafaring history,” the company says. The arrival of the Costa Magica marks the final phase of Costa’s fleet expansion since its acquisition by Carnival, which has increased capacity by more than 63 percent in the past two years.

It’s a Miracle

Who in the early 1970s would have believed that Carnival would become the industry’s largest cruise operator? The line sails into its fourth decade of fun with two new vessels: the 88,500-ton, 2,124-passenger Carnival Miracle arrives in March, followed by the larger 110,000-ton, 2,974-passenger Carnival Valor in December. The Miracle is most notable for its two-level supper club tucked under a canopy of red glass extending from the stack. The Valor takes its place in the Carnival fleet as one of the largest “SuperLiners” ever built.

Encore Performance

Naples-based MSC Italian Cruises’ second newbuild ever, the 58,600-ton, 1,590-passenger MSC Opera, sister to last year’s MSC Lirica, takes to the seas in April. The ambience onboard is designed to be reminiscent of the company’s Old-World roots, with “an atmosphere and service comparable to the best of Italian hotels,” the line says. Of course, modern facilities are found aboard as well, ranging from private verandas to an Internet cafe.

A Real Jewel

Royal Caribbean’s sole new ship of 2004 is the 90,090-ton, 2,100-passenger Jewel of the Seas, fourth in the company’s Radiance Class, which offers the benefits of Royal Caribbean’s largest ships in a relatively compact package. Shipboard amenities include a rock-climbing wall, miniature golf course and, new to this series, self-leveling pool tables.

Although this design has been well received, according to Royal Caribbean executives, the line has opted to decline future options in favor of a larger design. Dubbed the “Ultra Voyager,” this 160,000-ton leviathan will make its debut in 2006.