The cruise ship building boom that began in 2018 continues in 2019 with 18 brand-new oceangoing cruise ships hitting the open waters (that's four more than in 2018), including some first-in-class vessels and more new expedition ships than the industry has ever seen before.
Ships launching in 2019 will range in size from 70-passenger expedition ships to 6,600-passenger mega-ships. More small ships will debut in 2019 than large ships -- just seven of the 18 ships will carry 1,000 cruisers or more. Noteworthy onboard attractions range from multi-slide water parks, sky-high recumbent bike rides and overwater glass walkways on the mainstream ships to helicopters and submarines on the expedition vessels.
Among the new class of 2019 will be several next-in-class ships, from Princess, Carnival, Norwegian and Royal Caribbean, among others, as well as first-in-class vessels from Celebrity Cruises, MSC, Costa and Scenic. Also debuting is the first ship designed specifically for the non-German speaking market from German luxury expedition cruise line Hapag-Lloyd.
Photo: Royal Caribbean
Sky Princess is the fourth ship in Princess Cruises' Royal-class and the first to be launched for the North American and European market since 2014. (Majestic Princess debuted in 2017, but sails in Australasia.)
The 3,560-passenger ship will be modeled after its classmates (Royal, Regal and Majestic Princess) and will feature Royal-class staples such as the Princess Live TV studio, as well as Princess fleetwide favorites including the aft pool, Piazza atrium, adults-only Sanctuary and Movies Under the Stars. It will also be the first Royal-class ship to not have a SeaWalk.
Brand-new to the line will be the ship's selection of Sky Suites, a top deck category of suites that offer 270-degree views and 700-square-foot balconies. Another new offering onboard will be a cafe in the Princess Live studio, serving up barista-made coffees, plus tea and quick bites. Sky Princess will have more hot tubs than other Royal-class ships and more cabanas on the reimagined Sanctuary.
Sky Princess Itineraries: Mediterranean, Caribbean
Photo: Princess Cruises
When it debuts, Norwegian Encore will be the fourth -- and last -- ship in Norwegian Cruise Line's Breakaway-Plus class, which also includes Norwegian Escape, Norwegian Joy and Norwegian Bliss.
Like Norwegian Bliss, Encore will carry just about 4,000 passengers (Joy is slightly smaller, while Escape is a tad larger) and boast a two-level go-kart race track, but Encore's go-kart at sea experience will be larger and more thrilling with a section that extends out over the side of the ship as far as 13 feet. Another upgrade will be a covered viewing area in the center of the track for spectators.
Encore will also have the Galaxy Pavilion, a 10,000-square-foot indoor virtual reality complex, as well as an Atlantis-themed open-air laser tag arena similar to the space-themed one on Norwegian Bliss.
The ship will also have a Broadway show in the main theater -- in this case "Kinky Boots," -- plus the massive glass-enclosed Observation Lounge that has proven to be quite popular on Bliss. It will also have -- like its Breakaway-Plus classmates -- a keycard entry-only complex for solo travelers and an exclusive Haven enclave at the top of the ship for suite passengers.
Norwegian Encore Itineraries: Caribbean
Photo: Norwegian Cruise Line
Carnival Panorama, November 2019
The third entry in Carnival's Vista class, the 3,934-passenger Carnival Panorama will be the line's first ever ship to debut on the West Coast of the United States. It will be nearly identical to classmates Carnival Vista and Carnival Horizon, with one notable exception -- it will not have an IMAX at Sea movie theater.
Instead, the ship will feature the first-ever SkyZone trampoline park at sea, which will span more than 3,000 square feet on Decks 6 and 7, and will feature a 12-lane trampoline court as well as an adjacent recreational area with a climbing wall, balance/jousting beam, Sky Ladder climbing apparatus and Tug of War.
Also onboard will be Carnival staples such as the BlueIguana Cantina, Bonsai Sushi, Cloud 9 Spa, the WaterWorks aqua park and SportSquare recreation area, as well as Guy's Pig & Anchor Bar-B-Que Smokehouse and Brewhouse, which debuted on Carnival Horizon.
