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These 9 new cruise ships are debuting on the seas this year and next

These 9 new cruise ships are debuting on the seas this year and next

Ships, exciting and new – come aboard, they’re expecting you. Setting a course for adventure is a rookie lineup of luxury liners that promises something for everyone, even if your mind isn’t on a new romance.

Since we’re paraphrasing the theme song of the classic TV series, “The Love Boat,” let’s dive right in, starting with the brand featured in the naughty and nautical show of the ‘70s and ‘80s.

Princess Cruises is about to make tasty waves with the new Sun Princess. Scheduled for a February debut, the future flagship of the Santa Clarita-based premium-class cruise line will set fleet records for passenger capacity (4,314) and gross tons (175,500), which is maritime speak for internal volume. Notable features include The Dome, an innovative entertainment space inspired by the terraces of Santorini, Greece. Sun Princess will earn her sea legs in the Mediterranean before homeporting in Port Everglades (Fort Lauderdale) for five months of Caribbean itineraries starting in October.

Before the Sun rises in the east, Royal Caribbean International will officially unveil its own all-time heavyweight champ in January. The big difference is that Icon of the Seas is the largest cruise ship … ever. The namesake of three planned Icon-class, mainstream-category ocean liners can accommodate 7,600 passengers when maxed out, roughly 1,200 more than RCI’s previous record-holder, Wonder of the Seas and its sixth Oasis-class sibling under construction, Utopia of the Seas that is slated for a summer 2024 debut. Within Icon’s 20 decks and 250,800 gross tons will be the largest at-sea water park and ice rink, the industry’s first suspended infinity pool and the tallest drop slide.

Italian, Carnival style comes to Long Beach in May with the debut of Firenze. (Courtesy of Carnival Cruise Line) 

No such records will be broken when the more modest Carnival Firenze makes her May debut at the Port of Long Beach. And that’s totally fine with Carnival as this 4,072-guest “Fun Ship” is destined for the Mexican Riviera and not the Guinness Book of World Records. Firenze is the second of two former Costa Cruises ships to be rechristened under a different brand. Like on her older sister, the Carnival Venezia that moves from New York to Florida this December, Firenze passengers can expect generous sprinkles of oregano from bow to stern. Even the addition of a Guy’s Burger Joint comes with a new Italian-influenced menu item straight from Flavortown: the Pepperoni Pizza Burger with fried mozzarella, pepperoni marinara, provolone, aged parmesan and Guy Fieri’s own Donkey Sauce.

Aboard Cunard’s new Queen Anne, a favorite guilty pleasure for its British-skewing guests will undoubtedly be scones with clotted cream and jam. Not everything will be according to tradition on Queen Anne as Cunard is hoping to appeal to a wider audience (read: younger) by coming out with its most contemporary ship ever. Come May, Queen Anne will be Cunard’s fourth active ship, the first time the upper-premium brand has sailed that many at the same time since 1999. The 3,000-passenger vessel will sport a whopping 4,300 art pieces, many of the modern variety, and “celebrate Cunard’s past with a modern twist,” as promised by Matt Gleaves, VP, Commercial — North America and Australasia in a recent chat. To his point, Queen Anne is going with an art deco design, a trend-following cabaret-style entertainment venue and fleet-first dining concepts (Japanese, Mediterranean and Indian) to go with a revamped menu at the always-lively Golden Lion Pub.

No sunken Treasure here as Disney readies to launch its next flagship in late 2024. (Courtesy of Disney Cruise Line) 

Staying within the premium category, everyone’s favorite Mickey Mouse cruise line operation is unburying Disney Treasure in late 2024. If the second of three planned Triton-class ships is anything like the first, the 2022-debuting Wish, then Disney adults (and children) can expect a treasure trove of maritime merriment and memories. The future flagship is said to have more of a fairy tale-meets-adventure vibe than Wish. Disney is being its usual tight-lipped selves in terms of details about the 4,000-passenger ship, so stay tuned.

Rendering of the Grand Hall on Disney Treasure, debuting in late 2024. (Courtesy of Disney Cruise Line) 

In November, Celebrity Cruises plans to launch its fourth and final Edge-class cruise ship. The 3,260-guest Ascent will have reimagined entertainment venues and three newly designed restaurants not found on siblings Edge, Apex and Beyond. Like the others, however, Ascent will have the signature feature that gives Edge class its edge: The Magic Carpet, a movable piece of real estate that serves as a restaurant, bar and embarkation area across 14 decks. Celebrity’s future flagship will sail to the Caribbean from Fort Lauderdale except when not galivanting around the Mediterranean from late spring to early fall.

Moving on up, Regent Seven Seas brings its new flagship — the supposed most expensive luxury cruise ship ever built — to Southern California in January. The $545-million Seven Seas Grandeur will have completed only four itineraries before pulling into San Pedro’s World Cruise Center to pick up as many as 746 passengers going on a 16-night voyage to Miami via the Panama Canal.

Another ultra-luxury cruise line, Silversea, debuts its second Nova-class ship in June. The 728-guest Silver Ray will spend her inaugural season in the Mediterranean, then in December 2024 come out to Florida to prep for a 72-day Grand Voyage around South America.

