Cruise companies blindsided by the pandemic in 2020 had to put new ships on hold. Now, in the clearest sign yet that the cruise drought is ending, a fresh fleet of ships is set to sail out in 2021.
The latest MSC Cruises ship sails from April 16 on Mediterranean and northern European cruises. By year's end – fingers crossed – it will be in the Persian Gulf, offering seven-night itineraries taking in Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Bahrain and Doha.
Those familiar with MSC's high-tech Meraviglia-class ships will recognise Virtuosa's dome-topped promenade of restaurants, bars and boutiques, but this ship has an extra 16 metres in length, resulting in extra public space and more cabins, plus two new restaurants and an enhanced Yacht Club. It will also feature a world-first humanoid bartender called Rob that can mix cocktails and chat to guests in eight languages.
MSC will also launch similar ship MSC Seashore in August. See msccruises.com.au
When this ship starts operations on April 24 it will easily be the largest in Carnival Cruise Line's fleet, carrying 6630 passengers. Mardi Gras will be homeported in Port Canaveral in Florida and operate week-long Caribbean cruises.
The ship is all about family fun. Six zones are themed on destinations such as Italy, France and the South Pacific, while the Ultimate Playground is dedicated to basketball, mini-golf, rope courses and five waterslides. Bolt, the first rollercoaster at sea, whizzes passengers around the ship's funnel.
Mardi Gras is notable for operating on liquefied natural gas (LNG), a first for a big ship in North America. Similar ship Carnival Celebration is expected in 2022. See carnival.com.au
ODYSSEY OF THE SEAS
Royal Caribbean launches its new ship in Israel this May. The unusual debut location was chosen because of Israel's successful handling of the COVID pandemic and its brisk vaccination rollout. Odyssey will initially offer short cruises out of Haifa to the Greek islands and Cyprus.
This Quantum Ultra-Class vessel isn't a new ship style, so passengers will recognise favourites such as Royal Caribbean's surf simulator, observation capsule, and Bionic Bar with its robotic bartenders.
The 4180-passenger Odyssey will, though, have a distinctive look and new elements such as a reimagined two-level, indoor-outdoor SeaPlex activity centre. Expect a new Playmakers Sports Bar and several new dining venues – notably a revamped Italian restaurant and teppanyaki grill. See royalcaribbean.com
The 2900-passenger Celebrity Apex was ready last year, but sails out for the first time with passengers on June 19, 2021, on a voyage to Spain, Malta and the Greek islands.
This is another Edge-series ship (named when Celebrity Edge launched in 2018), and shares the same sharp designer look and eye-catching components such as the cantilevered Magic Carpet that allows diners to sit 16 decks above the ocean.
Apex does however have new features of its own, including the three-storey restaurant Eden, Craft Social Bar (which offers 50 international craft beers) and entertainment venue The Club, which will show cabaret- and circus-style acts. The revamped spa provides more than 120 treatments. See celebritycruises.com/au
This new 2668-passenger ship is the seventh Holland America Line vessel called Rotterdam and is modelled closely on the company's current ships Koningsdam and Nieuw Statendam. The launch is set for August. Rotterdam will spend its first season homeported in Amsterdam and will sail northern Europe and the Baltic before heading to North America.
Music is expected to be a big feature on board, with multiple live music venues showcasing classical chamber music, rock, blues and more. Among the 11 dining experiences are restaurants specialising in French-style seafood, Italian, South-East Asian and sushi, plus recurring ship-board favourites such as a steakhouse and pool-side grill. The ship will also have a casino, spa and children's club. See hollandamerica.com
A DOZEN OTHER CRUISE SHIPS LAUNCH IN 2021. HERE ARE SIX MORE ...
The 930-passenger ship sails from April. It closely follows the pattern of previous Viking ships; no reason to change a design that receives regular accolades. See vikingcruises.com.au
This 3560-passenger Princess Cruises ship launches in Rome in May for a Mediterranean and then Caribbean season. Top spot? Wakeview pool at the ship's stern. See princess.com
Scarlet Lady, sister ship to Valiant Lady.
The second Virgin Voyages ship offers short Mediterranean cruises out of Barcelona from July. Unusual features include a Korean BBQ, record store and tattoo parlour. See virginvoyages.com
LE COMMANDANT CHARCOT
This luxury icebreaker is LNG-propelled and has zero emissions when in hybrid mode. The Ponant vessel sails Arctic expeditions from July. See au.ponant.com
This luxury, 200-passenger expedition ship sails from September. It carries two submarines, two helicopters and a fleet of jet skis and Zodiacs. See crystalcruises.com.au
Silversea's luxury ship (pictured during construction) appears in November. The modestly sized, 596-passenger vessel nevertheless has eight dining venues and a spa, beauty salon and casino. See silversea.com