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Ships of Dreams: New Cruises on the Waterways

While several innovative new luxury cruise ships set sail in 2020, for most of the year, the global cruise industry was idled. So as 2021 kicks off, luxury travelers hope they’ll have an opportunity soon to sail on those new amenity-laden beauties, in addition to other new luxury ships debuting this year. Here’s a rundown.  

Classy and Expeditionary  

Expanding its ultra-luxury fleet to nine vessels, Silversea Cruises, now fully owned by Royal Caribbean Group, took delivery of two new luxury cruise ships in 2020. In late October, it accepted delivery of the 596-passenger Silver Moon, a sister ship to Silver Muse, while in summer 2020, the small-ship, expeditionary 100-passenger Silver Origin was delivered (replacing Silver Galapagos in the Galapagos Islands of Ecuador). 

So, what’s special? Silver Moon, with an intimate vibe and all-suite accommodations, will introduce three new public venues for the new S.A.L.T. (Sea and Land Taste) culinary program. Rather than focusing on star chefs, that foodie program will give guests a chance to sample authentic local foods as they travel from port to port. Look for destination-focused gastronomic activities, both onboard and ashore. 

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Anxiously awaited by loyal past guests is the new S.A.L.T. Kitchen, a large-scale regional restaurant offering a menu that changes with the destination and a regionally inspired wine list. Separately, the new S.A.L.T. Lab is a test kitchen where guests will learn about local ingredients and artisanal techniques. Look for the line to host culinary workshops, tastings and demonstrations in that venue. Finally, at the S.A.L.T. Bar, guests will sip and savor regional wines, spirits and other drinks reflecting flavors of the local destinations visited. 

In addition, Silversea’s signature restaurant, La Dame, has been redesigned and enlarged to accommodate 56 guests, with an al fresco dining option, plus multiple Lalique crystal panels have been incorporated into the restaurant’s design. The enlarged Atlantide restaurant now can accommodate up to 220 guests. Sophisticated yet minimalist, Kaiseki is a dining spot for passengers to watch the sushi chefs prepare their dinner of fresh sushi, sashimi or other Asian-inspired dishes.

What else is new? On Silver Moon, the Dolce Vita lounge has a new layout with the bar repositioned to the center of the venue, while Connoisseur’s Corner offers a new Wintergarden area, creating a sheltered, inviting area outdoors; here guests can enjoy cigars and premium liquors. 

Luxury Travel Advisor would opt for one of the four spectacular Grand Suites, which offer the largest verandas onboard. In one bedroom configuration, they’re anywhere from 1,475 square feet to 1,572 square feet, including the veranda; for the two-bedroom configuration, they are between 1,873 square feet to 1,970 square feet. 

Most notably, these Grand Suites as well as the four Owner’s Suites and two Royal Suites offer luxurious Savoir mattresses. What’s the appeal? Each mattress is hand-crafted by Welsh artisans, and has dual tension, meaning guests can choose between firm support on one side and soft on the other. 

Accommodations-wise, though, all of Silver Moon’s 298 spacious suites have a high space-to-guest ratio, butler service (in all suites), an in-suite bar stocked with preferred beverages, in-suite dining 24 hours a day, and more amenities.  

On the expedition side, the more intimate, new Silver Origin is an ode to the Galapagos, its region of sailing. Nearly 200 art pieces — many focusing on the Galapagos, the natural world or exploration — curated in partnership with the Royal Geographic Society, grace the walls of public spaces and suites.

Opening directly onto the marina, Basecamp, the heart of the ship, is the “Information Headquarters” with an interactive wall and cabinets filled with artefacts, curated sculptures and rare books. It also has direct access to the Zodiac deck, where eight Zodiacs await for daily explorations, including wet landings ashore to take lava field walks; viewing sea lions, marine iguanas and blue-footed boobies; or snorkeling in search of Galapagos penguins. 

The Basecamp on Silver Origin has an interactive wall, and acts as an information headquarters.

The Marina’s fold-out stern, with hydraulic doors, hatches and cranes, is designed with boarding facilities that can accommodate the launching of two Zodiacs at a time. It also has big tanks where passengers can rinse off their snorkeling gear as well as racks for equipment and wet suits. 

