The year 2018 marks the start of a cruise ship building boom unlike any the industry has seen for many years. Between 2018 and 2025, cruise lines across the globe will add more than 85 ships, with more likely still to be announced. In 2018 alone, the industry will welcome 14 oceangoing cruise ships (including two specifically for the German-speaking market), ranging in capacity from 100 to 5,400 passengers -- roughly half will hold more than 1,000 cruisers.
Cruise ships entering service in 2018 span the cruise category gamut, with eight falling solidly into the mainstream category and boasting such onboard attractions as electric Go-Kart courses, multi-slide water parks, laser tag arenas and floating deck space. Five fall into either the traditional or luxury expedition category, where kayaks and snorkel gear are kept onboard for daily use and observation lounges offer some of the most prime sightseeing in the world. The remaining three ships are considered luxury; high-touch service and opulent accommodations are some of their hallmarks.
Among the new class of 2018, the industry will also see first-in-class ships, across categories, including Celebrity Edge in the mainstream cruising market and Le Laperouse and Le Champlain in the luxury expedition market.
Tied for the title of biggest cruise ship in the world (by size, not passenger count), Symphony of the Seas measures in at 227,000 gross tons and accommodates 5,497 passengers at double occupancy and is the fourth ship in Royal Caribbean's Oasis class. It includes several favorites from its sister ships, but delivers a few new attractions too.
A staple of all Oasis-class ships is the seven-"neighborhood" concept that divides the ship into themed areas like Central Park and Entertainment Place. New on Symphony will be a reimagined Boardwalk, dominated by the Playmakers Sports Bar spanning the length of the space and featuring more than 30 TVs streaming sports games; also at Playmakers will be a variety of arcade style games including Ms. Pacman and Skeeball. The menu will include craft beer and pub-style fare for a fee.
Other new-to-Royal Caribbean highlights of the ship will be a pop-up galactic-themed laser tag arena, a full-scale production of "Hairspray," the El Loca Fresh Mexican food-to-go eatery and a New England seafood shack-inspired venue called Hooked Seafood, with an a la carte menu of fresh seafood and a raw bar.
As on sister ship Harmony of the Seas, Symphony will feature three water slides collectively known as "The Perfect Storm," a 10-story spiral slide called "The Ultimate Abyss," multiple FlowRiders and a dedicated Escape Room.
Symphony of the Seas Itineraries: Mediterranean, Caribbean
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The second in Carnival's Vista class of ship, which launched with Carnival Vista in spring of 2016, 3,936-passenger Carnival Horizon will feature a mix of popular Carnival standards, favorite attractions so far only found on Carnival Vista and a handful of firsts for the line.
Among the new features will be two expansions of existing venues. A teppanyaki restaurant will be tacked on to the already popular Bonsai Sushi. Guy's Pig & Anchor Bar-B-Q will be combined with the RedFrog Pub & Brewery to create the Guy's Pig & Anchor Bar-B-Q Smokehouse Brewhouse, which will serve a variety of smoked meats and sides for lunch and dinner, along with craft beer brewed onboard and served with live music every night.
Like Vista, Carnival Horizon will also feature an IMAX theater at sea, showing first-run movies, as well as recent hits and short films; the open-air recumbent bike thrill ride SkyRide; a water park with a water tube slide that's more than 450 feet long; and Family Harbor, a dedicated families-only zone compete with family-friendly cabins with room for up to five, as well as a family lounge.
Carnival Horizon Itineraries: Mediterranean, Bermuda, Caribbean
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Norwegian Cruise Line's Norwegian Bliss is the third ship in its Breakaway-Plus class, but only the second dedicated to Western cruisers -- the second ship, Norwegian Joy, was custom-built for the Chinese market. But like its Chinese sister ship, among Norwegian Bliss' most innovative onboard attractions will be a two-level electric Go-Kart racetrack and an open-air laser tag course. As with other Breakaway and Breakaway-Plus class ships, it will also feature The Waterfront with outdoor seating for 13 restaurants and bars.
Norwegian Bliss also will be the first ship that Norwegian Cruise Line has ever debuted in Alaska (technically Seattle, but doing Alaska cruises). As such, one of the ship's most striking venues will be a massive 20,000-square-foot Observation Lounge with 180-degree views spanning the entire forward section of the ship to offer unparalleled views in Alaska.
Another highlight of the ship will be an Aqua Park featuring two water slides and a kids' splash area. Of the slides, the high-speed Ocean Loops is the best for adrenaline seekers as it offers a free-fall experience that drops riders into two loops, one of which is see-through and stretches out over the side of the ship.
New to Norwegian Bliss will be a cabin category for solo travelers that offers virtual ocean views. Slightly larger than its sister ships, Norwegian Bliss will carry 4,004 passengers at double occupancy.
Norwegian Bliss Itineraries: Alaska, West Coast, Caribbean
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The only first-in-class cruise ship within the mainstream cruise category debuting in 2018, Celebrity Edge will be the first of four new cruise ships in the line's Celebrity Edge Class. Among the first-at-sea inventions that will be showcased on the ship will be a floating deck known as the Magic Carpet that hangs off the side of the ship and moves up and down from Deck to Deck 16. The function of the tennis court-sized deck will depend on which deck the Magic Carpet has been stationed at any given time.
