Never before did a cruise ship receive as much pre-inaugural hype as Royal Caribbean's Oasis of the Seas did (inaugural sailing December 2009)! Well deserved? Oh yes! It wasn't just that the Oasis made its debut as the "worlds largest cruise ship" weighing in at a whopping 225,282 tons. It was the whole pioneering "neighborhood" concept, which made all this extra space so manageable. Imagine a Central Park at sea, in which the center of the ship is open to the sky and provides guests with a lush landscape of seasonal flower gardens, canopy trees, and peaceful winding pathways. Or a Boardwalk neighborhood reminiscent of seaside piers like Coney Island complete with a hand carved, hand painted carousel. In total there are seven distinct areas that allowed Royal Caribbean to focus on unique experiences and then create a corresponding ambiance for each. Other neighborhoods include a bigger and better Royal Promenade, the Pool and Sport Zone, Vitality Spa and Fitness Area, Entertainment Place, and the Youth Zone. All this and it floats too!
The sister ship of the Oasis, Allure of the Seas will make her debut in December of 2010. While many people would come to expect the same onboard amenities as the Oasis, the Internet chat boards have been buzzing about some new and exciting changes possibly coming exclusively to the Allure. Ah, the suspense is killing me!
Not to be outdone when it comes to radical new design ideas, Norwegian Cruise Line has some original thoughts of their own for the soon to sail Norwegian Epic (July 2010). Coined "the next generation of freestyle cruising" the Epic will premier world-class entertainment never before available on a cruise ship! Blue Man Group, known for their zany and outrageous performances that combine percussion, comedy, and multimedia theatrics, will be the headline entertainment onboard. In addition, "Cirque Dreams and Dinner" will provide guests with a dinner show that combines European cirque-style artistry with American circus and Broadway theatrics. The specially designed theatre-in-the-round brings the big top to sea for a unique dining experience. Wait-staff and performers are one in the same here, so watch for aerialists drop down from the ceiling to fill your water glass! That's just a sample of what you can expect. There are 17 extraordinary dining options and an astounding 18 bar/lounges, including the first ice bar at sea! It's one of 14 authentic ice bars in the world and kept at a chilly 17 degrees so pack your mittens! Accommodation innovations include hip urban flats designed for single occupancy...with single occupancy pricing!
When Celebrity Cruise Line debuted the Celebrity Solstice at the end of 2008 the International Interior Design Association recognized it for establishing "a new benchmark in cruise ship design". The second ship within that class, Equinox, quickly followed in the summer of 2009 and shares that same airy, upscale sophisticated look. Celebrity's contribution to the growing list of industry firsts? The Lawn Club, a half-acre of plush green grass perfect for a game of croquet, bocce, or even a picnic! The area also features the Hot Glass Show, another first in the industry, developed in collaboration with The Corning Museum of Glass. Despite all of this, I'm most impressed by the new AquaClass stateroom category. Booking this type of cabin allows unlimited access to the AquaSpa relaxation room and the Persian Garden, an exotic aromatherapy and steam room. Guests may also enjoy an exclusive restaurant, Blu, which serves healthy fare in a sophisticated and soothing atmosphere. Staying in an AquaClass balcony cabin is like going on a spa destination vacation...only at sea!
Sister ships within this Solstice class are currently being built. The Celebrity Eclipse will begin sailing out of Southampton, England in April 2010 followed by Silhouette in 2011 (home port not yet determined). On these ships the specialty restaurant Silk Harvest will be replaced by an exciting new dining venue called Qsine. Unlike any restaurant on land or sea, Qsine takes a modern and playful approach in interpreting familiar dishes from around the world. This dining experience plays out as one continuous script. No appetizers, salads, entrees or course dividers. Just good food cooked and delivered tableside as it becomes ready and intended to be shared, family style. No traditional serving plates either. Food is served in custom made tableware designed for each particular dish. Think spring rolls served in well, springs...vertically mounted on a slab of granite! It is in these ways that Chef Jacques Van Staden achieves his goal to "make the ordinary, unordinary."
I'm in awe of the brilliant minds and imagination that goes into the designs of these new ships! Each one has something unique and exciting to offer and I'd like to cruise on every one! With all the choices available I'm sure you too will find a new cruise ship on your horizon!