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5 new ships to prove that 2018 is Year of The Cruise

Posted: 21 July 2017 6:21 pm

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2018 is set to be a watershed year for cruise ships.

Marriott Hotels raised eyebrows when the luxury hotel brand said it would be jumping into the deep-end of cruise shipping with three luxury mega-yachts due in 2019, but it might be sailing into an unfamiliar playing field.

The industry will be seeing some (very literally) big changes over the next 18 months, as Marriott's soon-to-be competitors add revolutionary behemoths to their own fleets.

Here are five groundbreaking designs taking to the seas in 2018, each of which is doing something that's never been done before.

Royal Caribbean Symphony of the Seas

230,000 tonnes of luxury, carrying 6,870 passengers on 18 decks. The sheer size gave designers a lot more room for the activities at sea that characterise all Royal Caribbean trips, including now-familiar staples like rock walls, a water park, surfing simulator, ice rink, spa, robot bartenders and plenty of theatres and restaurants.

They've had to make some changes to keep it all working though, including redesigning the entire idea of a cruise ship check-in. The new system uses a combination of facial recognition, bar codes and beacons to make boarding fast and frictionless. All you have to do it check-in online with the mobile app, smile for the "security selfie", and then stroll through the screening and head to your cabin, where the keys will be ready and waiting.

The size of the ship has also meant some changes are in order, like the introduction of state-of-the-art wayfinding systems to make sure no one gets lost, helped along by the fastest internet at sea.

It also gave them space to do new things, like a ten-floor drop with the world's biggest slide-at-sea, the world's largest laser-tag arena anywhere (accented with special effects) and to create a whole new type of stateroom, the Ultimate Family Suite. It spans multiple floors, features a wraparound balcony and separate bedrooms, living room and 3D movie theatre-style TV room, complete with a popcorn machine and multi-platform video game library. The kids room has a slide running down to the living room, which features a floor-to-ceiling lego wall, air hockey table and a whole lot more.

The more classic rooms are still there too, and rooms with a seaview balcony are as desirable as always. But for a change of scene you might book a room with a balcony that overlooks the ship's Central Park or Boardwalk neighborhoods instead, or take advantage of a lifelike virtual balcony.

The Seven Neighbourhoods

  • Central Park - Perhaps slightly nicer than the one you'll find in New York, with 12,000 trees and other vegetation in the garden that lines the paths in this neighbourhood.
  • Boardwalk - If you want to indulge your sweet tooth, find fairground rides or have a hankering for classic entertainment options like high-dive feats and sideshows, you'll know where to go.
  • Royal Promenade - This is high street, where you'll find the shopping, dining and bars.
  • Pool and sports zone - Pools, slides, waterparks and everything else you need to get the heart pumping.
  • Spa and fitness - The place to refresh and recharge, before or after anything else.
  • Entertainment Place - All the latest and greatest in high-tech thrills.
  • The Youth Zone - A place for the kids to learn and do what they want to do most on the trip.

You'll find some very unique attractions on board as well.

  • Puzzle Break: A new team-based experience in The Youth Zone, for kids to race against the clock and work together to find their way out of themed escape rooms.
  • Exclusive performances: 1977 is high tech ice skating show that brings guests to London the eve of the Queen's Silver Jubilee, right before the Crown Jewels are stolen, while the high-flying highdiving, death-defying HiRo will be debuting at the open-air AquaTheatre. For a more erudite blend of comedy and entertainment, the historical satire on the evolution of air travel, Flight will be showing at the Royal Theatre, where it joins Hairspray.
  • Playmakers Sports Bar and Arcade: A massive sports bar and arcade that spans the entire length of the ship's boardwalk, for enjoying burgers, wings and draft beers, taking in the game from any of the 30 big-screen TVs or getting competitive with Ms Pacman, ice skeeball, Star Wars Battle Pod and other arcade favourites. You'll also find El Loco Fresh, the cruise line's signature Mexican fusion restaurant in the Sports bar.
  • Sugar Beach: That would be the candy, ice cream and everything sweet shop. But more than that, it also offers a range of family-friendly activities for any aspiring bakers on board.

