Adventure and glamour await on the high seas as a flotilla of new ships set sail in the next year. And looking at the year ahead, there's a ship to suit just about every taste. Nautical adventures come in all shapes and sizes – ships are both growing in size and slimming down.
With more than 100 new ships due to be launched globally in the next 10 years, the options for travellers continue to multiply.
What's next from the world's largest cruise lines?
All eyes are on the long-anticipated Scenic Eclipse, the first expedition ship (albeit labelled as a "discovery yacht") by the Australian-based river-cruise and tour company Scenic. Due to be launched on 31 August, the 228-passenger Eclipse features 10 restaurants, eight bars and lounges and, for thrill-seekers, a helicopter and a submarine. The size of the suites ranges from 32 to 247 square metres, the latter a two-bedroom penthouse bigger than a tennis court. It's destined for ports including Antarctica, the Falkland Islands and Buenos Aires in its first year, and will be joined in 2020 by a sister ship.
This Marseille-based line is growing at a rate of knots. The first of six expedition-style Explorer ships, the 184-passenger Le Lapérouse, launched in June. These small, state-of-the-art ships feature a "Blue Eye" lounge beneath the water line – an industry first – with views of the marine landscape and soundscape in some of the world's most remote habitats. Le Lapérouse will also venture to the Kimberley next June.
The next Explorer, Le Champlain, sets sail later this year in September, while 2019 will see Le Bougainville and Le Dumont-d'Urville joining the first two Ponant ships.
Holland America Line
Holland America Line's Nieuw Statendam is set to début in December 2018. The newest 2,666-guest Pinnacle-Class ship boasts 1,339 staterooms. And the pièce de résistance is the grand Pinnacle Suite, which has its own private whirlpool.
Keeping with the signature Pinnacle-Class design, the Nieuw Statendam is designed to create visual drama – think grand, light-filled space and interiors inspired by the fluid curves of musical instruments.
After its inaugural season in the Caribbean, the ship will spend the summer and autumn exploring northern Europe and the Mediterranean, and will call at the most sought-after ports across Denmark, Russia, Sweden, Croatia and Greece.
Mark the calendar for the arrival in Sydney of Majestic Princess on 15 September – the first visit to Australia by the newest and biggest in Princess Cruises' fleet of 18 ships. During its inaugural southern season, the 3,560-passenger ship will sail on 16 cruises to destinations including Fiji, New Zealand and Tasmania, as well as two Asia voyages between Shanghai and Sydney, and Sydney and Hong Kong. Launched last year, Majestic Princess has two restaurants designed by Michelin-starred chefs: Harmony by Richard Chen and La Mer by Emmanuel Renaut. Meanwhile, Princess Cruises will add a fourth member, the Sky Princess, to its royal family next year. Featuring a piazza with a soaring atrium, an adults-only sanctuary, world-class dining and an outdoor cinema, Sky Princess will navigate the Med on its inaugural journey in 2019.
Royal Caribbean International
If size matters, gear up for Royal Caribbean International's newest offering, Symphony of the Seas. With capacity for 6,780 passengers and spanning 362 metres in length, it's the world's largest cruise ship, with a staggering diversity of entertainment: 20 eateries, an ice-skating rink, a full-sized basketball court, rock-climbing wall, flying fox, water slides and more. It set sail in April, earlier this year.
Thrill-seekers should look out for the Spectrum of the Seas from Royal Caribbean International, named as the first ship in the Quantum Ultra Class line. Featuring an observation capsule with 360-degree ocean views, and the option to skydive on board, this 4,180-guest vessel will set off on its maiden voyage in early 2019 and tour the Asia-Pacific waters for the inaugural itineraries.
Keeping with their tradition of expeditionary cruising, Lindblad launched the next ship in their National Geographic fleet in June. The National Geographic Venture, with its 100-guest capacity, is designed to access remote locations and narrow waterways allowing for intimate interactions with wildlife and marine life. Like its sister ship, National Geographic Quest, the Venture brings with it its own set of specialty exploration tools like kayaks, paddleboards and underwater cameras for a truly immersive cruise experience. Get set to explore the shallow coves of Alaska and the Pacific Northwest.
The fifth ocean cruiser from Viking Cruises was recently inaugurated and set sail on its maiden voyage that will take its passengers through Florence, Monte Carlo, Saint-Tropez and Marseille. The 930-guest Viking Orion has a snow grotto on board that has actual snowflakes fall from the ceiling, which is meant to stimulate the circulatory system. A sixth ocean cruiser, Viking Jupiter, is expected to join the fleet in early 2019.
Celebrity Cruises has announced their new Edge Class ships, which are expected to redefine modern luxury cruising. The first ship in this class will be the 2,900-passenger Celebrity Edge, which features some mind-blowing experiences, the most innovative of which is the "Magic Carpet". This feature is an engineering innovation that involves a floating platform, complete with a bar and live music that scales the 16-deck ship, making travellers feel like they're floating over the ocean. The Celebrity Edge is set to launch in November this year.
Norwegian Cruise Line
The fourth and final ship in Norwegian's Breakaway Plus class is the Norwegian Encore with a capacity for 3,998 guests. Featuring a two-storey Horizon Lounge with panoramic sea views and a 180-degree Observation Lounge, the ship also has the signature onboard dining experiences that Norwegian Cruise Line is known for.
Carnival Cruise Line
A third ship in Carnival's Vista Class will be ready to sail the Mexican coast by December 2019. The 4,000-passenger Carnival Panorama is packed with onboard activities that cater to all tastes. For the thrill seekers there's the ground-breaking bike-ride-in-the-sky attraction called Skyride. Sports aficionados will be spoilt for choice in the massive Sportsquare – there's soccer, volleyball, rope-climbing, basketball and even mini-golf. And if that isn't enough, there are water parks, an adults-only retreat, a spa and an array of dining options. Pretty much everything you can do on land, you can do on board the Panorama.
Launched last year, Seabourn's 600-passenger Seabourn Encore was the biggest ship in the ultra-luxe line's fleet. It was joined in May by sister ship Seabourn Ovation, with similar sinuous lines and intuitive service. Both ships are designed by prolific hospitality designer Adam D Tihany, with the look and feel of a luxury yacht in curvaceous lines, and the liberal use of mahogany, chrome and leather. High-profile partnerships include a restaurant and bar by three-starred chef Thomas Keller, and a spa and "mindful living" program by Dr Andrew Weil.
U by Uniworld, a new brand by the well-established Uniworld river-cruise line, has renovated two 120-passenger ships, renaming them The A and The B and outfitting them with bold design features. Although the brand was conceived for an under-45s market, it's now open to all adult passengers. Features and activities, though, are clearly aimed at younger travellers, including rooftop lounges with DJs and communal dining tables. Onboard classes run from yoga to cocktail mixing, while on shore there's cycling, kayaking and river-rafting. Five- and eight-day itineraries on the Seine, Rhine, Main and Danube rivers include overnight stops and longer stays in major cities.
The Flying Clipper from Star Clippers promises to be true theatre. The world's largest square rigger has 35 sails, evoking the glory days of ocean exploration, is the biggest ship in the Clipper fleet but is designed to retain an intimate feel. With a capacity for 300 passengers, the ship features three swimming pools, a poolside dive bar and a cosy library, and is expected to set off on its maiden voyage in late 2018.