2009's Best New Cruise Ships
Cabins 1,503, ranging from 185 to 340 square feet
Perfect For Families and singles taken with the line’s round-the-clock entertainment: an endless roster of Vegas-style performances, a sprawling casino, and a robust children’s program (a 5,500-square-foot playroom; talent shows; movie screenings).
Unusual Features A retractable glass dome covers the midship pool; a second pool has a waterslide.
Route A seven-day Mexican Riviera itinerary from Long Beach, California, stopping in Puerto Vallarta, Mazatlán, and Cabo San Lucas, launched March 31.
T+L Tip Book an Asian-themed Spa Suite adjacent to the 21,000-square-foot Cloud 9 spa (near the spa pool, which is decorated with dragons and rice-paper lanterns) for priority appointments, two fitness classes, and unlimited use of the Thalassotherapy Pool and Thermal Suite. 800/227-64825; carnival.com; seven days from $649 per person.
Celebrity, Solstice and Equinox
Cabins 1,425, ranging from 176 to 1,291 square feet
Perfect For Style-conscious thirtysomethings drawn by the edgy design: outdoor lounging pods; textured walls; and exquisitely sculpted wooden benches.
Unusual Features More than $6 million worth of modern art by such luminaries as Pablo Picasso, Robert Rauschenberg, and Jim Dine is displayed throughout the dining rooms, lounges, and stairwells. Guests can play bocce and croquet at the Lawn Club (with real grass, a first on a cruise ship), and watch a team of experts from the New York–based Corning Museum of Glass present a live glassblowing show at sea.
Routes The Solstice plies several seven- to 15-night routes: southwest through the Mediterranean; through the eastern Caribbean; and a transatlantic trip from Fort Lauderdale to Rome. The Equinox, which is identical to the Solstice and launches August 8, offers 10- to 14-night itineraries in the Caribbean and the Mediterranean, plus a voyage from Southampton, England, to Rome.
T+L Tip Come 5:30 p.m., head to Crush, a 10-seat lounge located in an alcove off Deck 4’s popular Martini Bar, for the best scene on board. 800/647-2251; celebritycruises.com; seven nights from $899 per person on the Solstice; 10 nights from $1,099 per person on the Equinox.
Costa Cruises, Costa Luminosa
Cabins 1,130, ranging from 220 to 330 square feet
Perfect For Cruisers who relish entertainment and sports.
Unusual Features The ship has an 800-seat 4-D cinema (that’s sight, sound, touch, and scent), a golf simulator with 37 virtual courses as well as an outdoor putting green, jogging and rollerblading tracks, and a Formula One Grand Prix driving simulator. Of the 1,130 staterooms, 772 have balconies—the highest ratio of any Costa ship.
Routes Three 10- to 12-night itineraries, starting in May, sailing to Northern Europe, the Mediterranean, and, beginning in December, to Dubai, with stops in Bahrain, Abu Dhabi, and Oman.
T+L Tips Request Cabin 8374, a corner suite with the ship’s best port views; in the marble-and-wood restaurant, be sure to order chef Ettore Bocchia’s signature baked Spanish-pork coppa with white beans, squash pearls, and greens. 800/462-6782; costacruises.com; 10 nights from $2,629 per person.
Costa Cruises, Costa Pacifica
Cabins 1,504, ranging from 220 to 330 square feet
Perfect For Music enthusiasts, especially those interested in doing some actual recording.
Unusual Features The vessel has a musical theme, from a 29-song shipwide sound track specially arranged by Italian composer Mauro Pagani to a recording studio where guests can cut their own CD’s with a sound engineer.
Route A seven-night itinerary from Rome calling in Savona, Barcelona, Palma de Mallorca, Tunis, Malta, and Palermo (June through November).
T+L Tip Try the Samsara Spa’s 50-minute Shirodhara Body Glow treatment, which combines natural sea salts, warm essential oils, and Eastern massage techniques. 800/462-6782; costacruises.com; seven nights from $1,259 per person.
