This year, seven new ships and two refitted vessels will make their public debuts. You'll see some carbon copies of ships you already know, such as Royal Caribbean's Independence of the Seas and Princess' Ruby Princess. At the same time, Carnival, Celebrity, Holland America, and MSC Cruises are rolling out new classes of vessels with their 2008 new-builds. Look to these lines for innovations in ship amenities and design.
As always, book early if you want to snag a maiden-season voyage for the lowest possible price. Short preview sailings allow you to try out a new ship on the cheap. Or, look for repositioning cruises to offer lower-than-normal per-night rates.
Here's what to expect in 2008.
On July 2, the "largest 'Fun Ship' ever constructed" will set sail on its inaugural voyage. The 3,006-passenger Carnival Splendor will offer diverse itineraries and innovative amenities within the Carnival fleet.The Splendor begins its career with an eight-night Mediterranean cruise before heading to northern Europe for a series of 12-night sailings. Then it's back to the Med for 12-night fall cruises before repositioning to Ft. Lauderdale for seven-night Caribbean voyages. In 2009, the Splendor will become the first Carnival ship to sail around South America before it settles in Long Beach for year-round Mexican Riviera cruises.
Onboard, the ship's design aptly focuses on "splendid things." The new Cloud 9 Spa will feature a thalassotherapy pool, a full gym, and 68 spa staterooms accessible by private elevator. The central pool deck area will sport a retractable glass dome and Carnival's popular Seaside Theatre with a 270-square-foot outdoor LED screen. The ship will also feature the Pinnacle Supper Club (Carnival's specialty restaurant) and a 5,500-square-foot children's play area.
You can sail the Carnival Splendor this year for as little as $249 per person. Reservations are currently available for 2008 and 2009 itineraries.
The Celebrity Solstice, due in December, will introduce a new class of ships for Celebrity. The design will incorporate touches of luxury throughout the 2,850-passenger ship. Staterooms will be larger with spacious bathrooms, expanded storage space, and modular closets. The AquaClass cabins will feature spa amenities and provide guests with exclusive access to the AquaSpa relaxation room, Persian Garden steam room, and the intimate specialty restaurant, Blu. Everyone onboard will be able to appreciate new and updated bars and lounges, as well as the first-ever glassblowing demonstrations at sea.
The ship's maiden season features seven-night eastern Caribbean itineraries from Ft. Lauderdale to Puerto Rico, St. Kitts, and St. Maarten, alternating with voyages to Puerto Rico, St. Maarten, Tortola, and Labadee. The Solstice will sail these routes through April 12, 2009.
Fares start at $819 for inside cabins, but the verandah cabins (priced from $1,099) will be the big focus on this ship. Inaugural season cruises are currently on sale.
Holland America will also introduce a new class with its new ship. The ms Eurodam will be the first Signature-class vessel when it debuts this July. The 2,104-guest Eurodam will have one more deck than its Vista-class siblings and feature three specialty restaurants (including pan-Asian and Italian eateries), more high-end shops, and staterooms on the top decks.
The Eurodam will set sail on a three-night prelude cruise on July 2 before departing for its maiden voyage to northern Europe on July 5. The ship will remain in Europe through August, then head to New York for Canada and New England voyages through mid-October. The Eurodam will reposition once again, this time to Ft. Lauderdale, to embark on seven-night eastern Caribbean cruises through April 2009.
If you want to check out the Eurodam on the cheap, book either its three-night prelude cruise in Europe or its three-night introductory cruise out of New York. Prices start at $599 and $499 per person, respectively.
MSC Cruises is the only line debuting two new ships in 2008. The MSC Poesia will debut on April 5 in Dover and then sail to its Venice homeport, where it will offer seven-night eastern Mediterranean cruises through November. Of the 1,274 staterooms on this Musica-class ship, 80 percent are outside and 65 percent sport a verandah. The ship will also have four restaurants, 10 bars, a children's play area, mini-golf, a theater, and a spa.