What are the best new cruise ships?
Avid cruisers who write a lot about cruises, we’ve sailed on dozens of ships, from a luxurious phinisi in Indonesia (where we spied Komodo dragons!) to the lovely Seabourn Odyssey (where complimentary champagne flows freely). Naturally, we’re keen to know what new cruises we can experience in future and tell you about.
So we reached out to our cruise contacts and cruise experts (and scoured the Internet) to see what’s making waves.
Hop aboard for a peek at what we found out!
Lately, there have been boatloads of exciting developments in the “new ship” department – and some of the new cruise ships being launched are sure to really surprise you!
They’re fun to check out for the future, even if you’re not quite ready for cruise travel right now.
Best new cruise ships
All cruise lines mentioned here have gone to great lengths to put in place appropriate public health and safety measures. Check the guidelines for the particular cruise line and ship you’re interested in.
Also note that new ships launched in 2019 and the beginning of 2020 are still “new,” as they didn’t get much of a chance to cruise in 2020 and the first half of 2021 :-). So we’ve included a couple of these new cruise ship builds in this round-up of exciting new cruise ships 2021.
1) Virgin Voyages Scarlet Lady (+ Valiant Lady)
Richard Branson dreams big. And his latest big dream is Virgin Voyages.
This new cruise line aims to offer a “rebellious” adults-only twist on cruising the Caribbean and Bahamas with the Scarlet Lady ship – the first vessel in the fleet.
Drag queen brunches? Table top dancing? A tattoo parlor at sea? Grammy-nominated DJs spinning music that rocks? This is definitely not your granny cruise of old! (But you know, today’s grandmothers may also like hip!)
Accommodating 2,770 passengers, the ship is designed to feel more like a hotel, not a ship. And instead of a main restaurant, there are plenty of separate dining venues, from Korean BBQ and upscale Mexican food restaurants to a test kitchen.
Standard cabins with balconies on the Scarlet Lady cruise ship feature hand-crafted hammocks on the balconies.
And to really break the mold, there are 78 “RockStar Quarters” (suites) with peek-a-boo showers, vinyl turntables (you can crank out tunes with the records provided), real guitars on the walls (that you can play) and specially-designed champagne tables on the private terraces (the ice bucket fits right in the center of the table).
Launch date: Scarlet Lady is expected September, 2021. And then in November, 2021, Virgin Voyages’ Valiant Lady (the line’s second ship) is slated to debut. (She’ll offer Mediterranean cruises out of Barcelona.)
2) Tradewinds Golden Horizon
Modeled after the 1911 France II – the largest square-rigger ever built – the steel-hulled, five-masted SV Golden Horizon recreates the Golden Age of clipper ships.
Think lots of gleaming wood and brass!
This luxury sailing ship was originally designed for the Star Clippers cruise line and built by a Croatian shipyard. But due to a dispute, the shipyard remains the owner and the ship has now been chartered by a new cruise line, the UK cruise start-up, Tradewinds Voyages.
Carrying 272 passengers (and a crew of 159), she’ll offer Scotland and UK voyages, then sail the Mediterranean and Asia come winter.
Our Star Clippers’ Caribbean cruise on the Star Flyer was pretty special (as was our cruise on the Royal Clipper). Needless to say, we have high expectations for Tradewinds’ SV Golden Horizon ship!
On the world’s largest sailing ship, you can learn to dive onboard in a deep glass-bottom swimming pool.
Launch date: The SV Golden Horizon is scheduled to set sail in July, 2021.
Also take a peek at this ship! The beautiful Royal Clipper flaunts 56,000 square feet of sails!
3) National Geographic Endurance (+ Resolution)
If you have your heart set on exploring the poles (and seeing penguins in Antarctica!), you’ll be excited to hear about the National Geographic Endurance – one of the newest cruise ships in the expedition category.
All 69 cabins are outside; most have balconies. They each feature “expedition command centers” with tablets and USB/mobile device docking stations.
Named after polar explorer Ernest Shackleton’s ship, the National Geographic Endurance carries Zodiacs for getting ashore, along with kayaks, snowshoes and cross-country skis for exploring off-the-beaten-path.
And because one isn’t enough, a second new vessel, the National Geographic Resolution, will also offer expedition cruises to uncharted territories and remote regions like the seldom-seen coast of northeast Greenland and the Northwest Passage.
