The 5 best new cruise ships of 2020 that we can’t wait to try
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For fans of new cruise ships, it’s been the oddest of years.
More than half a dozen cruise lines have taken delivery of major new vessels in 2020. But, with a few exceptions, nobody has gotten to sail on them.
The coronavirus-caused cruising shutdown that began in March has meant that a significant number of newly completed vessels in recent months have gone straight from the shipyards that built them into long-term layups.
In other words, there are a bunch of cruise ships out there that are brand new and ready to go, but they are caught in something akin to suspended animation. They have skeleton crews that are keeping them shipshape, so to speak. But they have yet to see a single passenger.
The hottest new ships we still haven’t seen
Here at The Points Guy, we’re always excited about getting an early look at new ships. And there were several new vessels this year that we were particularly excited about seeing. Alas, we only have been able to visit one of the year’s hottest newcomers.
In late February, we were on the very first sailing of luxury line Regent Seven Seas Cruises’ new Seven Seas Splendor — the most expensive luxury ship ever built. As we wrote about at the time, it was — as we had expected — spectacular. It also was about to disappear. Just two weeks after we swayed to Seal at Splendor’s gala christening, the ship shut down operations due to rising COVID-19 cases around the world. Nine months later, it’s still not sailing.
Among the most notable newcomers of which we haven’t even gotten a glimpse — and that nobody, it turns out, has seen — is Celebrity Cruises’ new Celebrity Apex. It’s been ready to go since March. Small-ship specialist Lindblad Expeditions also has been sitting on a major new vessel since March, the highly anticipated National Geographic Endurance.
Earlier this year, we called the latter vessel the most exciting new ship of 2020.
Other lines with new ships out that aren’t sailing including Princess Cruises. Its new Enchanted Princess has been finished since September. Luxury line Silversea currently has two just-completed new ships waiting to welcome passengers, Silver Origin and Silver Moon. They’ve been finished since June and October, respectively.
Plus, there’s Scarlet Lady, the very first vessel from start-up line Virgin Voyages. It’s been waiting for its big Miami unveiling since March.
Meanwhile, the construction of several other major new ships that had been scheduled to debut in 2020, including Carnival Cruise Line‘s much-ballyhooed Mardi Gras — the first cruise ship with a roller coaster — and Royal Caribbean’s Odyssey of the Seas, has been delayed due to the new coronavirus. These ships are now not scheduled to debut until early 2021. We’ll take a closer look at them later in the week.
However, for today as part of Cruise Week at the 2020 TPG Awards, here are the five new vessels of 2020 that we are most excited about sailing on once we can — and that we suspect you might want to try, too.
Scarlet Lady (Virgin Voyages)
The very first ship from Richard Branson-backed Virgin Voyages emerged from a shipyard in Italy in February, and it was in the process of starting up service when the coronavirus brought the cruise industry to a halt. One of our editors in the U.K. did get a quick look at the vessel when it stopped for a day in Dover, England, on its way to Miami — where it was supposed to start its first “sneak-a-peek” sailings with paying passengers on 26 March. But we have yet to sail a day on it.
Like a lot of cruisers, we’re anxious to give it try. In the works for more than five years, the 2,770-passenger vessel is designed to shake up the industry with a new, hipper style of cruising. The ship has everything from a tattoo parlour to drag-queen brunches and a colourful karaoke lounge where you can get your Lizzo on. To ensure a proper party vibe, it’s also a kid-free travel zone, with a minimum age to sail of 18.
Virgin is going after travellers who might think themselves too cool to cruise. To that end, Scarlet Lady has no buffets, no dress codes and no big Broadway-style theatre shows. For entertainment, expect interactive dance parties, DJ sets and “microplays” instead, plus late-night games of dodgeball. Suites will have a rock-star theme.
The details: Scarlet Lady is now scheduled to start operations in May with four- and five-night trips out of Miami to the Bahamas and Caribbean. Fares start at $750 per person, not including taxes and fees. For additional information, call 954-488-2955 or visit virginvoyages.com.
National Geographic Endurance (Lindblad Expeditions)
We were all booked and ready to go on this notable new expedition ship back in March. In fact, we were getting an exclusive first look for our readers. But our well-laid plans got sidetracked with just a few days notice when the coronavirus hit the pandemic stage.
As noted above, National Geographic Endurance — a vessel specifically designed for exploring polar regions — was the new ship of 2020 that had us the most excited.
Quite a few companies have rolled out new vessels designed to operate in Antarctica and the Arctic in recent years. But there’s never been anything quite like National Geographic Endurance. Billed as the world’s most advanced polar expedition ship, the 126-passenger Lindblad Expeditions vessel was being built super tough for the most off-the-beaten-path exploring.
National Geographic Endurance has the highest ice class rating (PC5 Category A) ever for a purpose-built passenger ship, which means it can go deeper into polar regions than other vessels. It also has an unusual, sloping “X-bow” designed to minimize movement in the rough seas around Antarctica.
