When it comes to the best cruise ships, biggest isn't always better, but newest sure doesn't hurt. While some of the cruising giants such as Carnival and Royal Caribbean are busy battling over the biggest behemoths in the business, more boutique lines such as Viking and Regent Seven Seas will soon introduce brand-new ships designed for less than 1,000 guests. Here's a look at some of the noteworthy ships we'll see with the next 12 months.
Launch: October 2015
The details: Carrying 4,248 guests, Escape will be the largest ship in the NCL fleet when it sets sail this fall. Sailing a Caribbean itinerary from its home port in Miami, Escape's features include: the first Jimmy Buffett's Margaritaville and 5 O'Clock Somewhere Bar at sea, a Latin seafood specialty restaurant, a craft brew hall, the largest ropes course at sea, a theater featuring two Broadway musicals and an expanded water park for the kids.
Launch: April 2016
The details: Koningsdam will makes it home in Fort Lauderdale and offer 7- to 1-day Caribbean itineraries. With room for 2,650 guests, Koningsdam will include a Culinary Arts Center with a show kitchen and individual cooking stations that will offer hands-on classes by visiting celebrity chef. Another unique amenity will be a digital workshop where Microsoft-training experts will lead small group sessions on topics including photo editor, movie creation and cloud storage.
Launch: March 2016
The details: Viking's expansion from river cruises to ocean cruises continues with Viking Sky. The new ship will be more intimate - holding just 930 guests - and will offer some of the same amenities as its river ships, including the Aquavit Terrace. Viking Sky is expected to sail mostly Mediterranean and Western Europe itineraries.
Launch: April 2016
The details: All the glitzy, eye-popping toys will be on full display when the Ovation of the Seas sets sail. Among its amenities: RipCord by iFLY (the first skydiving experience at sea), huge poolside movie screen and Seaplex, an indoor rec center offering bumper cars, roller skating, a circus school and surf simulater. Too much action for you? Then cool down at the ship's ice bar. If you're up for the adventure, a cruise on Ovation of the Seas will require a plane ticket ... to China, where the ship will be based year-round.
Launch: July 2016
The details: Explorer will be an all-suite, all-balcony ship accommodating 738 guests. The cruise line is promising "ultra-elegant public rooms, a wide-range of gourmet dining options and a museum-worthy art collection will ensure our guests experience a new standard in luxury cruising."
Launch: Late 2016
The details: The all-suite ship is modeled after Seabourn’s Odyssey-class ships, but will include one additional deck and expanded public areas. Encore is expected to carry just 600 guests, and every suite will feature a private veranda.