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Harmony of the Seas carries 5,479 passengers (double occupancy) on voyages in the Mediterranean in summer and the Caribbean in winter.

Courtesy of Royal Caribbean International

Harmony of the Seas carries 5,479 passengers (double occupancy) on voyages in the Mediterranean in summer and the Caribbean in winter.

New cruise ships begin to debut

Get ready for a 100-foot waterslide drop, the first IMAX at sea & more

We've been patiently waiting for the approach of the year's new cruise ships, making their debuts like those old-time debutante balls and coming-out parties. And finally, this week, the newest and coolest ships from the major cruise lines are beginning to emerge. 

Here's a rundown of when the ships make their inaugural voyage — and where you can find out more info and book a vacation by talking with the right experts, if you're so inclined. 


The Explorers Lounge on Viking Sea offers drinks as well as light dining options (digital rendering).
Courtesy of Viking Ocean CruisesThe Explorers Lounge on Viking Sea offers drinks as well as light dining options (digital rendering).

Viking Sea

Launch date: This past Monday on a 9-day cruise out of Istanbul to Venice (an itinerary I took on her twin sister Viking Star)

1st U.S. cruise: No U.S. cruises scheduled

Cruise line: Viking Ocean Cruises / Ship overview

Ship capacity: 930 passengers

Standout features: Viking Sea will include several of the popular features of Viking's river ships, including Scandinavian flourishes, the al fresco dining venue Aquavit Terrace, lots of outdoor space on the sundeck and a promenade that encircles the ship. 






Launch date: Tomorrow, April 8, with a 7-day Premiere Voyage out of Rome

1st U.S. cruise: Nov. 9, 2016, with 4-night Caribbean cruise out of Ft. Lauderdale

Cruise line: Holland America Line / Ship overview

Ship capacity: 2,650 passengers (see double occupancy vs. maximum capacity)

Standout features: Koningsdam will be not only the largest ship in the Holland America fleet but also the most modern, with lots of innovations to entice a younger audience. Look for a classy décor; a new French seafood restaurant, Sel de Mer; a new farm-to-table dinner experience; classical music performances marked by Holland America's new partnership with Lincoln Center; a new class of solo and family cabins, and more. After setting sail with itineraries in the Med, Baltic and northern Europe, Koningsdam will head to the Caribbean on round-trip voyages from Ft. Lauderdale, Fla. 





Ovation of the Seas

Launch date: April 14, 2016, with a 3-night cruise starting in Rotterdam, the Netherlands

1st U.S. cruise: Ovation of the Seas won't be cruising out of the U.S. The ship is repositioning to Singapore and China late next month.

Cruise line: Royal Caribbean International / Ship overview

Ship capacity: 4,180 passengers 

Standout features: Ovation of the Seas features most of the same venues and attractions as its sister ships, Quantum of the Seas and Anthem of the Seas, with features such as North Star viewing pod, a skydiving simulator, a big poolside digital movie screen, an indoor rec center with bumper cars and roller skating, FlowRiders (surf simulators), those cool virtual balconies for inside cabins and high-speed Internet. You'll also find a circus school, Broadway productions, and the innovative entertainment space Two70, which integrates HD-digital technology with singing, dancing and aerial shows.



Launch date: April 27, 2016, with a 14-night inaugural Med voyage starting in Venice

1st U.S. cruise: Nov. 25, 2016, with 16-night Panoramic Panama Canal cruise starting in Los Angeles

Cruise line: Oceania Cruises / Ship overview

Ship capacity: 684 passengers

Standout featuresSirena (formerly Ocean Princess) is now getting a $40 million makeover. The midsize ship will feature signature Oceania restaurants such as Toscana and Polo Grill. Her decks will be refurbished in fine teak, custom stone and tile work, and her lounges, suites and staterooms will boast luxurious neo-classical furnishings.





