Cruise Market Watch estimates that some 20.9 million passengers set sail on a cruise ship last year, bringing the rapidly expanding industry to record heights, despite some high-profile setbacks. With five major additions to the global fleet in 2014, the coming year should be equally upbeat, boasting even more cutting-edge innovation, the likes of which cruise passengers have never seen. From simulated skydiving at sea to robot-like observation capsules that dangle passengers 300 feet above the ocean, here’s the lowdown on what to expect on the biggest ships making a splash in 2014.
Norwegian Cruise Line’s Norwegian Getaway
Capacity: 4,028 passengers
Scheduled Launch: January 2014
Details: Norwegian Getaway is the long-awaited sister ship of last year’s highly successful Norwegian Breakaway, and will set sail from Southampton, England, on Jan. 15 for a formal debut in its new year-round home of Miami on Feb. 7. Onboard, Norwegian Getaway packs a host of novel entertainment options, including a magic-packed “Illusionarium,” a Grammy Museum and a theater showcasing the Broadway musical "Legally Blonde." For the more-active traveler, Norwegian Getaway offers a three-story sports complex with two swimming pools, five waterslides, a ropes course and a zip wire. Guests have 27 different restaurants and bars to choose from, including an ice bar, and will be treated to fireworks at sea on every voyage.
Initial Sailings: Miami to the Eastern Caribbean
More Information: http://www.getaway.ncl.com/
Princess Cruises’ Regal Princess
Capacity: 3,560 passengers
Scheduled Launch: May 2014
Details: A very pregnant Duchess of Cambridge christened Princess Cruises’ Royal Princess at a widely publicized ceremony in Southampton last year. Now, Royal Princess’ sister ship, the Regal Princess, is readying for her debut journey in May. New features include a glass-bottom sea walk, an expanded atrium with additional entertainment and casual dining options, and Princess Cruises’ largest-ever deck pool, replete with nightly water and light shows and a screen for first-run movies. Additional features include poolside cabanas, live TV studios, spas, theaters, a casino and a special chef’s table dining experience.
Initial Sailings: The Mediterranean Sea from Athens, Barcelona and Venice
More Information: http://www.princess.com/learn/ships/gp/
Royal Caribbean’s Quantum of the Seas
Capacity: 4,180 passengers
Scheduled Launch: November 2014
Details: Quantum of the Seas is, perhaps, the most highly anticipated new cruise liner of 2014. Why? Any time a major cruise company unleashes a new class of ship it tends to pull out all the stops to ensure the vessel is an industry game-changer. For Quantum of the Seas, that means several “first at sea” features like a bumper car arena, simulated skydiving in a wind tunnel and a robot-like observation capsule called the North Star, which dangles passengers 300 feet above the ocean. There's also a circus school, a roller-skating rink and a theater that will house the Broadway hit "Mamma Mia." As these amenities suggest, this is a ship that’s definitely geared toward the family market.
Initial Sailings: New York City to the Caribbean and the Bahamas
Costa Cruises’ Costa Diadema
Capacity: 3,724 passengers
Scheduled Launch: October 2014
Details: Costa Diadema will be the largest-ever ship to fly the Italian flag when she sets sail in October. Her name Diadema, which means “tiara” in Italian, offers a clue of what to expect. Costa has called the ship “the brightest jewel” in its 15-strong fleet, and it promises “majestic and refined elegance,” flavors from around the world and the one of the most-spectacular spas at sea. Other features include split-level rooms, an outdoor promenade to “connect” passengers with the sea, and an extensive kids club in the shape of a castle.
Initial Sailings: The Mediterranean Sea from Barcelona, Rome and Savona, Italy
More Information: http://www.costacruise.com/usa/costa_diadema.html
TUI Cruises’ Mein Schiff 3
Capacity: 2,500 passengers
Scheduled Launch: Spring 2014
Details: Mein Schiff 3 is the first-ever new build for TUI Cruises, a joint venture between Royal Caribbean and Germany’s TUI AG. It will target the German-speaking market with 1,250 staterooms (most of which have balconies), several restaurants, a theater, a spa and a nightclub. This environmentally friendly ship is expected to reduce emissions by 30 percent when compared to other cruise ships of its size, and will contain a wastewater treatment system to ensure that no polluting substances escape into the sea. Eco-minded travelers can expect sustainable materials in their rooms, too, providing yet another dimension to the concept of well being.
Initial Sailings: The Mediterranean Sea from Valletta, Malta
More Information: http://tuicruises.com/mein-schiff-3/schiffsbau/
Pearl Sea Cruises’ Pearl Mist
Capacity: 210 passengers
Scheduled Launch: June 2014
Details: Pearl Mist is the first of what Pearl Sea Cruises hopes are several ships catering to the discerning cruise traveler in search of a bespoke experience. This carefully crafted luxury liner is for those who don’t want to leave any of their creature comforts behind, and you can expect large and gracefully appointed staterooms with private balconies and expansive sun decks. Accommodating just 210 passengers, Pearl Mist plans to use its small size to take visitors to coastal towns and scenic areas inaccessible to its larger competitors.
Initial Sailings: The Great Lakes, New England, the Canadian Maritimes and the Caribbean
More Information: http://www.pearlseascruises.com/ships/pearl-mist/
While 2014 is somewhat of a quiet year for the major North American companies, small-scale operators in Europe are gearing up for some major changes. European river cruising, for instance, is set to explode into the mainstream in 2014 with the launch of a whopping 20 new ships. Fourteen of those will come from Viking River Cruises, bringing its grand total to 30 new Longships over the past three years.
New cruise company Emerald Waterways, a division of Scenic Tours, will dip its toes into European river cruising this year with the launch of its first two ships, the Emerald Star and Emerald Sky. Avalon Waterways will also launch a trio of ships next year: Avalon Illumination, Avalon Impression and Avalon Poetry II. AmaWaterways, A-ROSA Cruises and Uniworld will similarly debut new ships in the coming year, making the rivers of Europe busier than they’ve been in a long time.
But it’s not just Europe that’s latching on to the trend. Many European operators will send ships on new itineraries to rivers like the Chobe and Zambezi in Africa and the Irrawaddy in Southeast Asia. If these routes prove successful, you can expect to see longboats headed to a river near you in 2015.
Mark Johanson is the travel editor at the International Business Times. He has traveled to and written about more than 30 nations and territories on every continent except...