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New ship No. 6 — Mein Schiff 5

Sixth in a series of new ships for 2016

Most North Americans, it’s safe to assume, know little about TUI Cruises. It’s a smaller cruise line, or a cruise line of smaller ships, or both. It is, however, owned by Royal Caribbean and that gives it a cache of credibility for people interesting in cruising on any of its “Mein Schiffs” (or “my ships”), two of which were once the Celebrity Galaxy and Celebrity Mercury. This year, TUI will inherit Splendour of the Seas from the parent company.

Launch date: July 15

Capacity: 2,534

Sister ships: Mein Schiff 3, Mein Schiff 4

Maiden voyage: Kiel, Germany return (9 days)

Home port: Hamburg

Ships then in TUI fleet: 5

Interesting: The latest of three new-builds, Mein Schiff 5 is also significantly larger than the first two ex-Celebrity ships. She is a carbon copy of Mein Schiff 3 and 4, which means 1,276 staterooms, 80 per cent of them with balconies and an interior design that has been described as “modern yet cozy.” German is the principal language yet the ship sounds like one that would appeal to North Americans, too, with a reputable buffet, along with specialty restaurants for Japanese fare and surf and turf. Activities include acrobatics, musicals, magic and comedy shows; fitness and aerobics opportunities; and a full range of shore excursions. Best of all, beverages and gratuities are included.

Today at portsandbows.comThe new Wave Season


Norwegian Jade
7 nights
February 20, 2016
Houston (return): Cozumel, Belize, Roatan
Inside: $549
Cost per day: $78
www.ncl.com

New ship No. 5 — Harmony of the Seas

Fifth in a series of new ships for 2016

Ship-Harmony

This third Oasis Class ship is already being called the world’s biggest ship by Royal Caribbean, but who’s measuring. Harmony of the Seas is the identical length of its predecessor for the title, Allure of the Seas, and weighs 718 tons more but is 49 feet smaller in width. The determining factor seems to be capacity, which at two-per-room gives Harmony the edge by 88 passengers. It’s really a moot point because the three Oasis sibling ships are the three biggest cruise ships anywhere.

Launch date: May 22

Capacity: 5,488

Sister ships: Oasis of the Seas (2009), Allure of the Seas (2010)

Maiden voyage: Southampton return (4 days)

Home port: Barcelona and Fort Lauderdale

Ships then in Royal Caribbean fleet: 26

Interesting: While Harmony of the Seas has all the trappings that have made the Oasis Class so popular — Central Park, Boardwalk, Giovanni’s Table, Broadway shows, Flowrider — this $1.35-billion ship’s identity is likely to be the Ultimate Abyss. Thrill seekers will drop 10 stories when they venture into the tallest waterslide on any cruises ship, which continue to display slides that are bigger, wilder, scarier. Passengers will wear “WOWBands” to help them find their way and Royal Caribbean says VOOM is the fastest Internet at sea. Harmony’s Broadway show is Grease, certain to be a winner, and its other distinguishing gimmick is likely to be the robots who serve drinks in the Bionic Bar. Do they ask for tips?

Today at portsandbows.com: Geographically appealing ports for Canadians


Norwegian Sun
14 nights
February 27, 2016
Buenos Aires, Montevideo, Puerto Madryn, Port Stanley, Cape Horn, Ushuaia, Beagle Channel, Punta Arenas, Strait of Magellan, Chilean Fjords, Puerto Chacabuco, Puerto Montt, Santiago
Inside: $999
Cost per day: $71
www.ncl.com

New ship No. 4 — Carnival Vista

Fourth in a series of new ships for 2016

Ship-Vista

Carnival hasn’t had a new ship in either three years or four, depending on whether you consider the re-building and name change of the Sunshine a new ship. When the Vista comes along this spring, it will launch a new class of the same name and it will give Carnival its biggest ship with almost 4,000 passengers…and obviously a more modern ship than the last totally new one, the Breeze in 2012.

Launch date: May 1

Capacity: 3,954

Sister ships: None

Maiden voyage: Dubrovnik to Barcelona (13 days)

Home port: Miami

Ships then in Carnival fleet: 24

Interesting: The world’s biggest cruise line is getting into the boardwalk-style of design by “bringing you closer to the sea” at the Havana Bar & Pool, SkyRide at SportSquare and Seafood Shack. It also claims to have the first IMAX theater at sea and staterooms designed for “Cuban culture lovers” sailing the Caribbean…hmm, could this become Carnival’s first cruise ship for Cuba one day? Like almost all new ships, its first sea days will be in Europe, crossing the Atlantic to settle at home in Miami by year’s end. The first Vista Class ship will also have a 450-foot waterslide, 20 places to eat and/or drink and a working micro-brewery at the RedFrog Pub.