Exploring ashore is the big highlight, but certainly, appreciating the Galapagos’ pristine scenery is easy from almost anywhere on the ship too. Throughout Silver Origin, floor-to-ceiling windows provide sweeping scenic views of the Galapagos. Among the “top viewing” spots is Silver Origin’s elegant Explorer Lounge, hosting daily briefings and lectures from the ship’s naturalist guides. Here passengers also can relax and enjoy a savory cocktail while listening to evening piano music. Alternatively, they can head outdoors to trade tales with fellow guests around a firepit. 

Designed by Giacomo Mortola and his firm GEM, Silver Origin’s all-suite, all-balcony accommodations — including five pairs of interconnecting suites — have some creative twists. Among those are ocean-view bathtubs, showers than can be accessed from the balcony, and the Horizon Balcony category suite, which at the touch of the button encloses the outdoor balcony into an inside seating area, perfect for adapting to all weather conditions. 

Guests are pampered with butler service in every suite, and when it’s time for dinner, passengers have a choice of two restaurants. Attentive to the environment, Silversea installed a dynamic positioning system on Silver Origin to protect the seabed, plus all suites have a freshwater purification system, reducing plastic bottle use. 

Venturing to Adventure

Ultra-luxury Seabourn has been offering the Seabourn Ventures program, expedition-style programming on a traditional ship, on certain voyages; the program includes added-charge shore excursions, including Zodiac and kayak adventures, an onboard expedition team of scientists, naturalists and other experts, along with more interactive eco-enrichment. The line will offer this program on its upcoming Alaska, northern Europe, Australia and Patagonia seasons; it’s also often elsewhere across the globe.

But in December 2021, the ultra-luxury line will fully enter the expedition realm with the debut of the 264-passenger Seabourn Venture, which will have a new expeditionary design, a PC6 ice-strengthened hull and advanced maneuvering technology. A second, yet-to-be-named expedition vessel will be delivered in 2022.   

An experienced expedition team of scientists, naturalists and other experts will sail with guests and lecture onboard in the Seabourn Conversations program (also on other ships too). Guests will explore, via 24 Zodiacs carried onboard. The ship also will carry mountain bikes, e-bikes, scuba diving and snorkeling gear. Optional expedition experiences will feature kayaks and two, custom-built, six-guest submarines. Seabourn Venture’s open-bridge policy will allow guests to learn first-hand about the ship’s navigational technology and how the bridge team operates. 

Hospitality icon Adam Tihany is creating interior design for indoor and outdoor guest areas, including suites, expedition areas and lounges, dining venues, the spa and Seabourn Square. He previously designed the line’s Seabourn Encore and Seabourn Ovation and interiors for such properties as Venice’s Belmond Hotel Cipriani and California’s Beverly Hills Hotel. All luxuriously appointed suites will have private verandas. 

Among spaces that Tihany has designing is The Colonnade, located on Deck 5 aft; it’s a casual dining venue for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Among eight onboard dining experiences, the eatery will feature a historic maritime-inspired design. Special theme nights will feature Michelin-starred Chef Thomas Keller’s family-style dinners with plated comfort dishes such as Clam Bake and BBQ Ribs. The Colonnade will extend into The Patio for
al fresco dining. 

The ship’s 132 upscale guest suites each will have a private veranda, minibar and refrigerator refilled daily, an in-suite bar, luxurious baths with custom Molton Brown amenities, an interactive entertainment system, Seabourn-exclusive Swarovski binoculars and more. Each suite will also have a built-in heated jacket wardrobe, where guests can grab a warm coat before heading out on a cool morning or hang their wet outdoor parkas and other gear to dry quickly once they return from adventures off the ship.

Penthouse and Premium Suites offer separate sleeping areas and a table for in-suite dining, plus a slew of luxury perks, including enhanced in-suite bars. For the ultimate in suite pampering, we’d opt for the two-story expansive Wintergarden and Grand Wintergarden suites.

Between December 2021 and April 2022, Seabourn Venture will sail 10- to 14-day “Norwegian Winter” voyages, cruising Norway’s coastlines. Travelers will see snow-draped scenery, learn about Viking history and culture and take dedicated excursions in search of the Northern Lights. We’d suggest one of the 12-night “Norway & North Cape – in Search of the Northern Lights” voyages between Tromso, Norway and Copenhagen, Denmark, with departures from both cities. 