Vista-class favorites that return on Carnival Panorama will be the SkyRide; Havana cabin section with a pool reserved exclusively for cruisers in those cabins during daytime hours; and keycard-protected Family Harbor area featuring family-friendly staterooms and the Family Harbor Lounge.
Carnival Panorama Itineraries: Mexican Riviera
Photo:Carnival Cruise Line
Celebrity Flora, May 2019
First-in-class Celebrity Flora will be Celebrity Cruises' first cruising vessel custom built for sailing in the Galapagos archipelago. The 100-passenger, all-suite ship will feature floor-to-ceiling windows throughout for near-constant outside views; 24 Infinite Veranda cabins (rooms with an open-air balcony that transforms into an enclosed sunroom with the push of a button); two onboard restaurants; an open-air lounge with private cabanas and a hot tub; a plunge pool and stargazing platform; and a marina, which will be able to accommodate up to three Zodiacs at a time.
Celebrity Flora will also feature several environmentally friendly technical systems, including anchorless dynamic positioning, which allows the ship to maintain its position while also protecting the sea floor. It will also be more energy-efficient than other older ships in the region, using less fuel and creating fewer air emissions.
Celebrity Flora Itineraries: Galapagos
Photo: Celebrity Cruises
MSC Bellissima, March 2019, and MSC Grandiosa, October 2019
MSC Cruises has two ships coming out in 2019: the 4,500-passenger MSC Bellissima and the 4,900-passenger MSC Grandiosa.
MSC Bellissima will be the second ship in the line's Meraviglia-class and will feature an exclusive Cirque du Soleil at Sea show, as well as a new tapas bar concept, an indoor promenade with shops, restaurants, bars and a 262-foot LED ceiling that projects different scenes throughout the day. Other standout features of Meraviglia-class ships are cluster cabins for families, a chocolate shop from French chocolatier Jean-Philippe Maury, three pools, an outdoor water splash park for kids and a magic-themed kids' program.
MSC will also debut a digital assistant (think Google's Alexa) in all cabins on Bellissima.
MSC Grandiosa will be MSC's first Meraviglia Plus ship and will be able to carry nearly 6,300 passengers at full capacity. It will feature a mix of popular Meraviglia-class spots (including a Cirque du Soleil at Sea show) as well as several new spaces, such as a classic and contemporary fine art museum. More details are expected in early 2019.
MSC Bellissima Itineraries: Western Mediterranean
MSC Grandiosa Itineraries: Western Mediterranean
Photo: MSC Cruises
Viking Jupiter, February 2019
The sixth ship to set sail for Viking Ocean Cruises, Viking Jupiter will be nearly identical to its fleetmates. Like the other five ships, it will have an indoor/outdoor Aquavit Terrace dining venue, walkaround promenade that fully encircles the ship, two-deck Explorer's Lounge and nightly Chef's Table with a revolving set of theme menus. Viking Jupiter is also expected to have a high-tech planetarium, a feature that debuted on Viking Orion in 2018.
All cabins on Viking Jupiter will have balconies, and room sizes will range from 270 square feet to 1,300 square feet. The ship's pool will be topped by a glass roof that can be opened or closed depending on the weather.
Viking Jupiter Itineraries: Mediterranean, North Europe, South America
Photo: Viking Cruises
Spectrum of the Seas, April 2019, Spirit of Discovery, July 2019, and Costa Smerelda, October 2019
Spectrum of the Seas, April 2019, Spirit of Discovery, July 2019, and Costa Smerelda, October 2019
Both Royal Caribbean and Costa Cruises have new ships debuting in 2019 that are targeted primarily at non-English speaking cruisers, while Saga Cruises will be launching a new ship specifically for the over-50 U.K. market.
Royal Caribbean's 4,180-passenger Spectrum of the Seas will be the first ship in the line's Quantum Ultra class of ships (though it is only slightly larger than the Quantum-class ships and carries the same number of passengers). It will be based in Asia and sold primarily to Chinese-speaking passengers.
