Cruise news: 2019 is a record year for cruise ship launches

 A record number of ships of varying sizes and styles will be launched this year, and shipyards' order books are looking healthy for the next few years, too. While most of the new ships will join existing cruise lines' fleets, several new companies are entering the booming market, either with new builds or re-purposed older models. High-profile Virgin Voyages is one; here's a look at some of the other contenders.

Worldwide hotel group Ritz-Carlton is building three luxury 298-passenger yachts, with the first, Azora, entering service next February. The ships will feature 149 suites that each have a private terrace, including two spacious 102-square-metre owner's suites, as well as six dining venues including one designed by Michelin-starred chef Sven Elverfeld of the Ritz-Carlton, Wolfsburg, and a marina platform stocked with watersports toys. Azora and its sister ships will sail in Canada and New England, the Caribbean, Mediterranean, Northern Europe and the Baltic. See ritzcarltonyachtcollection.com

Swiss company Scylla, which operates 31 river ships that it charters to companies such as Tauck and Riviera Travel, launched its own river brand, VIVA Cruises, last year. VIVA Cruises sails on Europe's main waterways, as well as offering cruises along the German and Polish Baltic coast onboard the 110-passenger Junker Jorg. See viva-cruises.com. Scylla is also going into the expedition business in May 2021, when it takes over Hapag-Lloyd Cruises' highly rated, 155-passenger ship Bremen.

Miami-based Blue World Voyages plans to launch an entire ship devoted to fitness, wellness and sport sometime next year. Its website features an impressive video showing state-of-the-art facilities such as a training gym, yoga studio, golf, soccer and hockey simulators, and a seawater lap pool, but there are no details such as the ship's name or launch date yet. Potential passengers are offered the chance to buy a "residence" that they can use for themselves or rent out and destinations include the Mediterranean, Cuba, Costa Rica, Chile and Peru. See blueworldvoyages.com

Storylines is another new company that is offering 630 "condos" on its ship MV Narrative, which passengers can buy, with a starting price of $US299,000. The 53,000-tonne, 235-metre-long ship – its current name is undisclosed – will undergo a massive refurbishment before it sets sail in 2020. The company says MV Narrative will spend far more time in port than does any existing ship – up to seven days   – and it anticipates a minimum three-year circumnavigation of the world. See storylines.com

SHORE THING

THE PORT

Callao (Lima), Peru

WHO GOES THERE

Azamara, Celebrity, Costa, CMV, Cunard, HAL, Hapag-Lloyd, MSC, NCL, Oceania, Princess, RSSC, Seabourn, Silversea, Viking.

WHY WE LOVE IT

Lima, Peru's capital, was founded in 1535, although its roots go back some 10,000 years. The historic centre is a UNESCO World Heritage site and is surrounded by districts that each have their own character and attractions – artsy Barranco, upmarket Miraflores and laid-back Chorillos among them. Lima's population of just over 8 million reflects its melting-pot heritage – Amerindians, Spanish conquistadores, Africans, Chinese and Europeans – as does the distinctive Peruvian cuisine.

TAKE A TOUR OR GO IT ALONE?

The port of Callao is about 11 kilometres from downtown Lima. The Real Felipe Fortress, a vast construction dating back to 1747, is worth a visit for an insight into Lima's naval history, but most people head straight to the city centre. If you're exploring independently, a taxi from Callao to the centre takes  between 30 and 45 minutes, and you can pick up a Mirabus hop-on, hop-off bus at Miraflores (about 16 kilometres from the port) for various city and district tours. Viators runs round-trip tours from Callao. See viator.com

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MUST SEE

In the centre of Lima, Plaza de Armas, the 16th-century cathedral, the Archbishop's Palace, City Hall and Government Palace; 17th-century Iglesia and Museo de San Francisco, where you can tour the catacombs; Museo Larco, for pre-Colombian artefacts housed in an 18th-century mansion. In Miraflores, Pucllana Historical Park, for ancient adobe temple ruins, and the massive Larcomar shopping centre. In Barranco, walk across the Puente de los Suspiros and shop for handmade clothes and artworks at Dedalo.

MUST EAT

Ceviche (raw fish marinated in lime or lemon, chilli and onions, often served with roasted corn and sweet potatoes), which is Peru's national dish; cuy (baked or barbecued guineapig), if you're up for it; lomo saltado (Asian-style stir-fried beef and vegetables served with chips and fried rice); causa (potato layered with chicken, seafood, avocado and mayonnaise); and sweet, doughnut-style picarones from street stalls.

NEED TO KNOW

The currency of Peru is the nuevo sol (symbol: S/). Most hotels, restaurants and shops accept US dollars but change is given in soles.

ESSENTIALS

visitperu.com

CRUISEFACT

Carnival Corporation's AIDAnova is the first cruise ship in the world to be powered by liquid natural gas (LNG) and Carnival has 10 more LNG-powered vessels on order for delivery over the next six years.

NEWS

AROUND THE APPLE ISLE

Coral Expeditions is adding an annual Tasmania circumnavigation cruise to its regular itineraries in the Apple Isle. The 14-night cruise, round-trip from Hobart onboard the 72-passenger Coral Discoverer, will focus on wildlife and nature, maritime and convict history, local communities and culinary experiences. Highlights include foodie tours on King Island, hikes through Flinders Island's Strezlecki National Park, navigating the "narrows" at Bathurst Harbour on the Xplorer tender and a special winemakers dinner in the renowned Josef Chromy Wines vineyard in the Tamar Valley region. Although the January 2020 departure is now sold out, many of the new features of the Tasmanian Circumnavigation, including events with local food and wine producers, will be carried over into the regular 2020 expedition season in Tasmania. Seven-night departures start on January 27 and run back-to-back until mid-March. See coralexpeditions.com

NEW VENTURE FOR SEABOURN 

Luxury line Seabourn, which has been operating expedition cruises to Antarctica since 2013 on Seabourn Quest, has ordered two new 264-passenger expedition ships. The first, Seabourn Venture, is due to set sail in June 2021 and will include many features of the current fleet of five glamorous ships – and then some. Each will have 132 ocean-front veranda suites, two submarines, kayaks, 24 zodiacs, "shell doors" that allow guests to step off the ship at water level straight onto kayaks and zodiacs, and 2750 square metres of deck space. A 26-person expedition team comprised of experienced wilderness experts, scientists, historians and naturalists will accompany guests on shore tours and present lectures onboard. Seabourn Venture is scheduled to sail in the Arctic in late summer 2021, with a full summer season in Antarctica to follow, and its sister ship is due in May 2022. See seabourn.com

ROYAL LINE-UP 2020-21

Royal Caribbean will have four megaships in local waters in the 2020-21 season, cruising from both Sydney and Brisbane. Serenade of the Seas is a newcomer Down Under and will sail from Sydney's Overseas Passenger Terminal from October 2020 to April 2021, along with the 4000-passenger Voyager of the Seas and 4900-passenger Ovation of the Seas. Launched in 2003, the 2400-passenger Serenade is a couple of years younger than its sister Radiance of the Seas. Radiance, fresh from a multimillion-dollar makeover in 2020, will sail out of Brisbane's new International Cruise Terminal at Luggage Point. Together, the four ships will offer more capacity and itineraries than ever before, with 80-plus cruises ranging from two to 19 nights to destinations in the South Pacific, New Zealand and Australia. See royalcaribbean.com.au

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