Pack your deck shoes — cutting-edge new ships and hot destinations like Cuba are making a splash on the 2017 cruise calendar.
The Best New Ports
Ocean Cay MSC
Get ready for the biggest private Out Island in the Bahamas. Ocean Cay by MSC Cruises debuts December 2017 with six beaches, a spa, a zip-line and a wedding pavilion. And don’t worry about tender hassles: Docking will allow showering back on board before returning to the island for a show in the 2,000-seat amphitheater.
Azamara Quest heads to this Yucatan port city for the first time on its May 21, 2017, voyage from Miami. Guests can marvel at Chichen Itza’s ruins or chill on the mile-long beach beside the malecón (promenade). Consider sampling the native licorice-flavored liqueur, xtabentún. When in Progreso …
Timor-Leste, Southeast Asia
On two Fiji-Bali cruises in April and June 2017, Paul Gauguin will drop anchor at one of the newest countries in the world. In tiny Timor-Leste (shown), which only became a sovereign nation in 2002, coral reefs beg to be explored, market vendors sell hand-woven tais (textiles), and artisan cafes serve world-class coffee.
The Best New Itinerary
No Starbucks. No Internet. Just vintage pink Chevys. Lindblad Expeditions offers 10-night cultural cruises to Cuba from January to March 2017. Spot bee hummingbirds (the world’s smallest birds) at Zapata Swamp National Park, meet Cuban choir singers and sip mojitos in Hemingway’s favorite bars in Havana. French-owned Ponant Yacht Cruises and Expeditions will stop at the Bay of Pigs on an eight-night March 25 cruise aboard its 64-passenger sailing yacht. MSC Cruises is also home-porting two big ships in Havana — but no word yet on when U.S. citizens can book its seven-night itineraries.
The Best New Ships for Sun-Worshippers
The 5,179-passenger ship flaunts outdoor glass catwalks, “beach condo” suites, a two-deck aqua park, and unprecedented deck space for lounging, strolling and dining. Year-round sailings to the Caribbean start in December 2017.
The Best New Ships for Sailing Purists
Star Clippers Flying Clipper
This 300-passenger (the world’s largest) square-rigger sailing ship launches in late 2017. Guests can learn to scuba dive in a glass-sided dive pool, while another pool funnels sunlight into the dining room. Jack Sparrow is jealous.
The Best New Ships for Deal Hunters
Viking Ocean Cruises Viking Sky
Hailed by Cruise Critic as the “best new ocean ship” in 2015, the vessel sets sail again in February 2017. Staterooms boast private verandas and king-size beds, and rates include excursions, Wi-Fi and wine at lunch and dinner.
The Best New Ships for Francophiles
Uniworld S.S. Joie de Vivre
Fine art and antiques from Sotheby’s and Christie’s auction houses will grace this ship, cruising the Seine starting in March 2017. A pool with a hydraulic floor turns into a dance club or an outdoor cinema at night. Ooh la la.
The Best New Ships for Bonvivants
Silversea Silver Muse
Is a 400-square-foot “standard” suite big enough for you? Can you make do with eight restaurants (one branded Relais & Châteaux)? Silversea Cruises raises the bar in luxury cruising with this all-suite ship, coming April 2017.
The Best New Restaurants at Sea
We can’t wait for The Grill by Michelin-starred chef Thomas Keller on Seabourn Encore. On the menu: lobster thermidor and creamed spinach.
A faux-cobblestone street leads into Chartreuse on Regent’s Seven Seas Mariner, being refurbished spring 2017. Metal filigree windows and rack of lamb complete the Parisian milieu.
Celebrity chef Roy Yamaguchi brings his skills to MSC Seaside. The gourmet cover-charge restaurant will have four teppanyaki grills, plus a sushi, sashimi and raw bar.