By Simon and Susan Veness
It’s undoubtedly true to say that there are always good reasons to take a cruise, but the start of a new decade is definitely a time to take stock, look ahead and anticipate some exciting developments in the maritime world.
The past 10 years have seen steady growth in cruising in general, while the niche areas such as expedition cruising and the more luxury end of the market have positively boomed. Ships haven’t got appreciably larger – the 2009 vintage Oasis of the Seas of Royal Caribbean, and her three subsequent sisters, continue to set the bar at around 220,000 tons – but they have certainly become fancier, more feature-packed and gadget-laden.
And that trend for ever more variety, style and quality will again be firmly to the fore in 2020, providing more choice than ever before for your next – or first – voyage.
With that in mind, we thought we would look ahead to what should be some of the more eye-catching and luxurious highlights of the year, and a few other landmarks that we think are worth looking out for.
In announcing the Virgin company’s arrival in the cruise world for 2020, Sir Richard Branson promised a radical – and adult-focused – approach with this brand new venture, which arrives in the shape of the Scarlet Lady in Miami in March. It remains to be seen whether Virgin can be the industry ‘disruptor’ that Branson envisages, but it certainly promises to garner maximum publicity when the 110,000-ton, 2,700-passenger vessel sets sail on her maiden voyage. As well as curiosities like the first tattoo parlour at sea and a brunch drag show, the first of what should be four similar ships boast the likes of a Vinyl Room with listening booths, karaoke bars and a dazzling array of dining venues with no surcharges.
Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection
Talking of new cruise lines, here is another that’s due to debut in 2020, albeit we don’t know exactly when. The highly-touted venture from the luxury hotelier was originally scheduled to launch this month, but shipyard delays have caused them to set things back to the summer, with a provisional maiden schedule starting in June. We’re slightly holding our breath, though, until everything is confirmed with the shipyard (Business Insider reported that the project was already $55million over budget), but, when it does finally hit the water, the Ritz Carlton Yacht Collection promises to be a genuinely deluxe experience, with Michelin-star-quality cuisine and all-suite luxury in super-yacht style for just 298 passengers.
Carnival’s Mardi Gras
Going to the other end of the scale with the “fun-ship” genre of Carnival Cruises, their new (in October) Mardi Gras will debut the first roller-coaster at sea when this 180,000-ton leviathan makes Port Canaveral it’s home port. Carnival has maintained a proactive stance to keep up with the cruise-going Joneses, and this latest development – a highly original ride called Bolt – looks like keeping them at the forefront of mass-market cruising. Having seen the ride vehicle unveiled at the 2019 IAAPA trade show in Orlando last year, we can attest that it should be a LOT of fun!
Regent’s Seven Seas Splendor
The latest in Regent’s Explorer-class vessels (following the Seven Seas Explorer in 2016), Splendor promises to be another refinement of the line’s distinguished and distinctive sea-going offering, with new dining options, a specially-created Serene Spa & Wellness programme, and its own range of signature cocktails (don’t tell Treadwell and Tenny!). The 750-passenger newcomer will also boast a multi-million dollar art collection and the largest balconies at sea for their 4,400sq ft Regent Suites. The fact she is being christened by super-model Christie Brinkley in Miami on February 21 should be pretty eye-catching, too.
Return to the Bahamas
Living less than a 45-minute flight from the Bahamas, we remain painfully aware of the pounding the northerly Bahamian islands took from Hurricane Dorian last year – and their long road to recovery. Happily, cruising has returned to Grand Bahama, which, along with the Abacos, took the brunt of the storm, and there shouldn’t be any reluctance on the part of the cruise-going public to return to this area of the world, which largely escaped the full-on destruction. In fact, the islands’ recovery depends upon it. This remains a truly blissful destination, and we hope they have a peaceful – and storm-free – 2020.
Silversea’s Silver Moon
Having raved about the gorgeous Silver Muse from our experiences aboard the ship in 2017, we are especially keen to see the refinement of this superb design on Silversea’s latest glittering arrival next August. The follow-up vessel to their highly successful 40,000-ton flagship promises to add an extra layer of sophistication with a re-jigged restaurant set-up, enhanced Dolce Vita Lounge, Spa and pool deck, as well as the new S.A.L.T. (Sea And Land Taste) culinary programme, which incorporates new dining venues and foodie-centric excursions.
The debut of P&O’s first ship since 2015 will be not so much a launch as a fiesta, with IonaFest 2020 consisting of a week-long cruise that merely starts with the naming ceremony in Southampton on July 4. The ensuing voyage to Norway will be enhanced with special celebrity guests, live music and other festival activities to ensure the company’s largest-ever vessel sets sail in a blaze of glory.
Saving possibly the best for last, we will be hugely excited to see the arrival of the first Crystal Cruises ship dedicated to expedition-style voyaging in August. The 200-passenger Crystal Endeavor will aim to redefine sailing around the polar regions, offering an unprecedented level of luxury from one of the past masters of ultra-luxe cruising, and adding such delicious high-tech enhancements as two helicopters and a submarine, as well as a state-of-the-art fleet of Zodiacs and sea kayaks. With no fewer than six restaurants and a one-to-one passenger to crew ratio, this should be the last word in adventure cruises for the foreseeable future. But be sure to book early – all the ship’s first few sailings are completely sold out!
Next Week – Treadwell & Tenny offer THEIR look ahead to the cruise year.
What are you most looking forward to in the cruise world this year? Give us your thoughts in the Comments section below.