Cruise in­dus­try ups the ante

Many are of­fer­ing pri­vate is­lands and theme park rides.

South Florida Sun-Sentinel (Sunday) - - Front Page - By Richard Tri­bou

Florida will once again be the ben­e­fi­ciary of the cruise in­dus­try’s big­gest and best of­fer­ings, but it’s not just ships that will be of in­ter­est to Sun­shine State cruis­ers in 2019.

The big news is pri­vate is­lands. Both Royal Caribbean and MSC have sunk mil­lions into de­vel­op­ing pri­vate is­lands in the Ba­hamas for those sail­ing out of Florida.

Royal Caribbean’s of­fer­ing is at its ex­ist­ing des­ti­na­tion Co­coCay, but now re­named Per­fect Day at Co­coCay, with all the trap­pings of a theme park.

That in­cludes a 13-slide wa­ter park, one of which will be the tallest in North Amer­ica at 135 feet. In com­par­i­son, Dis­ney’s Sum­mit Plum­met at Bliz­zard Beach is 120 feet tall and Vol­cano Bay’s tallest slide, Ko'okiri Body Plunge, is 125 feet tall. Co­coCay will also fea­ture a he­lium bal­loon that rises to 450 feet, a 1,600-foot-long zip line fea­tur­ing a splash land­ing in the har­bor, a new set of over­wa­ter ca­banas and the largest fresh­wa­ter pool in the Caribbean.

“By adding a wa­ter park, pools, ca­banas and other fun fam­ily ac­tiv­i­ties, the ap­peal of a visit to Per­fect Day at Co­coCay will now be in the same con­ver­sa­tion as Cen­tral Florida at­trac­tions,” said Matt Hochberg, who runs the web­site Roy­ “I think when new cruis­ers see ev­ery­thing Royal Caribbean is adding, it is go­ing to get a lot of at­ten­tion be­cause there

re­ally is noth­ing else like it that is so eas­ily ac­ces­si­ble in the cruise mar­ket.”

The ma­jor­ity of Co­coCay’s of­fer­ings will be avail­able in May with the en­tire re­fur­bish­ment slated to be up and run­ning by Novem­ber.

MSC Cruises, mean­while, is aim­ing for Novem­ber to get its own pri­vate is­land on­line while also bring­ing the most ships ever to Florida.

Ocean Cay MSC Marine Re­serve will be a 95-acre re­sort with 11,400 feet of beach and its own pier. The des­ti­na­tion will have bars, restau­rants and a new light­house that the line said will be a fo­cal point of evening en­ter­tain­ment.

It will sup­port four MSC ships sail­ing the Caribbean in­clud­ing the ar­rival of the largest MSC ship to sail North Amer­ica, the

171,598-gross-ton MSC Mer­av­iglia, which is join­ing MSC Sea­side, MSC Div­ina and MSC Ar­mo­nia out of Mi­ami.

Mer­av­iglia, which means “won­der” in Ital­ian, is the largest class of ship for the cruise line, and can sup­port

4,500 pas­sen­gers based on dou­ble oc­cu­pancy. One of its unique of­fer­ings is the

450-per­son venue for orig­i­nal Cirque du Soleil shows. The ship, which de­buted in

2017, is the 6th largest in the world be­hind the four Oa­sis-class ves­sels of Royal Caribbean and the Ger­man cruise ship AIDANova.

While 2018 saw five brand new ships make their way to Florida in­clud­ing Royal Caribbean Sym­phony of the Seas, Celebrity Edge, Car­ni­val Hori­zon, Hol­land Amer­ica Nieuw Sta­ten­dam and Nor­we­gian Bliss, all now sail­ing the Caribbean from PortMi­ami or Port Ever­glades, 2019 will still wel­come a cou­ple more.

The fourth Break­awayPlus class ship from Nor­we­gian Cruise Line, Nor­we­gian En­core, is set to de­but in Novem­ber and sail out of Mi­ami.

A sis­ter ship to Nor­we­gian Es­cape, Joy and Bliss, the 169,000-gross-ton ship will have the largest go-kart track in the fleet with 1,150 feet of track across a

10-turn course that has four sec­tions that ex­tend up to

13 feet be­yond the side of the ship. En­core will also have an open-air laser tag course, aqua park with two wa­ter slides and the

10,000-square-foot in­ter­ac­tive en­ter­tain­ment cen­ter Galaxy Pavil­ion. For mar­quee en­ter­tain­ment, the ship will stage Tonyaward win­ning show “Kinky Boots.”

With Nor­we­gian’s new ship will also be a new place to park, the new Ter­mi­nal B at PortMi­ami, which will be ad­ja­cent to Royal Caribbean’s new ter­mi­nal that just opened. The

166,000-square-foot fa­cil­ity that will have its own park­ing garage will fea­ture three giant arc­ing see-through domes that al­low vis­i­tors to get great views of down­town.

