National Geographic will launch a new 100-passenger vessel in 2017
The new year will also bring Majestic Princess, a 3,560-passenger ship launching in summer 2017
Do you long for the open sea, the wind in your face and the adventure that awaits in exotic ports of call?
Do your whims include gourmet cuisine, duty-free shopping, high-tech experiences, a go-cart track or water park and a bedroom far more luxurious than the one you sleep in at home?
The cruise industry has your lust for luxury travel uppermost in its mind.
In 2017, many of the major cruise lines, and an ambitious fleet of smaller ones, will launch new ships, each one touting new features, new ports, moves toward sustainability and cultural partnerships – all in the interest of giving passengers a soul-stirring travel experience far removed from the workaday worries of daily life.
These new vessels are scheduled to slide into service in the year ahead, so passengers can hit the high seas in style.
Exotic ports of call are the hallmark of luxury cruise line Seabourn. Pioneers of the small-ship, ocean-going experience, the company recently launched the Seabourn Encore, the fourth in its fleet.
Designed to feel like a luxury yacht, the Encore embodies the finer things in life – from the ship’s crafted and curving lines down to the custom carpet and materials.
Launched in Athens, the Encore’s first voyage occurred in December 2016, departing from Dubai on its way to Singapore, before making its way around the Java and Coral seas, the Barrier Reef and Queensland coast and New Zealand, before heading back to Dubai for excursions around various Mediterranean ports throughout 2017.
The ship was born at the hands of master designer Adam D. Tihany, who saw to it that the vessel will carry 600 guests in 300 elegant suites with mahogany and nautical touches, each with a private veranda and stylish marble baths.
Three-star Michelin chef Thomas Keller heads up culinary offerings in the Grill, and guests can dine in the restaurant Sushi as a culinary alternative.
Encore features a casino, pool and whirlpool, plus a water sports marina offering complimentary use of kayaks, pedal boats and windsurfers.
Guests can take advantage of the Retreat, a top-deck covered expanse with 15 cabanas available for rent. It also offers a centrally located hot tub as well as a bar, a spa cabana, lounge chairs and food and beverage service.
Seabourn is also a proud partner of UNESCO to promote sustainable tourism at World Heritage sites.
The Encore gets its official christening at a ceremony in Singapore on January 7, 2017, featuring international recording artist Sarah Brightman, who will officially name the ship during the celebration. The vessel will then depart on its true inaugural voyage, the 10-day Gems of the Java Sea cruise, bound for Indonesia.
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Viking Sky and Viking Sun
Destination is everything for the Viking cruise line, and its newest additions to the fleet, the 10-deck Viking Sky and Viking Sun, fully deliver.
Set to launch in February 2017 and November 2017, respectively, the 930-passenger luxury liners join sister ships, the Star and Sea, in putting a distinct emphasis on longer days and more overnighters in key ports, eschewing other standard cruise offerings like casinos and floor shows.
But that doesn’t mean it scrimps on amenities.
Much like the Viking River Cruises’ so-called Longships, both offer Nordic hospitality through their indoor/outdoor Aquavit Terrace dining rooms, spacious promenade decks ringing the vessel, and the Explorer’s and Sundeck Lounges, which afford panoramic observation areas, as well as a Sports Deck at the very top.
You’ll also find a glass-roofed pool and a main restaurant that converts from open-air venue to enclosed cozy dining room with the push of a button. To add to the charm you can gather around a fire pit, saunter into an Armagnac bar, and take full advantage of the Nordic-influenced spa with snow room and Finnish sauna.
A full-range of staterooms are all understated in their elegance and feature verandas for taking in the sights, which on Viking’s multi-country trips will span from the Mediterranean to the Baltic, from Viking homelands to the midnight sun, and beyond.
With its home ports of Shanghai and Tianjin (Beijing), Norwegian Cruise Line’s new Norwegian Joy will cater to Chinese travelers beginning in the summer of 2017.
The German-engineered vessel holds some 4,000 passengers and is appointed to fulfill the cruising and vacation needs of even the most discerning passenger.
This liner offers activities not found on other ships, including a two-level, electric-car raceway that allows up to 10 drivers to race at once, open-air laser tag, high-tech gaming and virtual reality, along with karaoke and multi-story water slides, including the Double Aqua Loop free-fall slide.
For those occasions when you need some down time, try the open-air Serenity Park, a breath of fresh air replete with greenery, a pool and comfortable chaise lounges. It’s what Norwegian calls “the perfect spot to practice tai chi or yoga.”
For those who like to run up the luxury meter, Norwegian offers the Haven on certain decks – a kind of ship-within-a-ship concept. The pampered here will enjoy butler service, a dedicated concierge, priority access to specialty dining and entertainment, a private restaurant, an enclosed courtyard and other amenities and activities.
Asian dining gets full attention aboard the Joy, with nearly 30 restaurants that include traditional and fusion Chinese, Korean and Japanese cuisine.
Two must-try offerings include Sakura & Hibiscus, offering hot pot and Korean barbecue, and the comfort-food themed American Diner dishing up meatloaf, pot pies, burgers and fried chicken. And sip at the Grand Tea Room featuring high-end Chinese loose-leaf teas and high tea-style finger foods.
In a nod to the Chinese culture and tradition of multi-generational family travel, the Joy offers family-friendly suites, including rooms with connecting doors. It will not offer any single cabins.
China will also be home to Princess Cruises’ new Royal Class ship, Majestic Princess, a 3,560-passenger ship that will launch in the summer of 2017.
