BUOY, OH BUOY

Even diehard land­lub­bers and Mil­len­ni­als are get­ting ex­cited about the depth of choice

The Sunday Telegraph (Sydney) - Escape - - BEST OF CRUISING - AN­DREA BLACK

It’s a well-known fact: the cruise in­dus­try is buoy­ant, and grow­ing by the day. And with this pop­u­lar­ity comes new in­no­va­tions, ex­pe­ri­ences, des­ti­na­tions, cui­sine of­fer­ings and sparkling new ships. It’s a safe bet that in 2018 there will be a cruise that caters to ev­ery taste, even for those that con­sider them­selves land­lub­bers. We’ve un­cov­ered what’s new and in­trigu­ing in the world of cruis­ing for 2018.

NEW BREEDS OF CRUIS­ERS

It’s true, cruis­ers are be­gin­ning to skew younger. Royal Caribbean is see­ing an av­er­age 50 per cent year-on-year growth in Mil­len­nial sailors (aged 20-35 years) within the lo­cal mar­ket.

And with more ac­tiv­i­ties geared to­wards them, it’s no sur­prise.

“This trend will con­tinue into 2018 as they fo­cus more on ex­pe­ri­ences, rather than ac­quir­ing pos­ses­sions,” says Hoot Cruises gen­eral man­ager Jeff Leckey.

“To cater for this trend, the ma­jor cruise lines are pro­vid­ing more au­then­tic ex­pe­ri­ences on their shore ex­cur­sions, more ac­tiv­i­ties on board and bet­ter con­nec­tiv­ity while at sea.”

A ris­ing de­mo­graphic that Car­ni­val has no­ticed is “hon­ey­boomers”. They’ve seen an 80 per cent in­crease in cou­ples with older chil­dren sail­ing with­out their chil­dren to ex­pe­ri­ence new ad­ven­tures.

“Dubbed the ‘hon­ey­boomer’ trend, par­ents are em­brac­ing their alone time like never be­fore to keep the love alive,” says Sandy Olsen, vi­cepres­i­dent cor­po­rate af­fairs for Car­ni­val Aus­tralia.

NEW TECH­NOL­OGY

Of course, con­nec­tiv­ity on the high seas con­tin­ues to be of ut­most im­por­tance with cruis­ers want­ing to know in ad­vance what on-board in­ter­net pack­ages cost and what the speeds and op­tions are.

“The newer tech-savvy ships, such as Ova­tion of the Seas and Ma­jes­tic Princess, have been built from the ground up with these fa­cil­i­ties in mind,” Jeff Leckey says.

Cruise lines such as Sil­versea are even of­fer­ing free Wi-Fi for ev­ery guest through­out their ships.

In other big tech­nol­ogy news, Princess Cruises’ new wear­able de­vice, the Ocean Medal­lion, which en­ables per­son­al­i­sa­tion and de­liv­ers an en­hanced guest ex­pe­ri­ence will be in­tro­duced into Aus­tralia come Novem­ber 2018, on­board Golden Princess.

Mean­while, on the new Sym­phony of the Seas, Royal Caribbean will in­tro­duce a “fric­tion­less” check-in via a new mo­bile app where pas­sen­gers will be able to use their smart­phone to make em­bark­ing quicker so they can be­gin their cruis­ing hol­i­day.

NEW AC­TIV­I­TIES FOR THRILL SEEK­ERS

Set to be the big­gest ship at sea, the 5500-guest Sym­phony of the Seas, sail­ing from April 2018, will fea­ture a plethora of new ac­tiv­i­ties on-board. Ex­pect thrills while plum­met­ing down the tallest slide at sea, named the Ul­ti­mate Abyss.

There’s also the world’s largest laser tag arena where guests can gear up for an epic glow-in-the-dark bat­tle.

Mean­while, ac­cord­ing to Ni­cole Costantin, Nor­we­gian Cruise Line vice-pres­i­dent, sales, the new 4000guest Nor­we­gian Bliss will fea­ture an open-air race­track that lets rid­ers travel at up to 50km/h on elec­tric ve­hi­cles on nearly 300 me­tres of track.