Added perks? On these Norwegian Winter voyages, guests will be treated to a new, complimentary Seabourn signature event, featuring a concert in the Northern Lights Cathedral in Alta, Norway. Plus, guests will receive custom-designed parkas and backpacks by Seabourn’s outdoor apparel company partner, Helly Hansen. 

In early 2020, just prior to the March shutdown of global cruise operations, Regent Seven Seas Cruises debuted its new 750-passenger Seven Seas Splendor, an ultra-luxury sister to Seven Seas Explorer. Luxury Travel Advisor was onboard for the ship’s spectacular debut in Miami in late February 2020. You can see our report and a slideshow on our sister publication Travel Agent.

While Seven Seas Splendor only operated a few 2020 voyages prior to the cruise industry’s global cessation of voyages, for most travelers, when it begins sailing again, the new ship will offer an enticing new experience. One thing is certain, this ship makes a bold, ultra-luxury statement on every front. With expansive outdoor private decks, the top Regent Suite also comes with a $200,000 bed.

Seven Seas Splendor has no shortage of other luxurious accommodations, too, including Master, Splendor and Penthouse suites. Other highlights of the new ship? Guests will discover a multimillion-dollar art collection, including two Picasso paintings (one not on public display but in the Regent Suite, as well as one that can be publicly viewed at the Prime 7 restaurant.)

Fielding marble galore throughout its spaces, the ship features a repositioned Grand Staircase; other “design flow” enhancements and a bit lighter woods than on Seven Seas Explorer; better sight lines and design of the upper level of the Constellation Theater; a state-of-the-art Culinary Arts Center; and tons of space. 

What’s ahead? A sister ship, Regent Seven Seas’ third Explorer-class vessel, is on order and delivery is scheduled for 2023. 

Several New Endeavors

Crystal Cruises’ highly awaited entry into the expedition sector, Crystal Endeavor, is also slated to debut during 2021. This spacious, polar-class (PC-6) vessel will accommodate 200 guests in butler-service, all-suite accommodations. Onboard passengers will dine on globally inspired Michelin-level cuisine, and will find a full-service fitness center, spa and salon. 

Expedition-specific amenities and spaces? Those include enrichment areas, designated mud rooms, a helicopter lounge and more. What’s nifty? The ship will carry two helicopters onboard, a fleet of Zodiacs that will launch from a fully-equipped marina, and a seven-person submersible, providing guests with below-the-sea explorations (down as much as 980 feet) in certain spots across the globe.

Of course, the ship also will have luxurious suites, all with butler service. For the ultimate, most spacious suite, we’d check out the new ship’s 1,290-square-foot Expedition Suite with Verandah (ES) category, the largest, most lavish accommodations onboard. Located on Deck 7, it’s a combination of Expedition Penthouse and a Deluxe Suite, offering two bedrooms with king (convertible to twin) beds, living and dining areas, multiple spa-like bathrooms, and a spacious, wraparound veranda.

While the global health crisis had, for a time, shut down the MV Werften shipyard in northern Germany where the vessel is being built, the good news is that at press time, Crystal’s parent company, Genting Hong Kong (which owns that shipyard) recently secured $227 million from Germany’s coronavirus stabilization fund to help keep the shipyard operating. 

Crystal Endeavor is slated to debut in 2021. This spacious, polar-class (PC-6) vessel will accommodate 200 guests. 

Under construction in Spain is The Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection’s new 298-guest Evrima, the new brand’s first luxurious yacht, debuting in 2021. The interior design — a collaboration between Tillberg Design of Sweden and Ritz-Carlton — will reflect the lifestyle of Ritz-Carlton’s yachts with the casual freedom of a yachting vacation. 

Offering 149 suites, Evrima will feature a high percentage of large suites, as well as several, innovative, two-story loft suites. All suites will have a private terrace, floor-to-ceiling windows and great ceiling height. Select suites can be combined into larger, open-concept spaces via an innovative wall that can slide aside; that eliminates the need for a connecting door between the two suites. However, if those two suites are reserved by guests not traveling together, the soundproof wall remains in place, totally secured for guests’ privacy and peace of mind.  

