After no shortage of bad press during the pandemic, the global cruise industry has been on a steady rebound, with 2023 shaping up to be a banner year. Along with strong pent-up demand, a host of ships — years in the planning — are setting sail for the first time and ushering in a brave new era of holidays on the high seas.
Just this week sees screen icon Sophia Loren christen the latest addition to the MSC Cruises fleet, with the traditional bow-wetting of the MSC Euribia taking place in Copenhagen.
Part of the line’s Meraviglia Plus class of mega-ships, MSC Euribia — named for the Greek goddess who harnessed the winds, weather and stars to master the seas — can host up to 6,334 passengers in cabins ranging from budget-friendly interior cabins to plush suites with expansive terraces boasting private jacuzzis.
As we’ve come to expect from the launch of new mega-ships, it’s a storm of superlatives. MSC Euribia features the world’s largest shopping precinct at sea, while the 700m2 children’s entertainment area will include the new MSC Foundation Lab offering environmental learning opportunities at sea. On board you’ll find a 945-seat theatre, 21 bars, 10 restaurants, five pools and the Ocean Cay AquaPark — one of the most elaborate water parks at sea, there are no less than three water slides perched high above the ocean.
Entertainment aside, MSC Euribia is also a bellwether for the industry’s commitment to more sustainable cruising. The ship will be the second large ship in the MSC fleet to be powered by liquid natural gas (LNG), a cleaner alternative to traditional fuels. Look out for MSC Euribia sailing a range of itineraries in Northern Europe this summer.
Another new ship sailing its inaugural voyages in Europe from August onwards is the Norwegian Viva, the second in Norwegian Cruise Line’s impressive new Prima class of vessels.
Norwegian Viva is more my kind of ship; comfortably mid-sized and hosting just 3,100 passengers across 1,646 staterooms. Again you can look forward to an array of choices here, but it’s well worth the extra spend to secure a Balcony stateroom that offers your own private haven of sea views.
But Viva also delivers no end of entertainment to tempt you from your cabin. The Prima class of ships boasts the world’s first triple-decker go-kart track at sea, and the twisting turning 420m track promises enormous amounts of fun. There’s a waterslide on board too, as well as The Drop and The Rush; 10-deck dry-slides that corkscrew down the side of the ship. Up in the bow, the Galaxy Pavilion is packed with virtual reality (VR) gaming, while after dark the 750-seat theatre will play host to the first-ever performance at sea of the Tony Award-nominated Beetlejuice The Musical.
Cuisine is becoming a key point of difference for global cruise lines, and Norwegian is no different. Alongside new speciality dining destinations — which come at extra cost — the highlight on Viva is the Indulge Food Hall. Included in the standard cruise fare, Indulge brings a collection of global kitchens into a single space, with iPad ordering allowing diners to have a world of cuisines delivered to their table. Look for Viva in the Mediterranean until late-2023, when she’ll switch to Caribbean itineraries for the northern hemisphere winter.
Also in the Med this summer is the latest addition to the Virgin Voyages fleet.
Sailing out of Piraeus since May, Resilient Lady is the third ship in the line — after Scarlet and Valiant — and delivers just the sort of cruise experience you’d expect from an out-the-box entrepreneur like Richard Branson.
As on her sister-ships, the majority of Resilient Lady’s 1,408 cabins offer sea views, and almost all have balconies strung with hammocks. A nice touch. Feeling flush? Book one of the Mega RockStar suites that come complete with retro décor, vinyl turntables and electric guitars. Your neighbours will be thrilled. A clever touch across all cabins are the space-saving “seabeds” that transform into daytime couches.
Resilient Lady will also offer the same cruising style that’s made Virgin Voyages a runaway success since launching in 2021. Crucial to that, for many “Sailors” — as passengers are called — is the adults-only policy on board. That means no boisterous children in the pool or at the buffet.
Virgin Voyages also ups the inclusions with every fare. Speciality dining restaurants are not charged for, Wi-Fi is free for all and a (very) basic drinks package comes standard. There’s also a welcome focus on creating more, smaller dining experiences. Ditching the enormous main dining room or crowded buffet, Resilient Lady offers more than 20 stand-alone restaurants, offering everything from poke bowls and steakhouses to Korean BBQ.
“Virgin Voyages delivers an amazing experience and has been recognised by hundreds of thousands of happy Sailors,” said Branson at the launch of Resilient Lady. “We have shown the world all that we have to offer when it comes to having the holiday of your dreams.”