It will boast the line's first-ever all-suite complex with a private swimming pool, restaurant and elevator. As with other Quantum-class ships, it will have the North Star, but will have a Sky Pad VR trampoline experience instead of RipCord by iFly. New augmented reality walls and floors will also be revealed in the SeaPlex complex with bumper cars and roller-skating.
Other features will include a karaoke venue called Star Moment; a two-level, three-bedroom, 261-square-metre Ultimate Family Suite accommodating up to 11 people, with a bathroom that extends over the side of the ship, a slide that whisks kids to the living area below, and a recreation room; aspecialty restaurant called Sichuan Red, as well as the Leaf and Bean traditional tea room, and Wonderland’s Dadong, designed by Chinese chef Dong Zhenxiang.
Spirit of Discovery is the long-awaited new-build from Saga Cruises. It will have just 540 cabins, with 100 designed for solo travelers. Other highlights will be a free Asian restaurant, and outdoor and indoor swimming pools.
Costa Smerelda is also the first ship in a new mega-ship class, holding 5,176 passengers at double capacity (about 6,600 at full capacity). It will be the second ship in the cruise industry to rely solely on the more environmentally friendly LNG (liquefied natural gas) type of fuel. Almost nothing is known about the ship, but its interior designs will be based on Italian destinations with each deck representing a well-known city. It will be based in the Mediterranean, and sold primarily to the European market.
Spectrum of the Seas Itineraries: Asia
Spirit of Discovery Itineraries: British Isles
Costa Smerelda Itineraries: Western Mediterranean
Photo: Costa Cruises
Scenic Eclipse, April 2019; Le Bougainville, April 2019; Coral Adventurer, April, 2019; MS Roald Amundsen, May 2019; Hondius, June 2019; Le Dumont d'Urville, August, 2019; Greg Mortimer, August 2019; Hanseatic Inspiration, October 2019; Magellan Explorer, November 2019
In 2019, the cruise industry will see an unprecedented nine new expedition ships debut in a single year (not including the already mentioned Celebrity Flora). Several will have high ice class ratings (Scenic Eclipse, Roald Amundsen, Hondius, Greg Mortimer and Magellan Explorer) that will enable them to visit the polar regions for longer periods of time. The ships will range in size from the 70-passenger Magellan Explorer to the 530-passenger Roald Amundsen.
Four of the ships (Scenic Eclipse, Le Bougainville, Le Dumont d'Urville and Hanseatic Inspiration) are part of a continuing trend that is blending expedition cruising with luxury cruising to bring high levels of service, gourmet cuisine, luxury amenities and high-tech "toys" to what have traditionally been bare-bones ships. Scenic Eclipse, for instance, will be all-suite and carry two helicopters and a seven-person submarine, while Ponant's sister ships Le Bougainville and Le Dumont d'Urville will offer all-balcony cabins and an underwater lounge featuring a hydrophone sound system.
Two firsts among 2019's class of expedition ships are Hurtigruten's Roald Amundsen, which will be the industry's first oil and electric hybrid; and Hanseatic Inspiration, the first luxury expedition ship from Germany-based Hapag-Lloyd that is intended for an international and multilingual clientele.
Scenic Eclipse Itineraries: South America, Mediterranean, New England & Canada, North Europe, Cuba, Alaska, Iceland, Greenland, Norwegian Fjords & the Arctic, Antarctica, Northwest Passage
Le Bougainville Itineraries: Mediterranean, Seychelles & the Indian Ocean
Coral Adventurer Itineraries: Kimberley, Papua New Guinea, Spice Islands
Roald Amundsen Itineraries: Mediterranean, Norwegian Coastal, Antarctica
Photo: Scenic Cruises
Perhaps you're like me and start filling your suitcase a week (or more) before your cruise, armed with a packing list and smart space-saving techniques, like rolling up socks and stuffing them in your shoes. Or maybe you're like my husband, who throws a bunch of clothes into a carry-on at midnight