Both the Endurance and Resolution have unique X-bows that allow them to smoothly slice through wicked waves. (The bow’s shape also reduces spray on deck so you can see better.)
To get to Antarctica, most ships must cross the notoriously rough Drake Passage, so the design of these ships aims to offer as comfortable a crossing experience as possible.
Launch dates: The Endurance launched in 2020; the Resolution is expected later in 2021.
4) MSC Virtuosa (and MSC Seashore)
When MSC Virtuosa welcomes its first passengers, she’ll be one of the biggest cruise ships in the world (able to carry almost 6,300 passengers).
Discover lots of sassy innovations on this new 19-deck behemoth of the seas from MSC Cruises – including a huge indoor promenade full of restaurants, bars and shops, crowned by a “digital sky” roof.
More fun can be had at the ship’s water park, contemporary fine art museum and entertainment center, complete with a racing car simulator as well as a flight simulator.
With so much to experience on the ship, you might never want to leave!
Shimmy up to the bar at the Starship Club, and your cocktails will be mixed and shaken by the world’s first humanoid robotic bartender, named Rob.
Launch date: MSC Virtuosa embarks on her maiden voyage around the British Isles in May, 2021, and then moves on to the Med, Dubai (and Qatar) and Northern Europe. She’ll be joined later in 2021 by the MSC Seashore (which will sail warm waters).
5) Viking Venus
When the Viking Star set sail in 2015, she wowed the cruise industry with her serene light-filled design, all-veranda staterooms, free wine and beer at meals and other goodies. Indeed, she was hailed by many as the “world’s best new cruise ship” at the time. (See our review of the Viking Star.)
Since then, Viking Ocean Cruises has launched several new ships, all similar to the Viking Star. After all, if the formula was good the first time, you don’t want to fiddle with it too much, do you?
The 930-passenger Viking Venus is the seventh ship in the ocean-going fleet. And just like her predecessors, she’ll be one of the best new luxury cruise ships sailing the world’s seas.
You can make like a Norwegian in the (complimentary) hot-and-cold-water spa.
Launch date: The Viking Venus will offer British Isles cruises, starting in August, 2021. Subsequent cruises will include Mediterranean and Northern European itineraries.
You might also like: What’s it like cruising on the Viking Sea on a child-free Caribbean cruise?
6) Hurtigruten’s MS Fridtjof Nansen (+ MV Roald Amundsen)
Designed by Rolls Royce, the MS Fridtjof Nansen takes you up the Norwegian coast, as well as offering itineraries along the banks of the Amazon and the ice edges of the Arctic and Antarctica.
She’s almost identical to her sister ship, the MV Roald Amundsen – the world’s first hybrid-powered ship.
But while a true explorer vessel, the 530-passenger MS Fridtjof Nansen ship is also comfortably luxurious.
Scandinavian materials – granite, oak, birch and wool – are used in the décor of the staterooms. Each stateroom also comes with boot warmers to warm or dry your boots.
Greener than most other cruise ships, the MS Fridtjof Nansen and MV Roald Amundsen use a combination of battery power, biogas (fossil-free fuel made from organic waste) and cleaner liquified natural gas (not heavy fuel oil) to help them cruise to the far regions of the world.
On battery power, you sail through sensitive wildlife areas in total silence.
Other standout features aboard each vessel are the industry-first Science Center, staffed by experienced research scientists, and Blueye underwater drones for streaming live underwater images to screens on the ship.
Launch dates: Hurtigruten’s MS Fridtjof Nansen set sail in 2020; the MV Roald Amundsen debuted in 2019.
7) Silversea Silver Moon
One of the best new cruise ships in the ultra-luxury market is the new Silver Moon from Silversea Cruises.
There are no less than eight restaurants – from the French “La Dame” (decorated with 11 handmade Lalique crystal panels) to the Japanese “Kaiseki” – for 596 passengers.
Gigantic suites (minimum size almost 400 square feet) are de rigueur too, along with designer Bulgari toiletries and butler service. And if you fancy swimming laps, there’s a pool large enough to do just that.
“Simply divine” is how Silversea described sister ship Silver Muse, when she debuted in 2017.
The newest Silversea ship is even more divine, with new outdoor spa spaces, more alfresco dining and other tweaks.