“It isn’t the first time a Nor­we­gian Cruise Line ship has added a go-kart track to its ameni­ties, but the one on board the new Nor­we­gian Bliss will be the big­gest,” she says.

It will also have a wa­ter slide that sends rid­ers out over the ocean.

FINE DIN­ING AND IM­BIB­ING

Ex­pect more op­por­tu­ni­ties for ex­cep­tional din­ing at sea with the new Ma­jes­tic Princess of­fer­ing Miche­lin-star restau­rants.

“Ma­jes­tic Princess will fea­ture 13 din­ing op­tions in­clud­ing two restau­rants with menus de­signed by Miche­lin-star chefs – Har­mony by chef Richard Chen and La Mer by chef Em­manuel Re­naut,” Car­ni­val Aus­tralia’s Sandy Olsen says.

And this year’s in­tro­duc­tion of a small bar on-board P&O Pa­cific Ex­plorer has been a huge suc­cess.

“The small and hid­den bar scene is in­cred­i­bly pop­u­lar on land and P&O has taken the con­cept to sea with The Bonded Store which fea­tures stylish decor in an in­ti­mate set­ting, as well as fan­tas­tic Archie Rose cock­tails,” says Olsen, be­fore hint­ing that there may be more of these in­no­va­tions to come in 2018.

EX­PECT THRILLS WHILE PLUM­MET­ING DOWN THE TALLEST SLIDE AT SEA, NAMED THE UL­TI­MATE ABYSS

THINK SUITES WITH PRI­VATE PLUNGE POOLS, GREY WASH WOOD FIN­ISHES, EAMES LOUNGE CHAIRS, AND VEL­VET SOFT FUR­NISH­INGS

“We re­main com­mit­ted to mak­ing sure our lo­cally based fleet is fit-for-pur­pose and is at the cut­ting edge of rev­o­lu­tion­is­ing the cruise ex­pe­ri­ence for Aus­tralian guests,” she says.

The gi­ant Sym­phony of the Seas will fea­ture new food of­fer­ings in­clud­ing Sugar Beach candy and ice-cream shop, com­plete with colour­ful lolly-packed walls.

There will also be Hooked, Royal Caribbean’s first New Eng­land-style seafood restau­rant and El Loco Fresh of­fer­ing Mex­i­can fare.

NEW DES­TI­NA­TIONS

With the pop­u­lar­ity of cruis­ing, comes more de­mand for va­ri­ety.

Next year will see a huge range of new des­ti­na­tions on itin­er­ar­ies, rang­ing from the “re­motest in­hab­ited is­land in the world”– Tris­tan da Cunha, be­tween South Amer­ica and Africa – to a new ter­mi­nal open­ing up north of Syd­ney in New­cas­tle.

A high­light of APT’s cruise sched­ule for 2018 is a visit to the is­land of Elba in the Tyrrhe­nian Sea’s Tus­can Ar­chi­pel­ago Na­tional Park as part of their Moors to Rome ex­pe­di­tion cruise.

For 2018, Sil­versea will visit more of the hard-to-get-to, lesser-known places for cruise ships.

“Des­ti­na­tions like our own Kan­ga­roo Is­land in Aus­tralia, which is a hit with in­ter­na­tional guests and lo­cals alike, thanks to a plethora of wildlife and nat­u­ral beauty,” says Am­ber Wil­son, man­ag­ing di­rec­tor, Asia Pa­cific, Sil­versea.

Vik­ing Cruises’ new Vik­ing Ra will sail on a new Egypt itin­er­ary, Pharaohs & Pyra­mids from March 2018.

“With her in­tro­duc­tion, we will be one of the only West­ern com­pa­nies to own and op­er­ate a ship on the Nile,” says Michelle Black, man­ag­ing di­rec­tor of Vik­ing Cruises Aus­tralia and New Zealand.

Scenic will be ex­plor­ing des­ti­na­tions that have pre­vi­ously only been ac­ces­si­ble to the more in­trepid trav­eller, such as Cuba and the South Ge­or­gia Is­lands.

“Both will be fea­tured in our in­au­gu­ral sea­son of cruises aboard Scenic Eclipse,” says Scenic na­tional mar­ket­ing man­ager Liz Glover.

