2020 was the year that cruising stood still. This time last year, ships were docked in ports around the world, instructed to lie low and weather the storm while the Covid-19 pandemic grounded the travel industry globally. New cruise ships were the last thing on anybody’s mind.
Tragically, many ships are still in the same place as they were a year ago, with only a skeleton crew on board. Those are the ones that survived, of course, as a number of our most loved ships and lines didn’t even make it to 2021.
But the good news is that this year is going to be epic for new launches and the sheer variety of newness on offer – 2020 was meant to welcome many new cruise ships, all of which were stalled due to the pandemic.
Of course, this all means that when it comes to booking that dream cruise, there’s going to be even more choice than ever.
From Golden Horizon’s traditional tall sails to the exclusivity of Evrima (pictured above), no matter what your taste or budget, there really is something to suit you and your travelling companions.
Want to find out more about what’s on the horizon? Let’s get to it!
New ships: ocean
New cruise ships are really packing a punch this year, starting with Atlas Ocean Voyages which will launch the 196-guest World Navigator in July 2021. Built for modern explorers, the luxury ship will sail the Holy Land, the Black, Mediterranean and Caribbean Seas, South America and Antarctica during its inaugural year. The all-inclusive ‘All The Way’ cruise option includes complimentary round-trip air travel, a shore excursion at every port, gratuities, premium wine and spirits, Wi-Fi, regionally inspired gourmet dining, and welcome champagne.
With capacity for 6,500 guests, Carnival’s new ‘fun ship’ Mardi Gras has the world’s first rollercoaster at sea, Bolt. If that’s not enough for thrill-seekers, there is also a suspended rope course and water park. Set to sail in May 2021, it’s one of the first ships to be powered by liquefied natural gas (LNG), making it arguably one of the greenest ships in North America.
Sister to Celebrity Edge, Celebrity Cruises’ Celebrity Apex was due to launch in 2020 but is now scheduled to launch in Greece on 19 June. You’ll find some familiar Edge series features on board, including the Magic Carpet moving platform, 918 Infinite Balcony cabins, some stunning suites (12 per cent of accomodation to be precise), the interactive Le Petit Chef and Fine Cut Steakhouse restaurants, plus those fabulous martini glass hot tubs on the pool deck. Celebrity Apex will sail with all crew and guests above the age of 18 vaccinated against Covid-19, and those under the age of 18 with negative PCR test results.
Fred Olsen is really going for it this year with not one but two 690-cabin ships – Borealis, which launches in July in Liverpool, and Bolette which launches in August in Dover. Both will offer more space, original artwork and premium décor, an all-weather swimming pool with retractable roof, a wide choice of restaurants, lounges and bars, more balcony cabins and suites, a classic two-tiered theatre, and spa facilities including a thermal suite and hydrotherapy pool.
Golden Horizon’s beauty lies in its traditional styling
Holland America’s Rotterdam is a 2,668 passenger ship and the third in the Pinnacle class fleet. Launching on 30 July in Europe before embarking on transatlantic voyages in the autumn, music is said to be front and centre of the cruise experience, with live music venues including the Rolling Stone Rock Room and B.B. King’s Blues Club. Guests can also indulge in 11 dining experiences, from pizza to seafood, as well as French, Asian, and Italian eateries.
The sister ship of MSC Grandiosa, the 19-deck, five pool MSC Virtuosa will come into service from 20 May and is set to sail around the British isles. Virtuosa is set to become one of the most environmentally-conscious ships at sea, and is the first cruise ship in the world to receive a notation in recognition of its ability to mitigate and manage infectious disease risk. On board facilities are first-class; there’s even the world’s first humanoid robotic bartender at sea.
