Coming in 2011 from Oceania Marina and Disney Dream - the last of this generation of new ships.
The cruise industry is close to wrapping up one of the most exciting periods in its history, during which it introduced new generations of ships in the mainstream, premium and luxury categories.
It started in early 2008 with the arrival of Celebrity Solstice and Seabourn Odyssey. It continued through 2009 and 2010 with Holland America's Eurodam, Silversea's Silver Spirit, Royal Caribbean's Oasis of the Seas, Cunard's Queen Victoria and Queen Mary, Carnival's Dream and NCL's Norwegian Epic. Each of these vessels broke new ground for size and design features in their categories, making new cruise ships bigger and better than ever.
These ships were all designed and ordered before the economic crisis hit, and they were delivered into far more trying circumstances than the lines ever anticipated. Nonetheless, all the ships have received enthusiastic reviews (some more than others), but not a single one has turned into a pink elephant.
But hold on - the new wave of ship design isn't over. All-new designs are still coming from two more lines, neither of which has introduced a new ship since their first generation - Oceania Cruises and Disney Cruise Line.
Sometimes management is everything, and Oceania Cruises is one of better success stories in the post-millennial cruise industry. Rising like a Phoenix from the ashes of failed Renaissance Cruises, former executives of that line started from scratch with the same ships they had managed under the Renaissance banner, but under different ownership.
You have to give a lot of credit to Oceania's Frank Del Rio, Bob Binder, James Rodriguez, Tim Rubacky and other executives for reinventing the concept of small, destination-oriented premium cruising. The ships and onboard atmosphere changed very little, but the attitude of management in putting customers, travel agent service and response time first gave Oceania an ardent following.
Oceania new ship, Marina, was announced in March of 2008 and has been under construction in Italy the last two years. The 65,000 ton Marina is more than twice the size of other Oceania vessels, and carrying a maximum of 1,260 guests in 629 staterooms. The new décor is more contemporary and elegant than that of the current ships, with a grand lobby featuring design accents by Lalique.
Good food is always a focus on Oceania, and Marina takes the concept to the next level with 10 dining venues, some included in the cruise fare and some requiring a service charge. La Reserve will be an intimate indoor-outdoor wine tasting venue for up to 24 guests. Jacques is the eponymous restaurant of culinary icon Jacques Pepin, featuring an ultra-intimate décor and a menu of specially created by the master to show guests what is possible on a cruise ship when cooking for a very small clientele.
One of Marina's unique onboard assets is the Bon Appétit Culinary Center with 24 individual cooking stations. Guests who participate in classes created by Bon Appétit magazine will each have their own work station, with a cook top, oven, pots, pans and utensils.
The Grand Dining Room will serve 566 in no-reservation-required open seating. The new, more elegant and contemporary venues will be the tallest single-story dining rooms at sea, ranging from 20 to 30 feet in height. Special acoustic insulation and floor materials will minimize ambient noise.
Marina's 629 staterooms feature furnishings from Ralph Lauren Home and designs by Dakota Jackson and Tocar New York. The Marina staterooms will average some of the largest at sea. In addition to the top suites ranging up to 2,000 sq. ft., there are also 124 penthouse suites measuring 420 sq. ft. apiece. The smallest staterooms are 174 sq. ft.
Marina will have a sister ship, the Oceania Riviera, scheduled to debut in April of 2012.
The other next-generation cruise ship, scheduled to debut in January 21, 2011, is the Disney Dream -- the first new ship from Disney Cruises since Disney Wonder was introduced in 1999.
Disney Dream is close to completion, already floated out from the Meyer Werft shipyard in Papenburg, Germany. It is 128,000 tons with 1,250 staterooms. On most cruise ships that would translate to a berth capacity of 2,500, but every Disney stateroom is built with extra passengers in mind. The complete capacity of Disney Dream is 4,000 passengers, when third and fourth passengers in sofabeds and pull-down beds are added in.
