More than 30 new cruise ships to launch in 2020

A CHIC NEW YEAR

If you've resolved that 2020 should be the year to indulge, then rejoice. Cruise-ship godmothers are breaking champagne bottles on more than 30 new vessels this year, many in the luxury category. Among them are Regent's Seven Seas Splendor, Silversea's Silver Moon, Saga Cruises' Spirit of Adventure, Celebrity Cruises' Celebrity Apex and Sea Cloud Cruises' sailing ship Sea Cloud Spirit.

Also coming are two new cruise lines. Luxury hotelier Ritz-Carlton debuts the first of three ships in its new Yacht Collection in the Mediterranean in June. The rather awkwardly named, 298-passenger Evrima promises traditional luxury yacht style, and will have lavish suites, 10 dining options and a water-sports marina.

Meanwhile the 2770-passenger Scarlet Lady launches this April, the first of three ships in Richard Branson's new Virgin Voyages, which claims it will "reinvent" cruise expectations. Certainly, a tattoo parlour, Korean barbecue restaurant and drag-show brunch are unusual, although other features (no buffets, no kids, all-inclusive pricing, sea-gazing showers) already feature on luxury ships, though perhaps not simultaneously. Scarlet Lady will sail short Caribbean itineraries out of Miami.

However, 2020 promises to be most exciting for expedition travellers keen to sail the Earth's remotest corners, yet not wanting to sacrifice comforts such as upmarket Italian bathrobes, seaweed massages and bottles of Château Pétrus. Among the new launches are two Ponant ships, Le Bellot and Le Jacques Cartier, and Silversea's Silver Origin. The latter will be based in the Galapagos, where several recent ship launches have raised the luxury bar.

Also this year, Lindblad Expeditions' new National Geographic Endurance sets sail on eight inaugural Arctic itineraries, including a journey through the Northwest Passage – though not without those necessities of remote cruising such as a yoga room, bistro and infinity Jacuzzi. Endurance is equipped with Zodiacs, kayaks, cross-country skis and snowshoes, as well as a remotely-operated underwater vehicle for peering into the ocean depths.

The mid-2020 arrival of Crystal Endeavor also kicks active luxury cruising up another notch. Crystal Cruises' first expedition ship is a 200-passenger, suite-only extravaganza that appears to have been designed by the gadget-loving Q from the James Bond movies: it carries two submarines, two helicopters and a fleet of jet skis and Zodiacs.

Unusually, Endeavor makes its maiden voyage in early August from Tokyo, from where it will sail into the Russian Far East. If you're keen to explore new frontiers then you should consider this under-the-radar Asian destination, which has Alaskan-style scenery (plus volcanoes) without the big-port visitor hordes. Several other luxury expedition companies such as Lindblad, Silversea and Ponant also sail there.

By October, Endeavor will be in Australian waters after sailing a 16-night cruise from Bali to Cairns through remote Indonesian islands. Celebrated chef Nobu Matsuhisa will be on board, so you'll be able to dine on black cod with miso, or wagyu ribeye steak. It seems 2020 should work up a hearty appetite, no matter where you choose to cruise.

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COLD COMFORTS

If you're unable to imagine French chic at the Earth's extremities then you haven't cruised with expedition company Ponant. Its 2021 Arctic cruises on hybrid electric ship Le Commandant-Charcot will take you to the Geographic North Pole, as well as to the eastern coast of Greenland and through the Northwest Passage. You won't have to survive on whale blubber, though. Upmarket French fare might include foie gras, lobster tail and veal tenderloin with forest mushrooms. Gorging on cheese platters and pastries as icebergs float past is a surreal experience. Phone 1300 737 178; see au.ponant.com

REMOTE FLOATS

Crystal Expedition Cruises has released 2022 itineraries on expedition yacht Crystal Endeavor, which will offer 28 voyages of between nine and 19 nights. Nearly two-thirds are classified as "Remote Expedition" sailings for those with a liking for particularly far horizons. The ship will sail Svalbard, Iceland, Greenland and the Arctic before turning its elegant bow towards the Antarctic, Falkland Islands and Chilean fjords. If you don't care for snow and ice, consider a cruise along the West African coast from Tema in Ghana to Dakar in Senegal. Phone 1300 059 260; see crystalcruises.com

NORTHERN EXPOSURE

The most remote settlement I've visited on an expedition cruise is probably Ny-Ålesund in the Svalbard Islands halfway between Norway and the North Pole. You can't go beyond the confines of the research town because of polar-bear danger, but it has an interesting museum and an otherworldly atmosphere of forlorn isolation. It's a thrill to be in the planet's northernmost public settlement – especially when happy in the knowledge you can reboard your chartered Abercrombie & Kent cruise ship, haul off your Arctic clothing and be served afternoon tea and crepes Suzette. Phone 1300 590 317; see abercrombiekent.com.au

TOTAL ECLIPSE

Scenic's luxury expedition ship Scenic Eclipse was the highlight of last year's new ship launches. The Australian company's first ocean-sailing vessel features 114 butler-serviced suites, 10 dining options, outdoor and indoor plunge pools, an expansive spa and gym with Pilates and yoga studios. But the ship also has its rugged side thanks to a Polar Class 6 rating, a six-passenger submarine and two Airbus H130 helicopters, and is graced with dynamic positioning and zero-speed stabiliser fins. Sister ship Scenic Eclipse II is currently under construction. Phone 13 81 28; see scenic.com.au

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