The cruise industry launches 13 new ocean-going ships in 2018—most from familiar cruise lines—with berths for over 31,000 passengers. This year brings new ships ranging in size from about 200 guests to over 5,200. Some are expedition ships that take guests to exotic locales around the world, others are luxury or mainstream contemporary ships with dozens of restaurants, bars, and entertainment options.
If you want to ride a go-kart on the top deck of a ship, stay in a two-deck family suite with a private slide that takes you from the bedroom to the living room, or have fun in a huge water park at sea, then one of the large ships can deliver these experiences. Or, if you want to ride in a helicopter or submarine, sail through the Northwest Passage or explore Antarctica, one of the expedition ships can deliver those experiences. Finally, if you want to experience a luxury ship with outstanding food and service, there's a new ship for you, too. Of course, all the ships can deliver what travelers most love about cruise ships—the opportunity to explore all seven continents, see amazing sights at sea, and relax on the deck with a cold drink and a good book.
Here are the new ships to know in 2018, listed in launch order between March and December 2018.
Royal Caribbean Symphony of the Seas
Sailing from Barcelona on March 31, the 230,000-ton, 5,200-guest Royal Caribbean Symphony of the Seas is 2018’s first new ocean-going cruise ship and the biggest ship launched during the year. She is the fourth Oasis-class ship for Royal Caribbean, joining her sister ships the Oasis of the Seas, Allure of the Seas, and Harmony of the Seas. Those who have sailed on any of these three ships will find many similarities like the seven-neighborhood design, varied accommodations, multiple dining venues, and non-stop activities and entertainment.
The most innovative new type of accommodation is the Ultimate Family Suite, which includes a slide from the kid’s only bedroom down to the living room below; a floor-to-ceiling LEGO wall, and an air-hockey table. And, that’s not all. A separate 3D movie theater-style TV room, complete with popcorn machine and a library of video games will keep the whole family entertained. The suite even has a 212-square foot wrap-around balcony with a bumper pool table, climbing experience, and whirlpool.
It’s not surprising that the Symphony of the Seas has some new dining venues, including Hooked Seafood, which (of course) features fresh seafood; Playmakers Sports Bar & Arcade, where guests can dine while watching their favorite sports on video screens or playing arcade games; or satisfy the quest for Mexican cuisine at El Loco Fresh.
The Broadway hit Hairspray is featured in the ship's theater, continuing the tradition of other Royal Caribbean ships with other Broadway shows on their stages. Another new show is Flight, which traces the evolution of flying from the past to the future. Those who like more active pursuits can play Laser Tag, experience the onboard water park along with its own Ultimate Abyss, ride a wave on the Flowrider, climb the Rockwall, or go ice skating.
The Symphony of the Seas spends her first spring, summer, and fall in the Mediterranean, primarily sailing 7-day cruises from either Barcelona or Rome. The new ship sails to her Caribbean home port of Miami on October 28 from Barcelona, and sails 7-day eastern and western Caribbean itineraries through the winter of 2019.
The Carnival Horizon offers many of the hugely popular indoor and outdoor dining, bar, entertainment and activity options available on the Carnival Vista including SkyRide, the IMAX Theatre, WaterWorks aqua park, Seuss at Sea program in partnership with Dr. Seuss Enterprises, and the Alchemy Bar.
The ship has dozens of diverse dining venues with menus from around the world. New additions found on the Carnival Horizon include Carnival’s first Japanese Teppanyaki Restaurant, named Bonsai Teppanyaki. The chefs create tantalizing Asian dishes on custom-built stations that form the center of the venue’s two eight-seat tables. Another new dining venue is the world’s first Guy’s Pig & Anchor Smokehouse/Brewhouse, named for celebrity chef and Carnival partner Guy Fieri. Guests can enjoy a meal along with exclusive microbrews that are actually brewed at sea.
In addition, Carnival Horizon offers a wide range of accommodation categories, including Havana staterooms and suites with exclusive daytime access to a Cuban-themed bar and pool, extra-roomy Family Harbor cabins, and spa cabins with exclusive privileges at the luxurious Cloud 9 Spa.
