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The 4,000-passenger Norwegian Bliss will be a sister ship to Norwegian Escape and Norwegian Joy.

Courtesy of Norwegian Cruise Line

The 4,000-passenger Norwegian Bliss will be a sister ship to Norwegian Escape and Norwegian Joy.

Top cruise ship debuts of 2018

Four megaships, a ‘discovery yacht’ & a stunning entry from Celebrity

Each January, Cruiseable offers a roundup of the top cruise ships set to debut throughout the year. Last year saw the addition of 12 ships, and this year we count 13 new ships from the major cruise lines set to hit the water, not counting river ships. The number of new berths will hit an all-time high, with 34,352 berths expected to hit the market, according to the 2018-2019 Cruise Industry News Annual Report.

An estimated 27.2 million cruise passengers will set sail this year

This year we'll see four new megaships (including the world's largest cruise ship), a ship built specially for Alaska, a “discovery yacht” (complete with a submarine and two helicopters) and the first new large ship from Celebrity Cruises since 2012.

An estimated 27.2 million cruise passengers are expected to set sail this year, compared to  25.8 passengers in 2017, according to the Cruise Lines International Association. So if some of these look enticing, now's the time to book — some of these ships' itineraries are already filling up fast. (See Don's tips on making the most of wave season.)

Here are the 13 biggest cruise ship debuts of 2018, with ships appearing in roughly this order.

 

When she launches in March, Symphony of the Seas will be the world's largest cruise ship.

Symphony of the Seas

1

Cruise line: Royal Caribbean

Maiden voyage: March 31, 2018

Home ports: Barcelona (for this season) and Miami (starting in November)

Size: 230,000 gross tons

Passengers: 5,535 (double occupancy)

Summary: When she debuts in Europe on March 31, Symphony of the Seas will be the world's largest cruise ship in terms of size, some 3,000 gross registered tons larger than sister ship Harmony of the Seas. (See Cruiseable's Ship Discovery tool to compare sizes.)

Highlights:

  • New Ultimate Family Suite staterooms with private cinema, pool table and slide
  • Tallest slide at sea: Ultimate Abyss
  • Ice skating rink
  • AquaTheater shows with diving stunts and acrobatics
  • 20+ dining spots, including a New England-style seafood restaurant & a sports bar
  • Top deck fun zones and indoor galactic-themed laser tag arena
  • Bionic Bar with drinks served by robot bartenders

Itineraries: Symphony of the Seas will debut in the Mediterranean and begin Western and Eastern Caribbean sailings in November. See Symphony of the Seas sailings.


 

Here'a an informal five-minute preview of Carnival Horizon.

Carnival Horizon

2

Cruise line: Carnival Cruise Line

Maiden voyage: April 2, 2018

Home ports:  Barcelona, New York and Miami

Size: 133,500 gross tons

Passengers: 3,954 (double occupancy)

Summary: Carnival Horizon is a sister to the 3,954-passenger Carnival Vista, which debuted in 2016 as Carnival's largest ship. She'll share many of the same features.

Highlights:

  • 800-foot-long sky ride along the top deck
  • New Dr. Seuss-themed water park with 450-foot-long tube slide
  • IMAX Theater with first-run movies
  • New Guy Fieri-themed smokehouse and brewpub
  • Spa guests have access to Cloud 9 Spa & Cuban-themed bar and pool
  • Popular venues such as BlueIguana Tequila Bar, Cantina & Guy's Burger Joint 

Itineraries: The ship will operate just four Mediterranean sailings out of Barcelona before crossing the Atlantic to New York for a series of cruises to Bermuda and the Caribbean. In September, she begins cruises out of Miami. See Carnival Horizon cruises.


 

A rendering of the impressive Ocean Place atrium on Norwegian Bliss.
Courtesy of Norwegian Cruise LineA rendering of the impressive Ocean Place atrium on Norwegian Bliss.

