BOB'S cruises & tours's Blog

8 New Ocean Cruise Ships to Add to Your 2020 Travel Bucket List
Have you booked a cruise in 2020? Cruise travel continues its meteoric rise as one of the fastest-growing and most popular ways to travel. No matter your travel style – from luxury, to adventure, to remote exploration or polar escape, to romantic retreat, to tropical or cool climate family vacation – there’s a perfect cruise match out there for you.
 
New, innovative cruise ships this year, some even the first of their kind, make booking your next (or first!) cruise even more irresistible. Here are some of the new ships you’ll want to be the first to try.

By: Lynn Elmhirst, BestTrip TV producer/host and cruise expert

 


Regent Seven Seas Splendor

 
Regent’s Seven Seas Explorer has been called the most luxurious ship ever built – and now, its sister ship may top those high praises! Launching in February 2020, the Splendor is the second ship in Regent’s ‘Explore Class’ of ships. And like the Explorer, the Splendor’s luxury is expressed in lavish style.
 
Regent calls the 750-guest, all-suite, all-balcony ship a ‘work of art’, in both public and private spaces, with more than an acre in total of Italian marble, 500 crystal chandeliers, a multi-million dollar art collection, and among the largest balconies at sea. The ship’s Observation Lounge strikes a new design chord inspired by an English Garden, with a chandelier made of hand-painted porcelain English flowers.
 
Returning Regent guests will enjoy the new iterations of favorite, included restaurants like Compass Rose, Pacific Rim, Chartreuse and Prime 7. Italian restaurant Sette Mari at La Veranda debuts over-water alcove seating that extends over the ocean and cultivates a connection to the sea (pictured above).
 
A new gourmet Culinary Arts Kitchen and a first-of-its-kind globally inspired spa for Regent featuring treatments and techniques from across cultures also make their debuts on this highly-anticipated Regent ship (also pictured top).

 

Celebrity Apex

 
Celebrity Cruises made a splash when it launched the Edge – a ship easy to spot in any port of the world with its bright orange, first-ever cantilevered venue at sea – the ‘Magic Carpet’ - appearing to cling to the side of the ship as it travels up and down to different floors, operating as a lounge or dining venue or even a tender launch area at sea level. The Edge gets a sister ship in 2020, and the 3000-guest Apex will be equally eye-catching.

In addition to the Edge’s trademark ‘Magic Carpet’ re-appearing on the Apex, other Edge features like ‘Infinite Veranda’ staterooms, nearly 30 dining venues, outdoor plunge pools and a luxurious, exclusive ‘Retreat’ lounge, restaurant and outdoor space for suite guests are also planned for the Apex.
 
This second ship in Celebrity Cruises’ Edge series is set to launch in early spring from Southampton, England. It joins 5 other Celebrity ships sailing in Europe throughout the summer – making 2020 the cruise line’s most extensive European season to date.

 

Scarlet Lady

 
The cruise and travel world is waiting with baited breath to experience the first ship of a brand new cruise line. Expectations are high, since Virgin Voyages is the latest endeavor of the famously flamboyant, party-CEO Sir Richard Branson, who changed how we look at airline – and even space – travel.
 
The Scarlet Lady debuts in April 2020 in Miami, launching a cruise line that calls itself ‘rebel luxe’ and says it aims to disrupt cruising with cheeky, youthful marketing and experiences. With less than 2800 guests – Virgin Voyages calls them ‘sailors’ – the Scarlet Lady sails on shorter, long-weekend-type itineraries that include a late-night call at the cruise line’s new private beach resort in Bimini, the Bahamas, an Ibiza-style/ music festival inspired experience with DJ’s and bonfires on the beach.
 
On board, over 20 included restaurants, champagne on demand at the push of a button, the first tattoo studio at sea, and tables in suites designed to dance on, support the ‘detox/retox’ lifestyle Branson has made famous.


Silver Origin

 
They’re calling it ‘the most elegant ship ever to sail the Galapagos’. In June 2020, ultra-luxury Silversea launches its first destination-specific ship, one that delivers its signature cruising experience within one of the most awe-inspiring regions of the world. It also marks the most environmentally conscious ship the cruise line has ever built, mindful of the unique and uniquely-sensitive Galapagos islands.
 
Already an expert in small-ship, deluxe expedition cruise travel, Silversea takes its understated Italian, all-inclusive luxury to another level on the Silver Origin with all-suite accommodations with ‘Horizon Balconies’, its signature butler service for all, 2 restaurants including local Ecuadorian cuisine, and state of the art technology as well as the simple, primal warmth and social interaction of a fire pit in the Explorer Lounge at the end of a thrilling day ashore.  
 
