By early accounts, it was worth the wait, as 128,000-ton, 2,500-passenger Disney Dream has everything you’d want in a new cruise ship: the AquaDuck watercoaster, the industry’s biggest and most innovative waterslide; art that interacts with you as you pass by; a “Ratatouille”-inspired French restaurant; and a slew of signature shows. Of course, there are two common arguments against Disney Cruise Line. It’s only for kids, and it’s too expensive. We won’t disabuse you of the price issue —Disney is certainly more expensive than any mainstream ship, save, perhaps, the Oasis twins. But, the claim that adults won’t have fun may require some myth-busting. Like its fleetmates, Disney Dream has an adults-only District, with themed bars and lounges that include spots for Champagne, sports and dancing. There’s even a lounge where various city skylines appear on huge LCD “windows.”
A second notable new ship is Oceania Cruises‘ 66,000-ton, 1,252-passenger Marina, the first-ever new-build from the “luxe-lite” line. Now having a larger canvas with which to work—Marina is almost double the size of its three fleetmates—Oceania has focused on boosting the onboard culinary options. New restaurants include an Asian-fusion joint and Jacques, a French venue helmed by celebrity chef Jacques Pepin. If wielding a spatula is your thing, you can learn the finer points of cooking in a culinary arts center, which will host classes on every cruise.
Beyond the prototypes, here are a few trends in new-building:
- River Ship Explosion. Of the 15 new cruise ships on our list, seven are river ships. Five of those will be stationed along Europe‘s well-traversed Danube and Rhine Rivers, but there’s also a new-build that’s been custom designed to ply Southeast Asia‘s Mekong River, as well as one stationed on the Douro River, the historic waterway that courses through Spanish and Portuguese wine regions.
- New Twists on Old Designs. While a number of sister ships—the second, third or fifth in a series —are launching in 2011, just about all will usher in a handful of tweaks. Celebrity Silhouette, the fourth in the popular Solstice class, is getting a revamped Lawn Club (the real grass will remain) and a new bar, featuring 50 craft beers. Carnival Magic, sister to Carnival Dream, will benefit from a new waterslide, cruising’s first ropes course and the line’s first pub.
- Palatial Suites & Cabin Innovations. At 2,500 square feet, the top suites on Oceania’s Marina are home-sized, and the Ralph Lauren furnishings have them looking like the most stylish in the industry. With wall-to-wall, panoramic windows that open, Avalon Waterways is trying to create an open-air feel on its new river ship, Avalon Panorama. On S.S. Antoinette, the new-build from upscale river line Uniworld, top-deck suites have private balconies that, with the touch of a switch, can be converted into glass-enclosed conservatories.
Ready for the tour? Read on to learn about 2011’s 15 new cruise ships.
The Ship: Disney Dream
When it Debuts: January 26
What’s Cool: The 2,500-passenger Disney Dream will be Disney’s first new ship in more than a decade—but the wait was worth it. Impressive amenities include a 750-foot “watercoaster,” a pyrotechnic-laden deck party and Remy, a French venue with cruising’s steepest surcharge ($75). We’re also intrigued by Disney’s embrace of technology. Enchanted restaurants transform from day to night, art moves as guests wander by, inside cabins gain a “virtual” view, and kids can create in sound and animation studios.
Where it Goes: Short cruises out of Port Canaveral to the Bahamas and Castaway Cay
The Ship: Oceania’s Marina
When it Debuts: February 5
What’s Cool: Food is the focus on 66,000-ton, 1,258-passenger Marina, the first new-build for the “luxe-lite” line. A culinary arts center with 24 food stations, complete with induction cooktops, and every conceivable cooking implement, will be unlike any facility at sea. On each cruise, Marina will host workshops designed by Bon Appetit. The ship’s 10 restaurants include an Asian-fusion venue and a Jacques Pepin-helmed French eatery. The ship’s palatial suites have also caught our eye. The 2,500-square-foot Owner’s Suites have mahogany walls, huge suede couches, and wraparound balconies.