Norwegian Bliss

3

Cruise line: Norwegian Cruise Line

Maiden voyage: April 23, 2018

Home ports:  Seattle and Miami

Size: 167,800 gross tons

Passengers: 4,000 (double occupancy)

Summary: Joining new sister ships Norwegian Escape and Norwegian Joy, Norwegian Bliss will rank among the 10 largest ships in the world and is Norwegian's first ship built for Alaskan cruises. 

Highlights: 

  • Two-deck course where passengers race each other in electric go-carts
  • Outdoor laser tag course
  • Water park with multi-story waterslides
  • 20,000-square-foot observation lounge with 180-degree views (perfect for Alaska)
  • A Texas-style BBQ smokehouse with live music
  • Galactic-themed laser-tag course
  • Tony Award-winning production shows including  “Jersey Boys”
  • Lots of cabins for solo travelers

Itineraries: Bliss will spend summers sailing to Alaska from Seattle, with seven-night trips along the Inside Passage. Bliss will spend winters with seven-night sailings to the Eastern Caribbean out of Miami. See Norwegian Bliss cruises.


 

Here's a four-minute preview of Seabourn Ovation featuring interviews with Seabourn execs.

Seabourn Ovation

4

Cruise line:  Seabourn

Maiden voyage: May 5, 2018

Home ports: Various

Size: 40,350 gross tons

Passengers: 600 (luxury ship)

Summary: Billed as the year's most luxurious new ship, Seabourn Ovation will join twin sister Seabourn Encore, which debuted a year ago.

Highlights:

  • All-suite, all-veranda accommodations
  • Elegant, contemporary look created by hospitality designer Adam Tihany
  • Restaurant from noted chef Thomas Keller
  • Zodiacs for up-close exploring of remote areas
  • The Retreat, a private sanctuary on the top deck
  • “An Evening with Tim Rice,” a new theater-style experience

Itineraries: Mediterranean, Northern Europe, Baltic, Middle East and Asia. See Seabourn Ovation cruises.


 

Here's a 2 1/2-minute preview of MSC Seaview with a musical score.

MSC Seaview

5

Cruise line: MSC Cruises

Maiden voyage: June 10, 2018

Home ports: Barcelona and Genoa, Italy

Size: 153,516 gross tons

Passengers: 4,132 (double occupancy)

Summary: Don't worry if you confuse the names of MSC Cruises' two new ships: MSC Seaside just began sailing out of Miami. Her sister ship MSC Seaview, with similar Miami Beach condo stylings, will ply mostly the western Mediterranean at first.

Highlights:

  • Innovative, extra-wide promenades that wrap around the ship and jut over the sides
  • Massive 463,000 square feet of pubic space
  • Aqua Park with four waterslides
  • Two original Cirque du Soleil at Sea shows
  • Outdoor promenade filled with shops, bars and al fresco dining
  • Two of the longest ziplines at sea, at 394 feet
  • 11 restaurants, including pan-Asian restaurant from celebrity chef Roy Yamaguchi

Itineraries: Seven-night voyages in the Western Mediterranean. See MSC Seaview cruises.


 

Take some time to be pampered in the Spa on Viking Star.
Courtesy of Viking CruisesTake some time to be pampered in the Spa on your Viking ocean cruise.

Viking Orion

6

Cruise line:  Viking Ocean Cruises

Maiden voyage: June 19, 2018

Home ports: Barcelona, Rome (Civitavecchia), Athens, Venice, Mumbai, Bangkok, Hong Kong, Bali, Sydney, Auckland, Tokyo and Vancouver

Size: 47,800 gross tons

Passengers: 930

Summary: Viking continues its push into ocean cruising with its fifth new seagoing vessel since 2015. Like its sister ships, the mid-size Viking Orion will have a modern Scandinavian look and an upscale feel. (I sailed on Viking Star in 2015 and loved it.)

