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Explainer: New cruise ships sailing into 2011

  • Image: Allure of the Seas
    Roni Lehti  /  AFP - Getty Images
    Allure of the Seas

    Looks like it’s full speed ahead for the cruise industry. With Allure of the Seas now in Fort Lauderdale, Disney Dream set to debut and a half-dozen other new ships on the way, the rough seas of the recession are growing calmer by the day.

    That’s good news for cruisers, says Stewart Chiron, aka The Cruise Guy. “The fact that these ships are coming out during difficult times is a testament to the industry’s resilience,” he said. “A lot of people who wouldn’t have taken a cruise before are now considering one.”

    First-timer or not, here’s a look at eight new additions to the fleet:

  • Allure of the Seas

    Image: Allure of the Seas' zipline
    Rob Lovitt

    Allure embarked on her inaugural cruise on Dec. 5, and she shares the title of world’s biggest cruise ship with its twin Oasis of the Seas, but adds a few new amenities. In addition to the zip line and skating rink, the surf machines and climbing walls, you’ll also find a 3-D theater, the first Romero Britto store at sea and two new restaurants, including a Mexican cantina and Brazilian steakhouse. Get some sleep before you go, suggests Carolyn Spencer Brown, editor in chief at CruiseCritic.com, or be prepared to swing by another new onboard amenity: the first Starbucks at sea.

  • Marina

    Image: Oceania Marina
    Oceania

    A Lalique grand staircase, a hands-on culinary arts center co-sponsored by Bon Appétit and a trio of owners’ suites with Ralph Lauren furnishings — Marina has all the makings of an ultra-premium experience, but with a surprisingly “egalitarian” ambience. As Oceania’s first purpose-built ship (launching Jan. 22), Marina is significantly larger than its siblings (65,000 tons vs. 30,000), carries more passengers (1,258 vs. 684) and features several new restaurants, including Jacques, the first eatery anywhere to bear the name of famed French chef Jacques Pépin. “[Marina] will be an intriguing hybrid of luxury and mid-market pricing,” said Spencer Brown. “It’s a category that’s never existed before.”

  • Disney Dream

    Image: Disney Dream
    Disney

    It’s been 11 years since Disney launched a new cruise ship and Mickey’s minions have clearly gone all out. Launching on Jan. 26, the ship will carry 2,500 passengers (4,000 with all beds filled) on fantasy-filled cruises between Port Canaveral and the Bahamas. Among the innovations: The Enchanted Garden restaurant, where the decor changes from day to night; inside cabins with virtual portholes with underwater scenes, and the AquaDuck, a 750-foot “watercoaster” that winds up, down and around the ship’s upper decks. “Dream is the Oasis of 2011,” said Spencer Brown. “It’s going to be different than everything that’s come before it.”

  • L’Austral

    Image: L'Austral
    Erick Larrieu  /  L'Austral

    Having opened a U.S. office just this year, the French cruise line Compagnie du Ponant is probably still unfamiliar to many American cruisers. That may change with the arrival of the line’s fifth ship, L’Austral, a 132-cabin mega-yacht that will launch on April 27. Not surprisingly, the onboard amenities — two restaurants, plus a spa, theater, lounge and library — will provide more than a soupçon of French flair even as the ship’s itineraries take her far beyond the Côte d’Azur. After spending the summer in the Mediterranean, the ship will sail on to Africa, Antarctica and other exotic ports of call.

  • Carnival Magic

    Image: Carnival Magic
    Carnival

    The latest addition to the Carnival fleet manages a neat trick: Although it’s a carbon copy of Carnival Dream, this 130,000-ton, 3,690-passenger ship tweaks the Fun Ship formula with several new amenities. Get a workout on the first ropes course at sea; cool off in a waterpark featuring a 500-gallon dump bucket, then retire to the RedFrog Pub for private-label beers and Caribbean-flavored snacks or Cucina del Capitano for hand-made pastas and select Italian wines. Launching on May 1, “Magic is perfect for entry-level or first-time cruisers,” said Dwain Wall, senior vice president/general manager for CruiseOne and Cruises Inc.

