The shipyards of the world are turning out the biggest vessels that have ever sailed, with activities and amenities that boggle the mind. Royal Caribbean International's innovative new Freedom of the Seas will set sail this month, and at 160,000 tons, it's the largest cruise ship tonnage-wise ever built, even surpassing Cunard's Queen Mary 2, which has held that distinction since launching two years ago.
A virtual floating city at sea, Freedom of the Seas is the first of a new "Freedom class" of vessels for Royal Caribbean. It will serve 3,634 guests, the most of any cruise vessel afloat today. Fans of Royal Caribbean will find the line's signature rock climbing wall onboard, as well as many popular features of the line's Voyager-class ships, including a skating rink and shopping promenade.
But it's the new options that are mind-boggling. They include an interactive water park, a pool deck with dedicated sports pool that transforms into an open-air nightclub, and two cantilevered whirlpools that extend out 12 feet from the sides of the ship. Surf's up on the top deck, where you or your kids can grab a line-provided boogie board or surfboard and ride the surf in a mechanical wave action pool. The experience is free, and beginners are welcome. For something really different, the first boxing ring at sea lets boxing enthusiasts take lessons or view demonstrations.
Freedom of the Seas will sail the western Caribbean from Miami, FL, visiting fun ports of call in Cozumel, Mexico; Georgetown, Grand Cayman; Montego Bay, Jamaica; as well as Labadee, the line's private beach area along the remote north coast of Hispaniola.
Also this month, the 113,000-ton Crown Princess will begin sailing from New York's new Brooklyn Cruise Terminal to the Caribbean. Crown Plaza's atrium is designed in the spirit of an Italian piazza, where guests might grab a bite to eat or just relax and watch their fellow passengers. Other highlights include the Crown Grill, modeled after a classic steakhouse; the Sanctuary deck area, reserved just for adults; and Movies Under the Stars, a magical poolside movie experience.
If you enjoy everything Italian, you'll like the new 112,000-ton Costa Concordia, the largest Italian-flagged cruise ship ever built. It will debut this July, boast 500 balcony cabins and host 3,700 guests. A two-deck fitness area, Samsara Suites with direct spa access, four swimming pools—two with a retractable glass roof—13 bars and the first Formula One racecar simulator at sea will help keep everyone entertained. Costa Concordia will sail year-round in the Mediterranean.
MSC Cruises is unveiling its new 89,600-ton MSC Musica with a maiden voyage that starts in Venice, July 1. The 2,550-passenger ship will sail eastern Mediterranean itineraries through the summer, and then reposition to Fort Lauderdale for a winter season of Caribbean sailings. Of the ship's 1,275 staterooms, almost 80 percent will be outside accommodations, and 65 percent of all cabins will have balconies. In addition, MSC Musica's central foyer will have a sparkling three-deck waterfall. Resources
Norwegian Cruise Line will welcome the 93,000-ton Norwegian Pearl in November. Passengers will enjoy NCL's popular Freestyle cruising product with multiple restaurants, open-seat dining, vibrant public rooms, and versatile, family-friendly accommodations. Check out NCL's newest style of accommodations, Courtyard Villas, which along with each ship's two Garden Villas, are among the largest and most luxurious ever built. A sister NCL operation, NCL America, sails U.S. flagged vessels in Hawaii. The third of those vessels, Pride of Hawaii, joins the fleet this spring. You'll have plenty of time to explore the islands with 96 hours of port time on multiple islands during a weeklong vacation.