All suites will feature the amenities of land-based Ritz-Carlton properties such as a king bed, double vanity bathroom, luxury linens and more. Each suite also will offer services by a Personal Concierge and 24-7 in-room dining. Highly inclusive fares cover an array of perks, including onboard gratuities, Wi-Fi, beverages and watersports from the ship’s marina, to name a few.

Signature experiences available for an additional fee will include a culinary experience at the yacht’s specialty restaurant designed by three-Michelin-starred Chef Sven Elverfeld of The Ritz-Carlton, Wolfsburg, Germany; spa treatments at the Ritz-Carlton Spa; and excursions offered through The Shore Collection.  

Travelers will have another new option in 2021, the luxe-adventure, small-ship line, Atlas Ocean Voyages. Launching in July 2021, the 196-passenger World Navigator, a Polar Category C- and Ice Class 1B-certified vessel, will offer an “All Inclusive All the Way” approach to the sailing experience. It will deliver a complimentary shore excursion for guests in every port.

Inaugural season itineraries will span seven to 21 days and explore the Holy Land, Black and Mediterranean seas and South America. Plus, the line has many pre-cruise and overland offerings. Adventurous options include glamping in the Israeli desert, white water rafting and snow skiing in Sochi, Russia; rock climbing; or the line’s Chernobyl, Ukraine overland experience. Atlas’ small group size for Chernobyl will allow travel (safely) “into” the area of the reactor not simply seeing the site from a far outer perimeter.

In winter 2021-2022, World Navigator will operate Antarctica expeditions. Two sister ships, World Traveller and World Seeker, will be delivered in 2022, with two more, World Adventurer and World Discoverer arriving in 2023.

Also highly anticipated by potential “explorers” is Viking’s entry into expedition cruising in 2022. Two new 378-passenger expedition ships, Viking Octantis and Viking Polaris, will sail to Antarctica, Arctic and North America’s Great Lakes. The vessels will be Polar Class 6, allowing Viking to operate during summer and autumn in medium first-year ice.

To develop the voyages, Viking has partnered with several renowned institutions. The University of Cambridge’s Scott Polar Research Institute’s scientists will undertake field work onboard Viking’s expedition vessels and join voyages to share their expertise with guests. Viking has also partnered with The Cornell Lab of Ornithology and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), whose personnel will come onboard to lecture and/or conduct research.

The 580-square-foot Explorer Suite (ES category) includes a Nordic balcony and private veranda; floor-to-ceiling drying closet for parkas and gear; a minibar with alcoholic beverages, soft drinks, water and snacks, replenished once daily; in-suite binoculars, coffee and Marius-weave blanket; laundry, dry cleaning, pressing and shoe shining services; and a complimentary Silver Spirits beverage package and bottle of champagne.

In addition, guests also can access those suites at 11 a.m. on embarkation day, earlier than other accommodations and have exclusive access to a shared Explorer Suite private garden lounge area. Explorer Suite guests receive priority expedition activity reservations at 97 days prior to departure; three guaranteed priority reservations at The Restaurant or Manfredi’s and priority booking of spa treatments, both services at 90 days prior to departure. 

For travelers seeking the luxury of space, the largest suite is the 1,223-square -foot Owner’s Suite (OS category) with a 792-square-foot private garden lounge area. The suite has a separate dining area/board room that seats six guests; a private library, wine and music collections curated by Viking’s Chairman Torstein Hagen; plus, a large master bathroom plus a guest bathroom. 

Owner’s Suite guests receive all amenities of the Explorer Suite, and elevated perks such as four guaranteed priority reservations at The Restaurant or Manfredi’s (100 days prior to departure), first priority expedition activity reservations (107 days prior to departure), first priority booking of spa treatments (100 days prior to departure), a dinner and guided tour with ship officers (subject to availability), and more.

Separately, Viking’s seventh ocean ship, the 930-passenger Viking Venus, is also slated to debut in early 2021. The new vessel’s maiden season will include itineraries in the Mediterranean and northern Europe. Passengers can expect similar design to the line’s six other oceangoing vessels.

