Game-changing cruise ship Celebrity Edge is a mere 100 days from taking to the water. Offering an incredible experience for 2,900 guests, this spectacular ship is near completion. We wait with baited breath …
Game-changing cruise ship Celebrity Edge is a mere 100 days from taking to the water. Offering an incredible experience for 2,900 guests, this spectacular ship is near completion. We wait with baited breath …
Azamara is a leader in small-scale luxury cruising with an emphasis on destination immersion. This summer sees the introduction of Azamara Pursuit: the third in the Azamara fleet. This Renaissance-class ship was built in 2001 and acquired by the line’s parent company Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd (RCCL) in March after 12 years with Carnival. With a history as Swan Hellenic’s Minerva II, Princess Cruises’ Royal Princess, and most recently as P&O Cruises’ Adonia the Pursuit is firmly moving forward with its own identity after a major refurbishment in Belfast.
The maiden voyage for Pursuit will depart on 1 August 2018 and travel to eight Norwegian destinations, including Kristiansand, Flam and Haugesund, with overnight stays in Oslo and Bergen. Larry Pimentel, President and CEO of Azamara Club Cruises, said: “We’ve seen unprecedented support from the UK market for Azamara Pursuit, so we are delighted to be able to show our recognition of this by allowing its transformational journey to take place here. We’ve seen double the UK demand for Azamara Pursuit than we usually see for its sister ships, so this is a really exciting time for us as a brand. The maiden voyage will depart from Southampton and provide travellers with the opportunity to enjoy a country-intensive voyage to Norway, visiting eight destinations in the Scandinavian country. We launched our country-intensive series last year as an opportunity for guests to explore countries on a more in-depth level, which is part of our commitment to Destination Immersion.”
Lindblad Expeditions introduce the exciting new National Geographic Venture with two new and unique itineraries to California. These inaugural voyages explore the Pacific coast, before Venture begins her season in Baja, the Pacific Northwest and Alaska.
The first inaugural voyage, COASTAL CALIFORNIA BY SEA, departs from San Francisco on December 2nd 2018. Joined by Sven Lindblad, CEO and Founder of Lindblad Expeditions, this is a five-night tour stretching from the Golden Gate Bridge to Santa Catalina Islands.
The second trip, FROM SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA TO BAJA: SAILING THE PACIFIC COAST, departs from San Francisco on December 7th 2018. This 12-night cruise travels from Los Angeles to La Paz in Mexico bringing together fine food and wine, snorkelling in Cabo Pulmo Marine Park, visiting the Vizcaino Biosphere and the residents of Isla Natividad. Migrating whales and nesting birds are commonly sighted in the area and National Geographic naturalists are on hand throughout the voyage.
National Geographic Venture, sister ship of National Geographic Quest is designed as a 50-cabin coastal expedition vessel. Sweeping views from the lounge and deck encourage wildlife and shoreline viewing at close range. Lindblad-National Geographic certified photo instructors accompany passengers on the voyage, offering advice and experience for the ultimate photo captures. Zodiacs take guests on specialist trips to explore coastal areas and marine mammals; the ship will also change course to follow wildlife sightings when possible. Kayaks, snorkelling and hiking allow guests to explore the fascinating marine and remote landscapes while the onboard facilities offer respite in the form of a well-stocked library, spa and a wealth of enrichment lectures and activities.
Seabourn celebrates 30 years of success in the cruise industry with the launch of its stunning new ship, Ovation.
With a capacity for nearly 9000 passengers and crew, the largest cruise ship in the world has finally taken to the sea for its inaugural cruise. The colossal size of this floating city is difficult to contemplate; imagine roughly four Titanic ships in volume or, if put on its end, this giant would match the dizzy heights of the Shard or Eiffel Tower.
Miami-based Royal Caribbean, who are widely responsible for shaking the cruise industry free from the “the newlywed and the nearly dead” image, have brought fun-loving cruise aficionados most of the mega-ships on the water today. Symphony of the Seas doesn’t disappoint on that scale. There are 22 restaurants, 24 pools, a Manhattan-esque park with 12,000 real trees, two West End-sized theatres, a climbing wall, nine-deck-high zip line, ice rink, surf simulator, fairground carousel, glow-in-the-dark laser tag, spa and other countless entertainment and shopping opportunities.