After her maiden voyage on April 2 in Barcelona, the Carnival Horizon sails the Mediterranean four times round-trip from Barcelona before crossing the Atlantic to New York City in early May. The new Carnival ship spends her first summer sailing round-trip from New York City to either Bermuda or the Caribbean. In late September, the Carnival Horizon moves to her home port of Miami, where she sails 6- and 8-day cruises to the Caribbean.
Norwegian Cruise Line’s new ship, Norwegian Bliss, debuts in London on April 21, 2018. The new ship immediately crosses the Atlantic to Miami, sails through the Panama Canal, and spends her first summer in Alaska. At the end of the Alaska season in September, the Norwegian Bliss repositions to Los Angeles for a series of cruises to the Mexican Riviera before heading back to Miami via the Panama Canal. She finishes her first year of service sailing the Caribbean from her home port of Miami.
The 167,800-ton, 4,004-guest Norwegian Bliss is a sister ship to the Norwegian Escape in the Breakaway Plus Class and features lots of fun onboard activities for cruise travelers. Like other Norwegian Cruise Line ships, the Bliss is adorned with amazing hull art, this time a pod of whales, which is very appropriate for her Alaska destinations. Another new feature appropriate for Alaska is the large observation lounge, which is located at the front of the ship, with the same views as the navigation bridge.
Those who have sailed on the Norwegian Escape, Norwegian Breakaway, or Norwegian Getaway will find many familiar dining venues with choices from around the world. All the dining is Freestyle, and guests will need to consider the starting times of the shows when planning their time to eat dinner.
The most exclusive accommodations are found in The Haven, which features suites, along with their own private dining, lounge, pool, outdoor deck, and concierge. It’s really a ship-within-a-ship. Those with a smaller budget will find all sorts of different cabins, and solo travelers will appreciate the 59 solo cabins.
Other than the hull art, the most distinctive outdoor feature on the Norwegian Bliss is its race track on the top deck. This is the largest go-kart racetrack at sea and will fun for kids and adults. The ship also has a large water park, ropes course, and plenty of deck chairs. The 60’s musical, Jersey Boys, is as popular at sea as on land, and the ship has a new show with an interesting title, Happy Hour Prohibition—The Musical.
Like its sister ship the Seabourn Encore, Seabourn Ovation is being fashioned by Adam D. Tihany with contemporary interiors, modern design elements, and innovations consistent with Seabourn's reputation for understated elegance.
In order to ensure excellent service for its guests, the 40,350-ton ship has a high ratio of space per guest, which means it never seems crowded or hurried. The 600 guests will all stay in suites, each with a private veranda, living area, and walk-in closet.
The Seabourn Ovation will also feature exceptional dining opportunities, including The Grill by Thomas Keller, reminiscent of a classic American restaurant from the 50's and 60's. Exclusive to Seabourn, The Grill is a unique culinary concept for Chef Keller.
Following the ship's delivery, the Seabourn Ovation will embark on an 11-day inaugural voyage departing from Venice and sailing to Barcelona. The ship will spend most of her maiden season cruising the waters of Northern Europe, Norwegian fjords, and the British Isles. In the fall of 2018, the ship sails through the Mediterranean and the Suez Canal to Asia, where she will spend the winter of 2018-2019, primarily sailing between Hong Kong and Singapore on 14-day voyages.
MSC Cruises launches the 154,000-ton, 5,179-guest MSC Seaview in June 2018, just six months after her identical sister ship the MSC Seaside was officially named in Miami. Although the sister’s design is perfect for sun and warm-weather cruises, the twins have different homeports. Although the MSC Seaside currently cruises the Caribbean year-round from Miami, the MSC Seaview sails the Mediterranean most of her first year in service and spends her first winter in South America. The MSC Seaview has three Mediterranean homeports: Genoa, Marseille and Barcelona, and the new ship docks at well-known destinations like Naples, Messina, and Valetta.
Cabins in the ship's unique aft overlook a pool situated on a skirt area, which adds more outdoor deck space to the new ship. The MSC Seaview also has a 360-degree wraparound promenade with glass railings that run completely around the ship. The ship's spectacular interior design gives it an open, airy look.
Although the MSC Seaview is a new design, the company has retained its popular MSC Yacht Club, an exclusive area of suites, a lounge with all-inclusive drinks, private dining area, and 24-hour butler service.