Holland America, Eurodam
Cabins 1,052, ranging from 175 to 1,000 square feet
Perfect For Globe-trotting food fanatics.
Unusual Features At the Culinary Arts Center, guests can watch cooking demos, take classes with visiting chefs, and plan market tours in ports of call.
Routes Seven- to 18-night itineraries, sailing to the Baltic region, Canada and New England, and the Caribbean.
T+L Tip Before the dinner crowd arrives, snag one of the elevated booths at the Silk Den—appointed with parchment-shaded lights, sheer white curtains, and velvet chairs—on Deck 11. Sip a “saketini” (Momokawa Silver sake, sour mix, and cucumber slices) as you watch the sun set. 877/724-5425; hollandamerica.com; from $149 per night per person.
MSC Fantasia, and MSC Splendida
Cabins 1,637, ranging from 172 to 570 square feet
Perfect For Devotees of old-school, European-style service, in which every whim is met, but only on request.
Unusual Features The cruise line debuted an outdoor “aqua park” with MSC Fantasia: a swimming pool and two whirlpools, surrounded by 150 illuminated fountains; and a private “yacht club,” consisting of 99 butler-serviced suites.
Routes For the MSC Fantasia, a seven-night round-trip itinerary from Genoa stopping in Naples, Palermo, Tunis, Palma de Mallorca, and Marseilles (through October). The MSC Splendida, which is identical to the Fantasia and launches July 13, offers seven-night round-trip itineraries from Barcelona, putting in at Tunis, Valletta, Messina, Civitavecchia, Genoa, and Marseilles.
T+L Tip Book one of the cabins numbered 1032–1040 or 1051–1059 on Deck 10, for their large balconies. 800/666-9333; msccruisesusa.com; seven nights from $1,600 per person.
Princess Cruises, Ruby Princess
Cabins 1,540, ranging from 163 to 687 square feet
Perfect For Cruisers looking for a great value.
Unusual Features In a canopied area at the front of the ship called the Sanctuary, adults can recline on plush lounge chairs and listen to specially programmed iPod playlists while stewards spritz them with Evian. And the British-themed Wheelhouse Bar serves culinary staples such as bangers and mash, cottage pie, and fish-and-chips.
Routes Three 12-day itineraries, sailing to the Greek Isles (starting in May) and the Mediterranean (through September); Caribbean cruises restart in October.
T+L Tip As soon as you embark, go to the service desk to purchase tickets for a two-hour guided tour of areas typically off-limits to passengers, such as the engine control room, printshop, and bridge. Only 10 tickets are sold per cruise, at $150 per person. 800/774-6237; princess.com; 12 days from $1,890 per person.
Cabins 225, ranging from 295 to 1,182 square feet
Perfect For Travelers with several weeks to spare.
Unusual Features A marina on the aft side allows cruisers to snorkel or kayak right off the ship.
Routes Numerous seven- to 38-night sailings to Eastern and Western Europe and the Caribbean starting in June, plus a world cruise launching in January 2010.
T+L Tip Want a truly deluxe voyage?Book one of the two Grand Signature suites ($15,435 for seven nights) up to six months in advance to land a berth with a 505-square-foot balcony. 800/929-9391; seabourn.com; seven nights from $3,299 per person.
Silversea expeditions, Prince Albert II
Cabins 66, ranging from 175 to 675 square feet (some of the largest of any expedition ship)
Perfect For Adventurous nature lovers.
Unusual Features A fleet of eight Zodiac rafts is available for spontaneous crew-led excursions into otherwise hard-to-reach territory; all 66 rooms have ocean views and private marble bathrooms with bathtubs; the captain announces animal sightings using a shipwide broadcasting system.
Routes Seven- to 17-night itineraries, sailing to Antarctica, the Arctic Circle, and South America.
T+L Tip Spot polar bears and breaching whales from one of two glass-enclosed whirlpools overlooking the ocean, protected from winds and ocean spray. 800/722-9955; silversea.com; seven nights from $4,495 per person.