Highlights:

  • All-veranda staterooms in five categories
  • Beer and wine are included with lunch & dinner, and Wi-Fi is included
  • The LivNordic Spa is open to all guests at no charge
  • Wintergarden, a light-filled space to relax and enjoy afternoon tea
  • Orion's glass dome opens up during balmy weather
  • Cozy two-level Explorers' Lounge
  • Manfredi’s, one of the best Italian restaurants on a cruise ship

Itineraries: Mediterranean, Asia, Australia and Alaska. See Viking Orion sailings


 

National Geographic Quest in the Pacific Northwest in fall 2017. Sister ship National Geographic Venture debuts in June 2018.
Courtesy of Lindblad ExpeditionsNational Geographic Quest in the Pacific Northwest in fall 2017. Sister ship National Geographic Venture debuts in June 2018.

National Geographic Venture

7

Cruise company:  Lindblad Expeditions

Maiden voyage: June 24, 2018

Size: 2,906 gross tons

Passengers: 100 (expedition ship)

Summary: Twin sister to the $48 million built-in-the-USA ship National Geographic Quest, National Geographic Venture will offer cruises to Alaska's Inside Passage and the Great Northwest. 

Highlights:

  • Tiered design of the ship's bow allows for unobstructed wildlife viewing
  • Remotely operated vehicle, video microscope, a hydrophone & underwater camera
  • Sea kayaks and warm- and cold-weather snorkel gear

Itineraries: Alaska and the Pacific Northwest. See National Geographic Venture sailings.


 

A one-minute look at the Blue Eye underwater lounge on Ponant's Le Laperouse.

Le Lapérouse

8

Cruise line: Ponant

Maiden voyage: June 19, 2018

Size: 9,900 gross tons

Passengers: 184 (expedition-luxury ship)

Summary: As the first ship in Ponant's new Explorers Class, Le Laperouse will embody the atmosphere that is the cruise line’s hallmark: a subtle blend of refinement, intimacy and comfort. Cruising’s first underwater lounge features portholes that look out into the subaquatic world.  

Highlights:

  • Blue Eye underwater lounge
  • Elegant cabins and spacious suites with large windows and lounge areas
  • Hydraulic mini-port provides easy access to Zodiacs
  • High-tech theater with LED wall

Itineraries: Iceland, Eastern & Western Mediterranean, Australia, India, Asia, South Pacific. See Le Lapérouse cruises.


 

A six-minute animated video of the upcoming discovery yacht Scenic Eclipse.

Scenic Eclipse

9

Cruise line: Scenic

Maiden voyage: August 2018

Size: 16,500 gross tons

Passengers: 228

Summary: Australia-based luxury line and tour company Scenic launches its first ocean vessel, Scenic Eclipse, which they've dubbed the world’s first “discovery yacht.”

Highlights:

  • The ship is accompanied by two helicopters, a seven-person submarine & a fleet of Zodiacs
  • All-suite, all-veranda accommodations
  • Both indoor and outdoor swimming pools
  • All-inclusive fare includes drinks, Internet and shore excursions

Itineraries: Mediterranean, Arctic and Antarctica. See Scenic Eclipse itineraries.


 

A rendering of the new luxury expedition ship from Ponant debuting in 2018.
Courtesy of Ponant CruisesA rendering of the new luxury expedition ship from Ponant debuting in 2018.

Le Champlain

10

Cruise line: Ponant

Maiden voyage: Oct. 11, 2018

Size: 9,900 gross tons

Passengers: 184 (expedition-luxury ship)

Summary: As the second ship in Ponant's new Explorers Class, Le Champlain will embody the atmosphere that is the cruise line’s hallmark: a subtle blend of refinement and comfort. The underwater lounge features portholes that look out into the subaquatic world.  

Highlights:

  • Blue Eye underwater lounge
  • Elegant cabins and spacious suites with large windows and lounge areas
  • Hydraulic mini-port provides easy access to Zodiacs
  • High-tech theater with LED wall

Itineraries: Mediterranean, Amazon, Caribbean, North America, Iceland and Greenland. See Le Champlain cruises.


 

The 300-passenger sailing ship Flying Clipper is expected to debut later in 2018.
Courtesy of Star ClippersThe 300-passenger sailing ship Flying Clipper is expected to debut some time in 2018.

