The Vibe: Fun and family-focused—like its sister ship, the Carnival Dream—Magic has kid-friendly cabin styles (one that sleeps five and has two bathrooms); an outsize water park; plus a two-story adults-only area. (Is this why they call it magic?)
Highlights: A sports deck with a ropes course and outdoor weight-lifting; a Caribbean restaurant with a lengthy rum menu, flights of local beer, and Jamaican wings.
Itineraries: Seven-, nine-, and 12-day Mediterranean cruises out of Barcelona through November 2011; seven-day Caribbean cruises out of Galveston, Texas, after that.
Carnival Cruise Lines Launch Date: May 2011
Size: 3,690 passengers; 130,000 tons. 888/227-6482; carnival.com; from $799 per person, double, for seven nights.
Allure of the Seas
The Vibe: A veritable city afloat, divided into distinct neighborhoods (as on its twin, the Oasis of the Seas, currently the world’s largest cruise ship).
Highlights: The 28 two-story Loft cabins, resembling chic urban apartments; an “aqua arena” for high-dive and acrobatic shows; a full-length production of Chicago; a 3-D movie theater; an 82-foot zipline; a 22,000-square-foot park.
Itineraries: Seven-night cruises, out of Fort Lauderdale, alternating between the eastern and western Caribbean.
Royal Caribbean Launch Date: December 2010
Size: 5,400 passengers; 220,000 tons. 866/562-7625; royalcaribbean.com; from $729 per person, double, for seven nights.
The Vibe: Sophistication at sea. Celebrity struck gold with 2008’s Solstice, which put design, cuisine, and technology at the forefront; the Silhouette is the fourth entry in that class.
Highlights: Croquet and bocce on a real-live lawn; a glassblowing studio; a jazz club featuring performances by name musicians.
Itineraries: Twelve-night Holy Land cruises out of Rome from July through October; then 12-night cruises alternating between the eastern and southern Caribbean out of Cape Liberty, New Jersey.
Celebrity Cruises Launch Date: July 2011
Size: 2,850 passengers; 122,000 tons. 800/437-3111; celebritycruises.com; from $1,229 per person, double, for 12 nights.
The Vibe: Lively and Italian-influenced—85 to 90 percent of its guests are European. As a result, you’ll find later dinner service, nightlife lasting into the wee hours, and plenty of spaces where smoking is allowed.
Highlights: New toys appeal to both kids and grown-ups: golf and racing simulators, a PlayStation arcade, and suites with whirlpool tubs.
Itineraries: Seven-day eastern Mediterranean cruises out of Venice from July’s launch through October.
Costa Cruises Launch Date: July 2011
Size: 3,780 passengers; 114,500 tons. 800/462-6782; costacruise.com; from $759 per person, double, for seven nights.
The Vibe: As kid-oriented as you’d expect from Disney, with animated artwork and virtual visits from favorite characters. But the line has also done an exceptional job of setting aside spaces for adults (a pool, two restaurants, and a section of its private beach, Castaway Cay).
Highlight: The first “water coaster” at sea, AquaDuck, will carry riders four stories up, then swing 13 feet over the side of the ship before gliding down 335 feet of rapids.
Itineraries: Three-, four-, and five-night cruises out of Port Canaveral, Florida, to the Bahamas.
Disney Cruise Line Launch Date: January 2011
Size: 4,000 passengers; 128,000 tons. 888/325-2500; disneycruise.com; from $599 per person, double, for three nights.
The Vibe: Cultural immersion in an intimate setting. This small ship—formerly the Clelia II—takes passengers to remote areas (Borneo; Russia’s Kamchatka peninsula) to see wild animals in their natural habitats.
Highlights: Onboard talks by marine biologists, naturalists, and academics; dining menus that focus on each destination’s ingredients and cooking styles.
Itineraries: Far-eastern Russia from the end of June through early July; Japan’s Inland Sea from mid-July to mid-August; Southeast Asia from mid-August through December.
Orion Expedition Cruises Launch Date: May 2011
Size: 100 passengers; 4,077 tons. 877/ 674-6687; orionexpeditions.com; from $4,850 per person, double, for seven nights.