A more intimate luxury experience will be on the 100-passenger Emerald Sakara, which debuts this month in the Mediterranean, but doesn’t have its christening ceremony until December in the Caribbean. The super-yacht is a sister to Emerald Azzurra, which launched in January 2022 and marked the foray of ocean cruising by a line that previously only navigated rivers. Both crafts feature an onboard wellness center with spa, gym and sauna, three tenders and a Zodiac for shore landings. Local flavors enjoyed at three onboard dining locales can be burned off by snorkeling, paddle boarding and swimming off the yacht’s marina platform.

Norwegian Viva: First Impressions

Norwegian Viva anchors in Cannes, France, on her maiden voyage. (Photo by David Dickstein) 

Back from sailing on one of the more exciting ships with rookie seasons in 2023-24, we can report that the two-month delay for Viva’s maiden voyage was worth the wait. The Norwegian Viva, which replaces Prima as Norwegian Cruise Line’s flagship, scores high on service, food and beverage, ship design and, yes, even thrills with a multi-deck go-kart track and a fleet-debuting virtual reality ride, Viva made a wonderful first impression — just as her older Prima-class sister did a year ago. NCL a mainstream cruise line? Not with these “upper-contemporary” siblings.

You know a ship is full of style when even the main dining room impresses. Hudson’s, Viva’s largest restaurant, looks lavishly luxe with elegant appointments and 270-degree views through floor-to-ceiling windows. Opulent Le Bistro, the ship’s French restaurant, has three large chandeliers in the center that are hung low for dramatic effect. The epitome of poshness is found in The Haven, NCL’s five-star “ship within a ship” concept that is so exclusive on Viva, only 107 of her 1,586 staterooms are within this tony suite community.

NCL is going all-in with these ships through the remainder of the decade. Four more Prima-class vessels are planned for roll-outs between 2025 and 2028, and each will be 10 to 20 percent larger than the initial two that share the same passenger capacity (3,099) and gross tonnage (143,535). Identical twins they are not, however. Differences between Prima and Viva are subtle and sparing, but they clearly prove that NCL takes those passenger surveys to heart.

Enhancements observed on Viva include increased standing room in both the Improv comedy club and adjacent Syd Norman’s Pour House concert hall. Tweaks to where food and drink are served include more seats inside and outside the globally eclectic Indulge Food Hall. The least popular experiences in the VR-loaded Galaxy Pavilion on Prima aren’t on Viva, a good call that allows for a satisfying fleet debut of Gyro, a combo simulator thrill ride and shooting game.

Speaking of games, an audience-participation version of TV’s “Press Your Luck,” the show known for the catchphrase, “No whammys!” is now on Viva after a delay, as is a scaled-down adaptation of the Tony Award-nominated “Beetlejuice: The Musical” in the 800-seat, triple-deck Viva Theater.

More good times are found when taking the plunge on the ship’s two dry slides and one waterslide. For a pure adrenaline rush, there’s that Gyro ride and Viva Speedway, which now is the second three-level race track at sea.

All this fun and excitement can build up one’s appetite. Good thing there’s some decent grub on board. The best fast-serve Indian food at sea is at Tamara, one of the 11 stations within Indulge. What a treat eating amazing chicken tikka masala and saag paneer with naan bread (not pita!) freshly baked in an actual tandoor oven, a cruising rarity, and this ship has two.

Galaktoboureko, an orange custard pie with Greek yogurt sorbet, is a yummy dessert at Palomar on Viva. (Photo by David Dickstein) 

You get what you pay for at a couple of Viva’s upcharging specialty restaurants. The monkfish, tuna crudo and citrusy galaktoboureko dessert at Mediterranean-themed Palomar are winners. So are the tuna poke nachos and “Green Tea Jar” dessert at pan-Pacific-inspired Food Republic. Other fee-based dining either didn’t impress or went untried.

Accommodations-wise, the largest is the 2,100-square-foot “Haven Premier Owner’s Suite with Balcony” that sleeps eight. There’s two of those and 94 others that will appeal to social solo travelers; the single-occupancy, 308-square-foot “Studio” staterooms come with a dedicated lounge for an upscale hostel vibe.

British artist Dominic Harris interacts with his own 52-foot-long digital artwork on Norwegian Viva. (Photo by David Dickstein) 

Did we mention that Viva is one of the prettiest ships in the industry’s armada? Adorning an already aesthetic vessel is original artwork inside and out. A selfie-worthy sculpture garden graces strollable Ocean Boulevard, an outdoor promenade on Deck 8 that encircles the ship. Indoors, specifically along a wall of the Metropolitan Bar on Deck 7, is where the eye-catching “Every Wing Has a Silver Lining” is mounted. The 52-foot-wide interactive digital artwork by British artist Dominic Harris consists of 48 million pixels that form over 2,000 fluttering butterflies when activated by a passing hand. It’s the pièce de resistance of a ship lacking only an iconic feature.

Norwegian Viva sails the Mediterranean before heading to Miami for a Nov. 28 christening ceremony. From December 2023 to March 2024 she will homeport in Puerto Rico for a series of Caribbean itineraries.