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2014 Cruise News and Trends: Small Ports, River Cruising, New Onboard Experiences, More

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We just returned from Cruise Lines International Association's 2014 State of the Industry Report, a mini-conference-of-sorts held in Manhattan's Alexandria Center. Our takeaway: 2014 will be a particularly great year to cruise—for many reasons. Here, a peek at some of the news that really excited us:

Glamorous new ships, including Royal Caribbean’s Quantum of the Seas (replete with its own 23-foot sky diving center); Windstar’s 212-guest Star Pride; new sister ships from AMA Waterways, the AmaSonata and AmaReina, cruising the Rhine and Danube rivers; and the Costa Diadema (don’t miss the Bar Bollicine prosecco bar), to name a few.

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A new small-ship line, Pearl Seas Cruises, is launching in June, docking in the smaller ports of Canada and the Caribbean. Many details are still forthcoming, but we’re especially thrilled to hear that all cabin sizes are generous (starting at 300 square feet) and come with complimentary butler service.

Fresh on-board experiences, such as Cunard’s fencing program, the Carnival partnership with Dr. Seuss (Green eggs and ham, anyone?), and the two Eataly restaurants on the MSC Divina that have been a runaway hit.

Updated design features. Crystal has given the Serenity (pictured) a modern port-to-stern overhaul that makes the ship look more like an Ian Schrager hotel. Tauck will launch two new river ships in Europe with an innovative design that brings huge windows and lots of light into the lower-level cabins.

Exciting ports of call. Seabourn has just introduced luxury to the Antarctic with its recently launched sailings there. In 2015, Cunard heads to New Zealand; on "The Wonders of Middle Earth," passengers can visit sets from the Hobbit.

To get an expert’s opinion on where to head this year, we spoke with Christine Duffy, President and CEO of CLIA. On her hit list: river cruising in Vietnam and a tour of the Galapagos. Duffy also thinks Tahiti is a rising star: “I just returned, and it’s even prettier than the pictures. Plus it’s French, so the food is amazing. We sailed on the Paul Gaugauin and snorkeled with lemon sharks (they’re friendly) and manta rays.” Whatever your dream destination, book soon: CLIA is expecting 400,000 more passengers this year (21,700,000 total). And bon voyage!

Kathryn O'Shea-EvansKathryn O'Shea-Evans is an associate editor at Travel + Leisure. Follow her on Twitter @ThePluckyOne.

Photo courtesy of Crystal Cruises

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