The Symphony of the Seas will set sail in April 2018 with a debut season around the Mediterranean. After that it will be going to its year-round home of Miami, and start cruising the Caribbean on 24 November 2018. You can check out its itinerary in more detail and make advance bookings here. Simply search for Royal Caribbean, and Symphony of the Seas.

Carnival Cruise Line Horizon

Carnival's newest creation, due to sail in March 2018, is so-named because it's where the sea meets the sky with aerial activities above deck. This ship will boast a new two-lane "Skyride" bike path above deck, where you can strap in and go for a ride above the passengers below. This is joined by aerial waterslides, a floating golf course and on-board aerial ropes course.

Of course, you'll also find the usual on-ground activities like basketball courts, swimming pools, soccer, volleyball, ping pong and and more. If you want an active trip, and aren't afraid of heights, you'll want to check out the itinerary for this Caribbean, Mediterranean and Bermuda-bound cruiser. Just look for Carnival, and then look towards the Horizon.

MSC Seaview

Keep an eye on this one if you love the sun, because this game-changer will have the highest ratio of outdoor space per guest of any cruise ship in the world, despite generously fitting 5,179 passengers.

This smart vessel goes all high-tech, in both electronics and good old-fashioned engineering. A 360-degree promenade runs around the outside edge, lined with glass-railing seaviews, alfresco dining and shopping, suspended glass floors and a giant aqua park. You can probably see why it's called Seaview.

It makes the most of it, with an increased number of balcony cabins and public areas to make sure everyone catches the Mediterranean and Latin American sun. MSC loves to pamper its guests too, and like other vessels the Seaview is integrating the latest technology to make it easier, with on-board apps to let you get in touch with the crew and get the most from your time onboard.

It's due for launch in December 2017, and if tropical sun, luxurious stays and some of the world's best seaviews sounds like your idea of a good time, you'll want to get a look at the schedule or make a booking. Check MSC cruises for Seaview.

Norwegian Bliss

If there's one ship that can match the Seaview's sea views, it's Norwegian's Bliss. This competing vessel launches a few months later in June 2018, but visits a very different world by making voyages to Alaska and the Caribbean.

You'll find similarly outstanding views in the almost 2,000 square foot observation lounge, and 180-degree views out of more than 235-square metres of floor-to-ceiling windows. Its Alaskan itinerary means a bit more time indoors, all the better for you to enjoy the sights in comfort. The entertainment options are similarly moved more indoors, with Norwegian playing to its traditional strengths of theatre shows and other pastimes.

Check out the Norwegian Bliss itinerary or book your spot here. Search by Norwegian, and look for Bliss.

Celebrity Cruises Edge

Edge is an apt name for this vessel, in more ways than one. First, it's designed with the limits of current technology, to "leave the future behind", in Celebrity's words. It's intended to be the first of many brand new Edge-class cruisers, and is the first to reveal several features that might one day be an indispensable part of the industry.

  • Edge staterooms - Large and well-appointed rooms, with verandah adjustments at the push of a button.
  • The magic carpet - A floating platform that can be raised up and down levels, to become something completely different in each. For example, at the highest level it becomes a unique high-altitude dining venue, on the 14th floor it turns into an extension of the ship's main pool area and on deck 5 it becomes a relaxed al-fresco dining spot.
  • Transformative spaces - Much like the magic carpet can change the ship day-to-day and hour-to-hour, on-board spaces are designed to be transformative, and become something completely different at day and night. On this ship you can go everywhere twice for the first time.

Edge will take off in December 2018 to cruise the Caribbean. You can learn more about the itinerary and make advance bookings here. Do a search for Celebrity Cruises, and the Edge.

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