If you take a look back through the history of the cruise industry, you’d be hard-pressed to find a time that is, to quote The Love Boat, as “exciting and new” as the coming year. A recent report by the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) notes that 2018 will bring a record 27 new cruise ships to the oceans of the world – an astonishing number, particularly when you consider that only a decade ago, half a dozen ship launches would be considered a large number.
CLIA estimates that some 27 million people will take a cruise in 2018. That’s a notable increase from this year, which is expected to finish at around 25.8 million passengers. That’s a 20 percent increase in passengers over five years, and those numbers are likely to rise even morel as new and exciting ships come along.
While many of these new ships belong to the big, easily-recognizable lines, many of these new ships that will be debuting in 2018 will enter service with lines you might not be that familiar with. Ponant, for example, takes delivery of its new Le Laperouse and Le Champlain this summer, while Norwegian cruise, ferry and polar exploration line Hurtigruten was to launch the game-changing Roald Amundsen into its fleet this year, but is now expecting to make modifications and plans are for the ship to begin sailing in 2019.
There are too many ships coming out in 2018 to list here, but we’ve drawn up a short-list of some of the oceangoing vessels we’re most excited about.
Carnival Horizon – April
Although Carnival Cruise Line’s Carnival Horizon is currently sailing in Europe, and a direct sister to 2016’s Carnival Vista, there are some noteworthy features that make the newest FunShip worth getting excited about.
To start with, she’s operating Carnival’s first (albeit very short) European season in several years, as Carnival Horizon debuts in the Mediterranean before setting out across the Atlantic for New York.
In addition to boasting cool features like Carnival’s new Cuban-themed staterooms and an onboard brewery, Carnival Horizon is noteworthy for being the first ship to feature a Dr. Seuss-themed waterpark and waterslides. This continues Carnival’s successful ongoing partnership with Dr. Seuss Enterprises that’s sure to create delight for cruisers of all ages.
Norwegian Bliss – April
She is big and bold, and she’s also debuting in Alaska. Norwegian Cruise Line has designed Norwegian Bliss from the ground-up to be suitable for the region’s changing climates, and the Breakaway Plus-class vessel adds a number of new features to Norwegian’s successful formula, including spectacular forward-facing observation lounges and the majority (80%) of accommodations feature ocean views.
Under the waterline, Norwegian Bliss has been designed to comply with strict environmental regulations on the Pacific Coast, making her a cleaner-running ship than her predecessors.
If you’ve sailed aboard sister-ship Norwegian Escape, you’ll have a good idea of what to expect from this ship. The big news, however, is her destination. Few ships are chosen to debut in Alaska. The fact that Norwegian Bliss will have her christening ceremonies in her homeport of Seattle, Washington is great news for fans of the Last Frontier and West Coast cruisers alike. She will also participate in Caribbean sailings in the future.
Symphony of the Seas – April
Yes, she is the fourth Oasis Class cruise ship to enter service for Royal Caribbean, but don’t discount this floating behemoth, which took over the title of “Largest Cruise Ship in the World” when she set sail in Europe April 7th.
Evolutionary rather than revolutionary, Symphony of the Seas nonetheless offers plenty of bang for your big-ship buck. After spending her inaugural summer season sailing throughout the sunny Mediterranean, she sails across the Atlantic to her winter homeport of Miami, Florida in late 2018.
Starting in early November, she will begin to offer a series of alternating seven-night Eastern and Western Caribbean itineraries that go to the region’s most popular ports of call.
With a maximum capacity of 6,780 guests and a crew of 2,175, Symphony of the Seas is the biggest ship by far on our list of vessels debuting in 2018, making her a worthy inclusion for those who like their cruises big, bright and filled with exciting things to do.
Seabourn Ovation – May
Seabourn Encore entered service in January to much fanfare from press and rave reviews from guests, despite being the largest ship in the Seabourn fleet. Like her sister, Seabourn Ovation will carry 600 guests in an all-suite configuration. She will enter service in the Europe in May, sailing an exciting collection of Baltic and Northern European itineraries.
In October, she heads for the warmth of the Mediterranean and in November, transits the Suez Canal enroute to her new winter home in Asia. An awesome itinerary is Seabourn Ovation’s 52-day “Incense & Orchids” Holiday cruise that departs Piraeus (Athens), Greece on November 14, 2018 and arrives in Hong Kong on January 5, 2019.
Le Laperouse — June; Le Champlain — August
Le Laperouse could be the ship that puts French luxury cruise line Ponant on the map with North Americans. Due to set sail this summer, she’ll be exclusively chartered for a handful of voyages by North American tour and river cruise operator Tauck on itineraries around Iceland.
It is in the world’s polar regions that this chic vessel will make its biggest mark. A proper Ice Class vessel (rated to Ice Class 1C), Le Laperouse will boast all the latest technical enhancements that turn her into a proper luxury expedition ship. Guests will even be able to sit and admire the view from the ship’s underwater lounge called the Blue Eye.
With just 188 guests onboard, Le Laperouse will have spacious oceanview staterooms and suites; an onboard marina platform; a fleet of zodiac rafts; and two restaurants serving up notable French cuisine. Exploration never looked so good. Look for her sister Le Champlain to begin sailing in August.
Scenic Eclipse – August
This is a big one: the debut of Scenic’s first purpose-built cruise ship, the luxury-expedition hybrid known as Scenic Eclipse. You might have heard about its trendy interior design, or its fleet of onboard toys for exploration, including a submersible craft and its own dedicated helicopter.
Expedition cruises are all the rage right now, and the versatile Scenic Eclipse spares no expense in this department. Given that Scenic has operated a fleet of very luxurious, extremely successful river cruise ships in Europe and beyond, it’s reasonable to have great expectations for the line’s first-ever oceangoing ship.
Celebrity Edge – December
The first ship of its class, Celebrity Edge may just be the most spectacular cruise ship that Celebrity Cruises has ever created – and that’s saying a lot. It’s one of the most hotly-anticipated ship launches of 2018, yet it remains the ship we know the least about.
“Celebrity Edge is one of the most exciting, innovative and transformational ships I have ever been involved with,” said Richard D. Fain, Chairman and CEO, Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. “The new features and refined design will establish a new baseline for ships from here on out.”
Celebrity reinvented the tender platforms aboard Celebrity Edge, turning it into a seaside bar and dining venue when not in use. The awesome bonus is that this tender platform can rise vertically up and down the ship’s starboard side, giving Celebrity Edge its most distinctive exterior profile.
Celebrity tells us you can not actually ride the platform, known as the Magic Carpet, up and down as no passengers will be on the platform while it is moved. There will be multiple uses for this feature, depending on its deck position. The tender usage will likely revolutionize the way guests embark and disembark when the ship is at anchor.
Due to set sail in December of 2018, Celebrity has more than half a year left to whet the public’s appetite for this trendsetting ship. While we may not know much now about the ship’s exact features, one thing is a sure bet — this could be the line’s most game-changing ship to date.
Each photo above is furnished by the shown ship’s cruise line.
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