Since the MSC Seaview is an Italian ship, guests shouldn’t be surprised to find many dishes with an Italian or Mediterranean flair on the menus at the various dining venues. Like other MSC ships, the MSC Seaview even has an Eataly Restaurant.
Le Lapérouse and Le Champlain of Ponant Cruises
French cruise line Ponant Cruises launches two new 180-guest expedition ships in 2018--Le Lapérouse (June 2018) and Le Champlain (September 2018). These two expedition ships are smaller than the company's more traditional yacht-like ships (e.g. Le Boreal) that carry 264 guests but have many of the same contemporary luxury touches.
One major difference between the Ponant expedition ships and its larger yachts is the open deck at the stern that provides easy access to the marine equipment and doubles as a landing platform. Another difference that guests will love is the new Blue Eye Lounge. This underwater lounge is located within the hull beneath the water line. The lounge has underwater cameras and microphones capturing the sights and sounds under the sea. Guests will be able to see dolphins frolicking in the ship's wake and any other underwater action.
Both ships have fortified hulls for ice-water cruising and will explore remote destinations around the world. Le Lapérouse spends her maiden year with cruises to the Arctic, Mediterranean, Asia, Africa, New Zealand, and Australia. Le Champlain will visit Europe, North and South America, the Arctic, and Central America during her first season. Both ships will often stopover at unique, off-the-beaten-path ports of call inaccessible to larger ships.
Ponant plans to launch two more expedition ships like these two in 2019. Isn't that great news for those of us who love small ship cruising!
The Viking Orion is the fifth ocean-going ship in the Viking fleet, all launched in the past three years. Like its four sister ships (Viking Sea, Viking Star, Viking Sun, and Viking Sky), this ship carries 930 guests, so is smaller than most of the other new ships launched in 2018. Although Viking has been in the river cruise business for many years, its plunge into the world of ocean cruising has been even more successful than anyone dreamed. The ships have won many awards, and guests love the almost-all-inclusive fares that include drinks at lunch and dinner and one shore excursion at each port of call.
The many cruise travelers who have fallen in love with Viking’s other ships will feel like they are returning home since the Viking Orion is almost identical in appearance and layout. The favorite public rooms like the Wintergarden, Nordic Spa, and Explorer’s Lounge begin welcoming guests in July 2018. The excellent restaurants like Manfredi’s and the World Café are in the same, familiar spots and serve guest favorites.
The Viking Orion spends her first year in service with exciting voyages in the Mediterranean, Asia, Australia, and New Zealand. The new ship even has a 92-day world cruise scheduled from Auckland to Vancouver starting in February 2019. After arriving in Vancouver in May 2019, the Viking Orion becomes Viking’s first ship to visit Alaska as she completes her maiden year with a series of Alaska cruises.
Carrying only 228 guests, the Scenic Eclipse is the smallest new ocean ship launched in 2018. Scenic is an Australian tour company with luxury river cruise ships operating in Europe and Asia, but the Scenic Eclipse is the company’s first ocean-going ship. Many North Americans discovered Scenic Cruises during the past several years and found they loved the atmosphere and all-inclusive pricing.
The Scenic Eclipse may be an ultra-luxury, all-inclusive yacht, but its size is also perfect for expedition or discovery cruising. She will be sailing voyages to The Americas; Antarctica; Europe and the Mediterranean; and the Arctic and Norwegian Fjords in her first year of service.
The small ship has six onboard dining venues, none with an extra surcharge. The cuisines are varied, with contemporary fine dining from French, Pan Asian, and Italian cuisines. (And, of course, there's a good steak.) Guests can enjoy casual al-fresco dining on the Pool Deck or in the Ocean Cafe Lounge.
All the elegant cabins on the ship have a veranda and range in size from the spacious 344 square-foot Verandah Suites to the over-the-top 2,500-square-foot, two-bedroom Owner’s Penthouse Suite.
The common areas include a 5,000-square-foot spa, so guests can relax after a day exploring exotic destinations. The Scenic Eclipse has the highest ice-rated hull, custom built Zodiacs, two onboard helicopters, and a seven-seat submarine, all of which expand its experiences and itineraries.
German cruise line AIDA, which is part of the Carnival Corporation family, adds the AIDAnova to its fleet in the fall of 2018. This 5200-passenger vessel is noteworthy as the world’s first environmentally-friendly Liquified Natural Gas (LNG) powered large mainstream cruise ship.
