Eager to try out a new crop of megaships in 2017?
It’s going to be a thin year. But the lack of new vessels from the world’s two biggest cruise lines — Royal Caribbean and Carnival — plus Holland American and Celebrity is just a temporary lull: All four have new ships on the way for 2018.
Of the six big North America-based brands, Princess and Norwegian Cruise Line do have new ships coming in 2017, and in both cases they’re devoting the vessels to the Chinese market.
The most notable newcomer is the 167,600-ton MSC Meraviglia — the biggest ship ever from MSC Cruises. MSC Cruises also will roll out the 160,000-ton MSC Seaside, its first vessel custom-built for the Caribbean. With both of the new ships, the Europe-based line is hoping to draw more North American customers.
Also debuting this year are two new vessels for the ocean cruising arm of river cruise giant Viking. Luxury line Silversea also has a new ship, the 596-passenger Silver Muse, and adventure line Lindblad is rolling out its first new vessel in years, the 100-passenger National Geographic Quest.
We offer this guide to the most notable new ships for North Americans:
MSC Meraviglia (above)
Line: MSC Cruises
Maiden voyage: June 11
Home ports: Marseille, France; Genoa, Italy; Barcelona
THE BUZZ: At 167,600 tons, MSC Meraviglia is the biggest ship ever from Europe-based MSC Cruises and the seventh largest from any line. Nineteen decks high and full of eateries, bars and deck-top amusements, Meraviglia will have all the trappings of a megaresort, including an Aqua Park with three water slides, a splash pool and an adventurous Himalayan Bridge that allows passengers to cross the ship nearly 200 feet above the water.
Meraviglia also will boast a Miami Beach-inspired, 82-foot-long main pool that will be part of what MSC says is the most generous poolside space at sea.
Other notable features planned for Meraviglia are an amusement park area with race car simulators, a flight simulator, a 4-D cinema and a full-size bowling alley as well as the largest LED dome at sea. There also will be an aft pool that transforms into a dance area at night, a dedicated lounge for family activities and exclusive Cirque du Soleil shows. Twelve distinct dining venues are in the works.
ITINERARIES: Seven-night voyages in the Western Mediterranean
Viking Sky/Viking Sun
Line: Viking Ocean Cruises
Maiden voyages: Feb. 25, Nov. 17
Home ports: Various
THE BUZZ: River cruise giant Viking continues its push into ocean cruising with its third and fourth new ocean vessels since 2015. Like Viking’s first two ships, Viking Star and Viking Sea, the newcomers are being designed to mix onboard elegance with a focus on destinations that executives say has been lost across much of the cruise industry in recent years.
The new vessels will operate itineraries that feature more time in ports than is common with many other lines. In a relatively rare twist, they’ll also feature shore excursions that are included in the price. Also included will be beer and wine with lunch and dinner; and even Wi-Fi access — something that can cost up to 75 cents a minute on other lines.
Cabins on the vessels will be large for cruise ships, with the smallest of five cabin categories having 270 square feet of space.
In addition, every cabin will have a balcony. Fourteen two-room suites on each ship will range from 757 to 1,448 square feet and offer sweeping views from wrap-around private balconies.
ITINERARIES: Viking Sky operates sailings of seven to 28 nights around the Baltic, Mediterranean and Caribbean seas. Viking Sun will sail seven-night voyages to Cuba and the Caribbean out of Miami, and will also feature a 141-day world cruise that spans five continents.
National Geographic Quest
Line: Lindblad Expeditions
Maiden voyage: June 26
Home ports: Various
THE BUZZ: One of the world’s top expedition cruise operators finally is getting a shiny new ship. One of two sister vessels coming by 2018, National Geographic Quest will be outfitted with all the cool toys that have made expedition cruising with Lindblad so alluring, including a remotely operated vehicle, a video microscope designed to display microorganisms from polar waters and a hydrophone and bow-cam designed for immediate bow deployment to hear and film marine mammals.
The ship also will carry kayaks, paddle boards and Zodiac-style landing craft for outdoorsy adventures during voyages and for exploring.
Quest will be a third larger than the line’s long-serving, 62-passenger National Geographic Sea Bird and Sea Lion.
It’ll feature an extra deck and more sophisticated design, including its own mudroom with rows of lockers for passengers to store boots, snorkeling equipment and other gear, making excursion preparation more efficient.
The ship’s 50 cabins will include 22 with balconies — a relative rarity on expedition-style ships. In another unusual-for-expedition- ships twist, 12 cabins will be able to be configured into six adjoining cabins for families.
ITINERARIES: Seven-night sailings in Alaska, and voyages along the coast of British Columbia and Central America.
Line: MSC Cruises
Maiden voyage: Nov. 30
Home port: Miami
THE BUZZ: Europe-based MSC Cruises is going after the North American market in a big way with the debut of MSC Seaside, which will be christened in Miami and deployed year-round in the Caribbean. Designed with the warm Caribbean in mind, the 160,000-ton ship will feature innovative sea-level promenades with outdoor spaces, shops and restaurants. Additionally, there are two glass-floored catwalks that extend beyond the edge of the ship.
Other planned outdoor features are an Aqua Park with four water slides, including an interactive „slideboarding tube” that incorporates video game elements, lights and music, and one inner tube slide. The ship’s top deck also will offer a ropes course called Adventure Trail and two of the longest zip lines at sea (394 feet). In all, Seaside will have 11 eateries, including a pan-Asian restaurant from celebrity chef Roy Yamaguchi, an upscale seafood outlet and a steakhouse.
While the vessel’s 2,070 cabins will be able to hold 4,140 passengers at double occupancy, extra bed spots from pullout sofas and bunks will boost total capacity to 5,179 passengers.
ITINERARIES: Seven-night voyages in the Caribbean and Bahamas.
Line: Silversea Cruises
Maiden voyage: April 8
Home ports: Various
THE BUZZ: This is the most luxurious new ship of 2017. Silversea’s first newly built vessel in seven years — the company’s largest vessel and its new flagship — is full of the biggest and most elegant accommodations at sea, including four apartmentlike, two-bedroom Owner’s Suites that measure 1,389 square feet.
Other accommodations include four Grand Suites and two Royal Suites that measure 1,475 square feet and 1,130 square feet, respectively. The ship will also have 34 of the line’s signature Silver Suites across three top decks, including a new two- bedroom Silver Suite configuration that measures 1,119 square feet. Muse also offers upscale eateries, including La Dame, a French restaurant created in partnership with Relais & Chateaux.
Hot Rocks, a ship favorite where passengers cook their own meals on piping hot lava stones, is also among the dining options.
ITINERARIES: A diverse range of seven- to 19-day sailings in Europe, the Caribbean, South America, the Middle East and Asia