Guests on the Silver Origin enjoy deeply experiential exploration of the Galapagos with a team of Ecuadorian national expert guides, an interactive ‘basecamp’, 8 Zodiacs, and seamless transition from the ship to the wonders of the Galapagos Islands.



Crystal Endeavor

 
Crystal Cruises is known for pioneering ultra-luxury cruising. From its two ocean vessels, Crystal expanded its style of luxury travel to river cruising and air cruises, and this year Crystal is expanding again with its first expedition cruise ship. Complete with an aft marina, two helicopters and a submarine, the Crystal Endeavor allows for the ultimate exploration of remote destinations. 
 
Crystal’s newest ship is a polar-class vessel with the highest level of ice hull in passenger ships. So it’s designed to take its 200 guests in supreme luxury to explore any of the seven seas, including Antarctica. Expedition cruises focus on biodiversity, active adventures, natural and cultural heritage and wildlife viewing, with opportunities for hiking, biking, kayaking, snorkeling, diving, helicopter, sub, and Zodiac tours.
 
All 100 suites have balconies, butler service, and, in a first, king-sized beds. A 2-story solarium, along with expedition-specific touches like heated storage and floors, and designed ‘mud rooms’ and helicopter lounge provide the ultimate comfort even in cold climates. Plus 6 restaurants including Michelin-inspired dining by Master Chef Nobu’s Japanese fusion restaurants.

 


Enchanted Princess

 
June 2020 sees the launch of Princess Cruises’ 5th Royal-class ship. Just in time for a summer in the Mediterranean, followed by winters in the Caribbean, Princess’ latest ship hosts nearly 3600 passengers with all of the cruise line’s latest innovations and amenities, including all of its ‘Medallion’ wearable digital device conveniences as well as the multi-story atrium Piazza, glass ‘SeaWalk’ and 80% balcony staterooms.
 
The Enchanted Princess also boasts some unique features, including a new suite category called Sky Suites with Princess’ largest private balconies, located at the top of the ship and giving their guests a view of the ship’s ‘Movies Under the Stars’ from their suites. 
 
In addition, the new ship has a new concept Sanctuary, with more private cabana capacity, and a Wakeview pool at the aft of the ship.


MSC Virtuosa


Late 2020 will see the launch of MSC Cruises’ second Meraviglia-Plus class of ships. The sister to the MSC Grandiosa, 2020’s MSC Virtuosa also features a 2-story, Mediterranean-style promenade where the ship’s 6300 guests can stroll into shops and restaurants or gaze upward at its 300+ feet of digital lightshow above.
 
The cruise line has an exclusive partnership with Cirque du Soleil, who will debut two new original shows on the ship. And guests can manage their cruise with the help of what MSC is calling the ‘world’s first virtual personal cruise assistant’. 
 
With the line’s ‘small luxury ship within a ship’ MSC Yacht Club, and the first contemporary fine art museum at sea, as well as connected family suites, waterpark, indoor amusement park and Formula 1 simulator, guests of all tastes and group sizes can find the space that’s right for their vacation. Upon launching, MSC Virtuosa sails Western Mediterranean itineraries.

 

Odyssey of the Seas

 
Another mega-ship sets sail in 2020. It’s the 27th ship for Royal Caribbean, and the second of its Quantum Ultra-Class ships. Famous for its mega-sized ships, this Royal Caribbean ship is home to just over 4000 passengers.
 
The Odyssey of the Seas is the first of its class to sail from North America, beginning late 2020 from Fort Lauderdale, and summer of 2021 from Rome in the Med.
 
Guests will find similar features to its sister ship Spectrum of the Seas, like a range of dining options, a top deck of activities including ship-sized surfing and skydiving simulators, a bungee trampoline, 40-foot climbing wall and ‘North Star’ ride in a pod extended above and over the side of the ship, a 2-level pool deck, and what Royal Caribbean is calling a ‘re-imagined’ SeaPlex with virtual and augmented reality playspace.
 
Whatever your cruise / travel style, don’t miss the chance to sail on a sparkling new cruise ship this year!
 

Start your Trip!

 
Ship photos courtesy of their respective cruise lines.

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3 New Cruise Line Private Islands
It used to be that private islands were the playgrounds of the ridiculously rich and fabulously famous. Then cruise lines got into the game. Now, cruise lines are competing with each other to build exclusive tropical enclaves in the Caribbean for their guests to experience not just a day on the beach, but create travel memories they can't get anywhere else.

