What’s New at Sea


Norwegian Breakaway’s spa suite
With Norwegian Breakaway, Norwegian Cruise Line appears to have a big hit. Shown here is a spa suite on the ship.



When it comes to introducing more new ships, features and developments, the cruise industry is showing that 2013 is a banner year. 

New Cruise Lines: Get ready for a new seagoing line, Viking Ocean Cruises. It’s the latest maritime venture for Torstein Hagen, chairman of Viking River Cruises. Now, Hagen will head a new Viking Cruises with both river and ocean operations. Viking Ocean Cruises’ first new ship, the 928-passenger Viking Star, will launch in 2015, sailing Scandinavian/Baltic and Mediterranean cruises. A second ocean ship will launch in 2016, with conditional orders and options for four more.

Expect emphasis on “the destination” and a product similar to what it offers on the world’s rivers. All-inclusive pricing will include a balcony stateroom, shore excursions in each port of call, all onboard meals and all port charges and government taxes. Passengers will also receive complimentary beer and wine with lunch and dinner, Wi-Fi, self-service laundry and 24-hour room service. Viking Star will feature the first infinity pool at sea and its spa will have plenty of warm experiences but also an unusual Nordic “snow grotto” where snowflakes descend from the ceiling through chilled air.

By the end of 2015, a new cruise line, Haimark will have five ships on the rivers of Southeast Asia; it will begin Mekong voyages later this year. An in-depth story is available here: http://www.travelagentcentral.com/river-cruises/new-river-cruise-operator-will-have-five-ships-asia-2015-40502

New Passenger Bill of Rights: After several high-profile cruise ship fires, Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) has adopted a new “Cruise Industry Passenger Bill of Rights.” Each CLIA member line is adopting the standards, now a condition of membership. The document’s benefits are in effect for all clients who buy their ticket in North America for travel on any CLIA North American member line, regardless of itinerary.

CLIA’s 14,000 travel agent members already have received details. View the Passenger Bill of Rights at www.cruising.org. CLIA is also submitting the document to the International Maritime Organization (IMO) and hopes IMO will extend the initiative to the entire international maritime industry.

New Home for Empress: Empress of the North, a former Majestic America Line vessel, was sold by the U.S. Federal Maritime Commission to American Queen Steamboat Company. The new owner will rename the ship American Empress. Homeported in Portland, OR, it will operate Pacific Northwest voyages on the Columbia and Snake rivers, beginning in 2014. Built in 2002, the American-flagged riverboat has five decks and accommodates 223 guests in seven stateroom categories.

New Big Ships for 2013: The 146,600-ton Norwegian Breakaway launched in May and Norwegian Cruise Line appears to have a big hit. Homeported in New York, the 4,000-passenger ship’s many innovations including an open-air boardwalk, The Waterfront, and 678 Ocean Place; indoor and outdoor venues on three decks create a new complex at sea to enhance guests’ connection with the ocean.

Entertainment includes three Broadway shows, “Rock of Ages,” “Burn the Floor” and “Cirque Dreams & Dinner Jungle Fantasy” as well as a fireworks show. Norwegian Breakaway has the first restaurant at sea by celebrity chef and Food Network star Geoffrey Zakarian. It also has an extensive Aqua Park at sea with five water slides (including twin Free Fall slides) and a three-story sports complex with the largest ropes course at sea, nine-hole miniature golf course, basketball court and rock climbing wall.

Princess Cruises just launched the 3,600-passenger Royal Princess, with a fittingly royal send-off. The ship was christened in Southampton, U.K., by Kate Middleton, the Duchess of Cambridge. Princess’ first new ship since 2008, Royal Princess is 20 percent larger than the previous “largest” Princess vessel. The ship has 1,780 passenger cabins, 81 percent with balconies. New features include a live TV studio, water and light show, expanded atrium and a new gelato shop. But the “wow element” is SeaWalk, a glass-bottomed enclosed walkway that extends 28 feet beyond the ship’s side and is 128 feet above the ocean.

Also launched this year were the 139,400-ton MSC Preziosa, the fourth and final Fantasia-class vessel for MSC Cruises, and Hapag-Lloyd’s Europa 2, a 42,830-ton luxury vessel. And while not a new build, Carnival Sunshine (formerly Carnival Destiny) is essentially a new ship after a $155 million bow-to-stern makeover. This Carnival Cruise Lines vessel is home to Fun Ship 2.0 updates, plus it has the new full service Ji Ji Asian Kitchen and a three-deck-high Serenity adults-only retreat.

Princess Cruises’ first new ship since 2008, Royal Princess
Princess Cruises’ first new ship since 2008, Royal Princess is 20 percent larger with a host of new features.

New Small Ships for 2013: Among vessels launched earlier this year were Viking Bragi, Viking Skadi, Viking Tor, Viking Var and Viking Forseti for Viking River Cruises; AmaVida and AmaPrima for AmaWaterways; Avalon Artistry II and Avalon Expression from Avalon Waterways; Scenic Jewel for Scenic Cruises; and Century Paragon and Century Legend for Asian operator Century Cruises.

Setting sail in July are Viking Rinda and Compagnie du Ponant’s oceangoing Le Soleal. Viking Atla, Viking Baldur and Viking Magni will debut later this year. 

Updated vessels with new homes? Un-Cruise Adventures will add the 64-guest refurbished Safari Voyager to its fleet later this year. Windstar Cruises purchased the Seabourn Legend, Pride and Spirit earlier this year. The first of those refurbished/updated vessels, renamed Star Pride, will sail May 5 to October 21, 2014, on Mediterranean voyages and operate Windstar’s first-ever Black Sea itinerary. And Silversea Cruises will launch the updated Silver Galapagos for year-round Galapagos Islands cruising this fall.

New Features and Perks: Disney Magic is headed for a drydock makeover September 7 to October 10, 2013. The ship will emerge with a new grand atrium, a children’s area of “super hero” proportions, a three-story water thrill and new Marvel character experiences, the first for Disney Cruise Line.

Holland America Line has new “On Location” activities—a location team comes onboard within different regions of the world to share insights through lectures, demonstrations and performances. Guests might take steel drum lessons in the Caribbean or learn tai chi on deck with a master in Asia. Crystal Cruises introduced new religious shore adventures. Some provide private, after-hours access to historic houses of worship while others are Jewish heritage tours or journeys to sacred pilgrimage destinations.

Oceania Cruises is in full swing with its new “Signature Sailings” line-up. For example, Marina’s “Baltic Odyssey” voyage on September 3 will feature master winemaker Armando Fumanelli, owner of Marchesi Fumanelli, located near Verona, Italy. He’ll host wine lectures, tastings and pairings.

Seabourn Cruise Line is introducing four new Penthouse Spa Suites on its ships; Seabourn Quest has the 516- to 538- square-foot suites, and the other two vessels will get them during upcoming drydocks. Each new suite also has a 172-square-foot private balcony. 

Partner-wise, Vacation.com has selected Voyages to Antiquity as a new preferred supplier. Celebrity Cruises and Microsoft’s Xbox have a new partnership to introduce one of the industry’s largest Xbox experiences at sea; it’s now on Celebrity Constellation and will be fleetwide by year’s end.



Viking Ocean Cruises’ new ship
Viking Ocean Cruises’ new ship, Viking Star, will introduce the line’s Aquavit Terrace dining concept to big ship cruising.