Today at portsandbows.com: All the latest cruise news


Grand Princess
10 nights
February 23, 2016
San Francisco (return): Puerto Vallarta, Manzanillo, Mazatlan, Cabo San Lucas
Inside: $649
Cost per day: $64
www.princess.com

New ship No. 3 — Ovation of the Seas

Third in a series of new ships for 2016

Ship-Ovation

Royal Caribbean’s newest class of ship is the Quantum Class and when Ovation of the Seas joins it, two-thirds of the ships will be based in Asia. Unless you go off to search for it to take a cruise cruise, the only place you’ll find out about it is in places like this. A month after its Southampton launch, Ovation of the Seas is off to Dubai, en route to its Asian home: Tianjin, China. It will briefly visit Australia and New Zealand at the end of the year and no cruises are posted online after its return to Asia (Singapore) in February.

Launch date: April 17

Capacity: 4,180

Sister ships: Quantum of the Seas (2014), Anthem of the Seas (2015)

Maiden voyage: Southampton return (5 days)

Home port: Tianjin, China

Ships then in Royal Caribbean fleet: 25

Interesting: Other than the fact that it has robots serving drinks, a flying pod to give people a 360-degree view of the sea (or whatever else happens to be in sight) and simulators for surfing and skydiving, it’s just like any other cruise ship. Not really. This is a clone of Quantum and Anthem of the Seas, and the differences will likely be hard to find. Like them it also has the Two70-degree lounge/entertainment center and the SeaPlex, where bumper cars, roller skates and basketball are the featured activities. Unlike them, it has virtual balconies so everybody gets to see what’s happening outside whether they’re in the North Star or not. With 16 decks, 25 places to eat and a price tag close to a billion dollars, it’s still not even close to being the biggest ship in the world. That comes — here — on Friday.

In the news…

• Windstar’s damaged Star Pride now out of cruising until after April 9
• Royal Caribbean drops eat-healthy restaurant from Anthem of the Seas

Today at portsandbows.com: Emerald kicks off Wave Season with free are


Royal Caribbean Navigator of the Seas
6 nights
April 10, 2016
Fort Lauderdale (return): Grand Cayman, Falmouth, Labadee
Inside: $389
Cost per day: $64
www.royalcaribbean.com

New ship No. 2 — Holland America Koningsdam

Second in a series of new ships for 2016

Ship-Konigsdam

It’s been six years between new ships for Holland America, so imagine the anticipation leading up to the launch of the Koningsdam. It will be the first ship in the Pinnacle Class (presumably there are more to follow) and the biggest ship in the Holland America fleet, which will shrink by a ship when the Koningsdam arrives, having despatched the Ryndam and Statendam to another member of the Carnival Corporation family, P&O Australia.

Launch date: April 8

Capacity: 2,650

Sister ships: None yet

Maiden voyage: Rome return (7 days)

Home port: Fort Lauderdale

Ships then in Holland America fleet: 14

Interesting: Since the Nieuw Amsterdam was the last new ship in 2010, it’s safe to assume this will be unlike any of the 13 siblings, starting with the fact it carries 500 more passengers, is one deck (12) higher and weighs 13,000 tons more than Holland America’s last newbie. Besides a more contemporary look and feel, there’s also more of an attempt for passenger participation, with BLEND a wine-making program designed in conjunction with the well-known Chateau Ste. Michelle, and the Culinary Arts Center for hands-on creations at individual cooking stations during classes conducted by celebrity chefs. Holland America has also joined the club in dining with “As You Wish” choice of seating and time.

In the news…

• Norwegian’s new slogan to attract cruiser customers — “Feel Free!”
• Carnival to charge as much as $6 per plate fleet-wide for new room-service items
• Star Cruises positioning ship in near Hong Kong, in Guangzhou, China

Today at portsandbows.com: All the latest cruise news


Carnival Inspiration
4 nights
February 15, 2016
Los Angeles (return): Catalina Island, Ensenada
Inside: $179
Cost per day: $44
www.carnival.com

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