Where it Goes: Panama Canal, Caribbean and Amazon
The Ship: Viking Prestige
When it Debuts: March 19
What’s Cool: The 188-passenger Viking Prestige is a sister ship to Viking Legend, which debuted in 2009. Like its sibling, Prestige has a pair of splashy suites, bow-to-stern Wi-Fi (included in the price) and an innovative propulsion system offering a smoother, quieter and more fuel-efficient ride. It’s also one of the only river ships to carry single cabins— it has six. And for those with a green conscience, Prestige will run on hybrid diesel-electric engines that produce 20 percent fewer emissions and reduced noise/vibration.
Where It Goes: Danube
The Ship: Uniworld’s S.S. Antoinette
When it Debuts: March 27
What’s Cool: Antoinette’s body is identical to that of sister ship River Beatrice, but the insides are all custom. The award-winning design team behind Red Carnation hotels conspires to give each Uniworld ship its own personality, and Antoinette’s touches include Victorian walnut armchairs, mahogany sofas, Russian paintings, marble bathrooms, and a Blue Straus chandelier. Besides design, there are a handful of new additions, including a swimming pool, movie theater (with gourmet finger food), and top-deck suites with private balconies that, with the touch of a switch, can be converted into glass-enclosed conservatories.
Where it Goes: Rhine River
The Ship: AMAWATERWAYS’ Amaverde
When it Debuts: Late March
What’s Cool: The 166-passenger Amaverde, a sister ship to the 2010-launched Amabella, continues AMAWATERWAYS’ aggressive expansion program; the company has launched ships in Europe in every year since 2006. The ship will offer more options for Europe’s most popular river routes along the Rhine and Danube. Like its sister ship Amabella, Amaverde features bow-to-stern Wi-Fi, two restaurants and “infotainment” systems (combo TV/music/Web) in every cabin.
Where it Goes: Rhine, Mosel and Danube
The Ship: AIDAsol
When it Debuts: April 9
What’s Cool: AIDA is Germany’s favorite cruise line, and the 71,100-ton, 2,184-passenger AIDAsol is the fifth ship in the popular Sphinx class, a series known for its massive wellness areas, flamboyant interiors, and breezy, “club casual” vibe. With each Sphinx vessel, AIDA has introduced a handful of novel twists. AIDAsol will debut a 4D cinema, complete with moving chairs, water- and air-jets, and artificially generated odors (hmmm). Another first is a Buffalo steakhouse. Like sister ship AIDAblu, AIDAsol will have a microbrewery, where—get this—beer is brewed from purified sea water.
Where it Goes: The Baltic during the summer, Canaries during cooler months
The Ship: Ponant Cruises’ L’Austral
When it Debuts: April 27
What’s Cool: The second of two super-yachts from French line Ponant Cruises, 264-passenger L’Austral isn’t much different from its sister, L’Boreal. But, the itineraries have us drooling. L’Austral will debut in Greece and Croatia, and its size translates into visits to offbeat ports like Tinos, a pilgrim-friendly island with a stunning church, and Syros, which has legendary beaches and neo-classical buildings. Bigger news still: In 2011, it will join L’Boreal in Antarctica, where the two will sail as the most luxe ships in the region. Note: While Ponant is French, it reaches English-speakers through charters (Tauck and Abercrombie & Kent).
Where it Goes: Mediterranean, Morocco, the Cape Verde Islands, Western Africa, Antarctica
The Ship: Uniworld’s Douro Spirit
When it Debuts: April 28
What’s Cool: If the Rhine and Danube are the heart of European river cruising, the Douro River, which runs through Spain and Portugal, is fast becoming a major artery. In 2011, Uniword’s 128-passenger Douro Spirit will replace the Douro Queen, which the line has chartered since 2005. Douro Spirit features a swimming pool, French balconies, and a beauty salon—but frankly, the Douro is the destination here. The river, famous for its steep, terraced vineyards, is the oldest wine region in the world—port being the specialty— and visits to medieval cities, ancient monasteries and, of course, vineyards are on the docket.
Where it Goes: Douro River
The Ship: Carnival Magic
When it Debuts: May 1
What’s Cool: Carnival Magic is a sister ship to Carnival Dream, but it will not be a carbon copy. The 130,000-ton, 3,690-passenger vessel’s new features include Carnival’s first pub (the RedFrog Pub), with its own private label draught (ThirstyFrog Red), and a new Italian restaurant. On the top deck, you’ll find the cruise industry’s first ropes course, an outdoor weightlifting area, dual waterslides, and a 500-gallon bucket that dumps water. Magic will debut with a season of Mediterranean cruises, Carnival’s first since 2008. More itinerary news: After Europe, it will sail the Caribbean from Galveston, a big score for the Texas homeport.
