May 17, 2018
(5 p.m. EDT) -- A cantilevered deck that "floats" up and down alongside the ship; a cluster of live music venues headlined by big names like Billboard, Lincoln Center and B.B. King's Blues Club; a six-star expedition yacht with two helicopters and a submarine! While the launches of 2018's largest ships might have passed, there's still plenty of new hardware to look forward to, including several first-at-sea innovations that will blow you away.
In addition to the aforementioned highlights, the next new crop of cruise ships to launch in 2018 will introduce balconies that transform into air-conditioned sunrooms with the touch of a button, a wine-making class that lets you walk away with a bottle of your very own blend, an underwater lounge with a giant window for viewing marine life, a huge wrap-around promenade packed with places to eat and drink and bars dedicated to unique cocktails and fine dining restaurants.
Learn more about each new ship, as well as the itineraries it will sail, below.
Despite being one of the last ships to launch in 2018, Celebrity Edge arguably is the most highly anticipated. The only big first-in-class ship (it will hold 2,900 people at double occupancy), Celebrity Edge will debut several first-at-sea innovations, including one -- the Magic Carpet -- you almost have to see to believe. This tennis court-sized deck is affixed to the outside of the ship and can move up and down, performing different functions on select decks. For example, on one deck it will serve as a tender embarkation platform; on another, it will turn into an alfresco raw bar, an exclusive Chef's Dinner venue and so on.
Another Celebrity first is a category of cabins called Infinite Verandas, which bring the balconies into the cabin, enabling cruisers to use the space as either a true balcony (thanks to bi-fold doors and openable floor-to-ceiling windows) or a sunlit indoor space that adds 23 percent more room to the cabin.
Other novelties to look forward to include a wall of plants from which mixologists in the Eden Bar will be able to snip cocktail garnishes, and a French restaurant, where the dishes are served on digital tables, and a miniscule, virtual "Petit Chef" helps prepare your dishes before you're served.
Celebrity Edge will sail alternating weeklong Eastern and Western Caribbean cruises from Fort Lauderdale starting in December 2018; it will then head to the Mediterranean in May 2019, where it will sail a series of seven- , 10- and 11-night cruises from Barcelona and Rome.
Another end-of-year debut, Nieuw Statendam will be the second ship in Holland America's Pinnacle Class when in launches in December 2018. The 2,650-passenger ship will be a near carbon copy of fleetmate Koningsdam, boasting the three-venue Music Walk (home to Billboard Onboard, Lincoln Center Stage and the always-packed B.B. King's Blues Club), Blend wine-making venue, and upscale French-style brasserie Sel de Mer from Holland America's Master Chef Rudi Sodamin. But there will be a few small differences between the two ships including a redesigned Pinnacle Suite that offers an open layout with the living room and dining area taking up one expansive space. Nieuw Statendam also will have eight more staterooms than Koningsdam.
Nieuw Statendam will sail a variety of Caribbean and Bahamas cruises from Fort Lauderdale, starting in mid-December 2018. It will reposition to Europe in April 2019, where it will operate Northern Europe and Baltic cruises through the spring and summer, before moving to the Mediterranean for about a month. The ship will return to Fort Lauderdale in November 2019.
MSC Seaview is the second in MSC Cruises' Seaside Class of ship, which launches on June 9. At time of writing, all we know is this ship is a carbon copy of MSC Seaside, however, we suspect that there may be one or two differences revealed ahead of launch. Like its sister, the 4,134-passenger ship's two big wows are the amount of outside space it offers: a huge boardwalk which encircles the ship and is full of bars, restaurants and outside areas to take in the sea. The other eye-catching aspect of the ship will be its Miami-style condo apartment design at the aft of the ship, with wraparound balconies that offer breathtaking views. Inbetween is a pair of glass-fronted lifts which offer vertiginous views across the ocean and the ship's wake. Inside, expect acrobatic shows in the stunning four-deck atrium in the centre of the ship, as well as performances in the 944-seat theatre. Food-wise, MSC has been steadily upping its game since the debut of MSC Meraviglia, and Seaview will offer four for-fee options: Asian Market Kitchen (which comprises sushi, teppanyaki and Pan-Asian), Butcher's Cut steakhouse, Ocean Cay seafood and French bistro Bistrot La Boheme; as well as two main dining rooms and two buffets (one on the promenade deck).
The ship will be in Europe offering seven-night Mediterranean cruises until December, after which it will head across the Atlantic to take up its new permanent home in Brazil.
Scenic, an Australian tour company that entered the river cruise market several years ago, will make a splash in ocean cruising when 228-passenger Scenic Eclipse launches in late August. The six-star luxury yacht will be all-suite and boast eye-popping features, including an aft marina loaded with a fleet of Zodiacs, two helicopters and a seven-person submarine. In addition, the 10-deck ship will have a 4,844-square-foot spa, a heated pool beneath a retractable roof, eight bars and 10 dining options including a 10-person hibachi venue, a French fine dining restaurant and a chef-led cooking "school."
Scenic Eclipse will depart on its maiden voyage August 31, 2018 -- a Mediterranean cruise from Athens to Venice. It will then sail to Canada via Iceland and the Arctic, before heading to the Caribbean and Cuba, then down the South American coastline and onto Antarctica.
Scenic Eclipse is not the only expedition ship launching in 2018. Three other expedition vessels will take to the waters this summer and fall. In an industry where one new expedition ship is noteworthy, four in a single year is unheard of. Nevertheless, two ships -- National Geographic Venture from Lindblad Expeditions and Le Laperouse from Ponant -- will debut this summer, while a third ship -- Le Champlain, also from Ponant -- will launch this fall.
Most notable, the two Ponant ships will feature the Blue Eye Lounge, located within the ships' hull. Here, passengers will be able to see and hear the passing marine life via two windows and digital screens projecting live images from underwater cameras, along with hydrophones integrated into the ship's keel to capture noise up to five kilometers away.
--By Dori Saltzman, Senior Editor