Most of the actual private cruise line islands are small, uninhabited islands ('cays', pronounced 'keys') among the hundreds of islands in the Bahamas, like the very first cruise line private island in the Caribbean, Norwegian's Great Stirrup Cay, Holland America's Half Moon Cay (WATCH VIDEO OF HALF MOON CAY HERE), and Disney's Castaway Cay.



Harvest Caye is a private island off coast of Belize. It's for guests of sister cruise lines Norwegian, Oceania and Regent.


But the term 'private islands' has also expanded to include private cruise line day resorts developed on larger, inhabited islands, like Labadee on Haiti for guests of Royal Caribbean, and Princess Cay on Eleuthera in the Bahamas.

And cruise lines continue to acquire real estate to up the ante on the ultimate resort experience for a day ashore on the beach.

Whether you've never stepped foot on a cruise line private island, or you've got a favorite you cruise to over and over again… check out these new private island destinations you can only reach by cruise ship.

They're all in the Bahamas, but designed by three very different cruise lines, and offer three very different private island experiences. Find your cruise line private island match!


 
The Cruise Line: Virgin Voyages
The Destination: The Beach Club at Bimini, the Bahamas
The Experience: High-Style Island Beach Club/ Music Festival on the Beach

As Sir Richard Branson launches his new, adults-only cruise line, Virgin Voyages, and its first flagship, the Scarlet Lady, he also launches a private island destination just for Virgin Voyages guests.


No, not HIS private island. But The Beach Club on the Bahamian island of Bimini takes its cues from Sir Richard's famously high-living, party-loving, music industry persona. Along with exquisite beach and turquoise water, The Beach Club provides an atmosphere like beach party destinations Ibiza and St. Tropez.


A detox/retox formula starts with beach yoga and meditation to the sounds of the sea earlier in the day, chilling in hammock groves and cabanas, snacking on complimentary, locally-sourced island cuisine and sipping cocktails from 6 bars, playing on the beach and taking part in watersports, leading up to in-demand DJ-led pool and flotilla parties in the evening, and finally winding down late at night with a beach bonfire and acoustic music before a very late night ship departure.

The Cruise Line: MSC Cruises
The Destination: Ocean Cay Marine Reserve, the Bahamas
The Experience: Soft Adventure Meets Nature on the Beach


Only 65 miles off Miami, MSC will also be able to offer late night departures from its new private island (pictured, top).

7 beaches, each with its own atmosphere and experiences, ranging from shallow paddling for small children to water sports. Dining includes food trucks that incorporate local flavors, and multiple bars including one inspired by Hemmingway's famous taste for rum cocktails overlooking the ocean. MSC's Aurea Spa treatments are available on shore at Ocean Cay. And shopping includes vendors of local arts and crafts as well as branded items.


In addition to the usual beach-side water sports, Ocean Cay offers eco-friendly soft adventure experiences like kayak tours and snorkel safaris highlighting the natural beauty of the island and its seas.

Ocean Cay is surrounded by dozens of square miles of protected seas, and that's the point. The development protects the local wildlife and ecosystem, and there are plans for a coral nursery to actively contribute to the region's environment.
 
The Cruise Line: Royal Caribbean
The Destination: Cococay, the Bahamas
The Experience: 'The Perfect Day at CocoCay' / Over-the-top Theme Park on a Beach

Royal Caribbean ships are whirlwind experiences of ice skating rinks, climbing walls, theme park type rides, restaurants and shopping… more than you could hope to ever do in a single week of cruising. Its new concept, 'Perfect Day', is a collection of private islands around the world that take 'thrill and chill' to a new level, beginning in the Bahamas with 'The Perfect Day at CocoCay'.


Perfect Day at CocoCay is a shopping list of record-breaking builds, adrenaline-charged activities, and unexpected firsts: The tallest waterslide in North America. The largest wave pool in the Caribbean. The first overwater cabanas in the Bahamas. The Up, Up and Away helium balloon ride that takes you 450 feet up to the highest viewpoint in the Bahamas. A soaking by 30 water cannons on a shipwrecked galleon, and an 82-foot geyser. A 1,600-foot zip line – ending with the only splash water landing in the region. A freshwater infinity edge pool and bar, spanning a whopping 2,600-plus feet. And a whole host of other dining, drinking, and shopping activities to pack a full day even fuller.




Royal Caribbean believes Perfect Day at CocoCay will live up to its name – and set the scene for more Perfect Day Island Collection destinations in the Caribbean as well as Asia and Australia.
 
These 3 wildly diverse new cruise line private islands prove: there's a perfect new cruise – and a new cruise line private island - just waiting for you to discover.

Start your Trip!


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Think of it as the digital generation's version of flair bar tending.

