Explainer: New cruise ships sailing into 2011

  • Image: Allure of the Seas
    Roni Lehti  /  AFP - Getty Images
    Allure of the Seas

    Looks like it’s full speed ahead for the cruise industry. With Allure of the Seas now in Fort Lauderdale, Disney Dream set to debut and a half-dozen other new ships on the way, the rough seas of the recession are growing calmer by the day.

    That’s good news for cruisers, says Stewart Chiron, aka The Cruise Guy. “The fact that these ships are coming out during difficult times is a testament to the industry’s resilience,” he said. “A lot of people who wouldn’t have taken a cruise before are now considering one.”

    First-timer or not, here’s a look at eight new additions to the fleet:

  • Allure of the Seas

    Image: Allure of the Seas' zipline
    Rob Lovitt

    Allure embarked on her inaugural cruise on Dec. 5, and she shares the title of world’s biggest cruise ship with its twin Oasis of the Seas, but adds a few new amenities. In addition to the zip line and skating rink, the surf machines and climbing walls, you’ll also find a 3-D theater, the first Romero Britto store at sea and two new restaurants, including a Mexican cantina and Brazilian steakhouse. Get some sleep before you go, suggests Carolyn Spencer Brown, editor in chief at CruiseCritic.com, or be prepared to swing by another new onboard amenity: the first Starbucks at sea.

  • Marina

    Image: Oceania Marina
    Oceania

    A Lalique grand staircase, a hands-on culinary arts center co-sponsored by Bon Appétit and a trio of owners’ suites with Ralph Lauren furnishings — Marina has all the makings of an ultra-premium experience, but with a surprisingly “egalitarian” ambience. As Oceania’s first purpose-built ship (launching Jan. 22), Marina is significantly larger than its siblings (65,000 tons vs. 30,000), carries more passengers (1,258 vs. 684) and features several new restaurants, including Jacques, the first eatery anywhere to bear the name of famed French chef Jacques Pépin. “[Marina] will be an intriguing hybrid of luxury and mid-market pricing,” said Spencer Brown. “It’s a category that’s never existed before.”

  • Disney Dream

    Image: Disney Dream
    Disney

    It’s been 11 years since Disney launched a new cruise ship and Mickey’s minions have clearly gone all out. Launching on Jan. 26, the ship will carry 2,500 passengers (4,000 with all beds filled) on fantasy-filled cruises between Port Canaveral and the Bahamas. Among the innovations: The Enchanted Garden restaurant, where the decor changes from day to night; inside cabins with virtual portholes with underwater scenes, and the AquaDuck, a 750-foot “watercoaster” that winds up, down and around the ship’s upper decks. “Dream is the Oasis of 2011,” said Spencer Brown. “It’s going to be different than everything that’s come before it.”

  • L’Austral

    Image: L'Austral
    Erick Larrieu  /  L'Austral

    Having opened a U.S. office just this year, the French cruise line Compagnie du Ponant is probably still unfamiliar to many American cruisers. That may change with the arrival of the line’s fifth ship, L’Austral, a 132-cabin mega-yacht that will launch on April 27. Not surprisingly, the onboard amenities — two restaurants, plus a spa, theater, lounge and library — will provide more than a soupçon of French flair even as the ship’s itineraries take her far beyond the Côte d’Azur. After spending the summer in the Mediterranean, the ship will sail on to Africa, Antarctica and other exotic ports of call.

  • Carnival Magic

    Image: Carnival Magic
    Carnival

    The latest addition to the Carnival fleet manages a neat trick: Although it’s a carbon copy of Carnival Dream, this 130,000-ton, 3,690-passenger ship tweaks the Fun Ship formula with several new amenities. Get a workout on the first ropes course at sea; cool off in a waterpark featuring a 500-gallon dump bucket, then retire to the RedFrog Pub for private-label beers and Caribbean-flavored snacks or Cucina del Capitano for hand-made pastas and select Italian wines. Launching on May 1, “Magic is perfect for entry-level or first-time cruisers,” said Dwain Wall, senior vice president/general manager for CruiseOne and Cruises Inc.