Self-proclaimed as ‘The World’s Most Instagrammable Ship’, chances to take that perfect wow-factor snap are everywhere; from the Flow Rider surf simulator and 10-storey Ultimate Abyss slide to the lush Central Park and Robotic bar.
In response to the launch of Symphony of the Seas, some critics are using words like ‘brash’ and ‘gimmicky’ … and they don’t need to try hard to make their point. It’s easy to see this behemoth as a gargantuan amusement park, which certainly won’t appeal to everyone. However, regardless of such negative feedback, the reality of Symphony of the Seas lies with the fact that Royal Caribbean listened to their customers. They created exactly what these thrill-seeking, happy people want – to the tune of $1 billion. Its true purpose, as well as being the largest cruise ship in the world, is to be the best cruise ship for families. In this respect, Symphony of the Seas is an undisputed success.
The bias towards families is epitomised by the Ultimate Family Suite. This two-tier laugh-a-minute paradise, in eye-popping colours, comes compete with a slide between the two floors and full size Lego Wall. Although only in reach of the lucky few with too many dollars in their pocket – one family have booked Christmas for $65,000 – the experience is enhanced by a Royal Genie to meet ‘every wish’ (within reason) as well as an ‘Instagrammer-in-Chief’ to assist with those perfect pics … and, not being too cynical, to also ensure Royal Caribbean get maximum coverage across the social media network … they are clever.
But the real triumph of Symphony of the Seas lies beyond the smiley faces and the multitude of dollars flowing into the bank account of Royal Caribbean. Elevated above the brash lights, bright colours and unending noise is a masterpiece of design and engineering. This 228,000 ton ship floats; and it does so safely, in style and embracing the very latest technology. Created by Harri Kulovaara, a Finnish naval architect, Symphony is built to withstand Russian winters, Caribbean summers and North Atlantic storms. It generates energy and cleans water. Flow of movement is optimised both above and below deck to ensure passengers and crew efficiently move around the ship. From a guest perspective, the 18-decks are dividend into 7 neighbourhoods, naturally segregating personality-types and giving the feel of a smaller, more intimate experience despite the scale of the vessel.
After a summer season in the Mediterranean, Symphony of the Seas will head to Miami to set up home. Royal Caribbean International can surely expect lots and lots of happy customers as the company moves forward with plans for the next ‘largest cruise ship in the world’.
Photos courtesy of Royal Caribbean
Debuting in spring next year, Royal Caribbean’s Symphony of the Seas is set to be the ‘world’s largest cruise ship’. Gargantuan in scale, this 230000GT vessel spans 16-decks and carries a whopping 5,535 passengers.
Bringing together the very best of Royal Caribbean’s tried-and-tested cruise experience, Symphony of the Seas also introduces some new and exciting features. Based on the successful ‘neighbourhood’ concept, the re-imagined Boardwalk offers a multitude of entertainment options. Sports fans can watch the big game on 30 large-screen televisions in The Playmakers Sports Bar and Arcade.
For the sweet-toothed, there is Sugar Beach; a candy and ice-cream emporium, decorated in eye-popping colours and sure to entice children inside until the small hours.
Royal Caribbean aficionados will appreciate familiar attractions; from the spectacular Aqua Theatre to the Robotic Bar and the tallest slide at sea, the ten-storey Ultimate Abyss.
Throughout the ship the design is distinctly family-friendly, with a two-level Ultimate Family Suite epitomising the cruise line’s innovation and commitment to their core guests. Connected by a slide between floors, this fabulous accommodation has two bedrooms, a cinema room with popcorn machine, LEGO wall, air-hockey table and whirlpool on the balcony.
The twenty dining options include many stalwarts; like Jamie’s Italian, the trippy Lewis Carroll-inspired Wonderland and 150 Central Park. Hooked, a New England-style seafood restaurant, is new to the line, as is El Loco Fresh which offers Mexican tacos and burritos served al fresco.
It’s ‘Camera! Lights! Action!’ all the way on Royal Caribbean and Symphony of the Seas promises a re-vamped version of the Broadway smash hit, ‘Hairspray’. New show, HiRo, brings high-wire excitement to the open-air Aqua Theatre and Studio B introduces an epic glow-in-the-dark laser tag experience set in the starry galaxies above.
