Every year since 2014 I’ve written a preview of new cruise ships making their debut in the coming 12 months – but this time it’s different.
For a start, it’s on my own blog, rather than for a national newspaper or website, which has allowed me to shake up the format. Secondly, with so many sister ships arriving in 2023 – most of them near-identical to their forerunners (or with distinguishing features yet to be released) – I’ve made that into a separate category. And, for the first time, I’m including some ‘new to brand’ ships which aren’t straight out of the shipyard.
So, here’s what’s on the horizon…
First of a kind
Making waves in 2023 will be the first of at least six ultra-luxury ships from the same parent company as MSC Cruises. Carrying fewer than 1,000 passengers, Explora I aims to challenge the established high-end lines for top-notch customers – and their children. On the food front, there won’t be a tie-in with one celebrity chef but the line will partner with ‘up and coming’ cooks who will take over the speciality restaurants for three or four months at a time so repeat guests have the chance to try different cuisines.
Foodies’ favourite Oceania Cruises is introducing 1,200-passenger ship Vista to offer the best cuisine – and drink. Bars will include the Casino Mixology Bar, The Bubbly Bar beverage cart and The Ultimate Bloody Mary Bar. The Moët & Chandon Champagne Experience will be a a three-course dinner paired with rare vintages. Teetotallers can savour non-alcoholic ‘wines’ in the new Aquamar Kitchen.
The latest in a quick succession of luxury ships for Silversea is setting new environmental standards with hybrid technology that uses fuel cells, batteries and liquefied natural gas to enable emission-free stays in ports. This new 728-passenger class showcases an asymmetrical design with an an outward-facing pool deck opposite a ‘hot rocks’ grill and pizza venue. The Sky Bar will also provide panoramic views from the stern.
American Eagle and American Glory
Ever-growing American Cruise Lines is introducing a new design of coastal ship in 2023. Based on the US east coast, American Eagle and American Glory will be the first of 12 catamarans that will explore lesser-known bays and harbours around the states. As well as enjoying 270-degree views in the forward lounge, the 109 passengers will be able to use an adventure deck at the stern with kayaks and other fun equipment.
This is a cluttered category this year, with many of the top lines building on established successful models.
Seven Seas Grandeur
Sister to: Seven Seas Explorer and Seven Seas Splendor
Luxury knows no bounds on Regent Seven Seas’ latest class of ships. The bar was set high with Seven Seas Explorer in 2016, raised further with Seven Seas Splendor four years later and now topped with Seven Seas Grandeur. The 732-passenger newcomer even carries a custom-made Fabergé egg at the centre of a multi-million-pound art collection. Top-spending passengers in the two-bedroom Regent Suite will be able to relax on twin chaises longues in a skylit parlour as well as enjoy their own private spa with sauna, steam room and whirlpool bath.
Sister to: Seabourn Venture
Following the success of Seabourn’s first ultra-luxury purpose-built expedition ship, Seabourn Venture, in 2022, sister Seabourn Pursuit will be offering even more adventures for the well-heeled traveller. A team of 26 scientists, scholars, naturalists and lecturers will lead the 264 guests on Zodiac landings, hikes, nature walks, scuba diving and snorkelling. Two custom-built submarines even have their own champagne coolers.
Sister to: Emerald Azzurra
With all the style and elegance of a large private yacht, Emerald Azzurra made quite the entrance in 2022. Identical sister Emerald Sakara will offer its 100 passengers the same standard of opulence with a large infinity pool, spa, gym and marina platform. Together, the two ships will sail the Mediterranean, Adriatic, Red and Black Seas.
Sister to: Mardi Gras and Carnival Celebration
Just squeezing into the year’s new ships – hopefully – is Carnival Jubilee, which is due to make its first sailing from Galveston, Texas, on December 23. Originally ordered to join the Aida Cruises fleet, the 5,282-passenger ship was transferred to sister brand Carnival Cruise Line to follow Mardi Gras and Carnival Celebration with the same distinctive rollercoaster.
Sister to: Celebrity Edge, Celebrity Apex and Celebrity Beyond
Celebrity Cruises broke the mould in 2018 with Celebrity Edge, the first in a new class of $1billion ships with ‘infinite’ balconies, a stunning Grand Plaza and an orange Magic Carpet venue that slides up and down the starboard side. Arriving in 2023 is the fourth in the series, Celebrity Ascent, which will be the same size as Celebrity Beyond – 66 feet longer, a deck higher and, with 3,260 passengers, carrying 350 more holidaymakers than Celebrity Edge and Celebrity Apex.
Sister to MSC Grandiosa and MSC Virtuosa
MSC Cruises continues to produce an impressive variety of new ships – in 2022 alone it introduced MSC World Europa and MSC Seascape within a matter of weeks. Next up will be MSC Euribia, the third ‘Meraviglia-Plus’ ship after MSC Grandiosa (2019) and MSC Virtuosa (2021). But it will be easy to tell the LNG-powered, 4,888-passenger newcomer apart from its sisters, due to the eye-catching hull artwork called Save The Sea, designed by artist Alex Flämig.
Scenic Eclipse II
Sister to: Scenic Eclipse I
Sister to: Norwegian Prima
Norwegian Viva will be the second of six ships in the pioneering Prima class. Like sister Norwegian Prima, launched in 2022, it will offer its 3,000-plus guests drop rides, a go-kart track and waterslides, as well as a relaxing wraparound promenade deck with outdoor dining. But the new ship will be pushed to find a godmother as striking as Katy Perry, who christened Norwegian Prima in Iceland.
Resilient Lady and Brilliant Lady
Sisters to Scarlet Lady and Valiant Lady
Sister to eight other ships
Viking Cruises has a winning formula for its ocean ships, so is sticking to the same Scandi chic design for the fleet’s ninth entrant, Viking Saturn. It will join 930-passenger sisters Jupiter, Mars, Neptune, Orion, Sea, Sky, Star and Venus alongside expedition ships Viking Octantis and Polaris.
Slightly bigger sister to SH Minerva and SH Vega
Revived cruise line Swan Hellenic has already produced two new ships in two years – SH Minerva and SH Vega. Newcomer SH Diana is slightly bigger – 192 guests against her sisters’ 152 – allowing for a new private dining room and more suites. As well as a fleet of Zodiac landing boats, Diana will have two tenders for shore visits.
New to brand
The second ship of small British company Ambassador Cruise Line is making its debut in 2023, with the apt name of Ambition. Formerly part of the Aida Cruises fleet, the 1999-built, 1,200-passenger ship will offer departures from regional UK ports such as Newcastle, Dundee, Belfast, Liverpool, Bristol and Falmouth.
The former Mein Schiff Herz will emerge as Marella Voyager in 2023, becoming the fifth member of the Marella Cruises fleet. Based in Palma de Mallorca, the 1,912-passenger ship will will feature two new venues for Marella – a Mexican diner and a Secret Speakeasy bar – while keeping favourites such as Surf and Turf, Nonna’s and Snack Shack.
Small is beautiful, as The Majestic Line hopes to prove in 2023 with the launch of Glen Rosa, a six-passenger former naval training vessel, which will sail both scheduled itineraries and private charters from Oban around the Inner Hebrides with its own skipper and cook.
Royal Caribbean’s ground-breaking Icon of the Seas is due to be delivered in late 2023 but will not begin passenger sailings until the following year. Other ships making their debut in 2024 will include Cunard’s Queen Anne, Princess Cruises’ Sun Princess and Disney Cruise Line’s Disney Treasure.