  • Seabourn Quest

    Image: Seabourn Odyssey
    Copyright 2009 Michel Verdure

    As the sister ship to the Odyssey (pictured) and Sojourn, Seabourn Quest joins a fleet that Chiron calls “quite possibly the nicest cruise ships on the planet.” Like her predecessors, the ship features a two-deck spa, four restaurants and 225 suite-style cabins, 90 percent of which have private balconies. The result: a yacht-like experience without upper-crust fustiness that draws younger cruisers than other ultra-luxury lines. You can join them on a three-day pre-inaugural cruise from Monte Carlo on June 9, a 14-day maiden voyage from Barcelona on June 20 or, if you’re feeling flush, a 109-day world cruise starting Jan. 5, 2012.

  • Costa Favolosa

    Image: Costa Favoloso
    Matteo Piazza  /  Courtesy of Costa Cruises

    The name is Italian for fairy tale; the decor is modeled after an enchanted castle, and the ambience is Carnival Fun Ship (Costa’s parent company) meets the Continent. Launching on July 4, the 3,000-passenger ship offers several of Costa’s signature Concordia-class amenities, including a Grand Prix driving simulator, 4-D cinema (3-D, plus physical effects) and two-level pool deck with a glass roof and movie screen. New additions, including verandah suites with Jacuzzi tubs, a teen entertainment area and a water park for little cruisers, should only add to la dolce vita.

  • Celebrity Silhouette

    Image: Celebrity Eclipse
    Simon Brooke-Webb  /  Celebrity

    Details are still sketchy on Celebrity’s newest ship, but the fourth vessel in the line’s innovative Solstice class will replicate the most popular amenities of her predecessors, including a glass-blowing studio, recreation area with real grass and Qsine, the eclectic, iPad-menu-equipped restaurant that debuted on Eclipse (pictured). “It’ll be like a floating boutique hotel,” said Chiron of the 2,850-passenger ship, which will begin sailing Mediterranean and Holy Land itineraries on July 23. Those who prefer more tropical itineraries will have to wait until next fall when the ship will start offering 12-night Caribbean cruises from Bayonne, N.J.

By Travel writer
msnbc.com contributor
updated 1/19/2011 11:32:55 AM ET 2011-01-19T16:32:55

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Video: Royal Caribbean’s ‘alluring’ fare

Photos: Allure of the Seas

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  1. World's biggest ship

    The Allure of the Seas sets sail from Turku, Finland, for Florida on Oct. 29, 2010. Royal Caribbean's brand new ship will be the largest in the world, barely edging out her sister, Oasis of the Seas. (Lehtikuva / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. First Starbucks at sea

    The Allure of the Seas features the first Starbucks on a cruise ship. (Royal Caribbean) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. Onboard entertainment

    The Move On! Move On! Parade on the Royal Promenade features characters from DreamWorks Animation's "Madagascar." (Royal Caribbean) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. A floating city

    Allure of the Seas has 16 passenger decks, 2,700 cabins, and can accommodate 6,300 passengers and 3,000 crewmembers. (Markku Ulander / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. Carousel at sea

    A carousel can be found on the Boardwalk aboard the Allure of the Seas. (Royal Caribbean) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. Recreation

    The outdoor play area aboard Allure of the Seas includes a multifunctional court which can host games of basketball, volleyball and badminton. (Lehtikuva / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. Behemoth

    The gigantic vessel is the sister ship of the Oasis of the Seas, which Royal Caribbean has been running since its delivery in December 2009. Like Oasis, Allure of the Seas cost the cruise line about $1.5 billion. (Lehtikuva / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. 'Something for everyone'

    "There's something for everyone to discover on the grandest ships the world has ever seen," Royal Caribbean boasts on its website. (Lehtikuva / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. Entertaining options

    Allure of the Seas features an ice rink and entertainment including the Broadway musical "Chicago" and the aerial acrobatic show "Blue Planet." (Royal Caribbean) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. Just desserts

    There's no shortage of sweet treats aboard the Allure of the Seas, which has an onboard cupcake shop, ice cream parlor and doughnut shop. (Royal Caribbean) Back to slideshow navigation
  11. A thrilling ride

    The Allure of the Seas features a zipline that soars across an open-air atrium. (Rob Lovitt) Back to slideshow navigation
  12. One big ship

    The Allure of the Seas measures nearly 1,200 feet long, towers 236 feet above the waterline and weighs 225,282 tons — 12 times more than the Eiffel Tower. (Roni Lehti / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
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