Celebrity Solstice is now cruising in local waters for the seventh year running and the ship has proved to be so popular that Celebrity Cruises is sending a second ship Down Under for the 2020/21 season. The 2850-passenger Eclipse is one of five Solstice-class ships – they all sport the real-grass Lawn Deck – and it is a couple of years younger than Celebrity Solstice.
"2020 will be a season of firsts for our Celebrity Cruises in Australia," said Susan Bonner, Royal Caribbean Cruises' managing director Australia and New Zealand. "It will be the first time we base two Solstice-class ships here, the first time we homeport out of Melbourne."
Eclipse will be based in Melbourne from December 23, 2020, where it will arrive fresh from a major refurbishment under the fleetwide Celebrity Revolution program. Solstice is due for its makeover in 2023, although Celebrity says the ships are not getting makeovers: they will undergo a "$US500-million modernisation".
According to the line, Celebrity Revolution began with the concept and design of its newest ship, Celebrity Edge, which is due to start sailing its inaugural Caribbean season next month from Fort Lauderdale, Florida. The 2918-passenger Celebrity Edge not only looks unlike any other cruise ship from the outside – it has a giant platform that moves from deck to deck – it promises an "outward-facing" design that extends from staterooms and palatial suites with flexible balcony space to a playground-like roof garden and terraced pool deck.
A similar design sensibility was used for Celebrity Flora, a super-stylish, 100-passenger ship that will sail in the Galapagos Islands year-round from next May. Among the many changes Celebrity Revolution will make to the rest of the fleet, incorporating elements from Celebrity Edge, are an exclusive new sanctuary for all Suite Class guests called the Retreat, which comprises a dramatically redesigned sundeck and lounge; the addition of quirky restaurant Qsine, which now includes Celebrity's virtual Le Petit Chef experience; a new-look Oceanview Cafe based on an international marketplace concept; an expansion of Celebrity Edge's SEA thermal suite; and upgrades to all suites, staterooms and public areas on each ship.
On November 1, Celebrity officially welcomed Celebrity Edge to the fleet at the shipyard in St Nazaire, France, with an event led by president and CEO Lisa Lutoff-Perlo and packed with cruise line VIPs and more than a thousand crew members. It was a double celebration for the cruise line as guests witnessed the ceremonial keel laying of Celebrity Apex, the second Edge-class ship – Apex is due to set sail from Southampton in April 2020.
Like its parent company, Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd, Celebrity is embarking on a period of incredible growth – two more Edge-class ships are on order, scheduled to launch in 2021 and 2022, each one estimated to be worth somewhere north of $US800 million.
THE PORT Newport, Rhode Island, USA
WHO GOES THERE Celebrity, Crystal, Cunard, HAL, NCL, Oceania, P&O UK, Princess, RSSC, Silversea, Windstar.
WHY WE LOVE IT The picturesque New England port boasts a rich maritime history and has long been a playground for America's rich and famous. It was one of the country's biggest ports in the 18th century and the first American Navy was established there in 1775. Today people flock to the famous Cliff Walk to ogle at the opulent mansions built in the 18th and 19th centuries by wealthy families such as the Vanderbilts and Astors, while sailing enthusiasts will never forget Australia II winning the America's Cup in the competition's home waters in 1983.
TAKE A TOUR OR GO IT ALONE? Cruise ships anchor in Narragansett Bay and tender passengers to Perrotti Park. The 5.6-kilometre Cliff Walk is quite a long trek from Perrotti Park; you can catch the 67 bus or take a trolley-bus trip that includes entry and a guided tour around one or more of the beautifully restored mansions. Cruise lines and companies such as Viator offer America's Cup sailing tours (book well in advance) as well as a variety of bus, walking and pedicab tours that take in Newport's must-see attractions.
MUST SEE Fort Adams, a huge military fortress built in the 19th century; the International Tennis Hall of Fame; Newport Art Museum; Naval War College Museum, housed in the Founders Hall; Touro Synagogue, built in 1763; the White Horse Tavern, built in 1652 and the oldest in the US.
MUST EAT Take your pick of casual cafes, pubs and fine-dining restaurants for classic New England–style chowder, local oysters, clams, lobster and cuisines ranging from burgers to vegan. For cocktails or lunch with a spectacular view over Narragansett Bay, head to the Castle Hill Inn.
NEED TO KNOW Newport is a great place for shopping, or just window-shopping as you stroll the pretty colonial-era streets. You can buy arts, crafts, antiques, interesting jewellery, fashions, Christmas decorations, nautical souvenirs and homewares as well as the ubiquitous touristy T-shirts.
Holland America Line's newest ship, Nieuw Statendam, is the sixth in the line's history to bear the name Statendam.
Run away with Jon Bon Jovi
Norwegian Cruise Line's president and CEO Andy Stuart says the company is "beyond excited" to host international rock and roll sensation Jon Bon Jovi next year. Fans can meet Bon Jovi on two "Runaway to Paradise" cruises, where they will be treated to a full rock show on the pool deck starring the Grammy Award-winning artist and the 11-piece Kings of Suburbia band, a second acoustic storyteller set where cruisers can ask Bon Jovi all their burning questions, multiple shows from support artists and panels with key figures from Bon Jovi's storied history. Norwegian Jade will sail from Miami to Nassau, the Bahamas, from April 12 to 16 and Norwegian Pearl will sail from Barcelona to Palma, Spain, from August 26 to 30. See www.ncl.com .
Boutique river ships
Uniworld is adding four new ships to its award-winning river fleet over the next three years. New ships will launch on the Nile in Egypt, the Douro in Portugal and the Mekong in Vietnam in 2020, followed by a new ship on the Volga in Russia in 2021. They will replace existing vessels in each destination and the levels of comfort, luxury and design will be in line with the best of the Uniworld's custom-built Super Ships in Europe. Uniworld also announced that it will be upgrading River Countess, which sails in Venice, in 2020 – last year the company launched SS Joie de Vivre on the Seine, the newly transformed SS Beatrice set sail this year and SS Bon Voyage is due to cruise France in 2019. See www.uniworld.com/au .