The cruise industry is booming, according to industry publication Cruise Critic, and many lines are experiencing some of their highest sales in history. As part of the growth, cruise lines are adding promotions, releasing renovations and unveiling new onboard perks and amenities to welcome passengers back. Here’s the latest cruise industry news to keep you up to date on what the high seas has in store this fall and beyond.
Club Med 2 sailing yacht emerges from renovation
As part of Club Med’s Exclusive Collection portfolio, the French hospitality company’s luxury sailing yacht Club Med 2 has undergone a multi-million dollar refurbishment. It now features all new furnishings and interiors, an upgraded fitness center, yoga on the sun deck and a new Club Med Spa by Sothys. Le Monte Carlo restaurant now offers new live culinary demonstrations and seasonal menus based on the ports on the itinerary. As at Club Med resorts, there are plenty of activities, including two seawater pools, live nightly entertainment, water sports like windsurfing and paddle boarding, and even wingsurfing.
Katy Perry christens Norwegian Prima in Iceland
The first in a line of six Prima class ships (representing a new luxury direction for Norwegian Cruise Line) is Norwegian Prima. It was christened by music pop star Katy Perry in Iceland late last month and became the first major cruise ship to be launched in the country. The ship has the highest staff-to-space ratio of any modern or premium cruise ship, offering passengers more space and service. For those who want even more, it offers the widest range of suite categories at sea.
There’s also a free food hall with nearly a dozen different venues serving everything from Indian to Japanese ramen, the fastest slides at sea with wet and dry options, and the Prima Speedway, the first three-story racetrack on a cruise ship. Norwegian Prima is the first ship in the brand’s fleet to have Coca-Cola as its official soft drink. By December, all ships in the line will be stocked with Coca-Cola products.
Virgin Voyages is adding a benefits program
Dubbed The Sailing Club, Virgin Voyages is making it easier to reward repeat travelers with its new benefits program, a precursor to its official loyalty program starting next year. Travelers who join between now and the end of the year can participate in Deep Blue Extras, a rewards program of onboard experiences. This can include anything from a free “Shake for Champagne” (where users shake their Virgin Voyages app-equipped phone for a free glass of bubbly) to special cocktail parties or free laundry. Additionally, from now through November 15, qualifying bookings made during this Red Hot Booking Bonus Months period will receive onboard spend perks, a $200 onboard credit and a chance to win prizes such as a trip to Ulusaba, Richard Branson’s private game to win reserve in South Africa.
Elon Musk’s Starlink Wi-Fi for the Royal Caribbean Group
SpaceX Starlink is coming soon to a Royal Caribbean Group ship near you. Elon Musk’s company has been chosen to power the Internet on board Royal Caribbean International, Celebrity Cruises and Silversea Cruises ships. It will eventually be available on all new build and existing ships with strong enough speeds for streaming and video calling. Following a successful test aboard Freedom of the Seas, it will immediately begin rollout, which will be completed by the first quarter of next year.
Royal Caribbean is also pulling back the curtain on the manufacturing of its newest ship, the Icon of the Seas. It premiered its first episode of its web series on YouTube, showing behind-the-scenes details of shipbuilding.
Ecoventura mega yacht to sail the Galapagos
A new mega yacht from Ecoventura will debut in January. Named Evolve, this is the company’s third luxury expedition ship. The 20-passenger luxury yacht will be one of the most sustainable in the region, with its curved bow (reduces friction) and a 30 percent reduction in fossil fuel use. Evolve will have two naturalists on board, a dining room with Ecuadorian cuisine and an open bar. Ecoventura ships are the only ones in the region to be part of the Relais & Chateaux Collection.
Azamara’s first episode of the Lens Like A Local web series.
As part of the announcement of the European itineraries for the 2024 season, Azamara has released the first episode of its Lens Like A Local program on YouTube. It is a goal-oriented web series that explores local life in many of the ports the cruise line calls at. Of the 84 new itineraries, more are considered country-intensive voyages, with most port calls made either late at night or overnight. Also new for 2024 are more than a dozen departures in partnership with PerryGolf, which runs international golf holidays to places like the British Isles, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand.
Celebrity Cruises wins 15 Wine Spectator Awards
In ten years, Celebrity Cruises has won more than 100 Wine Spectator Awards, including 15 at the 2022 Wine Spectator Awards. Celebrity offers multiple wine experiences onboard its ships beyond the dining room and bar. These include educational workshops with sommelier-led tastings and wine blending classes. Celebrity is the only cruise line to have won the “Best of” Award of Excellence. Several onboard restaurants have won awards, including two Best Of awards for the wine list at Le Voyage, Daniel Boulud’s first restaurant at sea, on board Celebrity Beyond and at Steakhouse Fine Cut. Sister ships Celebrity Edge and Celebrity Apex were also among the “Best Of” winners. Celebrity Cruises boasts one of the largest wine collections at sea, with more than 500 labels.
MSC Seascape adds Robotron amusement ride
The next amusement park-style ride aboard a cruise ship is here, with the new Robotron attraction aboard the line’s US flagship MSC Seascape. Not only is it the first robotic arm ride at sea, it is also groundbreaking in that drivers can customize their experience along the way. The robotic arm has an attached gondola for three people that will tumble them almost 175 feet above the sea for an unhindered 360-degree rotation° see them dangling over the edge of the ship. It can turn riders upside down and move in all directions based on rider preference and user input. It also has a paired video screen that syncs lights, music, and movement throughout the experience. The ship will also feature two new virtual reality experiences including a flight simulator and motorbikes, among others.
MSC is also bringing its popular family deck party to its US fleet of ships. On cruises of seven nights or more, MSC hosts an event that includes carnival games, a bouncy castle, prizes, and gladiator and zorb sumo competitions.
Windstar Adds Red Sea and Arabian Gulf Cruises for 2023
In addition to its already growing map of destinations, Windstar Cruises will be adding several new ones aboard the 312-guest all-suite Star Legend beginning in November 2023. New ports of call in the Red Sea and Persian Gulf include a voyage from Athens to Dubai, which travels through the Suez Canal and takes guests to the Pyramids of Giza; a trip from Dubai to Muscat, Oman, stopping in Doha, Qatar, among others; and a crossing from Saudi Arabia to Aqaba, Jordan, allowing guests to visit wonders of the world such as the ancient city of Petra.
Collaboration between PONANT and Smithsonian Journeys
Luxury cruise line PONANT is partnering with Smithsonian Journeys for a series of 21 co-branded cruises next year. Each is led by two Smithsonian Journey Experts who specialize in areas such as art history and international relations. There’s even a solar astrophysicist who can help travelers better understand and appreciate the destination. You will take part in a variety of cruises, including one specially timed to coincide with the solar eclipse on a voyage around Indonesia, East Timor and Western Australia.
Paul Gauguin Cruises $500 flight credit per guest
For bookings made between now and October 8 on select cruises, guests may receive a $500 flight credit when purchasing airline tickets as part of the cruise. The offer is valid for 7-night cruises in Tahiti and the Society Islands around French Polynesia. To take advantage of this, be sure to quote “AIR500” when booking aboard the 330-passenger Paul Gauguin.
18 dining options on the new Explora 1
Explora Journey’s will offer 18 different dining options aboard its new luxury ship Explora 1. There will be six restaurants, four outdoor bars, four indoor bars and a chef’s kitchen where guests can watch the chefs at work. The onboard wine list reflects the destinations to which the ship sails. Visit the onboard gelateria, a creperie and a sky bar with an outdoor terrace. Explora Journeys is a luxury lifestyle brand of the MSC Group, which will eventually have six ships in its fleet (two of which will be hydrogen-powered).