Poolside lounges, amusement rides, luxury spas and 360-degree ocean views: Large-ship ocean cruises offer a vacationer everything they need in the middle of the ocean. In addition to being a means of travel, these massive ships are also vacation destinations in their own right. Luxury accommodations, elegant dining and world-class entertainment, not to mention exotic shore excursions, make cruising an appealing form of group travel.
Changes in the industry are constantly elevating guest experiences, from new vessels packed with amenities to new or reimagined destinations and itineraries. Here are some noteworthy developments set to impact large-ship ocean cruising in the near future.
Carnival Cruise Lines, one of the best known names in the cruising industry, is celebrating its 50th birthday in 2022. The line’s impressive ships, exotic destinations and abundant onboard entertainment have made it a top choice for cruisers and a staple in the industry for decades. This year, on the line’s golden anniversary, its fleet is getting a new addition, aptly named Carnival Celebration.
This ship is a sister to Mardi Gras, which debuted in 2021, and Carnival Jubilee, which is set to join the fleet in 2023. Mardi Gras was the first ship in North America powered with liquified natural gas (LNG), which means it emits fewer greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. Carnival Celebration is also LNG-powered, signifying a greener future for the company and the cruise industry in general.
The maiden voyage of Carnival Celebration is taking place this November; the ship is departing from London to head to its home port in Miami. Its first voyages primarily consist of Caribbean destinations.
Like its sister ship, Carnival Celebration will offer its guests plenty of entertainment and dining options. The ship will feature a roller coaster, spa and salon, multiple theaters and pools, and a luxurious atrium with floor-to-ceiling windows, which transform into LED screens during the ship’s nightly entertainment. Despite its similarities to Mardi Gras, it also has elements that distinguish it from other Carnival ships, such as atrium lighting resembling confetti and restaurants from Guy Fieri and Shaquille O’Neal.
Royal Caribbean Icon of the Seas
Another staple of the cruise industry, Royal Caribbean, currently holds the record for the world’s largest cruise ship, Wonder of the Seas. The cruise line is set to break its own record with an even larger vessel, known as the Icon of the Seas, which will set sail in January 2024. Currently under construction in Finland, the massive ship will be the largest cruise ship in the world, measuring nearly 1,200 feet long, or about 10 feet longer than the Oasis-class Wonder of the Seas. The ship will be the first Royal Caribbean vessel powered by liquefied natural gas, and the first in a line of many LNG-powered ships to join the line’s fleet in the coming years. At 20 decks high, it will have a capacity of 7,600 passengers.
Plans for the ship include a world-class entertainment venue for passengers of all ages, from the world’s largest at-sea waterpark with record-breaking waterslides to an indoor AquaTheater for acrobatic and diving performances. The ship features three-story townhouse suites and family cabins, which provide comfortable accommodations for vacationing families. For unforgettable ocean views, the suspended infinity pool hangs off the back of the ship and is conveniently surrounded by bars and restaurants. The eight “neighborhoods” on the cruise ship will offer passengers everything from vibrant nightlife to relaxing outdoor space.
Australia and New Zealand Voyages
During the COVID-19 pandemic, many of the world’s ports were closed to cruise ships, and international travel bans were instated. As the restrictions in many countries relaxed and resumed typical (or nearly typical) operations, some countries remained locked down. Australia and New Zealand, two popular cruising destinations, kept their travel bans in place much longer than anticipated. Australia didn’t lift its entry ban for cruise ships until April 2022, while New Zealand opened its ports at the end of July 2022.
Now that these countries’ two-year hiatus from cruising has come to a close, the industry has been making a strong comeback. Most of the major cruise lines have expanded their itineraries to include Australian and New Zealand destinations in late 2022 and throughout 2023, bringing the land down under back into the industry spotlight.
Holland America Line has announced a new Australia and New Zealand voyage for 2024, a 94-day journey with 43 ports of call, 17 of which are in the Australian area. On this itinerary, cruisers can check out metropolitan areas like Sydney and Honolulu, explore rugged New Zealand terrain and South Pacific islands, and cruise through the Great Barrier Reef.
New Cruise Port in the Bahamas
The Bahamas have long been a favorite destination among cruisers, and it’s easy to see why. The beautiful turquoise waters, white sand beaches and top-notch hospitality among its resorts and attractions make it both an exotic and relaxing getaway. A recent announcement has revealed plans for another cruise port, which is sure to add even more appeal for those visiting the island chain.
Calypso Cove, the new Bahamian cruise port, is set to begin construction by the end of 2023. Though the completion date has yet to be estimated, the mega port will be located on the island chain’s Long Island, south of Nassau and other popular Bahamian ports. The project, commissioned by Azul Destinations Ltd. and Calypso Cove Ltd., is slated to cost $250 million and is anticipated to bring ample economic opportunity to the island.
In addition to being large enough for two Oasis class ships to dock simultaneously, the port is expected to have plenty of extra amenities for cruisers to enjoy on their excursions. This includes a luxury resort with 200 rooms, a water bar and an indoor and outdoor pool. There will also be a shopping center, casinos and an 18-hole golf course, in addition to the surrounding natural beauty of the island’s beaches. The port will be capable of handling an estimated 13,000 guests daily.
Baltic Cruises Reworked without Russia
Following the Russian invasion of Ukraine, cruise lines have made some dramatic changes to the itineraries of their Baltic cruises. St. Petersburg, a hub for Russian culture and the fourth most populous city in Europe, was formerly one of the top destinations on these itineraries. However, the popular port city and other Russian destinations have been cut from Baltic itineraries because of the conflict, leaving the future of cruising in the region uncertain. Without one of their most appealing destinations available, cruise lines have been attempting to piece together new itineraries with just as much history, interesting architecture and cultural appeal.
While missing out on ballet and the iconic Russian Revival-style churches may be disappointing for some travelers, the reworked itineraries feature exciting destinations designed to make up for St. Petersburg’s absence. Princess Cruises has included replacement destinations in Sweden and Poland, while the Holland America Line features destinations in Baltic states Lithuania and Latvia. Travelers can visit the museums and Nordic architecture in Sweden’s capital, Stockholm, and explore medieval ruins and cathedrals of the Swedish island, Visby. The bustling streets of Riga, Latvia, are adorned with ornate, colorful buildings and plenty of local events for travelers to check out during excursions.