Where it Goes: Mediterranean and Caribbean
The Ship: Avalon Panorama
When it Debuts: May 14
What’s Cool: The 166-passenger Avalon Panorama will be the 11th ship in the burgeoning Avalon Waterways fleet. While the new riverboat offers exactly what we’ve come to expect from Avalon—a whirlpool, Wi-Fi, outdoor bistro, and lounge-covered sun deck—the line is taking a novel approach to cabins. Sixty-four suites will feature wall-to-wall panoramic windows, which open by some seven feet to transform the cabin into an open-air balcony of sorts. It’s a small touch, sure, but an extra few feet is essential when you’re trying to get the right angle to snap photos of passing church spires.
Where it Goes: Danube, Rhine and Main
The Ship: Seabourn Quest
When it Debuts: June 20
What’s Cool: In the words of Seabourn spokesman Bruce Good, “Seabourn is more about what doesn’t change than about what does.” So, like its sisters, 32,000-ton, 450-passenger, all-suite Seabourn Quest will feature the largest spa in luxury cruising, a massive venue spanning two decks and 11,400 square feet; Seabourn Square, a public area encompassing a coffee bar, Internet cafe, and concierge; numerous dining venues; and Seabourn’s staple water sports platform, from which passengers can kayak or snorkel right from the ship. Ninety percent of all cabins will feature balconies.
Where it Goes: Baltic, Greece, Caribbean, World Cruise
The Ship: Costa Favolosa
When it Debuts: July 7
What’s Cool: The 114,500-ton, 3,000-passenger Costa Favoloa is the fourth in the Concordia class. Beyond having all the now-signature Concordia-class elements, such as the Asian-themed Samsara Spa, a pool area with giant movie screen and sliding glass roof, and a Grand Prix driving simulator, Favolosa will offer a handful of new options not found on its sister ships. These include six new suites with private verandahs and Jacuzzis; a new area for teens with a 4D cinema, ice cream bar and dance floor; and a new outdoor Aqua Park with a pirate galleon.
Where it Goes: Eastern Mediterranean
The Ship: Celebrity Silhouette
When it Debuts: July 23
What’s Cool: The 122,000-ton, 2,884-passenger Celebrity Silhouette is the fourth in the wildly popular Solstice class—but it won’t look exactly like its sisters. Big changes are set for the Lawn Club. Instead of a glassblowing studio, Silhouette’s grass will house the Lawn Club Grill, an art studio and eight cabana-style private alcoves. Michael’s Club, a Celebrity mainstay, is also being transformed from an “elegant social club” into a bar serving some 50 hand-crafted beers. But, we’re just as excited about Silhouette’s homeport. The ship will sail to the Caribbean from Bayonne, NJ, giving Northeasterners the fly-free option to try a brand-new ship.
Where it Goes: Eastern Mediterranean, Caribbean
The Ship: Tauck Small Ship Cruising’s m/s Treasures
When it Debuts: August
What’s Cool: The 118-passenger m/s Treasures is the latest addition to the Tauck Small Ship Cruising fleet. Like its sister ships, Treasures features 14 300-square-foot suites with French balconies, walk-in closets and marble baths; a Nintendo Wii for competitive gaming; and a 24-hour Jacuzzi. The line is also upping the ante on bedding—it’s added 400 thread-count Egyptian cotton sheets and Hungarian down pillows to all of Treasures’ cabins. And, it liked the feel of the new bedding so much that it decided to upgrade the rest of the fleet with the same goods.
Where it Goes: Rhine, Danube
The Ship: AMAWATERWAYS’ Amalotus
When it Debuts: September
What’s Cool: Demand was so high for AMAWATERWAY’s first Mekong River-based ship, La Marguerite, that only five months into the maiden season, AMA announced it would build another. The slightly larger Amalotus will accommodate 124 passengers in a variety of cabin categories, including a monster 624-square-foot suite. Onboard decor features the polished wood and colonial-style interiors already found on La Marguerite, and the ship will introduce an Asian-style “Hot Pot” dining option.
Where it Goes: The Mekong River from Vietnam’s Ho Chi Minh City to Cambodia’s Siem Reap