With a new year around the bend, it’s time to sneak a peek at what’s on the horizon in the cruise world. Indeed, 2018 will be a year of innovation, with a slate of shiny new ships unveiled: massive mega-ships, cutting-edge expedition vessels, reimagined riverboats, even throwback tall ships. Here are our picks for the eight new cruise ships that will make waves in 2018, in order of their scheduled debuts.
1. Royal Caribbean International: Symphony of the Seas
Royal Caribbean is readying to roll out the world’s largest cruise ship—again. Come April, the Symphony of the Seas—weighing in at nearly 230,000 gross tons, with 18 decks and a capacity for a 5,535 guests—will steal the “biggest cruise ship” crown from its sister vessel, the Harmony of the Seas, which has reigned since 2016. On board, the ship comes loaded with the line’s signature wow-factor diversions, such as robot bartenders, a waterfront theater, an ice-skating rink, and a 10-story slide. During its inaugural summer season, the behemoth cruises the Mediterranean from Barcelona, followed up by a winter run in the Caribbean.
2. Crystal River Cruises: Crystal Debussy and Crystal Ravel
Crystal Cruises started offering river cruises in 2016, and in spring 2018 it will add two brand-new “river yachts”: the 106-passenger Crystal Debussy and Crystal Ravel. The duo follows on the heels of sister ships Crystal Bach and Crystal Mahler, which debuted in 2017. The vessels stand out for their all-suite, above-the-waterline accommodations, with guestrooms boasting posh extras like king-size beds, walk-in closets, and personal butler service. The Debussy and Ravel will ply some of Europe’s most popular waterways, with itineraries scheduled on the Rhine, Danube, and Main.
3. Ponant: Le Lapérouse and Le Champlain
Luxe French expedition line Ponant doubles its fleet in 2018 with the addition of two new sister ships: The 184-passenger Le Lapérouse will debut in June, followed by Le Champlain in September. In a first for the industry, each vessel will have an underwater lounge where passengers can look out large glass portholes at passing sea life, watch projections from three underwater cameras, and hear sound captured by a hydrophone system. And they will eat well: The dining menus have been crafted by the Alain Ducasse Conseil. The ships have sailings scheduled to Iceland, Central America, West Africa, the Mediterranean, Amazon, the Arctic, and beyond.
4. Norwegian Cruise Line: Norwegian Bliss
Debuting in June, the 4,000-passenger Norwegian Bliss comes packed with attractions such as a bi-level electric race car track and an open-air laser tag course. You’ll be able to watch a production of Jersey Boys and dine at a Texas smokehouse, featuring live country music, or enjoy a dessert-only venue and a Starbucks café. Bliss also offers two pools, six infinity hot tubs, two waterslides, and a kids’ water park. The ship will run summertime Alaska itineraries out of Seattle as the largest vessel to ever sail the region and then move on to Miami for a fall/winter season of eastern Caribbean sailings.
5. Hurtigruten: MS Roald Amundsen
Debuting in July, Hurtigruten’s state-of-the-art, 530-passenger MS Roald Amundsen may mark a technological turning point for the cruising world. The first of the line’s two planned hybrid expedition vessels (the second is due out in summer 2019), the MS Roald Amundsen will be capable of periods of full electrical propulsion that not only will cut back on noise but also help reduce the ship’s fuel consumption and CO2 emissions by 20 percent. Built to sail in polar waters, its first trips will take passengers to Antarctica and Patagonia. On board, anticipate sleek Scandinavian design throughout, a science activity center, and high-tech features such as underwater drones.
6. Scenic: Scenic Eclipse
The first ocean-going ship for river cruise line Scenic, the sleek, 228-passenger Scenic Eclipse launches in August as a cutting-edge expedition craft. It is equipped not only with fancy equipment designed for intrepid exploration—including two helicopters and a six-passenger submarine—but also a 5,900-square-foot spa; four pools; all-balcony, butler-serviced suite accommodations; and nine dining venues and eight bars. Sign up for polar expeditions to Antarctica or the Arctic or for sailings to destinations including Cuba and South America.
7. Star Clippers: Flying Clipper
Modeled after an early 20th-century French sailing ship, Star Clippers’ 300-passenger Flying Clipper will be unveiled as the largest five-masted ship in the world in late fall (date TBA). The period decor features loads of wood and brass accents, and guests can enjoy two on-deck plunge pools, a water-sports platform, an outdoor tropical-themed bar, and an indoor piano lounge. They can even climb the ship’s masts. The ship’s inaugural sailing season will take it around the Caribbean.
8. Celebrity Cruises: Celebrity Edge
The 2,908-guest Celebrity Edge, which debuts in December 2018, already has the industry buzzing. The first in the line’s new Edge class of ships, the vessel will explore the Caribbean from its home port of Fort Lauderdale, Florida. (Three more sister ships are in the works and will set sail over the next five years.) Onboard, guests can expect expanded staterooms and suites with an “infinite veranda” design that features floor-to-ceiling windows meant to bring the outside in. Suite-class cabins will also enjoy access to the Retreat, a private pool oasis. A rooftop garden will host live music and film screenings, and the Magic Carpet, a deck cantilevered over the water, moves up and down the side of the ship.