The bartender gives you a great show making your drink. But instead of bartenders flipping and juggling glasses and bottles, in Royal Caribbean Cruise Line's 'Bionic Bars', you are entertained by two robotic arms making the cocktails. The Bionic Bar debuted on Quantum of the Seas, and now, four Royal Caribbean ships: Harmony of the Seas, Quantum of the Seas, Anthem of the Seas, and Ovation of the Seas, all give you the opportunity to sidle up to a Bionic Bar.

It's not quite as impersonal as you think. Although you do place your order on a tablet, each robot bartender has a name - and they have different names on each ship. A bonus? If you are in the habit of pouring out your secrets to the bartender, you know these robots won't tell a soul.

Start your Trip!

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Cruise to Cuba? Yes You Can!

10 ways you can cruise to Cuba this year.

One of the biggest travel stories of the past year has to be the renewing of relations between Cuba and the US and the rise of Cuba as a destination for American travelers. Cuba has long been a favorite sun and culture destination for Canadians and Europeans. Only US citizens were prevented from traveling to the Caribbean's largest island.

Now American cruise ships are permitted to sail to Cuba, and late in 2016, Cuba approved a number of US cruise lines' applications to make port calls.  A few international cruise lines could always go, and they have increased sailings and itineraries.  So cruising to Cuba is one of the biggest travel stories this year.

Canadians and Europeans now have a lot more choices to cruise to Cuba, and Americans now have that cruise option, although they still need a visa. US cruise lines now sailing to Cuba generally facilitate a 'people-to-people' visa for American guests.

BestTrip.TV's cruise expert Lynn Elmhirst rounds up 10 ways you can cruise to Cuba this year.

From single days in port in Havana, to a week or more exploring the island, cruises to Cuba allow you to get a taste or immerse yourself in Cuba's culture, history, and natural wonders.

ALL-CUBA CRUISES

Celestyal Crystal

This Greek line claims to offer the only true circumnavigation of Cuba on 7-day, all-inclusive cruises departing every Monday from Havana, and every Friday from Montego Bay, Jamaica.  

Formerly known as Cuba Cruise, this cruise began sailing 3 years ago, and now sails year-round in Cuba on a 1200 passenger ship that was renovated in 2016. They offer the p2p program visa for American citizens.

Itineraries include two days in Havana and various calls including Maria La Gorda, known for its impeccable beachfront and underwater marine life, the perfect destination for scuba divers, snorkeling enthusiasts and beach lovers, Punta Frances on the Isle of Youth, Cienfuegos, an 18th-century fortress, and historic Santiago de Cuba, 16th century capital of the Spanish colony of Cuba.

Ports and shore excursions provide city tours, history, adventure, cultural walking tours, hiking, beach days and snorkeling to passengers of all ages and tastes.  This cruise is family-friendly, with a supervised children's program for 4-12 year olds.

National Geographic - Lindblad Expeditions

Lindblad Expedition cruises' partnership with National Geographic means these cruises are for travelers serious about in-depth expertise: photographers, naturalists and cultural specialists join guests on the 11-day trips. These land and sea tours are an extension of Nat Geo's existing land tour programs, and they fulfill the p2p visa requirements for Americans.

Trips begin with a flight from Miami, and include several days in Havana, as well as stops in Trinidad, Cienfuegos, the historic Bay of Pigs, Isle of Youth, and Cayo Largo.

Fewer than 50 guests are on board the Panorama II, a small expedition ship, as it makes ports of call that highlight Cuba's marine and natural wonders and culture, highlighting music, history, and interacting with locals like artists, mechanics who inventively keep those classic US cars running, members of Cuba's renowned medical community, and naturalists protecting endangered species.

Natural highlights include searching for the smallest bird in the world, the bee hummingbird, a visit to a sea turtle breeding center, diving, and lots of wildlife and scenic photography.

G Adventures

Canadian tour operator G Adventures provides a less intense/ serious, and more youthful and affordable version of a Cuba expedition cruise on its 8-day 'marine tour' of Cuba's Canarreos archipelago in a catamaran with only 14 people on the tour. This cruise option is one of several types of trips to Cuba the company offers.  Americans are welcome, but need to arrange their own visas.

Cruises start and finish in Havana, and spend 5 low-key, soft-adventure days exploring off-the-beaten-path islands and island communities, with relaxed days of snorkeling, kayaking, sailing, easy exploring, visiting lighthouses, enjoying seafood dinners, and lazing on deck or on the beach. 