Patterned after sister ships the Royal Princess and Regal Princess, the Majestic Princess will offer a multi-story atrium that will thrum with social activities, the adults-only Sanctuary and the glass passageway SeaWalk that extends out beyond the edge of the ship and over the ocean for a thrilling visual vantage point.
Entertainment will be produced by the Princess Live! TV studio. Other attractions include the Pastry Shop, Chef’s Table Lumiere, the Watercolor Fantasy (a dancing fountain of lights and music) and enhanced Movies Under the Stars.
Cuisine includes the Crown GrillSM steakhouse and two new exclusive specialty restaurants – Harmony, serving chef Richard Chen’s interpretation of classic Cantonese dishes, and La Mer, an authentic Parisian Bistro. There’s also the World Fresh Marketplace, where hungry guests can savor global flavors at a variety of food stations.
Silversea Cruises, with its eight-ship fleet, ups the ante in luxury cruising with its newest, ninth and largest vessel, the Silver Muse, set to launch in the spring of 2017. The 596-passenger ship is Silversea’s leap toward what it calls “ultra-luxury ocean cruising.”
Seven levels of ocean-view suites, from roughly 400 square feet (entry level) up to nearly 1500 square feet (Grand Suites), provide an array of richly designed decors.
Eight restaurants – including the poolside Hot Rocks, where guests can grill their own seafood and meats, and a jazz club called Silver Note that features live music and tapas – are scattered throughout.
Recreational amenities abound with an aerobics studio, spa facilities, library, children’s outdoor area and a top-deck observation lounge.
Its name in Italian means “wonder” and by virtue of its size and limitless indulgence, it certainly is one.
When it launches in the spring of 2017, the ship will have the largest passenger capacity, holding 4,500 double-occupancy guests, all cared for by a crew of 1,536 people.
Indulgence is the name of the game, given the staggering array of dining options, with 12 restaurants including the Taiko sushi bar, Eataly (yup, it’s Italian, and also doubles as an Italian market), an American-style steakhouse, a world-class chocolatier and a gut-busting and expansive 20-hour-a-day buffet.
Walk Meraviglia’s spacious indoor promenade, witness Cirque du Soleil at Sea six nights a week at the Carousal Lounge starting in June 2017, seek thrills at the giant aqua park and close out each night at the mega-ship’s casino and disco.
Find the perfect berth with everything from a standard balcony cabin to duplex suites (sleeping quarters upstairs and living space downstairs), many with private balconies featuring whirlpool baths. Butler service is also available in some suites.
The Meraviglia goes high-tech with RFID wristband technology, arming vacationers with an easy device for making payments, booking spa treatments and other services, and – maybe best of all – allowing parents to geo-locate their wayward kids.
The Meraviglia has also turned an eye toward efficiency, with scrubber technology to neutralize carbon dioxide emissions and equipment to be water-emission free.
National Geographic Quest
Intimacy and exploration are the hallmarks of the new National Geographic Quest, a 100-passenger vessel ready to launch in June 2017. Plying the waters of Alaska’s Inside Passage south to the tropical coasts of Costa Rica, Panama and through the canal to Belize, Quest is a shining star in the hunt for understanding our physical world.
The newest Lindblad Expeditions-National Geographic craft offers 50 cabins, including 22 with balconies. Eight rooms can be configured into four adjoining cabins for families or groups.
Designed for nature and wildlife viewing, Quest features easily accessible public spaces and a sun deck with an outdoor walkway and alfresco bar and grill, in addition to a restaurant and a lounge with bar, facilities for presentations, including a state-of-the-art audiovisual system, a fully-equipped fitness room and a spa.
For those who need a closer look, Quest features a fleet of 24 sea kayaks, paddle boards and specially-designed landing craft.
For science geeks and knowledge-seekers, Quest will include remotely-operated vehicles (ROV), a video microscope and a hydrophone and bow-cam designed to hear and film humpback whale vocalizations and witness bow-riding dolphins. The ship also carries complete warm- and cold-water diving gear and underwater cameras so that an onboard expert can bring back underwater images.
While it probably won’t debut until early 2018, the Flying Clipper should be worth the wait for those more interested in a genuine high-seas sailing adventure. The Star Clipper line – long known for its majestic, masted sailing fleet – is launching the five-masted, square-rigged, 32-sail vessel – its largest and latest addition in 15 years.
With four owner’s suites and 150 cabins (including 34 balcony suites), the ship will feature three pools, including one that gathers and filters sunlight through the ship’s atrium into the dining room, a glass-sided dive-training pool, a watersports platform and an open-seat atrium restaurant.
This is your chance at true adventure aboard a genuine sailing vessel. Under expert supervision, you can take vantage of mast climbing, where you’re actually harnessed to the rigging and can climb to the first crow’s nest for jaw-dropping panoramas of the sea around you and the decks below.
A knowledgeable crew offers informal daily talks on a host of topics, including knot-tying, celestial navigation, the history of clipper ships and sailing techniques.
There are also plenty of opportunities for excursions ashore at various ports around the Mediterranean in summer and the Caribbean in winter, but onboard, you’ll find a cozy spa for Thai massage, facials and nail treatments, a library and a function room for private events and guest lectures.
And for sun lovers, take full advantage of plopping yourself in the two nets strung on either side of the bowsprit, one of the finest places for sunbathing, relaxing or canoodling.
Don Campbell is a Pacific Northwest freelance writer and editor who specializes in travel, entertainment and business. Find him at www.campbellcommunications.com and tweet him @doncam.