The cruise ship industry is ringing in the new year with a whole raft of cutting-edge amenities. Travelers can now to look forward to various luxuries such as snow rooms, thrill rides and food prepared by famous chefs.
The new era dawns in April with the launch of Royal Caribbean’s Anthem of the Seas, which will feature robot bartenders, bumper cars, simulated skydiving and an observation capsule rising more than 300 feet above the ship, giving passengers a 360-degree view. These amenities actually debuted last year with the launch of the Anthem’s sister ship, Quantum of the Seas, but the new ship will feature more advanced and improved technology.
Norwegian Cruise Line’s Norwegian Escape joins the party in November, when it arrives in Miami, compete with a snow room offering freezing temperatures for post-sauna invigoration. The ship will be catering to a “foodie audience” with restaurants offering tapas and Latin seafood from celebrity chef Jose Garces. It also will feature a Mondavi wine bar and craft beer from Miami’s Wynwood Brewing.
In addition, Viking, the noted river cruise company, will be launching its first ocean-going ship this year, the Viking Star. Viking says it will be destination-oriented, with more time in port around the Mediterranean, Western Europe and in Scandinavia.
Then in 2016, Carnival will launch its first new ship in four years, the Carnival Vista, which will feature the first IMAX Theatre at sea and two new thrilling attractions: a 139-meter tube slide called a Kaleid-o-Slide, and Sky Ride, a cycling ride suspended from a track. The new ship also will feature a Family Harbor area, with large-screen TVs, games and a concierge desk.
According to Bob Levinstein, the chief executive of CruiseCompete.com, a specialty website for cruise ship travel, cruises will also be offering more fitness options such as Norwegian Fight Klub – a cardio boxing program. The fitness options are a way to attract people who are wary of “cruising” because, as Levinstein suggests, “you eat all the time.”
Another emerging trend, according to CruiseCritic.com editor, Carolyn Spencer Brown, is expedition or soft-adventure cruising to places such as the Amazon. Land-based tour companies have long offered voyages to exotic locations, she said, but now luxury cruise companies such as Silversea and Seabourn are getting into the business.