Seven new ships with almost 20,000 more berths and everything from snow rooms, water slides and skydiving simulators to cycling at sea will be available to cruisers in 2016.
Viking Cruises’ (vikingcruises.co.uk) first ocean-going ship, Viking Star, won universal acclaim when it launched in 2015 so it’s no surprise the company has kept the winning formula for its second vessel. Viking Sea holds 930 passengers, the décor is a blend of chic living room and trendy Scandinavian, and spa goers can sweat in a sauna and cool off in a snow room. She enters service in April and will be sailing the Mediterranean and Baltic.
Best feature: The al fresco dining around the infinity pool at the World Café.
What this means for you: Viking Star sold out fast; with twice the capacity there’s more chance to get on board a Viking ocean ship.
From £3,299 for a 13-day Mediterranean Odyssey cruise from Venice to Barcelona departing April 12, including flights.
Not only Holland America Line’s (hollandamerica.com) first new ship for six years, Koningsdam is also the biggest vessel in its fleet. That has created space for a Music Walk, where guests can take their pick of live classics, blues or songs from the hit parade, as well as a seafood brasserie, Sel de Mer. She launches in the Mediterranean in April with capacity for 2,650 passengers and spends summer cruising the Baltic and Norwegian fjords from Amsterdam.
Best feature: A redesigned “culinary arts centre” has cookery demos and classes by day and becomes a new restaurant, Dinner, in the evening.
What this means for you: Seeing the fjords and learn to cook in one holiday.
From £798 per person departing May 22 for a seven-night Viking Sagas cruise round-trip from Amsterdam.
Ovation of the Seas
With a skydiving simulator, dodgem cars, roller skating and a North Star pod that lifts riders more than 300 feet above the ocean, Royal Caribbean International’s (royalcaribbean.co.uk) Ovation of the Seas is a shrine to those who love to be active. She holds just over 4,000 passengers, who can surf super-fast internet and use wristbands to sign for drinks. After two cruises from Southampton in April, Ovation relocates to Tianjin, in China.
Best feature: A video wall and entertainment from dancing “Roboscreens” in Two70, which has been described as a “unique transformative venue”
What this means for you: No need to go far to discover cruising is not boring.
From £998 per person departing April 17 for a five-night cruise round-trip from Southampton to France and Belgium.
Carnival Cruise Line (carnival.co.uk) has come up with a host of eye-catching firsts to mark its return to Europe after three years away. Vista has pedal bikes suspended from an 800-foot track 150 feet above the ocean and the first IMAX theatre at sea. Kaleid-o-slide is a colourful water tube ride; Havana Cabanas are a new style of cabin with outdoor patios. She holds 3,936 passengers and sails the Mediterranean between May and October.
Best feature: Carnival is brewing its own Thirsty Frog Red beer in the Red Frog, a pub with indoor and outdoor areas.
What this means for you: A family holiday in the Med that will keep even hard-to-please teens happy.
From £851 per person departing May 1 for a 13-day cruise from Trieste to Barcelona.
Harmony of the Seas
Harmony of the Seas is Royal Caribbean International’s third behemoth, holding more than 6,600 passengers. She enters service in May with new features including the Ultimate Abyss, a 100-foot slide that speeds riders from the Sports Zone to the Boardwalk, and a “Bionic Bar” with robotic barmen. The musical Grease is playing in the theatre. Harmony sails two mini-cruises from Southampton in May before relocating to Barcelona for a summer in the Mediterranean.
Best feature: Supercell, Typhoon and Cyclone, three new waterslides together called the Perfect Storm.
What this means for you: A holiday on the world’s biggest cruise ship without having to fly to Fort Lauderdale, where her siblings are based.
From £878 per person departing May 26 for a three-night cruise from Southampton to Cherbourg and back.
Seven Seas Explorer
Regent Seven Seas Cruises (rssc.com) has created high expectations for this all-suite, all-balcony ship by calling it the most luxurious ship ever built. We must wait until July to judge, but it certainly has the most extravagant suite at sea – at nearly 4,000 square feet, it’s almost the size of two tennis courts and comes with a sauna, steam room and private car and driver in each port. Explorer’s 750 passengers can take cookery lessons in the “Culinary Arts Kitchen” and indulge in French and Asian cuisine in the Pacific Rim and Chartreuse restaurants.
Best feature: An aqua-blue glass chandelier that spans the width of the Compass Rose, adding a grotto-like look to the restaurant.
What this means for you: More choice when only the best will do.
From £5,499 per person including flights departing August 3 for a 10-night cruise from Venice to Civitavecchia (for Rome).
Seabourn’s (seabourn.com) first new ship for five years just sneaks in to 2016, sailing from Piraeus (for Athens) to Singapore in December for an inaugural season in Asia. She has room for 600 passengers and new features including a restaurant created by Michelin-starred US chef Thomas Keller, as well as an adults-only sanctuary with hot tubs and cabanas. A redesigned Seabourn Square, a venue on the line’s three other ships, has a bigger café and open-plan passenger help desks.
Best feature: The ship’s interior designer Adam Tihany has taken out ‘the sharp corners’ to give Encore the look and feel of a luxury yacht.
What this means for you: More space for coffee and cakes in one of the classiest cafés at sea.
From £5,299 per person departing December 4 for a 16-day voyage from Piraeus to Dubai.