Pearl Mist

Pearl Seas Cruises (a sister company to American Cruise Lines), offers 10-night 'Cuban Cultural Voyages' that fulfill the American p2p visa requirements.  On the 200-passenger Pearl Mist, guests enjoy luxury elements including all private balconies on its 100 staterooms and high-end culinary offerings, but the company also makes sure to point out that there is elevator access to all decks and on board medical for its senior guests. 

These cruises run January through April, 2017, and start up again in November.  There's a packed program of stops on the island beginning with 2 days in Havana, and other ports include Isla de la Juventud, Cienfuegos, Trinidad, El Cobre, Santiago de Cuba and Parque Baconao.

Guests engage first hand with local tradespeople, artists, musicians and historians at museums, national parks, art studios, architecturally significant homes and UNESCO World Heritage sites.

Photos courtesy MSC Cruises

CRUISES THAT OVERNIGHT IN HAVANA

MSC Opera and MSC Armonia

MSC Cruises, a European company, was one of the first major cruise lines to feature Cuba in its itineraries for its European and Canadian guests. The cruises have been so popular, MSC has homeported 2, 2000-passenger ships, the Armonia and the Opera, in Havana.

Guests spend about 2 days in Havana on MSC itineraries. MSC does not design its Cuba itineraries to meet American citizens' requirements for p2p visas, so guests have more flexible options that include not only historic and cultural attractions, but also beach days in Cuba as part of cruises that also include other Caribbean destinations.

Azamara Quest

Royal Caribbean's smaller-ship, sister brand Azamara has just one Cuba port of call this season: it's added an overnight in Havana to one 12- night Caribbean cruise on the Azamara Quest departing March 21st from Miami with stops in Key West, Tampa, New Orleans, and Cozumel, Mexico as well as Havana.

The cruise line says it's planning to introduce more dates and more Cuban ports, but it already offers an impressive line up of 6 of its signature 'Land Discoveries' immersive destination programs, including Hemingway's Havana and Havana by Classic American Car.   The programs fulfill visa requirements for Americans, so this cruise is a destination-focused opportunity for the Azamara Quest's 700 guests to get a taste of Cuba.

Seven Seas Mariner

Regent Seven Seas Cruises is the only North American classic luxury cruise line to sail to Cuba – yet. 

It has added Havana to two Caribbean cruises aboard the 700-guest Seven Seas Mariner on April 11th and 18th.   The itineraries are identical, with an overnight in Havana as part of week-long cruises that also call on Harvest Cay, parent-company Norwegian Cruise Holding's upscale resort destination in Belize.

Regent Seven Seas cruises are all-inclusive, with fares that include airfare, unlimited shore excursions, alcoholic beverages, WiFi, gratuities and more.  Its Cuba tours fulfill US p2p visa requirements and provide guests with authentic Cuban experiences that explore the people, music, art, history and culture of the island.

Norwegian Sky

Norwegian Sky, with 2000 guests, is the largest US vessel sailing to Cuba in 2017.  NCL has scheduled 5, 4-day roundtrip cruises from Miami to Cuba on May 8, 15, 22 and 29th. 

The cruises overnight in Havana, and also spend a day at Norwegian's private island resort in the Bahamas, Great Stirrup Cay. Norwegian Sky's cruises to Cuba, like some of its others in the Caribbean, include an open bar, so overall, these short cruises will have mostly a party atmosphere.

However, guests will be able to go ashore to visit sites in Cuba's capital, including the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Old Havana, and experience the local art and music scene; engaging with local artists (and fulfilling US p2p visa requirements).

CRUISES WITH ONE PORT DAY IN HAVANA

Marina

Oceania's Marina is the first of the Norwegian family of cruise lines to sail to Cuba. The 1250-guest, upscale ship begins one day or overnight calls in Havana in March, with programming that meets visa requirements for Americans.  These 10 day or two week Caribbean cruises depart from Miami in multiple itineraries that also include NCL's new private island resort Harvest Caye in Belize.

Empress of the Seas

Royal Caribbean recently updated and renovated the 1600-guest Empress of the Seas for its Cuba itineraries. Beginning in April, 4, 5, and 7-night cruises depart from both Miami and Tampa on Western Caribbean itineraries with one day in port in Havana.  Royal Caribbean's Cuba shore programming allows Americans to meet visa requirements while enjoying Royal Caribbean ship experiences like rock climbing, multiple pools, restaurants, nightlife, and even the Cuban-inspired dance club Bolero.

Cuba is a brand-new destination for Americans, and cruising to Cuba is novel even for Canadians.  A travel advisor can help you choose the right ship and itinerary, and navigate the details to ensure your cruise to one of the world's newest cruise destinations is all you dreamed.

 

Start your Trip!

 

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