The launch of P&O Iona has been delayed since 2020, but its now on track to launch in time for summer from Southampton. The LNG powered, 5,200 guest ship will be a foodies paradise, featuring 30 bars and restaurants including the world’s first gin distillery at sea, new menus by Marco Pierre White, and the “best burger at sea.” Iona is also set to be home to exclusive new restaurants including The Keel and Cow gastropub and The Glass House, serving a tapas menu designed by Spanish chef José Pizarro. The Chef’s Table is also new and developed by Marco Pierre White and Eric Lanlard. Such is its popularity, the first chance you’ll get to sail on the ship is August 2020.
You’ll never be bored on Royal Caribbean’s Odyssey of the Seas
Evrima, the first of three yachts from Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection, is one of the most hyped launches in the luxury travel sphere – and with good reason. Launching on 10 November in the Caribbean, the 298-guest ship will stop at both intimate and signature destinations, while excursions have been thematically crafted so guests can pick a category that fits their interests and activity levels. With one of the highest space ratios at sea, suites will boast floor-to-ceiling windows and greater ceiling heights. Guests can try watersports from the yacht’s marina, a curated menu of spa treatments, and the yacht’s signature restaurant, S.E.A., designed by Michelin-starred chef Sven Elverfeld of The Ritz-Carlton, Wolfsburg.
New cruise ships don’t get much more family-friendly than this: launching in May, Royal Caribbean’s 4,198-guest Odyssey of the Seas will be the first Quantum Ultra Class ship to homeport in Israel. Featuring an action-packed top deck, firsts for the line include SeaPlex, the largest activity centre at sea; a reimagined Adventure Ocean kids programme; the Social180 teen lounge with gaming consoles, music, movies and an outdoor wraparound deck with ocean views; and Giovanni’s Italian Kitchen & Wine Bar, which offers rustic Italian dishes.
Sister ship to Spirit of Discovery, Saga’s Spirit of Adventure was originally planned to enter service in 2020 but will now launch on 26 July 2021. The purpose-built boutique ship has 554 all balcony cabins and can accommodate 999 passengers. It will also feature a 500 sq metre spa, The Lido outdoor pool, The Playhouse, a 444-seat theatre and a large library. According to the line, “the interior design is bold and striking. Yet again we have risen to the challenge set us by our guests. They have told us that life for them is not ‘beige’ and they want to see something that showcases the best of British contemporary design.”
Another ship originally planned to launch in 2020, Silversea’s 596-guest Silver Moon will now set sail in June. Featuring the small-ship intimacy and spacious all-suite accommodation that’s the hallmark of the Silversea experience, a number of public spaces have been refreshed – the Dolce Vita lounge, the Connoisseur’s Corner, the Pool Deck, and the Spa and Fitness Centre have each undergone comprehensive redesigns. But perhaps most exciting is the new S.A.L.T. ecosystem, which will enable travellers to delve deeper into destinations through the lens of food and drink, both on board and ashore. Also on the horizon is Silver Dawn, which is scheduled to launch in November.
Lap of luxury: live the dream on Silver Moon
Another new cruise kid on the block, Tradewind Voyages’ Golden Horizon is perfect for those seeking something a little bit different. Launching in July 2021 with an ex-UK programme, the luxury square-rigged sailing vessel features 140 cabins which face out to sea – the ship will use the wind and currents to follow the sun, using less power in the process. On board, you’ll find outstanding local food, an enrichment and wellbeing programme, three swimming pools, five bars, a marina platform with watersports equipment, a library and live music.
Viking’s seventh ocean ship, the 930-guest, all balcony Viking Venus is on track to debut in May, and will spend its maiden season sailing in the Mediterranean and Northern Europe. Featuring that unmistakeable Scandi chic decor, the ships’ blueprint will be familiar to Viking fans, with a number of complimentary dining venues, plus Mamsen’s, the Explorer’s Lounge, The Chef’s Table, a first-class spa and thermal suite, and that gorgeous signature infinity pool at the aft of the ship.
A number of new cruise ships have shaken things up when it comes to design, and none more so than this one. With an eye on the new to cruise market, Virgin Voyages’ first ship, the all-inclusive, 2,770 passenger Scarlet Lady was meant to launch last year – we attended the UK media launch event in a windy Dover last February – but has been delayed a number of times and is now scheduled to sail in September 2021. The lines’ second ship, Valiant Lady, is also launching this November, and will join Scarlet Lady in the Caribbean, sailing from their new home terminal in Miami.
