Thursday, 24 December 2009

Great choice for 2010

We're accustomed to a wonderful variety of new ships to look forward to each year, but 2010 promises to deliver an absolutely bumper crop of newbuilds, as much for their variety as anything else.

From the 150,000-ton Norwegian Epic (above, with its Aqua Park) and the 220,000-ton Allure of the Seas (sister to the recent Oasis), to the boutique little Independence of American Cruise Lines (3,000 tons) and the chic Le Boreal of Compagnie du Ponant (10,600 tons), this is a line-up that truly offers something for everyone.

The year starts with the latest vessel for Costa Cruises, the Costa Deliziosa, a sister to the Luminosa and the second in this intermediate class of ship for the Italian-based line. MSC Cruises then add the MSC Magnifica, the fourth in their Musica-class vessel, and their 10th ship in all. Quite an upgrade on their traditional, three-ship fleet of just nine years ago!

Celebrity follow up with Celebrity Eclipse in April, the third in their growing and impressive Solstice-class, and, in the same month, P&O Cruises add their biggest ship to date, the 116,000-ton Azura.

May should be a big month for small-ship lovers, with the arrival of the Independence to boost their unique style of American river and coastal cruising. This will be the third vessel of this style and it is obviously proving a big successful with those who enjoy their cruising small-scale.

Le Boreal is the other attractive smaller option, with a truly sumptuous new look for this chic French line. Well worth considering in 2010.

The pace doesn't slow down in June, though, as we welcome the huge Epic of NCL (their biggest-ever ship) and the Seabourn Sojourn of the Yachts of Seabourn, who made a huge splash (ho, ho!) in 2009 with their Odyssey, a ship hailed as a real 'game-changer' in the deluxe end of the cruise market.

Holland America join the newbuild party in July with their Nieuw Amsterdam, an old name for their latest and possibly their smartest (and the fourth ship actually to bear that name) to date. A sister to the Eurodam, this will be the 81st vessel to enter HAL service. Quite a run!

The autumn sees the arrival of Allure of the Seas, and the second of the mind-boggling Project Genesis series of Royal Caribbean. Our World of Cruising magazine hailed Oasis as 'the world's first space ship' recently, as a tribute to both the space-age look and huge amount of space involved in this vessel, and Allure should provide more of the same. Or, as I said last month - It's a cruise ship, Jim, but not as we know it!

One ship which I will be eagerly awaiting is the new Marina of Oceania Cruises in October, with this smart, upmarket line promising to deliver a mid-range ship full of innovation and style and providing a real challenge to the ultra-deluxe lines but with a slightly lower price tag. Definitely one to watch.

Finally, venerable Cunard will debut their latest offering the new Queen Elizabeth toward the end of the year, a 92,000-ton vessel that will maintain the line's great tradition but build on the modern styling that the Queen Victoria showed us last year, or 'the gracious new Cunarder,' as they like to say.

So, if that little lot isn't enough to get everyone excited about the possibilities for cruising in 2010, I don't know what will.

Merry Christmas everyone, and a happy Cruise New Year!