20 Major Cruise Stories to Watch in 2019

by  Donna Heiderstadt | Jan 11, 2019
Rendering of the Sky Princess
Rendering of the Sky Princess / Photo courtesy of the cruise line

The year ahead is looking to be exciting for cruisers. In 2019, cruise lines will introduce nine new ocean ships (including Princess Cruise’s Sky Princess, the line’s first new ship for the North American market in five years, as well as two new vessels apiece from MSC and Costa), 16 river ships, and five expedition ships. And if you’re seeking a new experience on an older ship, there are some relocations and refurbishments in store, too. Read on for the 20 major cruise stories to look out for in 2019. 

New Ocean Ships

While only two represent a new class for its respective line, almost all of the new ships offer improved features and amenities.

1. Viking Jupiter: Debuting in March

The sixth ship in Viking Ocean’s fleet is virtually identical to her sisters, accommodating 930 passengers and featuring the line’s signature spa thermal suite, a panoramic two-floor Explorers’ Lounge, and an enclosed pool with a retractable roof. Like Viking Orion (launched in 2018), Viking Jupiter also has a planetarium. The ship’s 2019 itineraries include the Baltic, British Isles, Mediterranean, and South America. 

2. MSC Bellissima and MSC Grandiosa: Launching in March and October

MSC Cruises’ 4,488-passenger MSC Bellissima and 4,824-passenger MSC Grandiosa will both debut in 2019, with MSC Grandiosa being the first of the Meraviglia-Plus class vessels. Each has a host of high-tech features: Zoe, a voice-enabled artificial intelligence device in every cabin, MSC for Me for an enhanced onboard experience, and a 5,000-square-foot LED dome over the Galleria promenade. Both ships will cruise the Mediterranean through late 2019.

 3. Costa Venezia and Costa Smeralda: Setting Sail in March and November

The first Costa Cruises ship designed for the Chinese market, 4,232-passenger Costa Venezia will debut with a voyage from Trieste (near its namesake Venice) that visits 18 countries in the Persian Gulf and Asia, where it will homeport in Shanghai. This fall, 5,200-passenger Costa Smeralda will debut as the first cruise ship marketed globally to be fully powered by cleaner-burning liquefied natural gas (LNG). Costa Smeralda will cruise the Mediterranean through April 2020.

4. Royal Caribbean’s Spectrum of the Seas: Debuting in April

The first ship in Royal Caribbean’s Quantum Ultra class, 4,246-passenger Spectrum of the Seas follows 2018’s launch of the fourth Oasis class ship, Symphony of the Seas. Like the earlier Quantum-class ships, this one has a North Star viewing capsule, Ripcord by iFly skydiving simulator, SeaPlex (a large indoor activity venue), a bungee-trampoline virtual reality experience at SkyPad, and a new Suite Club with VIP privileges. Spectrum of the Seas will homeport in Shanghai and sail Asia throughout 2019.

 5. Sky Princess: Setting Sail in October

Princess Cruises’s first new Royal-class ship in the U.S. market since 2014’s Regal Princess (2018’s Majestic Princess was designed with the Australia and Asia markets in mind), the 3,660-passenger Sky Princess will offer several new features: Sky Suites, which accommodates up to five guests and features 700-square-foot balconies; Take Five jazz lounge; and an infinity wake pool at the ship’s aft. Itineraries in 2019 and 2020 will focus on the Caribbean and Mediterranean.

6. Norwegian Encore: Launching in November

The third act in Norwegian Cruise Line’s Breakaway-Plus class (following 2017’s Norwegian Joy and 2018’s Norwegian Bliss), this 3,998-passenger vessel has all the thrills of its predecessors (a race track, laser tag, and two big waterslides) as well as a new virtual reality maze called Galaxy Pavilion. Norwegian Encore debuts with a repositioning from Southampton to Miami, where it will cruise the Caribbean, Panama Canal, and Central America, as well as offer itineraries to Bermuda from New York.

 7. Carnival Panorama: Debuting in December

Joining sister ships Carnival Vista and Carnival Horizon, 4,008-passenger Carnival Panorama will pack all the same fun Carnival amenities — including SkyRide, the Havana Bar & Pool, WaterWorks waterpark, and Guy’s Pig & Anchor Bar-B-Que Smokehouse/Brewhouse — and will be Carnival’s first new ship homeported in Long Beach, CA, in 20 years. Carnival Panorama will sail seven-night Mexican Riviera itineraries year-round.