Another first for Celebrity will be cabins with "balcony" spaces that can transform from an outdoor veranda to an indoor sun room with the touch of a button. Sixteen of these will be single-accommodation rooms. In keeping with the line's emphasis on the suite experience, 12 percent of the cabins on Celebrity Edge will be suites; the most impressive of these are the two Iconic Suites, each measuring more than 5,000 square feet and located above the bridge, facing forward. The balconies for these cabins will have private Jacuzzis and cabanas. The Retreat, a suite passengers-only enclave will feature a private pool, sun deck, lounge and restaurant.
Celebrity Edge will have a double passenger capacity of 2,900, making it larger than Celebrity Cruises' Millennium-class ships but slightly smaller than those in the Solstice class.
Celebrity Edge Itineraries: Caribbean, Mediterranean
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The second in Holland America's Pinnacle Class of ship, 2,650-passenger Nieuw Statendam will share most of the same venues and design elements as sister ship Koningsdam.
Among the standouts will be the three-venue Music Walk, which offers live music in three distinct styles: 50 years of hits as played by dueling piano players at Billboard Onboard; chamber music, including modern tunes played chamber style at Lincoln Center Stage; and blues and jazz at the high-energy B.B. King's Blues Club.
For foodies, a highlight will be the French-style brasserie Rudi's Sel de Mer, while oenophiles will appreciate the Blend wine-making experience.
Like its sister ship, Nieuw Statendam will offer specially designed staterooms for solo travelers, as well as family ocean-view rooms that can accommodate up to five people.
Nieuw Statendam Itineraries: Bahamas, Caribbean, Baltic, Mediterranean
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Less than six months after MSC Cruises debuted the first ship in its new Seaside class, it's launching the second ship in that class, MSC Seaview.
Virtually identical to MSC Seaside, MSC Seaview will hold 5,179 passengers at double occupancy and feature a massive 463,000 square feet of pubic space. Built for warm weather cruising, much of that public space is given over to outdoor pursuits, from an outdoor promenade filled with shops, bars and alfresco dining, to a four water slide aqua park with climbing zone and 426-foot-long zipline. Other fun outdoor features are see-through glass walkways extending out over the ocean and open-air spa treatment cabanas.
Other standout features of the ship are several innovative cabin categories including terraced balcony cabins at the back of the ship overlooking both the sea and the promenade below; suites with private hot tubs on the balconies; and cluster cabins, designed specifically with families in mind.
Dining choices will include two buffets, a seafood restaurant, French bistro, fine-dining steakhouse and a three-pronged Asian marketplace with traditional teppanyaki, a sushi bar and Hawaiian-influenced pan-Asian restaurant from celebrity chef Roy Yamaguchi.
MSC Seaview Itineraries: Mediterranean
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For the first time in -- well, ever -- the cruise industry will see several expedition ships debut in a single year -- four in fact.
Among the more traditional of the expedition ships launching in 2018 is Lindblad Expeditions' 100-passenger National Geographic Venture. Holding 100 passengers, the ship will feature the usual expeditionary onboard accoutrements like sea kayaks and warm- and cold-weather snorkel gear, as well as new goodies like underwater and bow cameras.
Other ships, including Le Laperouse and Le Champlain are part of a trend that unites high levels of service and luxury amenities with traditional expedition experiences. The two sister ships from France-based Ponant will be all-balcony ships with room for 184 passengers. A standout feature is the underwater lounge featuring vibrating sofas and hydrophone sound system.
Not quite as luxurious is World Explorer, an almost all balcony ship with cabins no smaller than 280 square feet, as well as a fitness room, outdoor pool and mudroom onboard. Owned by Mystic Cruises, it sails under the Quark Expeditions banner during the Antarctic cruise season.
National Geographic Venture Itineraries: Alaska, San Juan Islands
Le Laperouse Itineraries: Iceland, Northern Europe, Mediterranean, Indian Ocean, Indonesia, Australia and New Zealand, Melanesia, Papua New Guinea,
Le Champlain Itineraries: Mediterranean, Amazon, Caribbean, North America, Iceland and Greenland
World Explorer Itineraries: Antarctica
Two newly built luxury ships are debuting in 2018. (A third, Azamara Pursuit, is a former P&O Cruises ship that was purchased by Azamara Club Cruises.)
Seabourn Ovation is a twin to Seabourn Encore, which launched in 2016; both are the largest ships in Seabourn's fleet, have all-suite accommodations and carry Zodiacs for up-close exploring of hard to reach areas. Viking Orion is the fifth in Viking Ocean Cruises' fleet and a sister ship to all the others featuring venues like Aquavit Terrace, Manfredi's and the two-level Explorers' Lounge.
Seabourn Ovation Itineraries: Mediterranean, Northern Europe, Baltic, Middle East, Asia
Viking Orion Itineraries: Mediterranean, Asia, Australia & New Zealand, Alaska
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The 2,894-passenger Mein Schiff 1 will be the second ship with that name for TUI Cruises. It will be slightly larger than its fleet mates and offer more dining and drinking spots -- 12 restaurants and bistros and 15 bars and lounges. An interactive culinary center will allow passengers to take part in cooking classes and wine tastings and the top deck will feature climbing wall and jogging track.
AIDA's AIDAnova, the first in the line's new Helios Class, will carry 5,000 passengers. It will be the first ship in the cruise industry to run on the environmentally friendly LNG type of fuel that has nearly zero emissions. A first for AIDA, the ship will offer inside and balcony single cabins; passengers will be able to choose from 17 dining venues and 23 bars and lounges. Outside, will be a water park, miniature golf course and a ropes course.
Mein Schiff 1 Itineraries: Canary Islands, Mediterranean, Northern Europe, Baltic, North America
AIDAnova Itineraries: Canary Islands