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In an annual rite that always brings an air of anticipation, the
parade of new ships is about to begin.
The first new vessel of 2007, Carnival Cruise Lines’
2,974-passenger, 110,000-ton Carnival Freedom, kicks off her
inaugural season on March 5, which includes Carnival’s first-ever
calls at the Greek Islands and Turkey. Twelve-day cruises of the
Mediterranean continue through Oct. 16, when Freedom heads
westbound on a trans-Atlantic crossing to her winter homeport in
Miami. From there, Caribbean cruises depart weekly.
On April 11, the 3,080-passenger, 113,000-ton Emerald Princess
commences service from Rome. The Emerald features many of the
design elements and amenities that made their debut on the Crown
Princess, such as the new piazza-style atrium, additional
alternative dining venues and the adults-only Sanctuary. The
inaugural season includes a series of Greek Island/Mediterranean
cruises before taking up residence in Fort Lauderdale for Caribbean
sailings next October.
Expedition cruising gets a boost in May from the Norwegian Coastal
Voyage. Best known for its scenic cruising of the Norwegian Fjords
and Antarctica, NCV enhances its portfolio of remote destinations
when it puts the 318-passenger, 12,700-ton Fram into service.
Billed as “the first ship built for exclusive use in Greenland, the
Fram blends expedition-style utility with a touch of modern cruise
amenities. Facilities include a wellness center and alternative
Meanwhile, Royal Caribbean International unveils its second
Freedom-Class ship, the 3,634-passenger, 160,000-ton Liberty of the
Seas. The Liberty promises all the “wow factor” of her much
ballyhooed predecessor, including a FlowRider surfing simulator and
H2O Zone family water park. Commencing on May 19, Liberty sails
seven-day cruises roundtrip from Miami.
Spring also ushers in Costa Serena, Costa Cruises’
3,000-passenger, 112,000-ton vessel which sets sail from Venice on
May 26. Like her sister, 2006’s Costa Concordia, the new Costa
Serena is expected to boast such innovative features as spa suites
that link directly to the fitness center, and a Formula One
race-car simulator, which puts passengers in the driver’s seat of a
virtual race car.
Another European line, MSC Cruises introduces the 2,550-passenger,
89,600-ton MSC Orchestra on June 2, beginning a series of
seven-night roundtrip itineraries from Venice sailing to Greece,
Turkey and Croatia. MSC is one of the few lines producing ships for
year-round service in the Mediterranean, and in November, the
Orchestra repositions to Genoa for 11-night roundtrip sailings,
alternating Greece, Egypt, Libya and Rome with Spain, Morocco,
Canary Islands and Madeira itineraries.
Continuing into the fall, Norwegian Cruise Line enters the
2,394-passenger, 93,500-ton Norwegian Gem into service. After a
series of five inaugural Mediterranean cruises in October and
November, the Gem takes up year-round residence in New York
beginning on Dec. 22. Itineraries include seven days to Florida and
the Bahamas or 10 and 11 days to the Caribbean. The Gem joins
sister Norwegian Pearl as NCL’s first vessels with rock-climbing
walls and the only two ships at sea with on-board bowling
Perhaps the most innovative ship of 2007 is the last one scheduled
to debut: Cunard Line’s 2,014-passenger, 90,000-ton Queen Victoria,
small enough to fit through the Panama Canal yet still the
second-largest Cunarder ever built. Queen Victoria will sport
several novel features, such as the first “private boxes” at sea in
the ship’s Royal Court Theater and the first two-story library,
packed with 6,000 books and an impressive spiral staircase
connecting the two decks. The QV also has a grand,
British-colonial-style conservatory, replete with central fountain,
greenery and a retractable roof. A unique floating museum,
Cunardia, houses Cunard artifacts and memorabilia. After two
inaugural European voyages in December, the newest Queen sets off
on a 106-day world cruise departing from Southampton on Jan. 6,
2008, visiting 36 ports in 23 countries.
So all in all, the coming year offers much for travel agents and
their cruise clients to be excited about even as the next
generation of gigantic mega-ships takes shape in European
shipyards. These include Celebrity Cruises’ 118,000-ton Solstice
Class, MSC Cruises’ 133,500-ton Fantasia Class, Norwegian Cruise
Line’s 150,000-ton F1 series and biggest of all, Royal Caribbean’s
220,000-ton Project Genesis.
Small But Sweet
Almost lost in the crowd of mega-ships is one diminutive newbuild
for 2007: American Cruise Lines’ 100-passenger American Star, its
fourth ship since 2000. The American Star begins her season with a
seven-night maiden voyage on the Chesapeake Bay, departing from
Baltimore on June 2. She then makes her way north for an inaugural
summer along the Maine coast starting June 16, effectively doubling
ACL’s capacity in northern New England.
Several “mid-size” ships make their debut this year, too. All are
older vessels with new names for 2007. On April 19, the
680-passenger Royal Princess (former R8/Minerva II) joins Princess
Cruises for Mediterranean sailings. On May 5, the 718-passenger
Celebrity Journey (former R6/Blue Dream) joins Celebrity Cruises’
Xpeditions brand, beginning with Bermuda itineraries. In October,
Xpeditions launches the 710-passenger Celebrity Quest (former
R7/Blue Moon) for extended-length sailings in the Caribbean.