What is coming next in the world of cruise ship design? Right now there are three distinct new ship designs in the works with completely new floor plans and themes. Here is an overview presented in the chronological order they will arrive:
1. Norwegian Breakaway from Norwegian Cruise Line.
2. Royal Princess from Princess Cruise Line
3. Project Sunshine from Royal Caribbean
The Breakaway Project from Norwegian will present its first ship, Norwegian Breakaway, next April (2013). This is the project we know the most about - which is good since it will arrive first. In fact, the ship is already on sale. Currently under construction at the Meyer Werft shipyard in Papenburg, Germany, she is still under wraps in what is one of the two largest buildings in Europe, so we have not yet had a chance to actually see her. But we do know she will be 144,000-gross tons and have 4000 passenger berths.
The Norwegian web site does have plenty of renderings and even a new set deck plans that were put online just last week after the recent announcement of the planned entertainment on board. One thing that makes her very unique is a close connection to the sea from an outdoor area is called "The Waterfront" along Deck Eight, actually one deck above the Promenade deck, where a number of restaurants have "al fresco" seating and nightclubs have dancing under the stars.
You can take a stroll outside along The Waterfront to gaze at the horizon on the sea. You can also get an unfettered "outside looking in" approach to people watching at a variety of restaurants and lounges. Some of restaurants with Waterfront access include the "Moderno Churrascaria" Brazilian grill, Cagney's Steakhouse and a new restaurant for Norwegian, "Ocean Blu" which will be designed and operated under the guidance of celebrity chef Geoffrey Zakarian.
(Zakarian may not be a household name but he is certainly highly recognized in the culinary world, having already received a Michelin star for his New York-based restaurants, one named "Town" and the other named "Country.")
After dining under the stars you can pay homage to another class of celestial bodies; rock stars. The new ship has the Broadway hit "Rock of Ages" as its entertainment focal point in the state-of-the-art Breakaway Theater. If you have not already noticed, the unifying theme here is New York City, and the plan is to make Breakaway "New York's ship" according CEO Kevin Sheehan who grew up in the city.
The ship will sail out of New York year round starting next May, sailing seven-day round-trip cruises to Bermuda (starting April 30, 2013 through October 6th), followed by seven-day cruises to the Bahamas and Port Canaveral Florida (giving New Yorkers an easy way to see Orlando) starting October 13, 2013, through April of 2014. Also included are two 12-day sailings to the Southern Caribbean calling at San Juan (Puerto Rico), St Thomas, St Martin, St Lucia, Barbados and St Kitts (sailing January 5th and January 19th, 2014). These two cruises are rotated with two-day cruises to nowhere on January 17 and the 31st.
Royal Princess, the newest Princess Cruise design, has its maiden voyage scheduled for June 16, 2013 - very soon after Norwegian Breakaway. But this new ship will remain in Europe offering Mediterranean cruises through October 29th. Then she will make her transatlantic repositioning to Ft. Lauderdale, her American home port.
Under construction at the Fincantieri Shipyard in Monfalcone, Italy, her keel was laid last October. At 141,000-gross tons for 3600 passenger berths, this will be the largest Princess cruise ship ever built. A yet-to-be named sister ship is also planned although construction has not yet started.
Some of the new attractions on Royal Princess include cantilevered walkways with glass floors on deck 16 where guests can stroll out over the side of the ship with a view of the ocean over 100 feet below. The ship has 19 decks in all, with deck 17 being the uppermost full deck with the Sanctuary (adults only) area up front and the kids' and teens' special areas aft.
Entertainment options include full-screen 3-D movies, a "television studio" where a Good Morning show will be video-taped daily in front of a live audience along with special musical events presented at night, plus the largest production show theater Princess has ever built.
There are several 12-day cruises on three different itineraries in Europe before the transatlantic crossing. From Ft. Lauderdale the ship will only offer Eastern Caribbean cruises to St Thomas, St Martin and the private island Princess Cays in the Bahamas. Cruises are already on sale through 2014 at the Princess web site and travel agents everywhere.
Royal Caribbean has at least two of these new Project Sunshine ships on order, but since the first is not scheduled to debut before late 2014, this is the class of new ships we know the least about. We do know they are designed to be 158,000-gross tons for 4100 passenger berths, making them the biggest yet also the roomiest (on a passenger/space ratio basis) new ships on order from the mainstream cruise lines.
These ships are also contracted to the Meyer Werft shipyard in Germany, and the agreement includes the option for a third and fourth vessel, which is in keeping with the normal Royal Caribbean strategy to build several iterations of a single design if it proves to be popular. For example, they built five vessels of the Voyager-class and five Solstice-class ships as the parent company of Celebrity cruises.
We believe the ships will have the features that have proven to be most popular on previous Royal Caribbean ships including several specific alternative dining venues. They will most likely have the ice rinks and Royal Promenade interior atriums although neither is yet known to be certain.
Even the itineraries have not yet been announced, although Royal Caribbean is forward thinking and now tries to build its ships for possible world-wide deployment. Royal Caribbean may own and operate the two largest and arguably most popular cruise ships in the world, Oasis and Allure of the Seas, but because of the large size of these vessels and their unusual port facility requirements, they stopped at just two ships with no current plans to build any more.