“At night when this ter­mi­nal is lit up, it is go­ing to be some­thing that you will prob­a­bly see in ev­ery post­card for Mi­ami from here into the fu­ture,” said Mi­ami-based de­sign firm Ber­mello Ajamil & Part­ners CEO Luis Ajamil.

The other brand-new ship com­ing to Florida year is Princess Cruises’ lat­est Royal Class ship, Sky Princess, which will makes its way to Port Ever­glades in De­cem­ber. The sis­ter ship to the Royal and Re­gal Princess, Sky Princess fea­tures the line's new Sky Suite, which of­fers

270-de­gree views from atop the ship as well as its own van­tage point for the line's Movies Un­der the Stars screen. The suite is de­signed for up to five guests and is touted as hav­ing the largest bal­cony at sea.

Not new, but re­worked and re­named will be Car­ni­val Cruise Line’s ex­ist­ing ship Car­ni­val Tri­umph, which will go un­der the knife in the spring for a

$200 mil­lion over­haul, and re-emerge as Car­ni­val Sun­rise.

This is a sim­i­lar ap­proach to what the cruise line did when Car­ni­val Des­tiny be­came Car­ni­val Sun­shine in 2013, and what’s on tap for Car­ni­val Vic­tory in 2020 when it be­comes Car­ni­val Ra­di­ance. The new ship will even­tu­ally make its way to Fort Laud­erdale. It will fea­ture dozens of up­dated venues in­clud­ing the cruise line’s new­est restau­rant and bar con­cept, Guy’s Pig & An­chor Bar-B-Que, which de­buted on 2018’s Car­ni­val Hori­zon.

Other ships get­ting re­fur­bish­ments in 2019 in­clude Celebrity Mil­len­nium, Sum­mit and Equinox, Ocea­nia Sirena and Re­gatta as well as Royal Caribbean Oa­sis of the Seas, which will be mi­grat­ing from Port Canaveral to PortMi­ami by Novem­ber.

Royal Caribbean will re­place Oa­sis of the Seas with the newer Har­mony of the Seas in May, and also send Al­lure of the Seas back to Port Ever­glades.

For Port Canaveral, Har­mony is an up­grade. The ship that de­buted in

2016 has many in­no­va­tive touches that Oa­sis of the Seas does not. Top of that list is the ex­hil­a­rat­ing 10-story twist­ing dry slide The Ul­ti­mate Abyss as well as a wa­ter park with three wa­ter slides called The Per­fect Storm.

Port Canaveral will also wel­come a newer ship from Nor­we­gian Cruise Line, when when Nor­we­gian Break­away takes over for Nor­we­gian Epic’s Caribbean du­ties in Novem­ber. The ship that de­buted in 2013 fea­tures 27 din­ing op­tions, a five-slide wa­ter park and chal­leng­ing ropes course that fea­tures The Plank, an ex­hil­a­rat­ing chal­lenge for those brave enough to walk a tiny walk­way eight feet out over the ship’s edge look­ing more than 100 feet be­low to the wa­ter. Nor­we­gian is also re­turn­ing for sum­mer sail­ings to Cuba on Nor­we­gian Sun.

While Dis­ney Cruise Line won’t be adding to its fleet un­til 2021, its ex­ist­ing four-ship fleet will con­tinue to bank on spe­cialty cruises in­clud­ing Star Wars and Mar­vel-themed sail­ings out of Port Canaveral this spring and Hal­loween and Christ­mas-themed sail­ings in the fall and win­ter.

Not ev­ery­thing is hap­pen­ing in Florida in 2019, though. Car­ni­val Cruise Line will de­but Car­ni­val Panorama and base it in Cal­i­for­nia while the lat­est Quan­tum-class ship from Royal Caribbean, Spec­trum of the Seas, will head to the Asian mar­ket.

Sis­ter ship Ova­tion of the Seas, though, which de­buted in 2016 and had been sail­ing in Asia, will come to North Amer­ica for the first time when it sails Alaskan cruises from May-Sep­tem­ber.

An­other ship that has spent most of its life in the Asian mar­ket, Nor­we­gian Joy, will also make its way to North Amer­ica for the first time for Alaska cruises as well. In fact, Nor­we­gian Joy will make its way to Mi­ami by Oc­to­ber on a se­ries of Panama Canal cruises.

De­mand for cruis­ing out of Florida is keep­ing pace, with more than 14 mil­lion pas­sen­gers among PortMi­ami, Port Ever­glades and Port Canaveral in fis­cal 2018. That’s more than half a mil­lion more peo­ple than the pre­vi­ous year.

So while 2019 won’t be as busy as 2018 in terms of new hard­ware, there will be some new ships on the block along with ships that have never come to the Sun­shine State shuf­fling their way here.


Royal Caribbean is set to open the ren­o­vated pri­vate Ba­hamas des­ti­na­tion re­dubbed as Per­fect Day at Co­coCay in May.


MSC Mer­avig­ila is the first of a new class of ships from MSC Cruises that de­buted in 2017.

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