Take a look back through the history of the cruise industry, and 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, a decade ago, half a dozen ship launches would be cause for celebration.
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 poised to rise further still 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 welcomes the game-changing Roald Amundsen into its fleet in June.
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 wonders we’re most excited about.
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.”
First up: Celebrity reinvented the tender platforms aboard Celebrity Edge, turning it into a seaside bar and dining venue when not in use. The kicker: 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’t actually ride the platform, known as the Magic Carpet, up and down, but the very feature of it is likely to revolutionize the way guests embark and disembark when the ship is at anchor.
Due to set sail in December of 2018, Celebrity has almost an entire 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 for sure: this could be the line’s most game-changing ship to-date.
Le Laperouse – June
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.
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.
Norwegian Bliss – April
She’s 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 Breakaway Plus-class vessel adds a number of new features to Norwegian’s successful formula, including spectacular forward-facing observation lounges and a full eighty percent of accommodations that feature ocean views.
Under the hood, 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.
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 highly-luxurious, super-successful river cruise ships in Europe and beyond, it’s reasonable to have great expectations for the line’s first-ever oceangoing ship.
Seabourn Ovation – May
If it’s not broke, don’t fix it. That’s the attitude that ultra-luxury line Seabourn has taken with the upcoming Seabourn Ovation, which will largely be identical to this year’s Seabourn Encore.
That’s a good thing: 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 eclectic collection of Baltic and Northern European itineraries.
In October, she heads for the warmth of the Mediterranean and in November, transits the Suez Canal en-route to her new winter home in Asia. Of particular note 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.
Symphony of the Seas – April
Sure, she may be the fourth Oasis Class cruise ship to enter service for Royal Caribbean, but don’t discount this floating behemoth, which will take over the title of “Largest Cruise Ship in the World” when she sets sail in April.
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.
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