Royal Caribbean’s Symphony of the Seas // © 2017 Norwegian Cruise Line
Feature image (above): Bliss will offer laser tag // © 2017 Royal Caribbean International
Although all cruise ships are created with both the onboard experience and the ports and regions they’re visiting in mind, 2018’s newbuilds display a distinct split between vessels designed to access the destination and ships designed to be the destination.
These days, there is a real difference in the philosophy of cruising, and it shows in the ships — both traditional cruise vessels and new expedition ships, which are luxurious beyond anything imagined even a decade ago.
The Ship as the Destination
Celebrity Cruises’ innovative 2,900-passenger Edge, which debuts in December, will provide a creative environment where clients can choose between exceptional entertainment, dining and lounging options depending on their mood. Design elements meant to create varying ambiances will also transform life onboard.
MSC Cruises’ 4,140-passenger MSC Seaside — the first of its class — will come to Miami at the end of this year, filled with mesmerizing high-tech entertainment. It will be followed by the 4,140-passenger MSC Seaview next June.
April will see a group of enticing newbuilds designed to keep guests immersed in the onboard experience, including Carnival Cruise Line’s 4,000-guest Carnival Horizon, the second Vista-class ship, which will feature new restaurants and a cinema complex that includes an IMAX theater. Norwegian Cruise Line’s 4,000-passenger Breakaway-Plus class Norwegian Bliss will also debut around that time, echoing the amazing features of Norwegian Joy, which was custom-designed for the Chinese market. Additionally, Royal Caribbean International will debut the 5,400-passenger Symphony of the Seas, its third Oasis-class ship, with seven onboard “neighborhoods.”
In November 2018, Holland America Line will introduce the 2,650-guest Nieuw Statendam, a sister ship to Koningsdam. It will be filled with musical diversions ranging from Billboard Onboard and Lincoln Center Stage to B.B. King’s Blues Club.
As the Means to a Destination
At the other end of the spectrum, six new expedition vessels will debut next year, with another six announced for 2019.
Seabourn Cruise Line’s all-suite, all-balcony 600-passenger Seabourn Ovation, a sister ship to the line’s Seabourn Encore, will be delivered next spring. In June, Lindblad Expeditions-National Geographic will launch the 100-passenger National Geographic Venture, sister ship to this year’s National Geographic Quest. Viking Ocean Cruises’ new 930-passenger, all-balcony Viking Orion, debuting next July, will stress destinations as the focus of its sailings.
Also next July, Hurtigruten will receive Roald Amundsen, the first of its four new 600-passenger hybrid expedition ships, as it heads toward silent and emission-free cruising. August will see the launch of Scenic’s expedition operation with the 228-guest Scenic Eclipse, equipped with a pair of helicopters and its own submarine.
Quark Expeditions, meanwhile, is adding to its seven-ship polar fleet with the 184-passenger World Explorer, which will sail in winter 2018.
For 2019, Hapag-Lloyd Cruises is building two new 230-passenger luxury expedition cruise ships: Hanseatic Nature and Hanseatic Inspiration. Crystal Cruises plans to launch four expedition yachts between 2019 and 2021, all with ice-strengthened hulls for cruises to polar regions. And Ponant is now building its 184-passenger Ponant Explorers: four new expedition sister ships named Le Laperouse, Le Champlain, Le Bougainville and Le Dumont-d'Urville. Two of the ships will debut next summer, and the other two will launch in 2019.