After a summer season in the Mediterranean, a transatlantic crossing will take Symphony of the Seas to Miami for a tour of the Caribbean.
Images courtesy of Royal Caribbean
2018 promises many exciting new cruise ships. Here are our top picks:
Seabourn introduce Ovation in 2018. Sister to the stunning Encore, this new ships offers the same pleasing design and first-class service, along with some new developments. Read our full preview here.
In December 2018 the latest Pinnacle-class ship, Nieuw Statendam, is due to embark upon its inaugural voyage from Fort Lauderdale to Key West and Half Moon Cay, Holland America’s private island in the Bahamas. Read our full preview here.
Fifth in the Viking line of first-class cruise ships, the Orion will debut in 2018. Read our full preview here.
Celebrity’s Edge intends to revolutionise the cruise ship experience with exciting design features. Read our full preview here.
Ms Roald Amundsen
MS Roald Amundsen, launching in 2018, is one of two hybrid cruise ships on order from leading exploration cruise line, Hurtigruten. Read our full preview here.
Royal Caribbean Symphony of the Seas
Debuting in spring next year, Royal Caribbean’s Symphony of the Seas is set to be the ‘world’s largest cruise ship’. Read our full review here
Norwegian Bliss, due to launch in April 2018, will be one of the largest cruise ships in the world. As the third in the successful Breakaway-Plus class, this 4000 passenger ship will debut in Alaska before moving to the Caribbean for winter. Read our full preview here.
Billed as ‘The World’s First Discovery Yacht’ the Scenic Eclipse promises to bring something very unique to the ocean cruising experience when it launches in August 2018. Read our full preview here.
Seabourn, known for their small-scale luxury ships, brings Ovation to the water in May 2018. Sister to the highly-regarded Encore, this new ship is also designed by world-renowned Adam D. Tihany who is synonymous for his elegantly crafted, seductive aesthetics.
The increased capacity of 600 passengers, in all-suite accommodation, is off-set by an extra deck and expanded public areas. Seabourn is known for the generous ratio of space-per-guest and Ovation holds true to this concept. Interiors will follow a tasteful and contemporary style, embodying nautical themes and curved lines to enhance the guest experience, drawing excitement as unexpected features are subtly revealed throughout the ship.
Accommodation is set in five categories from Wintergarden Suite to Signature Suite, Owner’s Suite, Penthouse Suite and Veranda Suite. All will have comfortable seating and sleeping spaces, spacious closets, luxurious marble bathrooms, in-suite bars and personal entertainment facilities. In keeping with Seabourn’s relaxed yet impeccable service, guests will be attended to by a personal “suite stewardess” as opposed to a more formal butler.
The Wintergarden Suite is designed with spectacular ocean-view windows, a glass-enclosed solarium with whirlpool and day bed, a dining area for six people, guest bathroom and walk-in pantry with wet bar.
Dining will include The Grill by Thomas Keller. Inspired by the classic American chophouse and overseen by the legendary Michelin-starred chef whose name is given to this fine eatery, favourites like Lobster Thermidor and Caesar Salad will be served alongside the finest wines in elegant surroundings.
Sushi is a new dining concept for Seabourn, introduced by Ovation in a bold move. This dedicated sushi-only restaurant will serve hamachi, tuna, shrimp and other fresh fish products, brought directly from Japan. Lunchtime offerings are to include three varieties of Bento boxes.
The Restaurant is to offer open-seating dining, with more causal options being The Colonnade or pool-side Patio.
Seabourn Conversations are a highlight on any Seabourn cruise, bringing world-leading experts together with guests to engage in intelligent, informative and interesting discussion. Shopping with the Chef, where guests join kitchen forays local markets, is another popular and innovative activity. Guests will also be able to choose to relax in the Spa, enjoy a performance in the Grand Salon or benefit from the expertise of a personal trainer in the extensive Fitness Centre.
Outside, there will be several pools and hot tubs, as well as the fabulous Retreat, where guests can rent a private cabana and be attended to by a personal concierge.
The 11-day inaugural voyage departs from Venice on a journey through the Adriatic and Mediterranean, visiting Croatia, Montenegro, Greece, Malta, Italy, France and Spain. The maiden season will continue in the waters of Northern Europe, with planned itineraries to the Baltic, Scandinavia and the United Kingdom.
