Get ready to sail the world in 2015 aboard a bevy of new ships, jam-packed with plenty of gee-whiz amenities, from stern-side infinity pools to robot bartenders. While four of our five favorites are over-the-top oceangoing vessels, readying to ply popular routes in Europe and the Caribbean, there’s one close-to-home Mississippi River paddle wheeler, too, that stands out as a real eye-catcher. Here’s a sneak peek at five cruise ships that are sure to make waves in the year ahead (Rates, which were confirmed at the time of writing, are subject to change.).
1. Viking Star
Viking Star and its glass-backed infinity pool will set sail in 2015. (Courtesy: Viking Ocean Cruises)
Come April, Viking Ocean Cruises — from the same company behind the well-established Viking River Cruises brand — marks its entry into the world of ocean cruising with the 930-passenger Viking Star (Two more sister ships will follow suit in 2016.). Onboard, guests can expect Scandinavian design reflected in the all-balcony staterooms, a Nordic-inspired spa (including a sauna and “snow grotto,” complete with falling snowflakes), and two-deck, window-framed lounge. The clincher, however, is its stunning glass-backed infinity pool (offered in addition to the retractable dome-covered main pool), which cantilevers off the ship’s stern to dramatic effect.
Viking Star sails a series of seven- to 50-night itineraries from April through December 2015, to Scandinavia/Northern Europe and the Mediterranean. Rates from $2,749/person, including shore excursions and beer and wine with meals.
2. Norwegian Escape
The 4,200-passenger Norwegian Escape (Courtesy: Norwegian Cruise Line)
Norwegian Cruise Line is readying to unveil the company’s largest ship to date: the 4,200-passenger Norwegian Escape, which is set to debut in October 2015. In this first vessel (of four) in the line’s new Breakaway-Plus class of ships, guests can anticipate the return of popular Norwegian signature features like hull artwork (The Norwegian Escape gets a marine wildlife motif designed by artist Guy Harvey.); studio staterooms for one; and an oceanfront boardwalk-themed dining, drinking, and entertainment space. While they haven’t divulged all of the ship’s new features just yet, they have confirmed an outpost of Miami’s oldest bar, Tobacco Road, as well as Norwegian’s largest casino, at 19,000 square feet, which incorporates a first-for-the-line casino lounge, the Skyline Bar.
Norwegian Escape will sail seven-night Eastern Caribbean itineraries, embarking round trip from Miami year-round. Rates from $749/person.
3. Anthem of the Seas
A second robot bar is coming with Anthem of the Seas. (Courtesy: Royal Caribbean International)
Hot off the heels of the cruise world’s 2014 “it” ship — Royal Caribbean’s Quantum of the Seas, which debuted in November — sister ship Anthem of the Seas will join ranks in April 2015. The two boats make up the line’s new boundary-pushing Quantum class of ships (with a third vessel to follow in 2016), touting tricked-out onboard technology, groundbreaking new venues, and blockbuster entertainment. The 4,180-passenger Anthem will repeat Quantum innovations such as a skydiving simulation experience, robot bartenders, bumper cars, a circus school complete with flying trapeze, and the North Star observation pod, bringing guests some 300 feet in the air for unparalleled views over port and sea. Plus, look for specialty restaurants created by chefs Jamie Oliver, Devin Alexander, and Michael Schwartz, along with headlining musical We Will Rock You.
Anthem of the Seas, with home ports in Southampton, England, from April through October 2015, offers a series of three- to 16-night Mediterranean itineraries; the ship repositions to New Jersey for sailings to the Bahamas and the Caribbean beginning in November 2015. Rates from $789/person.
Watch: The Robot Bartender Hit on My Wife
4. American Eagle
The American Eagle will paddle-wheel the Mississippi in March 2015. (Courtesy: American Cruise Lines)
Make way for the mighty Mississippi in March 2015, when American Cruise Lines’ new American Eagle — the first of four new-build riverboats planned for the line — debuts. The 150-passenger, Victorian-designed paddle wheeler (sister ship to the line’s existing Queen of the Mississippi) comes equipped with standout features like exceptionally spacious staterooms (most with balconies), seven unique lounges (a staggering amount for a ship of its size), a putting green, and a Mark Twain-themed library.
The American Eagle offers a series of seven- to 21-night itineraries along the Mississippi River from March through December 2015. Rates from $4,450/person, including shore excursions, evening cocktail hours, and wine and beer with meals.
The tri-level atrium on the Brittania (Courtesy: P&O Cruises)
Launching in March, Britain-based P&O Cruises’ 3,647-passenger Britannia will mark the largest vessel in the line’s eight-ship fleet. Guests can expect some of the company’s signature standbys onboard, including The Crow’s Nest Bar and Atul Kochhar’s Sindhu restaurant. But innovations abound, too, like the first cooking school onboard a British ship (The Cookery Club), along with a slate of British celebrity chef-driven restaurants (from the likes of James Martin, Eric Lanlard, Marco Pierre White, and wine expert Olly Smith). Look, too, for a tri-level atrium anchored on a unique, illuminated “Star Burst” sculpture; a multimillion-dollar art collection; and no fewer than four pools.
The Britannia sails from Southampton, England, on a series of two- to 16-night Mediterranean and Northern Europe itineraries between March and October 2015, before repositioning in November for 15- and 16-night winter Caribbean itineraries out of Barbados. American travelers must book sailings from P&O Cruises through online travel agent VacationsToGo.com; weeklong sailing rates from $1,028/person.