AIDA is not well-known to most English-speaking cruise travelers, but anyone who sees the signature bright-red lips that grace the bow will certainly recognize every other AIDA cruise ship on future voyages. The vibrant lips are a perfect accompaniment to its mostly young, active, German-speaking guests and their families.
Hurtigruten Roald Amundsen
When Hurtigruten launches the 530-guest Roald Amundsen in October 2018, she will be the first of two new hybrid expedition ships for this Norwegian line that has been sailing in Arctic waters for over 120 years. The hybrid engines cut emissions, use less fuel, and are environmentally sustainable.
The new Hurtigruten ship is well-suited for cold weather cruising, with a hull strengthened to sail in icy waters and many indoor viewing areas with large windows. However, the Roald Amundsen also has an outdoor pool, hot tubs, and a pool bar. Most guests sailing into the Arctic or Antarctic regions take along appropriate clothing, so many prefer to watch the magnificent scenery from the outdoor decks to get the full experience.
Hurtigruten’s Roald Amundsen has several different categories of cabins and suites. All the cabins are on the outside of the ship. Some of the cabins have a kettle and tea/coffee provided. All the cabins have televisions that broadcast views from the bridge so guests who are relaxing in their cabins can run outside to take photos when wildlife magically appear.
The new ship has three dining venues, with menus focused on local dishes and destinations. (No, you won’t find penguin or leopard seal on the Antarctic menus!)
The Roald Amundsen’s maiden voyage in late October sails from Valparaiso to Patagonia, the Chilean fjords, Cape Horn, and Antarctica. After the Antarctic cruising season is over, the ship sails along the west coast of South America, through the Panama Canal and the Caribbean to southern Europe on a series of fascinating itineraries. She then turns north for Norway and spends the summer and fall of 2018 primarily sailing in Arctic waters.
Holland America Nieuw Statendam
The 2,860-guest Nieuw Statendam, which has her maiden voyage on December 5, 2018. is the second Pinnacle Class ship for Holland America Line, joining the Koningsdam, which launched in April 2016. A third Pinnacle Class ship will set sail for the cruise line in 2021.
The design of the 99,500-ton ship is similar to Koningsdam, but the Nieuw Statendam has exclusive public spaces and its own style created by leading hospitality designer Adam D. Tihany and designer and architect Bjorn Storbraaten. The ship features all the hallmarks of Pinnacle-class design: grand light-filled spaces; visual drama; and sumptuous interiors inspired by the fluid curves of musical instruments.
The first Statendam sailed for Holland America Line in 1898, and this is the sixth Holland America Line’s ship to carry the name.
The Nieuw Statendam has a busy first year, with many different itineraries. She crosses the Atlantic from Rome to Fort Lauderdale to spend her first winter season sailing the Caribbean. She then returns to Europe in April of 2019 to sail the Mediterranean, Northern Europe, and Norway, before moving back to Fort Lauderdale in late October for another Caribbean cruising season.
Celebrity Cruise Line’s 2,918-guest Celebrity Edge is the last cruise ship debuting in 2018. She has her maiden voyage on December 16 from Fort Lauderdale to the Caribbean. This ship is a new class for Celebrity and has many innovative features that cruise travelers will appreciate and enjoy.
One of the innovative design elements is Eden, which is almost 12,000 square feet of space that is utilized both in the daytime and the evening. Like other venues on the Celebrity Edge, it has an outward-facing focus, with huge windows spanning its three decks of space.
The Magic Carpet is the most-talked-about feature on the Celebrity Edge. The company considers this the highlight of the ship’s outward-facing vision. The Magic Carpet is the world’s first cantilevered, floating platform that reaches heights of 13 decks above sea level, so guests can soar over the open ocean while enjoying the view, sampling a bar drink, or enjoying a musical performance.
Travelers will love the Edge Staterooms with Infinite Verandas. As seen on some river ships, these accommodations have a balcony that doubles as a sunroom, which makes the cabin larger when guests aren’t using the balcony.
The Celebrity Edge spends her first season in the Caribbean, sailing round-trip from Fort Lauderdale to ports of call in both the eastern and western Caribbean. The ship moves to the Mediterranean for the spring and summer cruise season before returning to Fort Lauderdale in November 2019.