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 [% 11986 | | 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 [% 14665 | | 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.
[% 9823 | | 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.
[% 2360581 | | 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.
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, [% 12025 | | 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. [% 14460 | | 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.
[% 15420 | | 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, [% 16844 | | 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.