The cruise industry is booming, according to industry publication Cruise Critic, with many lines seeing some of their highest sales dates in history. As part of the growth, cruise companies are adding promotions, releasing renovations and unveiling new perks and onboard amenities to welcome back passengers. Here’s the latest news from the cruise industry to keep you on top of the best the high seas have to offer this fall and beyond.
Club Med 2 sailing yacht emerges from renovation
As part of Club Med’s Exclusive Collection portfolio, the Club Med 2 luxury sailing yacht from the French hospitality company has completed a multi-million dollar renovation. It now has completely new furnishings and interior decor, an upgraded fitness center, yoga on the sundeck and a new Club Med Spa by Sothys. Le Monte Carlo restaurant now has new live culinary demonstrations and seasonal menus based on the ports on the itinerary. Like Club Med resorts, there are plenty of activities including two sea water pools, nightly live entertainment, water sports like windsurfing and paddle boarding, and even wing surfing.
Katy Perry christens Norwegian Prima in Iceland
The first in the line of six Prima Class ships (and 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 features the highest staffing levels and space ratio for a contemporary or premium-category cruise ship giving passengers more space and service. For those wanting even more, it has the largest variety of suite categories available at sea.
There’s also a complimentary food hall with almost a dozen different venues serving everything from Indian to Japanese ramen, the fastest slides at sea with both wet and dry options and the Prima Speedway, the first tri-level racetrack on a cruise ship. Norwegian Prima is the first vessel in the brand’s fleet to have Coca-Cola as its official soft drink. By December, all of the line’s ships will feature Coca-Cola products.
Virgin Voyages adds perks program
Dubbed The Sailing Club, Virgin Voyages is making it easier to reward repeat cruisers with its new perks program, a pre-cursor to its official loyalty program that launches next year. For travelers who join between now and the end of the year, they can take part in “Deep Blue Extras,” a bonus program with onboard experiences. This can include anything from one 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. Also, between now and Nov. 15, qualifying bookings made during this “Red Hot Booking Bonus Months” period will earn on-board spending perks, $200 in onboard credit and a chance to win prizes like a trip to Ulusaba, Richard Branson’s private game reserve in South Africa.
Elon Musk’s Starlink Wi-Fi for Royal Caribbean Group
SpaceX Starlink is coming to a Royal Caribbean Group ship near you soon. Elon Musk’s company was chosen to power the company’s onboard internet for its Royal Caribbean International, Celebrity Cruises and Silversea Cruises ships. It will eventually be on all new-build and existing ships with powerful enough speeds for streaming and video calls. Following a successful trial aboard the Freedom of the Seas, it will begin an immediate rollout, which will be complete by the first quarter of next year.
Royal Caribbean is also pulling back the curtain on the making of its newest ship, Icon of the Seas. It has premiered its first episode in its web series on YouTube that shows behind-the-scenes details of building the ship.
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 vessel. The 20-passenger luxury yacht will be one of the most sustainable in the area with its curved bow (reducing friction) and a 30% reduction in the use of fossil fuels. Evolve will have two onboard naturalists, dining room serving 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 1st episode of ‘Lens Like A Local’ web series
As part of its 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 destination-focused web series that delves into the local life of many of the ports the cruise line visits. Of the 84 new itineraries, more than have are considered country-intensive voyages with the majority of port calls being either a late-night departure or overnight. Also new for 2024 is more than a dozen sailings in partnership with PerryGolf, which leads international golf tours, 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 in the 2022 Wine Spectator Awards. Celebrity offers several wine immersion experiences on board its ships beyond the dining room and bar. They include educational workshops with sommelier-led tastings and wine blending classes. Celebrity is the only cruise line to win the “Best of” Award of Excellence. Several onboard restaurants won honors including two “Best Of” awards for the wine list at Le Voyage, Daniel Boulud’s first restaurant at sea, aboard Celebrity Beyond and at its steakhouse, Fine Cut. Sister ships, Celebrity Edge and Celebrity Apex, were also among the “Best Of” recipients. Celebrity Cruises has 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 MSC Seascape, the line’s U.S. flagship. Not only is it the first robotic arm ride at sea, but it is also groundbreaking in that riders can customize their experience along the way. The robotic arm has an attached gondola for three people lurching them nearly 175 feet above the sea for an unobstructed 360° view as they dangle over the the ship’s edge. It can flip riders upside down and move in all directions based on the riders preferences 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 like a flight simulator and motor cycles among other things.
MSC is also bringing its popular family deck party to its U.S. fleet of ships. On sailings of at least seven nights, MSC will host an event with carnival games, a jumping castle, prizes, and gladiator and Zorb-Sumo matches.
Windstar adds Red Sea and Persian Gulf sailings for 2023
Adding to its already growing map of destinations, Windstar Cruises will add several new ones aboard the all-suite, 312-guest Star Legend starting in November 2023. New ports of call in the Red Sea and Persian Gulf will include a journey from Athens to Dubai passing through the Suez Canal and taking guests to the Pyramids of Giza; a Dubai to Muscat, Oman sailing with a stop in Doha, Qatar among other places; and a sailing from Saudi Arabia to Aqaba, Jordan allowing guests to visit world wonders like the ancient city of Petra.
PONANT and Smithsonian Journeys to collaborate
Luxury cruise line PONANT is partnering with Smithsonian Journeys on a series of 21 co-branded sailings next year. Each of these will be led by two Smithsonian Journey Experts who have specialties in areas like art history and international relations. There’s even a solar astrophysicist, all of whom can help travelers understand and appreciate the destination in a deeper way. They will join various sailings including one that is specifically timed around enjoying the solar eclipse on a journey around Indonesia, East Timor and Western Australia.
Paul Gauguin Cruises $500 per guest air credit
For bookings made between now and Oct. 8 on select sailings, guests can receive a $500 airline credit when buying airfare as part of the sailing. The offer is eligible for 7-night Tahiti and the Society Islands voyages around French Polynesia. To take advantage, be sure to mention “AIR500” when making the booking aboard the 330-passenger Paul Gauguin.
18 Food and beverage outlets on new Explora 1
Explora Journey’s will offer 18 distinct food and beverage venues aboard its new Explora 1 luxury ship. There will be six restaurants, four outdoor bars, four indoor bars and a chef’s kitchen where guests can watch the chefs in action. The onboard wine menu will reflect the destinations where the ship is sailing. Guests can visit the onboard gelateria, a creperie and a sky bar with outdoor patio. 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 powered by hydrogen).