(4:08 p.m. EST) -- Waterslides, race cars and craft beer, oh my. With three mega cruise ships launching in spring 2018, there's never been a better time to start planning your first or next cruise vacation. The options for onboard fun will be endless -- with the trio bringing everything from boardwalk arcade games and laser tag arenas to a nearly 1,000-foot-long go-kart race track and a variety of slides (including some for only true daredevils), plus bars dedicated to craft beer lovers, authentic barbecue eateries and Broadway shows.
Learn more about each new ship, as well as the itineraries it will sail, below.
Symphony of the Seas
The first new ship of 2018, Royal Caribbean's newest Oasis-class ship will be the largest in the world when it debuts in late March. Most similar to sister-ship Harmony of the Seas -- both boast the jaw-dropping Ultimate Abyss slide and Perfect Storm trio of waterslides -- Symphony of the Seas differs in a few key areas. Most notably, the ship will have a redesigned Boardwalk neighborhood featuring the Playmakers Sports Bar & Arcade. The bar, which will run nearly the length of the entire Boardwalk, will be the place to catch live sports on TV, have a craft beer and some pub grub, or challenge your family at more than 20 classic arcade games. Symphony of the Seas will also feature a laser tag arena (housed in the Studio B ice rink) and a full-scale production of "Hairspray" in the main theater.
Symphony of the Seas will sail Mediterranean itineraries in spring and summer 2018 from Barcelona, before heading to Miami, from where it will sail a variety of Caribbean cruises.
Carnival Cruise Line's second Vista-class ship debuts to the world in mid-April. Like sister ship, Carnival Vista, Horizon will feature the high-in-the-sky SkyRide, as well as the SkyCourse ropes course and an IMAX movie theater. It also will be home to popular Carnival staples including Guy's Burger Joint, RedFrog Rum Bar, BlueIguana Tequila Bar and BlueIguana Cantina. A first for the line will be a hibachi restaurant (an extension of the line's Bonsai Sushi dining venue) and Guy's Pig & Anchor Bar-B-Q Smokehouse & Brewhouse, which will serve a variety of smoked meats and sides for lunch and dinner, pour a range of craft beers all day and feature live music every night.
Carnival Horizon will sail four Mediterranean cruises before heading across the Atlantic to New York City, for a summer of four-night Bermuda and eight-night Caribbean cruises. It will then reposition to Miami to sail year-round six- and eight-night Caribbean cruises, beginning in September 2018.
Even though it will be the third ship in Norwegian Cruise Line's Breakaway-Plus class, Norwegian Bliss will feel all-new to those familiar with its sisters. It's significantly different from Norwegian Escape and China-based Norwegian Joy (with which it shares the most similarities). Borrowing directly from Joy, Bliss will feature a two-level, nearly 1,000-foot-long electric go-kart racetrack that runs at four speeds (up to 30 miles an hour at the fastest), as well as an open-air laser tag course. On Bliss, the course is themed as an abandoned space station and will be open during the day and into the night. Also on the outer decks will be a large Aqua Park featuring two water slides and a kids' splash area. The ship's Waterfront, a feature on all Breakaway and Breakaway-Plus ships, will have outside space for 13 restaurants and bars; while the Broadway hit "Jersey Boys" will headline the ship's main theater.
Launching in late April, Norwegian Bliss will sail a diverse range of itineraries including Alaska cruise seasons in 2018 and 2019, Caribbean cruises from Miami between November 2018 and March 2019, and Caribbean cruises out of New York City from November 2019 to March 2020.
Thirsty for more? Check out all the cruise ships launching this year.
--By Dori Saltzman, Senior Editor