  • Seabourn Quest

    Image: Seabourn Odyssey
    Copyright 2009 Michel Verdure

    As the sister ship to the Odyssey (pictured) and Sojourn, Seabourn Quest joins a fleet that Chiron calls “quite possibly the nicest cruise ships on the planet.” Like her predecessors, the ship features a two-deck spa, four restaurants and 225 suite-style cabins, 90 percent of which have private balconies. The result: a yacht-like experience without upper-crust fustiness that draws younger cruisers than other ultra-luxury lines. You can join them on a three-day pre-inaugural cruise from Monte Carlo on June 9, a 14-day maiden voyage from Barcelona on June 20 or, if you’re feeling flush, a 109-day world cruise starting Jan. 5, 2012.

  • Costa Favolosa

    Image: Costa Favoloso
    Matteo Piazza  /  Courtesy of Costa Cruises

    The name is Italian for fairy tale; the decor is modeled after an enchanted castle, and the ambience is Carnival Fun Ship (Costa’s parent company) meets the Continent. Launching on July 4, the 3,000-passenger ship offers several of Costa’s signature Concordia-class amenities, including a Grand Prix driving simulator, 4-D cinema (3-D, plus physical effects) and two-level pool deck with a glass roof and movie screen. New additions, including verandah suites with Jacuzzi tubs, a teen entertainment area and a water park for little cruisers, should only add to la dolce vita.

  • Celebrity Silhouette

    Image: Celebrity Eclipse
    Simon Brooke-Webb  /  Celebrity

    Details are still sketchy on Celebrity’s newest ship, but the fourth vessel in the line’s innovative Solstice class will replicate the most popular amenities of her predecessors, including a glass-blowing studio, recreation area with real grass and Qsine, the eclectic, iPad-menu-equipped restaurant that debuted on Eclipse (pictured). “It’ll be like a floating boutique hotel,” said Chiron of the 2,850-passenger ship, which will begin sailing Mediterranean and Holy Land itineraries on July 23. Those who prefer more tropical itineraries will have to wait until next fall when the ship will start offering 12-night Caribbean cruises from Bayonne, N.J.

updated 3/15/2011 4:55:21 PM ET 2011-03-15T20:55:21

Despite rising fuel costs and more stringent environmental regulations, the cruise industry expects modest growth in 2011 as eight new large ships debut and consumers continue to shake off the effects of a recession, industry executives said Tuesday.

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The Cruise Lines International Association predicts that 16 million people — three-quarters of them from North America — will vacation aboard cruise ships this year, up 6.6 percent from 2010. Last year's numbers exceeded the trade association's projections.

CEOs of six of the leading cruise lines, speaking during a panel discussion at the annual Cruise Shipping Miami conference, expressed tempered optimism for continued growth, noting the large untapped market worldwide for cruising. The industry said cruising still makes up around 3 percent of the vacation sector in the United States.

Holland America Line CEO Stein Cruse said baby boomers who hold the majority of the wealth are a huge untapped customer base as the economy improves and vacation spending picks up again.

"They're living better, they're living longer, they have more interest in travel and cruising appeals to them," Cruse said.

Cruise companies managed to keep their ships at capacity during the last few years by cutting prices. That made cruising more affordable for more people whose positive experience likely will bring them back for future vacations, said Gerald R. Cahill, president and CEO of Carnival Cruise Lines.

"Once again, the industry showed how resilient it was," Cahill said. "We filled our ships (with) lower pricing. We were still profitable as an industry, which is a big deal. The industry continued to grow, we added new ships and we innovated."

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Among the new ships this year is the 4,000-passenger Disney Dream, the cruise line's third ship and its first new one in more than a decade. The Dream is sailing to the Bahamas from Florida's Port Canaveral. In May, Carnival Cruise Lines is debuting its largest ship, Carnival Magic. The 3,690-passenger vessel, sailing from Barcelona, is industry leader Carnival's 23rd ship.