Flying Clipper

11

Cruise line: Star Clippers

Maiden voyage: Date not announced, 2018 (delayed from 2017)

Size: 8,770 gross tons

Passengers: 300 (sailing ship)

Summary: If you're not familiar with the cruise line Star Clippers and its glorious tall ships, you'll have the chance to get better acquainted when the line debuts its fourth ship, Flying Clipper, in late 2017. The world's largest square rigger, it's the first new ship to join the Star Clippers fleet since Royal Clipper in 2000. 

Highlights:

  • Water sports platform for kayaking, waterskiing and snorkeling
  • Three pools
  • Tropical Bar and Piano Bar

Itineraries: Flying Clipper has not announced any of its itineraries.


 

Here's a two-minute preview of Holland America Line's new Pinnacle Class ship Nieuw Statendam.

Nieuw Statendam

12

Cruise line: Holland America Line

Maiden voyage: Dec. 5, 2018

Home port: Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.

Size: 99,500 gross tons

Passengers: 2,650 (double capacity)

Summary:  Nieuw Statendam will be similar in structure to the 21-month-old Koningsdam but feature several new public spaces and a distinctive style created by hospitality designer Adam Tihany and architect Bjorn Storbraaten.

Highlights: 

  • Top-flight restaurants, including the French-style brasserie Rudi's Sel de Mer
  • Music venues highlighted by B.B. King’s Blues Club and Lincoln Center Stage
  • New Exploration Central in Crow’s Nest has a Virtual Bridge & other interactive elements
  • Wine blending classes at BLEND onboard
  • America’s Test Kitchen cooking demonstrations
  • BBC Earth experiences 
  • A three-deck LED atrium ceiling with changing imagery
  • Specially designed staterooms for solo travelers

Itineraries: Bahamas, Caribbean, Baltic, Mediterranean. See Nieuw Statendam cruises.


 

Here's an extensive eight-minute preview of Celebrity Edge.

Celebrity Edge

13

Cruise line: Celebrity Cruises

Maiden voyage: Dec. 16, 2018

Home ports: Barcelona, Civitavecchia, Italy, and Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.

Size: 117,000 gross tons

Passengers: 2,918 (double occupancy)

Summary: Celebrity introduces its first new original ship since 2012 with Celebrity Edge, the first of four Edge class vessels coming over the next five years with cutting-edge designs and technologies.

Highlights: 

  • Magic Carpet, a moving 90-ton platform that will be cantilevered over its side and change functions, including serving as a specialty restaurant
  • The Rooftop Garden holds activities during the day, and movies or music at night.
  • The Retreat, an adults-only ship-within-a-ship area with a pool, lounge & butler service
  • Staterooms with infinite verandas 
  • The Solarium with a three-dimensional art wall
  • Destination Gateway, a new multi-purpose area that serves as a luxury embarkation station
  • Celebrity's first cabins for solo travelers

Itineraries: Caribbean and Mediterranean. See Celebrity Edge cruises.

Other ships arriving in 2018

Hurtigruten's 530-passenger expedition ship Roald Amundsen is due in August and AIDA Cruises' Europe-centric 5,000-passenger AIDAnova is due in December.

In addition, Azamara is repurposing P&O's vintage ship Adonia, which offered cruises to Cuba until last summer as part of the defunct Fathom line. After a multimillion-dollar renovation starting in March, Azamara Pursuit will emerge in August as the third ship in Azamara's small three-ship fleet.

Interested in one of these ships?

Does a cruise on any of these ships look tempting? Contact a Cruiseable travel advocate and our Business Department will make sure you get the lowest price, the best value and all the perks. Call us at 1-877-322-3773 to speak to an expert travel professional, or send us a query.

2019 ships on the horizon

Here are the ships already on tap to launch in 2019:

  • MSC Bellissima
  • Celebrity Flora
  • Sky Princess
  • Viking Jupiter
  • MSC Grandiosa

Related

JD Lasica
I'm co-founder, Editor and chief cat herder at Cruiseable. Follow your cruise bliss to any land where it may lead. Let's connect! I'm @jdlasica on Twitter.

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