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New Cruise Trends: Paddle-Wheelers, Chef Tables, More

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Look for a new cruise ship with a dozen outdoor eateries from Norwegian Cruise Line, a chic new chef’s table concept on Princess Cruises’ next ship and a return of wheelers on U.S. rivers. Those nuggets were among news revealed at last week’s Cruise Shipping Miami, an annual cruise industry trade show held each year in March.

But the topic that drew the most attention in this year following the Costa Concordia tragedy and other incidents was safety at sea. Cruise company executives focused on safety during their annual “State of the Industry’’ presentation. Lines showed off the newest simulators used to train shipboard staff for potential emergencies; seminars focused on medical care at sea. At the week’s end the U.S. Coast Guard announced its review of each ship’s safety procedures will now include observing a passenger safety drill now that cruise ships have changed their own rules to require safety drills before a ship leaves port.

Among more upbeat developments:

● Luxury cruise lines will continue to focus on destinations, adding exotic new itineraries and overnights in port, while larger ships will continue to focus on ship-board amenities in more familiar destinations that can accommodate big vessels. Destinations encouraging new port development at this year’s conference included Batumi, a Georgian city on the Black Sea; Klaipeda, Lithuania; Busan in South Korea and the islands of Indonesia.

● Two companies will be rolling on U.S. rivers this summer with paddle-wheelers. New is the Great American Steamboat Company, which purchased and refurbished the  436-passenger Steamboat American Queen, formerly part of the Delta Queen and Majestic companies; the American Queen goes into service in April and will call Memphis home. American Cruise Lines will bring it’s newly built 150-passenger boat, Queen of the Mississippi, into service in August, with sailings starting in New Orleans and other Mississippi cities... American Cruise Lines announced at the conference that it is beginning construction on yet another new ship; no itinerary or launch date was announced.

● Outdoor dining will be a hallmark of Norwegian Cruise Line’s Breakaway, due to launch in April of 2013. Restaurants, shops and bars will line an oceanfront boardwalk spanning three ship decks.

● Princess Cruises’ Royal Princess, launching in June 2013, will include the Chef’s Table Lumiere, a chef’s table surrounded by a curtain of light that offers privacy for diners.

● Hong Kong opens its new cruise terminal on the site of the former Kai Tak airport in mid-2013 in easy reach of attractions including Sik Sik Yuen Wong Tai Sin Temple, Lei Yu Mun Seafood Bazaar and the Festival Walk Shopping complex.

Jane Wooldridge is Travel + Leisure's Cruise correspondent.

Courtesy of Great American Steamboat Company

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