For cruisers keen on cutting-edge cruise ships, herewith a sneak peek of the most captivating crop of 2013’s new ships on the block. These five ground-breaking, show-stopping ships are really making waves, including megaships overloaded with bells and whistles, a river-ship cruise boom on overdrive, an extravagant Arctic expedition vessel, and more.
1. Norwegian Breakaway
Come May, Norwegian Cruise Line’s 4,000-passenger Norwegian Breakaway will debut as the first of two sister ships to launch in the line’s new Breakaway class. Onboard diversions will include a massive water park, a three-story sports complex, trio of Broadway productions, an expansive youth and teen facilities, a spa touting the first-ever salt room at sea, and an open-air boardwalk-themed bar and restaurant strip – all capped off by a weekly fireworks display. The ship, which will sail year-round from Manhattan, will pay tribute to its New York home port with the Rockettes serving as its godmothers, an ice bar featuring NYC-inspired ice sculptures and cocktails, and Sabrett hot dog carts and Brooklyn Lager beer readily available onboard.
2. Royal Princess
Princess Cruises’ 3,600-passenger Royal Princess will debut this June with a bevy of buzz-worthy new features. Guests can experience the “SeaWalk,” a glass-enclosed pathway that cantilevers nearly 30 feet over the ship’s side; an onboard TV studio broadcasting live game shows, concerts, cooking classes, and more, ship-wide (complete with a live studio audience); private poolside cabanas at the adults-only pool; and the “Chef’s Table Lumiere” dining experience, with a tasting menu served up at a private table enveloped by a “curtain of light” effect. Royal Princess is the prototype for the line’s new Royal class of ships (sister ship Regal Princess debuts in 2014), and is some 20 percent larger than the line’s current largest ship.
3. Viking Longships
In an unprecedented expansion for the cruise industry, Viking River Cruises is launching a whopping 10 new vessels in 2013. Kicking off with the Viking Bragi, Viking Skadi, and Viking Tor in March, the line will follow suit with the Viking Var (April), Viking Forseti (May), Viking Rinda (June), Viking Jarl (July), Viking Atla and Viking Baldur (August), and, finally, the Viking Magni in September. The latest installments in the line’s new class of longships, the nearly identical 190-passenger vessels were designed by the same naval architects (Yran & Storbraaten) behind the sleek fleet of Seabourn, and will feature an indoor-outdoor restaurant and lounge terrace and plenty of eco-friendly initiatives (like solar paneling and energy-efficient hybrid engines).
The new Viking Longships will operate a slate of 7- to 14-night itineraries throughout Europe on the Rhine, Main, and Danube rivers. Rates from $1,656/person.
4. Europa 2
High-end German cruise line Hapag-Lloyd Cruises is making a play for the English-speaking market this May, with the debut of the Europa 2, sister ship to its extravagant, 5-star-plus Europa. The laid-back luxury-minded 516-passenger ship will feature fully bilingual (English and German) itineraries; spacious, all-suite cabins equipped with balconies, tablet PCs, and free-of-charge minibars; and no fewer than eight included-in-the-rates eateries, along with six bars and an onboard cooking school.
Europa 2 will run 7-night summer itineraries throughout the Mediterranean, and longer 8- to 20-night sailings to more exotic locales in the Arabian Peninsula and Southeast Asia come winter. Rates from $4,060/person.
5. Le Soléal
Sailing to the Arctic has never been cooler. For big spenders looking for an extravagant expedition to far-flung northern reaches, upscale French cruise line Compagnie du Ponant is rolling out their brand-new Le Soléal this July. Sister ship to the line’s five-star Le Boreal and L’Austral, the intimate, state-of-the-art, 264-passenger vessel will deliver a yacht-like onboard atmosphere, featuring fine French cuisine and warm interiors designed to offset the cool climes it will sail to (think velvet and wool fabrics and wood furnishings). Itinerary highlights will include zodiac excursions, visits to local Inuit villages, and wildlife viewing of polar bears, puffins, beluga whales, and more.
The ship’s inaugural 6-night cruise will embark in July in the Mediterranean, and make its way for a series of 6- to 20-night sailings in Iceland, Greenland, and the Arctic this summer, before moving on to Asia this fall. Rates start from $3,822/person.