The best cruise ships taking to the water in 2021

·6 min read
Iona is the largest ship ever built for the UK cruise market - P&O CRUISES / HERMAN USSELING
Iona is the largest ship ever built for the UK cruise market - P&O CRUISES / HERMAN USSELING

The multibillion-pound global cruise industry was becalmed by Covid-19 during 2020. But with a fair wind it will be back in full sail in 2021, with gleaming new ocean-going giants, sleek expedition vessels and even classic square riggers.

Ships that were already scheduled for the new year will be joined by many delayed from 2020, so that some lines are planning to introduce two – or even three – newcomers to their fleets within months of each other.

Here are the ships you should look at for during 2021.

Iona, P&O Cruises

Tonnage: 180,000 Passengers: 5,200

Originally due to be christened in a star-studded ceremony in July 2020, the new P&O Cruises flagship is bound to make waves when it is unveiled. Iona promises to bring a new spirit to the sea – its onboard distillery will make gin flavoured with botanicals from its namesake Scottish island. As well as aerial shows in the spectacular SkyDome and Grand Atrium, Iona will feature the 710 Club – with acts chosen by Take That’s Gary Barlow – and a four-screen cinema.

Mardi Gras, Carnival Cruise Line

Tonnage: 180,000 Passengers: 5,200

Riders who have waited patiently to experience the first roller coaster at sea will finally be able to do so; Mardi Gras, originally planned to be delivered in August 2020, has an 800ft track which cars shoot around at speeds of up to 40mph. Venues, dining and entertainment will be spread across six zones, while the three-deck central atrium has floor-to-ceiling windows for ocean views. The red, white and blue-painted ship is also very green – like Iona, it is powered by more environmentally friendly LNG gas. 

Mardi Gras was originally due to set sail in November - CARNIVAL CRUISE LINE
Mardi Gras was originally due to set sail in November - CARNIVAL CRUISE LINE

Golden Horizon, Tradewind Voyages

Tonnage: 8,440 Passengers: 272

The biggest tall ship afloat, Golden Horizon will be powered much of the time by its 35 sails. Britons will be the first to enjoy the 530ft ship as it is spending its inaugural season based in Harwich and Glasgow. Also making its debut in 2021 is another tall ship – the three-masted Sea Cloud Spirit from Sea Cloud Cruises, carrying 136 guests.

Odyssey of the Seas, Royal Caribbean

Tonnage: 168,800 Passengers: 4,200

If you’re looking for fun activities, Odyssey will offer dodgem cars, a surf machine, skydiving simulator, bungee trampolines and a viewing pod that’s lifted high above the deck. As well as 14 restaurants and nine bars and lounges, entertainment venues include Two70, a two-deck space with 270-degree sea views. Odyssey is due to make its debut in Southampton in April. 

Odyssey of the Seas is a Quantum Ultra class ship - ROYAL CARIBBEAN
Odyssey of the Seas is a Quantum Ultra class ship - ROYAL CARIBBEAN

Celebrity Apex, Celebrity Cruises

Tonnage: 129,500 Passengers: 2,908

The sister to the pioneering Celebrity Edge, Celebrity Apex will also have the Magic Carpet on the side which acts as a restaurant on one level or a tender platform on another. Another innovation is the ‘infinite balcony’, where cabins are fitted with a large window that moves down to provide fresh sea air without encroaching into the living space. Other lines launching sister ships in 2021 include Princess Cruises (Enchanted Princess), Holland America Line (Rotterdam), Saga (Spirit of Adventure) and Viking (Viking Venus).

Scarlet Lady, Virgin Voyages

Tonnage: 110,000 Passengers: 2,800

Sir Richard Branson’s first cruise ship only got as far as a press launch in Britain before coronavirus scuppered all other plans in 2020. Now Scarlet Lady’s getting ready to meet her public – and is due to be joined in Miami in November by sister ship Valiant Lady. Adults-only Virgin Voyages boasts a lively night club as well as a tattoo parlour and drag queen brunches. Cabins are different, too, with a bed that can convert to a sofa during the day. 

Scarlet Lady (pictured) joins the fleet in the same year as her sister, Valiant Lady - VIRGIN VOYAGES
Scarlet Lady (pictured) joins the fleet in the same year as her sister, Valiant Lady - VIRGIN VOYAGES

Ultramarine, Quark Expeditions

Tonnage: 13,500 Passengers: 199

Explore the poles in style with this expedition ship boasting two eight-passenger helicopters and a hangar that can quickly dispatch 20 Zodiac boats to catch close-up views of whales or polar bears. Crystal Endeavor, a 200-passenger ship launching from Crystal Cruises, will also have a pair of helicopters plus a six-person submarine, while French line Ponant is launching Le Commandant Charcot, a polar exploration vessel fitted with labs so scientists can study water, air, ice and biodiversity. Other expedition ships are due to debut from lines including Coral, Albatross, Victory, Aurora and Lindblad.

Explore by land, sea and air from Ultramarine - QUARK EXPEDITIONS
Explore by land, sea and air from Ultramarine - QUARK EXPEDITIONS

MSC Seashore, MSC Cruises

Tonnage: 169,500 Passengers: 4,540

At 1,112ft, MSC Seashore will be the longest ship – as well as the one with most outdoor space – in the ever-expanding MSC Cruises fleet. Similar to forerunners MSC Seaside and MSC Seaview, the ship will have two brand-new restaurants while five others will be moved to allow waterfront seating. Guests will also be able to enjoy 20 bars, cafés and lounges and a larger indoor pool. MSC Cruises is also launching MSC Virtuosa, which has a spectacular 305ft-long LED dome over its shopping and dining promenade. 

Silver Moon, Silversea

Tonnage: 40,700 Passengers: 596

Luxury line Silversea will finally see the light of the Silver Moon in 2021, as well as her sister Silver Dawn. Both ships will offer a new culinary programme – SALT, standing for Sea and Land Taste, that will showcase food from around the world. A third ship, the 100-passenger Silver Origin, will begin sailing in the Galápagos Islands.

Silver Moon is the ninth vessel in the Silversea fleet - SILVERSEA / FILIPPO VINARDI
Silver Moon is the ninth vessel in the Silversea fleet - SILVERSEA / FILIPPO VINARDI

Seabourn Venture, Seabourn

Tonnage: 23,000 Passengers: 264

Why have one submarine on a cruise ship when you can have two? Guests will be able to dive up to 1,000ft below the surface on the six-person subs on board Seabourn’s first expedition ship. As well as a 4K underwater camera and robot arm, the subs even have a champagne cooler. Seabourn Venture will also carry 24 Zodiac boats – enough to carry all passengers at once.

World Navigator, Atlas Ocean Voyages

Tonnage: 10,000 Passengers: 196

Not only a new ship, but a new cruise line. World Navigator, the first of five sisters to be built by Atlas Ocean Voyages, will carry 196 guests in luxury to such places as the Holy Land, South America and Antarctica in its first year. It will be facing competition from another newcomer, Evrima from Ritz-Carlton, which at 26,500 tons will carry 298 passengers.

World Navigator is the first ship for a brand new cruise line - ATLAS OCEAN VOYAGES
World Navigator is the first ship for a brand new cruise line - ATLAS OCEAN VOYAGES

Minerva, Swan Hellenic

Tonnage: 12,500 Passengers: 152

It’s normally phoenixes that rise from the ashes but this time it’s a swan. Swan Hellenic, a company that stopped sailing in 2017, is back with a new ship named after one of its old favourites, Minerva. The ice-strengthened craft will feature Scandi interiors, large outdoor spaces, elegant lounges and special expedition facilities.