Yes, it’s that time of year already when we’re looking at leftover turkey, stale mince pies, a bottle of cheap wine that we’re never likely to drink (but which our beer-drinking neighbours thought was “nice to look at”), the remains of a tin of Quality Street with just the godawful toffees left, plus all the other Christmas detritus, and we are day-dreaming: wouldn’t it be nice to book a cruise for the New Year.
Well, if – like us – you are in that gloomy Leftover Mood, we have the perfect solution for you. Let’s take a flight of fancy together, looking ahead to what 2019 has in store cruise-wise, and anticipate some great possibilities for that ideal maritime getaway.
Just to start with, there are no fewer than 18 (yes, EIGHTEEN!) new ships taking a bow next year, varying from the sublime – the highly-anticipated Scenic Eclipse of deluxe operator Scenic Cruises – to the ridiculous, which would have to be the latest go-kart-tracked monstrosity from Norwegian Cruise Line, the Norwegian Encore. Shouts of “Less! Less!” would probably be more appropriate.
Among the mega-ships that still maintain a modicum of ocean-going decorum will be the new Sky Princess of Princess Cruises, the fourth in their 3,560-passenger Royal class, which will boast a new Princess Live café/lounge that should offer some of the best barista-made coffees and other brews anywhere at sea. She will be sailing in the Mediterranean and Caribbean (no surprises there), but one notable voyage would be her grand 21-night Transatlantic cruise departing November 10 from Civitavecchia (Rome) and featuring much of the western Med before a leisurely 8-day Atlantic crossing to Fort Lauderdale, Florida, via Lisbon and Madeira.
When it comes to truly boutique choices, Celebrity Cruises may have stolen a march on quite a few of the luxury expedition-style operators with their new Celebrity Flora, a 100-passenger vessel designed specifically for voyaging around the Galapagos Islands and featuring regular 7-night cruises alternating between the Inner and Outer islands. The all-suite ship will also boast an open-air lounge with private cabanas as well as highly eco-friendly technical systems. The Flora launches in May with an all-inclusive style that should have immense appeal.
Adventure-cruise aficionados will be extremely well catered for in 2019 as this is just one of EIGHT vessels of this designation – holding from 100 to 530 passengers – that will be adding to the amazing variety of niche and offbeat choices sailing along the cruise road less travelled, including two for French line Ponant Cruises and one for Australia’s Aurora Expeditions, who will have the 160-passenger Greg Mortimer on offer for cruises to the polar regions in high-tech, low-emission style that will be a first for the company.
Arguably the crown jewel of this new environmentally friendly vanguard, though, will be the most intriguing and eye-catching vessel of the year in the shape of Hurtigruten’s ground-breaking Roald Amundsen. Carrying 530 passengers and weighing in at 20,889 tons, this will be the world’s first oil-electric hybrid, with special Rolls Royce engines that will help cut the ship’s emissions in the most cruise-sensitive areas of the world, namely the Arctic and Antarctic. The first of four highly eco-friendly vessels, the Amundsen will also raise the bar for Hurtigruten’s onboard comforts, with an infinity pool, hot tubs, sauna, spa, large outdoor observation areas and its own science centre (complete with underwater drones!).
Her itineraries will also be hugely compelling, including the line’s first cruises to Alaska and British Columbia, as well as a fantastic Northwest Passage voyage in August, and then a winter season down to the Chilean Fjords, Falkland Islands and Antarctica. With their genuine Norwegian style firmly to the fore, this could well be the expedition cruise experience par excellence in 2019 (and beyond), and there will be major bragging rights for anyone on that Northwest Passage sailing, which traverses the famous ice-bound route from Vancouver to Halifax, Nova Scotia, taking in Alaska, northern Canada, Greenland and Labrador – the Holy Grail of expedition voyaging.
But there’s more. Among the other Notables For ’19 are the sixth ship in the ever-growing Viking Cruises fleet, with the Viking Jupiter joining in February to offer their more distinguished style of ocean voyaging, with the newcomer sailing to the Mediterranean and northern Europe as well as South America in the winter. As ever, there will be the signature indoor/outdoor Aquavit Terrace dining venue, a full promenade deck and all staterooms with balconies.
Spirit of Discovery – due in July – will be the first all-new ship for Saga Cruises, and another extremely interesting proposition. Saga has long been bastions of a more traditional, and even formal, style of cruising, operating older, reconditioned tonnage, and cutting no corners for distinguished service and dining. But having a vessel that has been purpose-designed to their specifications could be a game-changer for them, taking them beyond merely niche territory to the kind of British mainstream usually patrolled by the likes of P&O and Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines.
The Discovery will feature 100 staterooms, of its full complement of 540, purely for solo travellers only, and all with balconies, as well as multiple dining options – with no surcharge – and a live music club overseen by music legend Jools Holland. Saga is branding it “boutique, luxury cruising,” and, combined with their special inclusive features (notably return chauffeur service to the port, free wine with lunch and dinner, and all gratuities), it represents outstanding value, starting with the round-Britain maiden voyage from Dover on July 10.
And it is yet another reason to be excited about cruising in the New Year. The variety of the new ships alone is astounding, and the move towards more eco-friendly ships and increasingly diverse experiences should ensure this has widespread appeal beyond those who normally rate cruising as their favourite holiday choice.
In short, 2019 represents a bonanza year to spread your nautical wings and try something new, whether it’s a cruise line or a region of the world. How’s that for helping to digest all that leftover turkey!
What most appeals to you of all this new-ship delectation in 2019, and where would you most like to go? Give us your thoughts in the Comments section below.