Baby got back: the aft and watersports platform on Ritz Carlton Evrima
New ships: river
APT’s Travelmarvel ships are sleek and spacious
AmaWaterways is launching not one, not two, but three luxury river ships this year – at the moment you can pencil in July for the two european ships, although the line states that ‘we are reviewing the status of each river cruise approximately 45 days before departure, based on local and international protocols regarding safe travel.’ The 156-guest AmaLucia and AmaSiena will sail on the Rhine, Danube, Main and Moselle rivers and offer connecting staterooms, generous personal space, luxury amenities and award-winning dining. With 10 standard staterooms, 24 balcony suites and a wealth of amenities, the 68-guest AmaDahlia launches in autumn 2021, and will sail on the Nile river.
Three’s certainly not a crowd in river cruising terms, as APT is also launching three Travelmarvel Contemporary ships, Capella, Polaris and Vega this year – one will set sail in June with classical performer Aled Jones on board. Custom built for Europe’s waterways, the spacious ships have a two-and-a-half deck design and floor-to-ceiling windows. There are plenty of drinking and dining options, a rooftop garden and bar, and heated whirlpool.
Sailing in June, Avalon Waterways’ Avalon View is the newest addition to the lines’ fleet of Suite Ships. Offering the widest views on Europe’s waterways, passengers can choose from two full decks of Panorama Suites (30 per cent larger than the industry standard), featuring wall-to-wall and floor-to-ceiling panoramic windows that transform the living space into a open-air balcony. There’s also a fitness centre, an adventure centre, and Sky Deck with a whirlpool, lots of shade and deck games.
In May 2021, Saga launches its first purpose-built river ship Spirit of the Rhine. With a passenger capacity of 190, features include a panoramic lounge and bar, a library, fitness area, and an expansive, shaded sun deck with hot tub and al fresco barbecue. Cabins are spacious, with an average floor plan of 17 square metres. Renowned chef Nick Nairn will bring his famous culinary style to the à la carte restaurant aboard the ship, creating an exclusive signature dish.
TUI River Cruises is launching three new cruise ships this year – Isla, Maya and Skyla. The first sailing on TUI Skyla will be 28 June 2021 sailing from Budapest, while TUI Maya’s first sailing will depart on 2 July, also sailing from Budapest. The multi-million-pound ships will offer the choice of two restaurants complete with floor-to-ceiling views, two bars, the Observatory with glass sliding doors opening out to the terrace, and the Club Lounge, a coffee and cocktail bar with a digital fireplace and signature scent. There are seven cabin types per ship, with three cabins for solo travellers. There are also 36 suites across the three ships, featuring walk in wardobes, double French balconies and spacious bathrooms.
Luxury river cruise line Uniworld will celebrate two new ‘Super Ships’ this year. Debuting in May, São Gabriel will sail the Douro river in Portugal. Accomodating 100 passengers, the three-deck vessel will offer nearly an entire deck of suites, four of which will measure more than 300 square feet. There will also be a restaurant offering regional specialities, a lounge bar, spa, fitness room and sun deck with pool. The elegant 126-guest La Venezia will sail the Venice Lagoon and Po River in Italy from July, and features designer touches including fine Fortuny fabrics, Murano glass and gilded accents that pay homage to Venetian aesthetics of the early 20th century.
More Nile adventures are to be had on Viking’s new ship Osiris – this will be Viking’s second ship in Egypt. Sailing from September and smaller than Viking’s usual river ships with just 41 staterooms (82 guests), the state-of-the-art ship has been specifically built to navigate the Nile, and is designed in Viking’s signature clean, elegant Scandinavian style. There’s a pool and sundeck, Aquavit Terrace & Lounge with an indoor/outdoor design, library and restaurant with floor-to-ceiling windows.