Sparkling New Cruise Ships
Book your berth on one of the latest oceangoing resorts
By Van Sheridan
Disney Cruise Line
Screams of delight are the stuff of which family vacations are made. And plenty will be heard on the Disney Fantasy, where all kids on deck can make a big splash in the AquaLab. With its turning wheels, moving levers, leaky holes and squirting pipes, this fun-drenched water playground will debut on Disney Cruise Line's newest ship, which sails the Caribbean on its March 31 maiden voyage.
The 4,000-passenger vessel introduces a few more elements from Disney's bag of tricks. "Animation Magic" enhances the mealtime experience at the Animator's Palate, where diners can draw their favorite characters, and then with a flourish, Mickey Mouse -- the sorcerer -- will bring their illustrations to life on the restaurant's walls. Adults can step into a fantasy world of their own in the Europa entertainment district, which has kids-free lounges and bars like La Piazza, a tribute to Italy's great cities; The Tube, a mod nod to London; and Ooh La La, a jewel box of mirrors, tufted-velvet walls and Louis XIV-style furniture.
But the real magic is at the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique, where a fairy godmother-in-training will transform the little ones into princesses and pirates.
Oceania Cruises' latest addition, Riviera, will hit the waves on April 24 from Athens, Greece. The 1,250-passenger floating country club features custom-crafted accommodations, with furnishings from Ralph Lauren Home in the top suites. The small details matter, from the 1,000-thread-count sheets to the spacious spa-inspired bathrooms with granite-and-marble vanity tops. Elegant surroundings await at every turn: The ship's centerpiece is a Lalique staircase in an Art Deco lobby that borrows from a 1920s Hollywood movie set -- perfect for making a grand entrance.
Food takes center stage on board. Eat like a gourmand at six specialty restaurants, including master chef Jacques Pepin's eponymous French bistro. And taste buds will travel to the Far East with Asian dishes at Red Ginger. Like older sibling Marina, Riviera has a hands-on cooking school. But the sumptuous experience goes beyond the plate. Be indulged and pampered into a state of bliss at Canyon Ranch SpaClub, where guests can learn about balancing body, mind and soul.
The Costa Fascinosa evokes cinematic glamour with soaring ceilings and opulent details. Awash in silver, gold and purple, the decor was inspired by great films and grand theaters around the world. Costa Cruises' 3,800-passenger vessel will sail its inaugural voyage on May 11, with port calls in Italy, Greece, Israel, Turkey and Croatia. Between land excursions, vacationers can sip espresso in piazza-style lounges, sample fine chocolate and chill around a pool with a retractable glass roof. A few lucky guests will unwind in their own private Jacuzzis on six suite verandas.
Everyone, however, can find peace of mind at the Eastern-inspired Samsara Spa. At 19,600 square feet, it's one of the largest wellness centers afloat, and some cabins offer direct access. Meanwhile, the children are romping around the medieval castle and pirate galleon at the outdoor water park. Afterward, they can grab a midafternoon pizza snack before continuing the fun at the 24-hour arcade with a Grand Prix simulator.
The MSC Divina strives to be as much a destination as the picturesque Mediterranean ports it'll visit on its first voyage May 27. The wow factor is important, and the third of MSC Cruises' Fantasia-class ships aims to impress guests with its gleaming modern decor and glamorous Italian vibe. After all, the 4,345-passenger vessel is named in honor of the fleet's godmother, Sophia Loren. Evoking her stature as the "divine goddess" of Italian films, the ship's 18 decks will be named after Greek gods.
And travelers can look up to the heavens at the Garden Pool, an upscale retreat with serene surroundings, or swim in the aft infinity pool with views of the ship's wake. Like sister ships Splendida and Fantasia, the Divina features the MSC Yacht Club. Described as a "ship within a ship," this category of staterooms centers on luxury accommodations, white-glove service, a private pool and lounge, and special perks like priority check-in and the unpacking of your suitcases by your butler. The exclusive Yacht Club venues are in one area on the forward decks, offering guests ultimate privacy.
Life can seem like a breeze when the brand-new addition to Carnival Cruise Lines' Dream class sets sail for the first time from Venice on June 3. Exhilarating attractions include the WaterWorks aqua park with waterslides and a 300-gallon "dump bucket" and SportSquare, an open-air recreation complex with a rope course, miniature golf and outdoor fitness area. For cruisers seeking something more laid back, The Lanai has a wraparound promenade with whirlpools that extend over the ship's sides, while the adults-only Serenity deck beckons with wide, comfy loungers and hammocks.
A Caribbean theme pervades Carnival Breeze, from the cabins' color schemes to the palm trees and island motifs. At the lively RedFrog Pub, guests quaff Carnival's own brew, ThirstyFrog Red, and snack on West Indies-inspired bites. For heartier fare, they can bond over pasta at the lively, family-style Cucina del Capitano -- which honors the dishes that Carnival's Italian captains grew up on -- or tuck into lobster tails and filet mignon in the classic American steak house.
Expect bigger and better things on the 3,052-passenger Celebrity Reflection, which will roam the Mediterranean on its inaugural tour, set for Oct. 12. On the new vessel, Celebrity Cruises will roll out the line's first AquaClass Suites, which will share the same amenities as the smaller AquaClass cabins on previous Solstice-class ships. The 34 AquaClass Suites will have interiors of 300 square feet and roomy 79-square-foot verandas. An additional deck was added to accommodate 72 new staterooms that include the AquaClass Suites, eight Sky Suites and 19 Concierge Class cabins.
The grass-covered Lawn Club on the top level hosts The Art Studio, which schedules lessons in painting, sketching and other media, and the interactive Lawn Club Grill, outfitted with stainless-steel grills and ovens. During the day, interactive cooking demonstrations and pizza-making classes will be available, but your real chance to shine comes at dinner, when you can volunteer to be the grill master for your table and help cook the evening's meal (under the guidance of a Celebrity chef, of course).
The information in this story was accurate at the time it was published in January/February 2012. Please visit Vacations To Go or call (800) 338-4962 for current rates and details.