With two brands debuting their first ships ever and enhancements that include the first tattoo parlor and the first real roller coaster at sea, 2020 promises to be a jaw-dropping year for fans of cruise vacations.
Here are six new ships destined to make a splash on the cruise scene, starting with the two newest entrants to the cruise game: Virgin Voyages and Ritz-Carlton.
Virgin Voyages: Scarlet Lady
There’s also a brunch hosted by a resident drag queen, the kind of clubs you’d expect from music and travel mogul Richard Branson. Scarlet Lady also features a sundeck devoted to yoga and, for those guests who can afford it, RockStar suites. For more budget-conscious passengers, all food and nonalcoholic drinks are free, as is the Wi-Fi, though you’ll need to upgrade to stream.
Where it’s sailing and when: The ship sails roundtrip from Miami to the Caribbean for its inaugural season, beginning in late April.
Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection: Evrima
The Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection debuts its first ship in June, with the goal of bringing a very high-end hotel milieu to sea. On the sleek ship, its 298 guests will stay in 149 suites with balconies and enjoy such amenities as free beverages and Wi-Fi.
Hangout spaces include five restaurants, an infinity pool and a humidor lounge stocked with premium, hand-rolled cigars. There’s also a Ritz Kids program for pampered tots.
Where it’s sailing and when: After spending its debut summer season in Europe in June, Evrima will do a few late-summer repositioning cruises in Iceland, New England and Eastern Canada, before moving to the Caribbean in late October.
Carnival: Mardi Gras
Carnival Cruise Line’s largest ship ever, the 5,282-passenger Mardi Gras debuts Bolt, a roller coaster that circles around the top deck. New too is Family Feud Live! – an ocean-going version of the hit TV game show.
Emeril Lagasse helms a namesake bistro – his first at sea – and basketball great Shaquille O’Neal gets into the food act, too, with Shaq’s Big Chicken serving fried chicken.
Mardi Gras will also be the first ship in North America to be fueled by cleaner LNG (liquified natural gas), helping parent company Carnival Corp. – on probation for a 2016 criminal pollution conviction – fulfill its mandate to lessen its environmental impact.
Where it’s sailing and when: Mardi Gras will embark on its maiden voyage from Copenhagen to Southampton on Aug. 31, followed by a 14-day, trans-Atlantic repositioning cruise in mid-September Year-round Caribbean cruises from Port Canaveral (near Orlando) begin in October.
Royal Caribbean: Odyssey of the Seas
The teched-out, 4,198-passenger Odyssey of the Seas debuts in November as the first ship in Royal Caribbean’s Quantum Ultra Class in North America (it has a sister ship, Spectrum of the Seas, in Asia).
The top-deck SeaPlex is billed as the largest indoor activity space at sea and packed with fun stuff that includes virtual reality games, augmented reality gaming walls, bumper cars, a sports bar and glow-in-the-dark laser tag.
Other techno bells and whistles include robotic bartenders, a VR-enhanced bungee trampoline and a simulated skydiving experience.
Where it’s sailing and when: Odyssey of the Seas begins cruises from Fort Lauderdale, Florida, beginning in November before moving to Rome for Summer 2021.
Celebrity Cruises: Apex
The 2,918-passenger Celebrity Edge, one of this year’s most talked-about ships gets a sister vessel in April. Celebrity Apex shares features such as the Magic Carpet, an open-air platform that rides a track outside the ship providing extraordinary views as it attaches at various levels – at the waterline, passengers can walk right off onto tenders headed to shore.
Elsewhere, a phone app unlocks your stateroom door and adjusts your thermostat and the push of a button turns your veranda stateroom into an open-air space.
Where it’s sailing and when: The ship debuts in Fort Lauderdale next November after a season in Europe.
Crystal Cruises: Endeavor
This 200-passenger Polar-class, luxury mega-yacht Endeavour claims status as the largest, most spacious expedition ship purpose-built for Arctic climates.
All guests stay in big suites with verandahs that are serviced by butlers. And once you’ve returned from your latest outdoor adventure, you can head to Endeavour’s casino, the only such facility on an expedition ship.
Speaking of expeditions, passengers willing to pony up a few more bucks can ride the ship’s two helicopters and 7-person submersible.
Where it’s sailing and when: Crystal Endeavour debuts in August in Asia before heading to the South Pacific, where it will remain through early March. It will also visit Alaska in Summer 2021.