New River Ships 

Rivers may be finite waterways, but demand for river cruising seems infinite as new ships are continually added across Europe, Asia, and the U.S.

8. Amalia Rodrigues: Launching in March

Amalia Rodrigues, the newest ship from CroisiEurope, accommodates 132 passengers and will cruise Portugal’s Douro River from March to October.

9. AmaMagna, AmaMoro, and AmaDouro: Launching in April, May, and June

AmaWaterways’ AmaMagna, which is almost twice the width of traditional river cruise ships, will carry 196 passengers on several Danube itineraries beginning in May; AmaMoro, sister ship to 2018’s AmaLea, accommodates 156 passengers and will begin cruising the Rhine in June; and AmaDouro, which carries 102 passengers, will begin cruising Portugal’s Douro River in April. 

10. Seven New Ships from Viking: Debuting Throughout the Year

Viking River Cruise’s rollout of its Longships resurges in 2019 with the addition of six 190-passenger river vessels — Viking Longship Einar, Viking Longship Sigrun, Viking Longship Sigyn, Viking Longship Tir, Viking Longship Ullur, and Viking Longship Vali — on the Rhine, Main, and Danube, while the 106-passenger Viking Helgrim will cruise the Douro River.  

11. Avalon Envision: Setting Sail in April

The 168-passenger Avalon Envision, which, like other recently built Avalon Waterways ships, features the cruise line’s signature Panorama Suites with wall-to-wall windows, and will cruise the Danube and Rhine.

12. SS Bon Voyage: Setting Sail in April

Uniworld’s refurbishment of the former River Royale into the 124-passenger SS Bon Voyage includes a Bordeaux-inspired redesign and the addition of a top-deck swimming pool. The ship will cruise the rivers of France’s Bordeaux wine region from April to October. 

13. American Harmony: Launching in August

This modern riverboat by American Cruise Lines features contemporary décor and will accommodate 184 guests on a variety of itineraries along the Mississippi River.


New Expedition Ships

Whether you want to explore the Galapagos, venture to Antarctica, or see the Northern Lights, these ships can take you there.

 14. Le Bougainville: Launching in April

The newest expedition ship from Ponant cruises to both traditional and more far-flung destinations and features an aft infinity pool and a hydraulic platform for small watercraft to easily embark and disembark. Itineraries on the 184-passenger Le Bougainville in 2019 include the Mediterranean and the Seychelles. 

15. MV Theory: Debuting in March

Cruising the Galapagos, the sustainably-designed 20-passenger luxury yacht MV Theory by Ecoventura is the sister yacht of MV Origin, which, in 2018, became the first vessel in the region to be admitted to Relais & Chateaux.

16. Celebrity Flora: Setting Sail in May

Also cruising the Galapagos Islands, Celebrity Cruises’s new 100-passenger Celebrity Flora features only suites (measuring from 330 to 1,288 square feet) and cuisine by a Michelin-starred chef at all-inclusive pricing.

17. Scenic Eclipse: Launching in April

Although delayed by a shipyard strike, this 228-passenger expedition ship (and, just 200 guests in the Arctic and Antarctica itineraries) by Australian river cruise company Scenic will feature solely suites with verandas and all-inclusive pricing. Itineraries in 2019 include the Mediterranean, the British Isles, Atlantic Canada, Alaska, and the Arctic Circle, South America, and more.

18. MS Roald Amundsen: Debuting in May

Hurtigruten’s newest ship, featuring environmentally sustainable hybrid technology, will accommodate 530 passengers. After an inaugural cruising in Spain, Portugal, and France, the line will offer itineraries in Norway, Chilean Patagonia, and Antarctica.


New Itineraries

These changes by two major lines are worth singling out.

 19. Viking Adds River & Ocean Combination Itineraries

Viking combined its river and ocean itineraries to offer a pair of two-ship itineraries — the 22-night Grand European & Viking Fjords and the 15-night Rhine & Viking Shores & Fjords.  And while the Grand European & Viking Fjords itinerary is sold out for 2019, the Rhine & Viking Shores & Fjords is still available for 2020.

20. Norwegian Joy: Relocating to Alaska from China in April

The 3,802-passenger Norwegian Joy, which made its debut in 2017 as a vessel designed for the Chinese market, will undergo refurbishment and join sister ship Norwegian Bliss in Alaska this spring (cruising roundtrip from Seattle). After that, the ship will offer Mexican Riviera and Panama Canal itineraries in winter 2019-2020.

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