There was a time when “cruising” meant a vacation in the middle of the ocean, where you did nothing but eat, tan, and play trivia. And while that might still be a lot of people’s idea of a perfect weekend getaway, cruising has evolved. If you haven’t been on a cruise liner in the past few years, you should. (Or, at the least, you should read about what it's like to work on the boat -- it's insane!).
Gone are the days when ice sculptures, blackjack tables, and midnight buffets were considered cutting-edge draws. Today, every new floating city that launches sets the bar higher in terms of size, amenities, and crazy onboard activities (think: skydiving, "snow" rooms, and waterslides), which is why we thought it'd be fun to take a closer look at some of the coolest new ships to set sail this year, and a few that will hit the high seas in 2016.
Norwegian Cruise Line
Route: Eastern Caribbean (Tortola, St. Thomas, Nassau)
This ship is so Miami, Norwegian had Pitbull perform at its christening. It serves food from popular 305-favorite Pubbelly, as well as pours local Florida beers from Funky Buddha and Wynwood Brewing. Rounding out the F&B is a wine bar from the Mondavi family and two restaurants from James Beard Award-winning Jose Garces.
Escape is the largest in the NCL fleet and can accommodate 4,200 passengers, some of whom will stay in the luxurious ship-within-a-ship Haven -- complete with its own retractable-roof pool area. For entertainment, there are Broadway shows, a 19,000sqft casino, waterslides, and a ropes course. There's even a “snow room" in the spa where guests can cool off in fresh powder after coming out of the sauna.
Route: Germany (Nuremberg, Bamberg, Wurzburg, Wertheim, Heidelberg, Frankfurt)
European river cruises aren’t the all-inclusive festivals of gluttony that some of the ocean cruises are. Which is why Viking Star is the perfect fit for a more exclusive voyage: small, understated, but utterly luxurious. In addition to a fire pit and free wine/beer, the ship’s got an “explorer’s lounge” where you can relax and enjoy panoramic views of the continent as you float down the Rhine. Or, if you’d prefer to enjoy Europe from the comfort of your own cabin, every room boasts a private balcony.
Routes: Eastern Caribbean, Western Caribbean, Canada, New England
Ok, so like an Oscar contender trying to beat the end-of-year clock, the Regal Princess actually debuted in late 2014 -- but it didn’t really get underway until this year when it cruised through the Caribbean and up to Canada. This 19 deck, 141,000-ton vessel can carry up to 3,560 passengers and has over 1,000 cabins WITH balconies. Its trademark feature, however, is the SeaWalk -- a glass bottom walkway that takes guests 28 feet away from the ship so they can stand and look down into the water. It’s also got a poolside nightclub, the world’s largest floating pastry shop (!!), and an onboard television studio.
Anthem of the Seas
If you're the type of person who sees cruises as a good time to work on your tan (and expand your waistline), then the Anthem of the Seas is probably not for you. The ship holds a whopping 4,180 passengers and offers them the chance to do everything from sky dive and drive bumper cars, to roller skate and attend circus school. Or... just enjoy insane 360-degree views by riding out over the water in North Star, a giant glass orb attached to a mechanical arm. Seriously, look at that thing.
When you're hungry, the “dynamic dining” program onboard shuns the traditional mass feeding concept and lets you eat at any of their smaller EIGHTEEN restaurants. And since the whole ship has high-speed Internet, you can tell everybody about your cruise on Snapchat.
As the name suggests, this ship is so British you’d think it ran on Boddingtons. Not only is the 1,083ft, 141,000-ton behemoth emblazoned with the Union Jack, it features a restaurant from noted British TV personality James Martin and the UK’s largest floating art collection with paintings of J.K. Rowling and Noel Gallagher. There’s also a restaurant from Michelin-starred Atul Kochar, a sports arena for cricket, and a bar that pours 70 beers, ales, and ciders from over 56 UK counties. Oh yea, it’s also got four pools, one of which is an adults-only serenity spot. Britannia's the largest ship ever built for the British market and can hold up to 3,647 passengers on its Mediterranean route.
Routes: Mediterranean (April 2016)
Another much-anticipated boutique luxury liner is the totally-transformed Sirena, which’ll be making its inaugural voyage from Barcelona to Venice in April. Onboard, you’ll see some names you might recognize: Tuscan Steak and Red Ginger for elegant dining, and the Canyon Ranch spa for pampered luxury. Sirena holds 684 passengers and because of its smaller size can reach some less-traveled cruise ports like Ephesus, Turkey, Cagliari in Sardinia, and Saint Malo, France.
Harmony of the Seas
Royal Caribbean International
Route: Mediterranean: Barcelona, Palma de Mallorca, Provence, Florence, Rome, Naples (May 2016); Caribbean: Nassau, St. Thomas, St. Maarten, Haiti, Jamaica, Cozumel (November 2016)
Let’s just start with the obvious: The Harmony of the Seas is going to be the biggest cruise ship... IN THE HISTORY OF CRUISE SHIPS! Yep, this charming vessel will house 5,397 guests in some of the industry's grandest staterooms. There will be virtual "balconies," seven distinct "neighborhoods," and an entire waterpark highlighted by the world's largest onboard waterslide, the 10-story Ultimate Abyss.
Seven Seas Explorer
Regent Seven Seas Cruises
Routes: Mediterranean, Caribbean, Panama Canal (July 2016)
Any ship that sets its maiden voyage from Monte Carlo is probably gonna be pretty luxe, and this long-haul 750-passenger liner fits that bill. It’s decked out with all-suites and will sail the Med next summer before heading across the Atlantic on a 16-night voyage from Rome to Miami. Once in Florida, it’ll tour the Caribbean before making a New Year’s Panama Canal crossing to LA.
Onboard, Explorer will boast a trifecta of trendy restaurants -- French, Pan-Asian, and Prime Steak -- as well as a top-deck “observation lounge.” And for the uber elite, a 3,000sqft suite complete with a custom-made Steinway piano, in-cabin spa (w/ unlimited spa treatments), and a 270-degree view from a wrap-around balcony. All for a mere $5,000 per person, per night.
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