The colorful atrium on Carnival Vista. Carnival's largest ship debuted in May 2016.
Radu Ursu / Courtesy of Carnival Cruise LineThe colorful atrium on Carnival Vista. Carnival's largest ship debuted in May 2016.

Carnival Vista

Launch date: May 1, 2016, with a 13-day cruise out of Trieste, Italy 

1st U.S. cruise: Nov. 27, 2016, with a 6-night Western Caribbean cruise starting in Miami

Cruise line: Carnival Cruise Line / Ship overview

Ship capacity: 3,936 passengers

Standout features: Carnival Vista will be Carnival's biggest ship when she debuts. Look for the first IMAX theater at sea, an adults-only Serenity retreat area, a Cloud 9 spa, Camp Ocean for kids up to 12, a SkyRide that lets passengers pedal above the Lido deck, and Cuban-themed rooms and outdoor hangouts such as the Havana Bar & Pool. 





Here's a one-minute video preview of Harmony of the Seas from Royal Caribbean.

Harmony of the Seas

Launch date: May 22, 2016, with 4-night sailing from Southampton, U.K., to Rotterdam, the Netherlands

1st U.S. cruise: Nov. 5, 2016, with 3-night cruise from Ft. Lauderdale to Nassau, Bahamas

Cruise line: Royal Caribbean International / Ship overview

Ship capacity: 5,479 passengers

Standout features: Harmony of the Seas will be the world's largest cruise ship, with 5,479 passengers. Everyone's talking about the Ultimate Abyss, a straight shot of adrenaline and the tallest waterslide at sea with a 100-foot drop. Also look for an aqua park for the kids, high-speed Internet, robot bartenders at the Bionic Bar, a skydiving simulator, North Star viewing pod, bumper cars and lots more.





Here's a 13-minutes video about features of the upcoming Seven Seas Explorer.

Seven Seas Explorer

Launch date: July 20, 2016, on a 13-day cruise from Monte Carlo to Venice. 

1st U.S. cruise: Dec. 4, 2016, on a 14-day cruise from Miami to the Caribbean.

Cruise line: Regent Seven Seas / Ship overview

Ship capacity: 738 passengers

Standout features: Seven Seas Explorer is being touted by Regent as "the most luxurious ship ever built." The all-suite, all-balcony ship will offer guests all-inclusive luxury at sea. She will feature three specialty restaurants, including a French-inspired dining venue and the Prime 7 steakhouse found on other Regent ships. Passengers can journey to the world’s most beautiful places in spacious designer suites, indulge in a decadent treatment at the Canyon Ranch SpaClub, enjoy a musical performance in a plush lounge and delight in extensive gourmet dining throughout the day and night. Sign me up! 





An aerial of Seabourn Encore, the luxury ship that debuted in early 2017.
Courtesy of SeabournAn aerial of Seabourn Encore, the luxury ship that debuted in early 2017.

Seabourn Encore

Launch date: Dec. 4, 2016, with a 16 Night Holy Land And Arabian Gems cruise out of Athens

1st U.S. cruise: Seabourn Encore won't be visiting the U.S. in the near future. In December she repositions to the Far East and Australia. 

Cruise line: Seabourn / Ship overview

Ship capacity: 604 passengers

Standout featuresSeabourn Encore is modeled after the award-winning trio of ships introduced with Seabourn Odyssey in 2009. All 302 suites on board have private balconies. While the architecture of the ship is similar to the other three Seabourn ships, the interiors represent the kind of luxury found on private yachts.  




River cruise ships launching in 2016 

River cruising is continuing its boom into the new year, and nearly all the river cruise lines are introducing new ships in 2016. Look for new ships from: 

Your turn

What did I overlook? Or what's your take on upcoming ships? Please share in the comments.

JD Lasica
I'm Editor-in-Chief and co-founder of Cruiseable. Follow your cruise bliss to any land where it may lead. Let's connect! I'm @jdlasica on Twitter.