Compared to the other newcomers, the Seabourn Encore is practically intimate, what with a capacity for merely 604 guests. Not surprisingly, it’s got some offerings for those seeking quiet experiences, like private verandas in each suite and a rooftop oasis with private cabanas, each equipped with a flatscreen TV and a fridge stocked with drinks. But that hardly means adventure-seekers will be disappointed. Passengers can kayak, windsurf, and pedal-boat on the marina deck or settle into the Sky Bar for drinks under the stars. Mealtime, however, is pretty much the main attraction on Encore, what with the restaurant created in partnership with uber-chef Thomas Keller of French Laundry and Per Se fame. (His menus are featured on other Seabourne ships as well.) There are routes through the Mediterranean, Middle East and Asia.
The Mediterranean, South American, and Caribbean seas got a fresh infusion of European spirit when Oceania Cruise Lines launched Serina, an artfully refurbished luxury ship from 1999 that houses 684 guests. How does the Florida-based Oceania Cruises convey a strong Italian and French flair, you ask? For that you can thank their Executive Culinary Director, the iconic Jacques Pepin. His French restaurant Jacques Bistro spotlights fresh, local specialties. And like the company’s other ships, this one also features longtime crowd-pleaser Tuscan Steak, an Italian steakhouse.
Courtesy Oceana Cruises
Royal Caribbean’s Ovation of the Seas is the third in its Quantum-class series of ships, which is known for its whiz-bang high-tech wonders. (Robot bartenders, anyone?) On Ovation, technology and adventure go hand-in-hand, as embodied in the onboard skydiving simulator, surfing simulator, and the ship’s North Star, a glass pod that extends 300 feet over the water via a mechanical arm for eye-popping views. Another flashy attraction here is Two70, a sleek and immersive futuristic theater involving 18 projectors, floor-t0-ceiling screens, and a troupe of robot entertainers. The ship deploys to points in Asia, Australia, and New Zealand.
Courtesy Royal Caribbean
How does the Regent Seven Seas Explorer, which launched in Monaco in July and bills itself as “the most luxurious ship ever built,” support its claim? How does this sound: the 375 accommodations, all of which are suites and none of which are smaller than 221 square-feet, feature stone and marble detailing as well as private balconies (That’s to say nothing of the 3,875-square-foot Regent Suite with two bedrooms and a private outdoor balcony.). There’s also six restaurants, including Prime 7, a classic steakhouse, and two newcomers to the line—Chartreuse, which focuses in modern French cuisine, and Pacific Rim, which serves inventive Pan-Asian dishes. And if you think that painting you spot on the ship is a Picasso or a Chagall, it is.
Courtesy Regent Seven Seas Cruises
Harmony of the Seas is the third vessel that Royal Caribbean has unveiled in the last six years to claim the title of world’s largest cruise ship. (It’s 1,187-feet long and has a capacity of 6,780) It took its maiden voyage this winter, fully equipped with twin 10-story tube-style slides, a zipline, an ice skating rink, two rock-climbing walls and all sorts of other attractions for adrenaline junkies. For those who prefer to relax while sailing the seas, there’s a greenspace enhanced with thousands of plants and a boardwalk. Harmony specializes in seven-night western European cruises out of Spain and Italy. Fares start at $1,498.50.
Courtesy Royal Caribbean
Launched in April 2016, the ms Koningsdam, Holland America's largest ship, has the capacity for 2,650 guests. A study in airy, bright spaces, elegant lines and glass enclosures, its attractions include the relaxing Explorations Café, which is stocked with travel books galore. If you’re more of a hands-on type, there’s the Culinary Arts Center, home to a demo kitchen that hosts classes and workshops, and Blend, a luxe space where you can actually create your own blended red wine. Another one of the ship’s attractions is its wide assortment of music venues, from blues at BB King’s Blues Club to live pop music at the Billboard on Board to the expansive World Stage, a theater-in-the-round hosting a roster of diverse performances. The ship covers the Baltics, the Mediterranean and the Caribbean throughout the year.
Courtesy Holland America
A ropes course, an elevated suspension bike ride (skyride), an IMAX theater (a first in the cruise industry), a water park with a 455-foot slide, and mini golf are just a handful of the ways to spend your days on the Vista, Carnival’s first new ship in four years. It was unveiled in May and has a capacity of nearly 4,000. Rooms range from posh suites with whirlpool tubs to spacious family accommodations to minimalist yet cozy state rooms. In keeping with Carnival’s family appeal, the ship offers a families-only area. In addition to the IMAX theater, another first is its microbrewery, which serves its suds at the indoor/outdoor RedFrog Pub. Speaking of eating and drinking, the ship also features a Guy Fieri burger joint, a Mexican cantina and the a New England-style Seafood Shack. Among some route highlights is an eight-day summer Mediterranean sailing from Barcelona, Spain with stops in various Italian ports with prices starting at $839 per person.
Courtesy Carnival Cruise Lines
Viking Cruises, the pioneering river-cruising line, launched Viking Sea, its second ocean vessel in April and with only 465 cabins (capacity 930 passengers), it’s like a toned down acoustic version of the grand cruise ships’ surround-sound stereo experience. True to its Scandinavian roots (the company was founded in 1997 by a Dutch and Scandinavian consortium), the ship’s design is an exercise in crisp, clean lines, naturally lit spaces and elegant simplicity. As far as contemporary cruise ship perks, you’ll find an infinity pool (and this one is no optical illusion—it actually extends off the back of the ship), flat-screen TVs in each cabin, 24-hour room service, and an indoor/outdoor restaurant. Due to the ship’s relatively small size, it has the capability to dock in ports that other ships can’t fit into. Good thing, because Viking puts an emphasis on its port destinations. Every passenger get one shore excursion per port. Shore excursions are led in England by local guides.
Courtesy Viking Cruises
From ziplines to IMAX theaters to a huge array of culinary offerings, the world's newest cruise ships may be the most alluring yet.