December 31, 2002
Coral Princess earns the "first new ship of 2003" award by default. The first in a brand new class for Princess Cruises, Coral Princess was actually slated to be one of 2002's last new ships but a series of delays postponed its introduction until early 2003. Which other cruise lines expect to birth new vessels? Fans of splashy inaugural festivities should mark calendars for lots of spring and summer activity. Among the debuts: *Adding another all-suite, all-balcony ship to its upscale fleet, Radisson Seven Seas Cruises' is introducing its 700-passenger Seven Seas Voyager in April. It will spend its inaugural season sailing a variety of European itineraries. *Island Princess, Princess Cruises' second Coral-class offspring, launches in May. *Crystal Cruises debuts its long-awaited third ship in July. The 1,080-passenger Crystal Serenity -- Crystal's biggest yet -- will spend the summer in Europe before heading west to the Caribbean, Panama Canal and Mexico. *Holland America, which just released Zuiderdam, is launching a second Vista-class ship: the 1,848-passenger Oosterdam is slated for a July 10 launch from Southampton; the ship will spend the summer in Europe. *Carnival Glory, a second Conquest class ship, launches from Port Canaveral on July 19; the 110,000-ton, 2,974-passenger ship will sail seven day Caribbean itineraries. *Later in 2003, life heats up at Royal Caribbean as the line launches not one but two ships. 2,100-guest Serenade of the Seas is headed for an autumn launch while the 3,114-passenger Voyager-class Mariner of the Seas debuts in winter. *European-based lines that are less in the mainstream are also expanding fleets. Mediterranean Shipping Cruises gets its first-ever newbuild: the 1,600-passenger MSC Lirica will set sail in April. *It's going to be a big year for Costa Cruises. Not only does the line get a new flagship -- the 2,114 passenger CostaMediterranea (debuts in June) -- but also will see an even bigger launch. The 2,720-passenger CostaFortuna will premiere in late 2003. *Swan Hellenic's "new" ship isn't actually brand new. It will abandon the Minerva I for a former Renaissance Cruises R-series vessel which it will call Minerva II. Launch is scheduled for April and the ship will maintain Swan Hellenic's unique niche of offbeat destinations, primarily Europe, in a country house hotel-style milieu. *Up north, Norwegian Coastal Voyage Inc./Bergen Line Services gets a big capacity boost when the 674-passenger Midnatsol replaces a 325-guest ship. The new vessel will have lots of the fancy extras that Americans hold dear, such as the line's first-ever private balconies, not to mention an Internet cafe.