EX­TRA STYLE AND COM­FORT

Rais­ing the bar in mod­ern cruis­ing, Celebrity Cruises will be launch­ing their new Edge class in De­cem­ber 2018 with the 2918-guest ship,

Celebrity Edge. Guests can ex­pect revo­lu­tion­ary ad­vance­ments in­clud­ing an “in­fi­nite veranda” in the 918 Edge State­rooms.

The floor-to-ceil­ing win­dow can re­tract to cre­ate a glass rail­ing to­gether with fold­ing french doors if a bal­cony is de­sired. Not only will the vista be big­ger, there will now be more space in the state­rooms.

Get ready for gi­ant bath­rooms and more stor­age. Also ex­pect ul­tra mod­ern de­sign by renowned Lon­don de­signer Kelly Hop­pen.

Think suites with pri­vate plunge pools, grey wash wood fin­ishes, Eames lounge chairs and vel­vet soft fur­nish­ings. Best of all though is the new Magic Car­pet, a bar and lounge el­e­vated above the top deck that also serves as the dis­em­barka­tion plat­form to trans­fer cruis­ers to their launch from ship to shore.

Mean­while, Princess Cruises have part­nered with “The Sleep Doc­tor”, Dr Michael Breus, to de­velop The Princess Lux­ury Bed which is de­signed specif­i­cally to give guests the best night’s sleep while at sea.

Not only will you sleep well on the new Ma­jes­tic Princess when she launches in Septem­ber 2018, you can en­joy 1000sq m of de­signer shop­ping and a dra­matic over-the-ocean glass walk­way.

SLOW CRUIS­ING

You’ve heard of slow eat­ing, and slow liv­ing, now comes slow cruis­ing, coined by Aza­mara Club Cruises.

“We call our type of cruis­ing ‘slow cruis­ing’ as guests have the lux­ury of stay­ing longer and ex­pe­ri­enc­ing more, with longer stays in port and more overnights than any other cruise line,” says Adam Arm­strong, man­ag­ing di­rec­tor, Aza­mara Club Cruises Aus­tralia and New Zealand. Their 2018 102-day epic World Jour­ney de­parts Syd­ney on March 7.

Se­abourn is of­fer­ing new Ex­tended Ex­plo­rations voy­ages, which in­clude a range of itin­er­ar­ies rang­ing from 12 to 128 days in length.

“Ex­tended Ex­plo­rations of­fers trav­ellers a va­ri­ety of ways to un­cover new des­ti­na­tions by al­low­ing guests to have an in-depth ex­pe­ri­ence in a spe­cific re­gion or ef­fort­lessly move from one re­gion to an­other,” says Chris Austin, Se­abourn se­nior vice-pres­i­dent, global sales and mar­ket­ing.

And Vik­ing is of­fer­ing the com­bi­na­tion of ocean and river cruis­ing in 2018. For ex­am­ple, a 15day Rhine & Vik­ing Fjords & Shores jour­ney com­bines an eight-day ocean cruise from Ber­gen to Am­s­ter­dam with an eight-day river cruise from Am­s­ter­dam to Bu­dapest.

TIME FOR A RE­FRESH

Sev­eral ships are go­ing into dry dock for re­fur­bish­ment next year. Royal Caribbean’s In­de­pen­dence of the Seas will un­der­take a mul­ti­mil­lion-dol­lar makeover in April to add a tram­po­line park, as well as wa­ter slides, an es­cape room and laser tag.

Sil­ver Cloud, the ship that launched the Sil­versea fleet in 1994, is be­ing trans­formed into an ex­pe­di­tion ship, com­plete with a strength­ened, ice-class hull for nav­i­gat­ing po­lar waters.

And in May, Car­ni­val Leg­end and Car­ni­val Spirit go into dry dock to be fit­ted with ex­cit­ing new fea­tures in time for the 2018-19 cruise sea­son.

PIC­TURE: SCENIC RIVER CRUISES

SCENIC ECLIPSE Ex­plore Antarc­tica on the Scenic Eclipse and splurge on the Pent­house Suite at the bow, which has a 60sq m curved ter­race with a pri­vate jacuzzi.

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