Photos courtesy of www.seabourn.com
Touted as ‘the cruise ship of the future’ Celebrity’s Edge certainly boasts enough innovative and impressive features to support this claim, so far. This immensely popular cruise line, which offers luxury without elitism or snobbery, hasn’t introduced a new class of ship for a decade … so excitement is building. Not only is Edge taking to the water in 2018, but the whole fleet is due a comprehensive upgrade starting in 2019.
With a star-studded team of designers behind the project, including the legendary Kelly Hoppen and British architect Tom Wright, the central concept revolves around a greater connection with the ocean. At the heart of this theme is the jaw-dropping Magic Carpet; an open-air platform, cantilevered from the starboard hull, that slides from deck to deck. Taking on many roles, the Magic Carpet extends the pool area, providing better access for tenders or, more glamorously, transforming to become a stunning al fresco dining area and party venue.
Super-spacious cabins, to accommodate the 2918 passengers, re-invent the guest experience with ‘Infinite Verandas’ extending the stateroom outwards creating more internal space. Hoppen’s serene taupe interiors combine modern luxury with technological innovation, featuring king-size beds with cashmere bedding and fully automated controls.
Six split-level Edge Villas have an elevated master bedroom, two bathrooms and large balcony with private plunge pool. Direct access to The Retreat is an enviable perk; this private suite-only sundeck also has a restaurant and bar.
Two identical Iconic Suites, located over the bridge with the same expansive views as the Captain, measure a whopping 5,000 square feet. There are two lovely bedrooms and a vast balcony that extends over the bridge wing, complete with cabanas and private Jacuzzi.
In keeping with the outward-facing design of the ship, one of the most anticipated features is Eden; the glass-fronted, multi-purpose venue which spans three decks. Wearing many hats, this communal space is put forward as a quiet coffee-time space in the morning or a ‘sinful’ performance venue at night.
The Resort Deck includes the main pool area, Rooftop Garden, jogging track and Solarium. Architectural to excess, this playful space has martini glass-shaped hot tubs, a huge mirror installation and dramatic tree sculptures.
There’s no doubt, from a physical perspective Edge is destined to break the cruise ship mould. The promised features are stunning, imaginative and fun but only time will tell if the ‘whole package’ will innovate enough to satisfy the discerning cruiser’s thirst for progress. We’ve heard little about advances in customer service, itineraries or the all-important aspects of environmental sustainability. Our breath is bated …
Photos courtesy of www.celebritycruises.co.uk
Viking’s newest cruise ship Orion, set to debut in July 2018, will be the fifth 930-passenger ship for this world-leading ocean cruise line. Previously referred to as the Spirit, the Orion was re-named in honour of the ship’s Godmother and former NASA astronaut, Dr. Anna Fisher, along with the legendary constellation we all recognise so well in our starry skies.
The all-veranda accommodation follows the same elegant Scandinavian design as its four siblings with almost identical features; giving continuity to the brand and maintaining a formula that clearly works but perhaps lacks excitement and innovation for discerning clientele seeking new onboard experiences.
Of course, the carefully curated itineraries will appeal to the high expectations of well-travelled Viking customers. Shore excursions are included in all ports; absorbing the classical heritage of the Mediterranean as well as the vibrant cultures of Asia and stunning Alaskan landscapes.
Dining is of the highest calibre, with favourites like Manfredi’s and The Chef’s Table firmly regarded as standouts in the Viking experience.
Accommodation is equally fine; with veranda, deluxe veranda and suites offering a range of first-class amenities and benefits. The Explorer Suites have bathtubs, sweeping balconies and a host of fabulous perks.
Our Cruise Crush is the Owner’s Suite private sauna.
The main pool area is surrounded by lounge chairs with an overhead, retractable roof for inclement weather. A second infinity pool is located at the back of the ship.
As with all Viking cruise ships the Nordic-inspired Spa has a complementary thermal suite, snow grotto and treatment rooms.
As excitement builds for the launch of Viking’s fifth ship, Orion, it’s clear Viking are basing their expansion on the solid foundations of success they have forged over recent years. But does this safe play risk losing customers who have become accustomed to the Viking cruise ship features and are seeking something more? Only time will tell. In the meantime we relish another addition to the Viking stable and celebrate the cruise line’s formidable growth.
