The MSC Fantasia will debut at the end of the year, likely in December. It will be the first in a new class of ships for MSC Cruises, featuring new luxury elements. The ship will offer a VIP area called MSC Yacht Club with 99 staterooms. These cabins will include butler service and access to an exclusive area with a pool, bar, solarium, and hot tubs. Other facilities include 1,637 cabins, the Aqua Spa with a thermal cave, five restaurants, four pools, a Formula One simulator, a 3D cinema, and a children's area with a two-story waterslide.
Take advantage of MSC Cruise's early-booking prices to get the best deal on an inaugural-season cruise aboard the MSC Poesia. Fares start at $899 for inside cabins.
For the first time in years, Norwegian is not launching a new ship in 2008, but it is re-launching an old ship. The Pride of Hawaii will sail its last Hawaii cruise under the NCL America flag on January 28. Then the ship will go into wet dock in Los Angeles where it will transform into the Norwegian Jade and be reflagged. The ship will receive new hull artwork (no more giant hula dancer) and a casino.
The Norwegian Jade will sail its first cruise under its new identity on February 16. The ship will journey from L.A. to Miami and then on to Barcelona. After another wet dock, the Jade begins 12- to 14-night eastern and western Mediterranean cruises. On May 30, the ship will move to its summer home of Southampton for cruises to the Mediterranean, North Cape, western Europe, and British Isles. In December, the Jade will once again cross the Atlantic and spend the winter cruising the Bahamas, Florida, and the Caribbean out of New York.
Fares start at $349 for an inside cabin on a one-time-only two-night cruise to nowhere out of New York. For an excellent deal, book the 13-night transatlantic sailing on February 29. Inside cabins start at $599—that's only $46 per night.
The 3,070-passenger Ruby Princess launches November 15, 2008. Princess' new ship will sail seven-night western Caribbean cruises out of Ft. Lauderdale, calling at Ocho Rios, Grand Cayman, Cozumel, and Princess Cays (Princess' private island). The ship will sail this itinerary through May 9, 2009.
The Ruby Princess is a sister to the Crown Princess and Emerald Princess. Like its siblings, the ship will feature Movies Under the Stars, two specialty restaurants, and an adults-only sun deck. Eighty percent of all outside cabins will have balconies.
The Ruby Princess' inaugural season is currently on sale. Prices start at $634 for inside cabins.
Royal Caribbean's last Freedom-class ship will make its debut in May. The Independence of the Seas will feature the class' signature amenities: FlowRider surfing, H2O Zone water park, cantilevered whirlpools, ice skating rink, and rock-climbing wall. It can carry a total of 4,375 guests in 1,817 staterooms.
The Independence will, however, be the first Freedom-class ship to explore Europe. It will sail a variety of four- to 14-night Europe cruises out of Southampton this spring, summer, and fall. The ship will then reposition to Ft. Lauderdale to sail six-night western Caribbean cruises to destinations in Central America, alternating with eight-night eastern Caribbean cruises.
Prices start at $629 for six-night western Caribbean sailings. For the best per-night rate, try a 13-night transatlantic cruise on November 6, 2008, or April 12, 2009. With so much to do onboard, you won't be bored during all those sea days.
As with Norwegian, Silversea's new ship is also not a new-build. The luxury line acquired an expedition ship, which it will retrofit and launch in June as the Silver Dawn. The ship's multimillion-dollar refurbishment will include upgrades for all staterooms and public areas and the addition of eight state-of-the-art Zodiac boats. After its makeover, the ship will carry 132 guests in 66 oceanview suites, many with balconies.
The Dawn will set sail from London and head for the Arctic Circle, Greenland, and Iceland during the summer season. For the fall and winter, the ship will reposition to South America and Antarctica. Starting in 2009, Silversea's new ship will spend every April through October in Tahiti and the rest of the year in South America and Antarctica.
Pricing is not yet available for the Silver Dawn's maiden season. If you're hoping for a bargain, keep your fingers crossed that one of the voyages will be included in Silversea's Silver Sailings discount program.