The ship's outside staterooms include two washrooms with sinks - one with a bathtub-shower combination and the other with a commode. Each has a 22-inch flat-screen TV showing Disney films and Disney Channel television shows 24 hours a day. News stations are also available for the grownups. Every room has an iPod docking station, mini-refrigerator and wireless Internet access (for an added fee). The beds in each cabin have been raised to accommodate empty luggage.
The inside staterooms are currently selling faster than the verandah staterooms, however, and guests are even reportedly refusing to upgrade at no added cost. Why? Because inside cabins feature a clever, oversized "virtual porthole" that is actually a video screen fed by a live camera with the same point of view a real porthole would have. In addition to the camera-fed live view, the porthole features "little surprises" popping up on screen about every 15 minutes. You might be perusing the Nassau Straw Market when suddenly Peach, the coquettish starfish from "Finding Nemo," attaches herself to your window and insists on flirting.
The ship features the longest water slide at sea - the AquaDuck - named after the ship's official ambassador, Donald Duck. It starts in one of the smokestacks and pops out over the edge of the ship - with a view 150 feet straight down to open ocean. It is made to carry a two-man raft 765 feet through an enclosed, see-through acrylic tube.
Other features of the Disney Dream include a 3-D movie theater built in the Art Deco style of the 1930s. Only Disney films will be shown, and first-run films will debut on the ship the same day they open in theaters on land. There is no charge to see a movie in the ship's theater, but the traditional movie snacks like buttered popcorn and chocolate stars will be extra.
Some of the ship's public areas are designed for four specific age groups -- infants and toddlers, grammar-school ages three to 11, middle-school ages (also known as tweens), and teenagers. Facilities for these kids include an astounding array of interactive games, including "magic game floors" -- motion-sensitive video games built beneath glass floors where kids can balance on moving mazes or fly over London with Peter Pan.
There are also entire sections just for adults, including a maze of drinking and dining establishments known as The District. One of the lounges, called Skyline, has virtual "windows" that feature a view of a different famous city every night. Guests can watch a perfectly simulated sundown over each of these cities from their barstools.
Dining on Disney Dream features the same "rotational dining" experience that Disney Cruise Line invented for its first two ships, Disney Magic and Disney Wonder. Guests eat in a different dining room every night, but their waiters come along, so they have the same servers night after night. The dining rooms each have a different environment: One is the Enchanted Garden, based on the gardens of Versailles; the virtual glass ceiling of the greenhouse atrium - actually video screens framed to look like windows - changes from daylight to a star-filled sky. Large hanging glass flowers bloom from the ceiling by spreading translucent glass petals. Wall sconces unfold to become decorative glowing fans. Even the wall paintings change themes as the evening goes on.
Another restaurant is Animators' Palate, where the room transforms from a basic artist's studio into more than 100 coral reef aquarium windows, each with "live" sea creatures from the Disney film "Finding Nemo." The star of the show, Crush the Turtle, turns up and magically finds someone to engage in unscripted, real-time conversation at every table. At the end of the meal, laser light Dalmatian puppies guide guests to the exits.
Other New 2011 Ships
There are other new ships coming out in 2011, but these two are the only all-original designs. The rest are sister ships to previously released vessels, including Carnival Magic, a sister ship to Carnival Dream, which sails into service in Europe next May.
Seabourn Quest is the third sister ship to the new Seabourn Odyssey, which is only two years old but has already been succeeded by a newer sister ship, Seabourn Sojourn.
Celebrity Silhouette is the fourth sister ship to the very popular Celebrity Solstice, to be followed by a fifth version of the same floor plan, Celebrity Reflection. These are beautiful ships at 122,000-tons for 2,850 passengers - very spacious and accommodating, with gorgeous interiors and lavish staterooms.
That is the last of this generation of new builds. The next ship designs -- two new ships on order for Norwegian Cruise Lines and two for Princess Cruises -- will not debut until 2013. Clrealy the 2008 economic crisis put a sudden halt to new ship orders; these last mentions were not even announced until a few months ago.
2012 will represent the first year in cruise industry history that a brand new ship design will not be introduced in the U.S. market, as far as we know.
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