Big and Small 

While many luxury ships of the traditional and expeditionary nature are on order, so are amenity-laden, action-packed big ships that luxury travelers often opt for when planning a small group family vacation or a family reunion. Certainly, high on the “wow factor” for active activities is Royal Caribbean International’s 4,198-passenger Odyssey of the Seas, a Quantum-Ultra-Class vessel. While delivery was delayed a bit, given shipyard issues, at press time it was slated for an April 2021 delivery. 

For those seeking thrills onboard, not simply adventure ashore, Odyssey of the Seas will offer five fun experiences: North Star, a glass observation capsule that rises 300 feet into the sky for 360-degree views of sea and ship; Sea Plex, an indoor sports space at sea — highlights include VR games, bumper cars, trapeze and glow-in-the-dark laser tag — so, no matter the weather, fun is at hand; SkyPad, an outdoor bungee trampoline experience; RipCord by iFly, an indoor skydiving simulator; and Two70 with expansive panoramic windows that transform into a 135-foot wide and 22-foot high entertainment screen with Vistarama technology. 

We’d opt for Royal Suite Class accommodation and the Star Class tier within that to include such complimentary VIP perks as services of a Royal Genie (Royal Caribbean’s version of a fun, friendly butler), specialty dining, gratuities and a deluxe beverage package, as well as many other free amenities. Star-class guests also can access a suite lounge. With an inaugural season sailing the eastern Mediterranean with departures from Civitavecchia (Rome), Odyssey of the Seas will arrive in the U.S. in November 2021. 

Small-ship luxury line Ponant took delivery of its last two (of six total) Explorer-class ships in 2020 — 184-passenger sister ships, Le Bellot and Le Jacques Cartier. Both offer luxurious suites and the enticing Blue Eye lounge positioned eight feet beneath the water line with portholes shaped like whale-like eyes. This multi-sensory space allows guests to experience the subaquatic world through sight, sound and feel (including vibrations). 

Viking will make its entry into expedition cruising in 2022, with two new 378-passenger expedition ships.

In 2021, Ponant will take delivery of the 270-passenger Le Commandant Charcot, the cruise industry’s first luxury hybrid polar vessel, powered by both liquefied natural gas (LNG) and electric battery. The ship will have the polar capability to reach the true North Pole at 90 degrees latitude.

With the feel and sense of a private yacht, this new expeditionary vessel has 135 accommodations with private balconies, including 68 suites with private terraces. Best digs? Aft on Decks 6 and 7 are four 860-square-foot split-level suites, equipped with private terraces and whirlpools. But for the ultimate luxury of space, luxury travelers can choose the 1,345-square-foot Suite de L’Armateur (the Shipowner’s Suite) on Deck 8. 

Among the other new cruise industry ships that set sail in 2020 (but haven’t operated scheduled itineraries with guests onboard on normal itineraries) are Celebrity Apex, Enchanted Princess, Lindblad ExpeditionsNational Geographic Venture and many other small ships. In addition, Virgin Voyages’ new adults-only, highly innovative cruise product will debut on  the new Scarlet Lady (delivered in 2020) and Holland America Line will welcome its new Pinnacle-class flagship, the 2,668-passenger Rotterdam in 2021. Also setting sail in 2021 are Sea Cloud Cruises’ new Sea Cloud Spirit and Emerald Cruises’ yacht, Emerald Azzurra, with more small ships on the horizon. 

But not all “new ships” are new in the quite same way. Small-ship boutique luxury line Windstar Cruises will be launching its three “reimagined” and lengthened (with new mid-sections added) Star-class ships in 2021. Guests can see the updates and new spaces when Star Breeze begins sailing again (per the schedule at press time) in late March. Star Legend and Star Pride also will be updated this year.  

Beyond 2021, Oceania Cruises is building two luxurious, new, 1,200-passenger, Allura-class vessels, slated for delivery in 2022 and 2025. MSC Cruises also plans to enter the luxury segment and has placed an order for four ultra-luxury cruise ships, each with 500 staterooms/suites. Look for the first to be delivered in 2023.

Whatever size or type of ship luxury travelers choose, though, the luxury segment keeps growing, giving travelers an enticing array of choices to fit their personal style and vacation dreams. 

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