Norwegian Cruise Line CEO Kevin Sheehan said newer ships are more fuel efficient and feature better-designed and more comfortable cabins, more diverse dining options, more entertainment and innovative outdoor spaces including water rides, and on-deck movie theaters and nightclubs.

"It's not enough for our guests to just smell the sea air, they want to breathe it and feel it, and we're figuring out more new and creative ways to bring our guests closer and closer to the sea," he said.

Industry officials cited rising fuel costs, more restrictive emission control regulations and lack of standardized regulations around the world as the most pressing challenges.

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Video: What’s the best cruise line?

  1. Closed captioning of: What’s the best cruise line?

    >> palm beach now. thousands of travel agents took a poll and named the top travel destinations, how to get there and where to stay.

    >> mark murphy travel, publication of vacation magazine, is here to discuss the results.

    >> the travel agents sell most cruises towards resorts. they're selling millions of consumers on these cruises and they're getting feedback on how things go wrong on a cruise and how they can fix it.

    >> they get all the calls, don't they?

    >> they do.

    >> the best all-inclusive resort is sandals.

    >> one of the best things about sandals is it's all included. you're paying up front and you don't have to worry about it.

    >> even alcohol is included?

    >> alcohol is included. you're paying for the drinks so you might want to take advantage.

    >> they do make gorgeous settings.

    >> the next one, best mid-priced hotel chain and your group picked the marriott .

    >> marriott , because bill marriott of the marriott family is behind a fantastic product, and you know every time you go what you're going to get.

    >> and clean, and the people are so nice that work in all the marriotts.

    >> i found this one interesting. best domestic airline because usually people are complaining about all of them, but you picked southwest.

    >> they win all the time.

    >> it's a love-hate with the airlines. who wants to go through security these days, get patted down, all that nonsense.

    >> it depends on who is doing it.

    >> i didn't think about that. maybe la guardia . the thing s you don't get the fees. when you show up at counter, you don't get the extra $150 in fees.

    >> what about the cattle call to get on, like you don't have a seat and everybody just storms on.

    >> they organize it. they put you in three different lines and they organize it, and it's a very nice process.

    >> they don't go all over the country, though, is the problem.

    >> they bought some carriers. they just bought airtran, so they're going to be in more and more markets.

    >> good. the next one is best cruise line , and the group picked royal caribbean .

    >> you know a little about royal caribbean because you were just overseas, right?

    >> i know a lot about cruising.

    >> sister ships, there are seven neighborhoods. you can go to central park , you can go to the boardwalk. it's a really great experience.

    >> you could spend a week on that, couldn't you, hoda, and not see everything.

    >> they took a pretty unique approach. they literally have inside cabins that face outside onto central park . just the construction of it, it's really impressive. ice skating rink .

    >> and 17 floors, as i remember.

    >> it's a floating city . it really is.

    >> some of those are crazy. they have the two-story suites.

    >> that was nuts. loved it! all right. the best hotel and resort chain. you're calling it starwoods hotel, but that's a whole bunch of --

    >> oh, that's where we should be.

    >> i'm going there in two weeks. that's bora bora in one of those bu bungalows.

    >> how long does it take to get to bora bora .

    >> seven hours from l.a.

    >> from l.a.

    >> if you're interested in river cruises --

    >> and who isn't?

    >> uniworld was the pick for the best river cruise line. it's the best way to see an established destination like europe or an emerging one like southeast asia .

    >> how long are these river cruises.

    >> seven days, seven nights. i just did a river cruise in the fall. you go along this gorge and you see castle after castle, so you've got knowledgeable guides taking you along the way, you've got spots where you pull up into the little villages. you get right into the littles villages.

    >> where are we?

    >> we're all over the world.

    >> kathie, we need to go to these places. the next one which is important, the best travel insurance .

    >> people don't think about insurance until they need it. i always suggest, protect yourself before you go. get trip interruption insurance, trip cancellation insurance. if you're traveling and you have a medical problem, they have insurance to get you on a private jet to the hospital.

    >> how expensive is that?

    >> it's very costly. if you

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