Aimed at an adventure-loving crowd, National Geographic Endurance carries a fleet of Zodiac boats, kayaks, snowshoes and cross-country skis for polar exploring. It also has its very own remote-operated vehicle, just in case you want to see what’s going on under the hull. An upscale Scandinavian-inspired interior rounds out the experience.
The details: National Geographic Endurance will spend its initial spring and summer sailing in the Arctic before moving to Antarctica for the winter. Fares for polar trips start at $11,750 per person, not including taxes and fees, for a 10-night trip to the Arctic’s Svalbard archipelago. Thanks to a relatively new partnership between Hyatt and Lindblad, World of Hyatt members can pay for a cruise using Hyatt points — or earn 5 base points per dollar on eligible spend (excluding incidentals), plus the standard bonuses for Hyatt elite members, as well as elite-qualifying night credits. And all members — regardless of status — will enjoy a $250 onboard credit to use on incidentals. Call 800-397-3348 or visit expeditions.com for more information.
Celebrity Apex (Celebrity Cruises)
This is another ship that was so close to launching in March that we actually had flights booked to go see it. Celebrity cancelled an unveiling event with just a few days notice due to the coronavirus.
Designed to carry 2,908 passengers at double occupancy, Celebrity Apex is the second of four new Edge Class vessels for Celebrity that boast an innovative new design.
Like the first ship in the series, the two-year-old Celebrity Edge, it features a 90-ton platform the size of a tennis court cantilevered over its side — the so-called Magic Carpet — that moves up and down to serve all sorts of functions, from tender boarding platform to 90-seat alternative restaurant. But perhaps the greatest innovation with the series are the “infinite veranda” cabins with outward-facing walls that are entirely made of glass.
Billed as an industry first, the new glass-walled cabins have balconies that are incorporated into the main cabin area.
Among other unusual features, Apex has a plant-filled relaxation area with an outdoor eatery on its top deck called the Rooftop Garden. There also is an unusual, glass-walled lounge, dining and entertainment at the back of the ship called Eden.
The details: Celebrity Apex now is scheduled to start operations in March with sailings out of Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Seven-night voyages to the Caribbean start at $829, not including taxes and fees. The ship will reposition to the Mediterranean for the summer. For additional information, call 888-751-7804 or visit celebritycruises.com.
Silver Origin (Silversea)
Ready to go since June, but now on hiatus until at least April, this new Silversea vessel has been custom-built to become the new belle of the ball in the wildlife-filled Galápagos.
Designed to carry just 100 passengers, Silver Origin is an all-suite vessel with such luxury touches as butler service with every room and the highest crew-to-passenger ratio in the Galápagos. It features wall-to-wall, floor-to-ceiling windows in most spaces to maximize nature viewing — something you just don’t see with most other Galápagos ships.
In short, you can expect an intimate, boutique hotel-like experience, just one with ever-changing scenery. Amenities include two restaurants, indoor and outdoor lounges, a stargazing platform and a marina with an easy-on, easy-off tender boarding area.
The details: Silver Origin is now scheduled to start operations in The Galápagos in April, with two different seven-night itineraries that can be combined to create a 14-night trip. Fares for the seven-night sailings start at $9,000 per person, not including taxes and fees. For more information, call 877-382-7094 or visit silversea.com.
Silver Moon (Silversea)
Just completed in October, this 596-passenger vessel is going to be a foodie’s delight.
A sister ship to Silversea’s Silver Muse and Silver Spirit, it’ll be the first Silversea vessel with an innovative new culinary enrichment programme called S.A.L.T., an acronym of Sea and Land Taste. We got a sneak peek at this programme in 2019 when visiting the ship under construction at a shipyard in Italy, and — for culinary enthusiasts, at least — it’s going to be a big deal.
The programme includes elaborate, food-related land activities such as visiting a small, artisanal pasta maker in Italy for a detailed explanation of the pasta-making process followed by an elegant reception and pasta tasting (we tried this excursion out ourselves during our sneak peek at the ship and — trust us — it’s an amazing day).
On board, there will be three new S.A.L.T. programme-related venues that will offer a foodie focus, including a S.A.L.T. Kitchen that’s billed as the first large-scale regional restaurant aboard a luxury cruise ship. It’ll offer a changing menu tied to the destinations that the ship visits. The second venue, the S.A.L.T. Lab, is a test kitchen where passengers can learn about local ingredients and artisanal techniques through workshops, tastings, and demonstrations. The third venue is S.A.L.T. Bar, where passengers can sample the iconic drinks of the destinations they visit.
The details: Silver Moon now is scheduled to start operations in April with sailings in the Caribbean before moving to the Mediterranean for the spring and summer. Fares start at $3,120 per person, not including taxes and fees, for an eight-night sailing. For additional information, call 877-382-7094 or visit silversea.com.
Planning a cruise? Start with these stories:
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- A quick guide to the most popular cruise lines
- 21 tips and tricks that will make your cruise go smoothly
- 15 ways cruisers waste money
- 12 best cruises for people who never want to grow up
- What to pack for your first cruise
Featured image of courtesy of Celebrity Cruises
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