Photos courtesy of Mary Quincy, Charissa Fay and Viking Cruises.
As far as Millennials are concerned, the image of river cruising hasn’t attracted many to the winding waterways of Europe … until now. A ‘tester’ cruise in October successfully brought a hand-selected crowd of youngsters together to dip-their-toes in this particular travel niche, usually more likely to be enjoyed by their grandparents. U by Uniworld’s disruptive take on this sector of the cruise market is bringing some welcome change. Thanks to their sleek black ships, A and B, (complete with silent disco, bean bags and cocktail classes) river cruises will no longer be the domain of Downton Abbey loving Baby Boomers.
Strictly for the the 21 – 45 year olds, who have cash in their pockets and a curiosity to see the world through fun-coloured spectacles, these boutique-style ships are set to sail down the Danube, Rhine and Seine to the sound of celebrity DJ beats.
Short eight-day itineraries, starting in April 2018, should align with the work commitments of young professionals yearning for late nights in Amsterdam or Budapest against a backdrop of yoga classes, hammock-snoozing, gym workouts, spa treatments and Rooftop Lounge parties.
Cabins, designed in contemporary black-and-white with pops of colour, are available as spacious suites with balconies or pod-like bunk rooms. All have Uniworld’s five-star hallmarks; Savoir beds, marble bathrooms, Bluetooth speakers and flat-screen televisions are standard.
Dine, the full-service restaurant, serves locally inspired food and ‘street-style’ dishes at communal tables to encourage social interaction. Room service is on hand for ‘post-clubbing’ breakfasts. Lunch is not provided, with the expectation that guests will be out during the day, soaking up the local culture.
As an alternative to the cruise line ‘Godmother’, U by Uniworld have opted for a ‘Guardian Angel’ instead. On this occasion, Victoria Secret model, Petra Nemcova, has been chosen to represent the brand. According to Ellen Bettridge, President & CEO of Uniworld, this selection cements the intention to change the industry. “We’re making history with this concept, so rather than follow the traditional ‘Godmother’ path for each individual ship, we’re paving our own way forward.”
Hopefully, U by Uniworld will know its limits; to produce a high-quality, game-changing experience for Millennials without patronising them or confusing this exciting innovation with stereotypes. Other river cruise lines will certainly be watching and should U by Uniworld prove to be a success we can expect many more brands to follow their lead. In the meantime, Bon Voyage to the lucky ones who set sail next year … please post plenty of Instagrams for us oldies.
Norwegian Bliss, due to launch in April 2018, will be one of the largest cruise ships in the world. As the third in the successful Breakaway-Plus class, this 4000 passenger ship will debut in Alaska before moving to the Caribbean for winter.
As well as sharing the best features of sister ships, Escape and Joy, there will be some new attractions. Adrenalin-junkies will surely seek out the top-deck Go Kart racetrack, Laser Tag court and extreme water slides.
The 20,000 square foot Observation Lounge, perhaps offering more sedate entertainment, gives 180-degree views spanning the entire front of the ship; perfect for scenic Alaskan cruises.
In keeping with the Norwegian cruise line brand, there’s never a dull moment and so much to keep guests occupied it’s probably impossible to see and do everything on one cruise. Broadway-worthy productions take centre stage in the Bliss Theatre, the Beatles-inspired Cavern Club has live music and outdoor seating, night owls can dance into the early hours at the Social comedy and night club and the Mandara Spa is a first-class facility. Adult-only areas include Spice H2O and the Vibe Beach Club.
Dining and drinking options are plentiful – with old Norwegian cruise line favourites as well as some new venues. The speciality Texas Smokehouse Q is an upmarket barbecue joint and joins established eateries like Los Lobos, Ocean Blue and Teppanyaki. A fully-serviced Starbucks is making its first appearance on a Norwegian ship.
In addition to the range of staterooms expected on a Norwegian ship, Bliss also offers 82 inside cabins with virtual views designed purely for solo travellers. Interconnecting rooms are available for groups and the Haven suites (with their exclusive lounge, all-butler service and private dining) are a world-away from the busy activities elsewhere and offer some of the finest accommodation at sea.
Images courtesy of www.ncl.com