Making waves: nine new cruise ships on the horizon

Seasoned sailors and cruise agnostics alike are spoiled for choice with the new crop of ships on the horizon. From the expedition specialists to those that offer it all, these are the new boats making waves ships are making waves with savvy travellers.Thursday, 14 November 2019

Cruises have moved on from the staid associations of yesteryear. As trends and technology steam ahead, the industry is more focused on finding sustainable ways of exploring new corners of the world. Ships have become significantly more sophisticated, aiming to provide unique perspectives of the world while offering unique experiences in and of themselves. Across river, expedition and ocean cruises, there’s a growing emphasis on providing immersive getaways that skimp neither on luxury nor comfort. Importantly too, the cruising sector has come to recognise that there’s more to the market than retirees with time on their hands. Now, cruising is for everyone with a ship, boat or even icebreaker to match every travel whim.

For connecting with nature: Celebrity Flora

Less monolithic cruise liner and more all-suite luxury megayacht, the 100-passenger Celebrity Flora was designed specifically with the Galápagos Islands in mind. Rather than vying for attention with the spectacular scenery, innovative outward-facing design erases the line between ship and setting. For those who want to be even more immersed in the idyllic surroundings, the Celebrity Flora offers ‘glamping’ at sea with two luxe top-deck cabanas — one fitted with a double bed for sleeping under the stars and the other created for al fresco dining. The vessel also offers twice-daily shore excursions, which are organised by expert expedition leaders.

For the boutique experience: Guntû

With just 19 cabins, Setouchi Cruise’s Guntû is a floating haven of tranquillity, a buoyant boutique hotel drifting between the 3,000 islands of Japan’s Seto Inland Sea. The design of the ship draws its inspiration from traditional ryokan inns with warm wood and clean lines. Dining focuses on locally sourced and seasonal ingredients — nab a spot at the six-seater sushi counter for a true taste of the region.

For the pioneers: Greg Mortimer

Designed to negotiate strong winds and waves, Aurora Expeditions’ Greg Mortimer is the first adventure tourism ship with a unique, patented Ulstein X-Bow design, which allows for more comfortable sailing with reduced emissions. Two hydraulic viewing platforms that hang over the front of the vessel mean Antarctic encounters can feel closer without having to leave the comfort of the ship. This small-but-powerful polar specialist also has 15 Zodiacs to take guests on outings.

For ultra luxury: Silver Muse

Accommodating 596 guests, Silversea’s Silver Muse marries a spacious all-suite experience (suites start at 387sq ft extending all the way to a sprawling 2,000sq ft) with small-ship intimacy. The ship has eight restaurants ranging from bespoke French fine dining at La Dame to Italian pizza enjoyed al fresco at Spaccanapoli, as well as 24/7 butler service. In the Connoisseur’s Corner, guests can sip on rare cognacs and whiskies while at the belle époque-style Venetian Lounge, the evening’s entertainment always promises something spectacular.

For long-term wanderers: Viking Sun

At the time of writing, Viking Ocean Cruises’ Viking Sun is on something of a marathon. It’s en route to six continents, 51 countries, 113 ports — making history with its Ultimate World Cruise. This 245-day tour of the globe started on 31 August and aims to set records as the longest-ever continuous cruise. The 930-capacity ship’s 2020-2021 season offers 119-, 140- and 161-day world cruises, all with a resident historian aboard to provide enriching context to the many destinations. For those with less time available, there are also itineraries starting at eight days or just two countries.

For the future-focused: Le Commandant Charcot

Set to launch in 2021, Ponant’s new icebreaker is already making waves. The hybrid polar vessel is a world-first, powered by a combination of liquefied natural gas and electric generators. An onboard scientific laboratory enables oceanographic research while its 135 staterooms, accented in natural stone, wood and leather, provide touches of luxury. Upcoming sailings include a 13-day exploration of the north-east coast of Greenland in partnership with National Geographic Expeditions.

For the playful: Norwegian Encore

At 167,800 tonnes and with a guest capacity of 3,998, Norwegian Cruise Line’s newest vessel is pretty big. Thrill-seekers can test their go-kart driving skills on the world’s longest at-sea racetrack, which has high-speed curves extending up to 13ft over the side of the ship. A huge outdoor laser tag arena, interactive virtual reality space and aqua park with multistorey waterslides provide further avenues for escapism. But then again, so do the Encore’s destinations, with its two current itineraries offering cruises from Miami to the Caribbean and New York to Bermuda.

For stylish sustainability: MS Roald Amundsen

Launched earlier this year, Hurtigruten’s MS Roald Amundsen made maritime history as the first cruise ship to sail purely on battery power. Using hybrid propulsion to lower fuel consumption and CO2 emissions, the ship is able to explore some of the planet’s most spectacular regions, from Alaska and British Columbia to Antarctica and the Falklands, with minimal environmental impact. Central to the cruise experience is the ship’s onboard Science Centre where guests are able to develop a deeper understanding of the areas explored.

For bucket list river cruising: Delfin I

Offering up-close-and-personal encounters of the Peruvian Amazon, Delfin I is made for once-in-a-lifetime experiences. Operated by Delfin Amazon Cruises, the vessel has just four cabins, each with floor-to-ceiling windows and a private plunge pool in the Deluxe Master suite. Its four- and five-day itineraries take guests to remote Pacaya-Samiria National Reserve — the largest protected wetland reserve in the world. Integral to the hands-on and out-the-ordinary opportunities on the Delfin I is its open bridge policy.

Published in the Cruise guide, distributed with the December 2019 issue of National Geographic Traveller (UK)

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