Foodies can enjoy bespoke food experiences (trips to local markets, cooking demos with local chefs and special dinners) through Silversea’s new “Sea and Land Taste” (S.A.L.T.) program, curated in partnership with former Saveur magazine editor-in-chief Adam Sachs.
Launch date: The Silver Moon’s inaugural cruise is planned for June, 2021, leaving from Athens. She’ll then offer Mediterranean cruises before moving to Asia in the winter.
8) Sea Cloud Spirit
Are you a Sea Cloud fan? Your wait is over!
The Sea Cloud Spirit will be the line’s first brand new ship in almost 20 years.
Sea Cloud is a small line offering deluxe old-world sailing cruises.
Its first yacht, the Sea Cloud, was originally built in 1931 as a barque for American billionaire Marjorie Merriweather Post. It was then bought in 1978 by the German-based ship owners and turned into an exclusive cruise ship. Sea Cloud Cruises also has Sea Cloud II in its fleet.
The new three-masted Sea Cloud Spirit can carry 136 passengers in 69 cabins, many with balconies or windows that can be opened.
In keeping with the romantic sailing ambience, expect lots of nautical touches like polished wood paneling and shiny brass, along with elegant white-tablecloth dining.
Talk about “green” cruising!
The Sea Cloud Spirit flaunts more than 44,000 square feet of sails, and its Caribbean and European itineraries are designed to allow it to catch the wind and sail most of the time.
Launch date: The ship will depart Civitavecchia (Rome) in June, 2021, visiting ports in Sicily and Tuscany.
Also read: Chartered yacht holidays – they’re not just for the rich and famous!
9) Holland America Rotterdam
Several ships over the decades have been named “Rotterdam.” But none like the new Rotterdam cruise ship from Holland America Line.
She’s the third in HAL’s Pinnacle-class of cruise ships.
We’ve sailed on the Nieuw Statendam (second in this class of ship). With its jazzed-up approach to cruising, it made us rethink our previous views of cruising on Holland America.
The 2,668-passenger Rotterdam hits all the same right notes as the Nieuw Statendam – from the B.B. King’s Blues Club and Lincoln Center Stage (for classical music) to well-designed veranda staterooms and tasty specialty restaurants (don’t miss the sake and sushi at Tamarind).
Rock to the best rock-and-roll. Tap your toes to Memphis R&B. Or be spellbound by talented violinists. The innovative onboard “Music Walk” (a deck with different vibrant music venues) serves up a huge range of quality live music at sea.
Launch date: The Rotterdam departs on her first voyage in August, 2021, on a 7-night cruise from Venice to Rome. The new vessel will spend the late summer and fall months in Europe and the Mediterranean, then head to Fort Lauderdale in November for a winter of Bahamas and Caribbean cruising.
10) Celebrity Apex
The Celebrity Edge, the first ship in Celebrity Cruises’ Edge class, shook up the cruise industry with oodles of pioneering breakthroughs when launched in 2018.
Take her “infinite verandas” – just push open bi-fold, wall-to-wall glass doors and your cabin and balcony become one space.
The Edge also has a cool outward-facing design – king-size beds in Sky Suites face the ocean (instead of the traditional sideways placement), and glass windows between the bathroom and bedroom allow daylight to shine through into the bathroom. Two-level Edge Villas on the ship even have private plunge pools.
And let’s not forget the ship’s rooftop garden (cared for by a resident horticulturist), martini glass-shaped hot tubs suspended high in the air around the main pool and tech innovations (dim your cabin’s lights using your phone).
Now there’s the Celebrity Apex.
Operated by Celebrity Cruises (a subsidiary of Royal Caribbean), the new 2,910-passenger Celebrity Apex is the second ship in the line’s Edge class. (Two more new Edge ships are in the works also.) And the Apex features many of those same nifty design upheavals as the Celebrity Edge.
Want to feel like you’re on a VIP cruise? Book a suite on Celebrity Apex – and gain access to The Retreat (with a private pool and lounge area just for suite guests) and other perks.
You know how you hate waiting in the lounge for a tender to go ashore? You may not hate waiting anymore on the Celebrity Apex, as you can do that on the ship’s so-called “Magic Carpet.”
The size of a tennis court, the Magic Carpet is a large tangerine-colored cantilevered deck – furnished with a lounge, couches and bar – which is used as the tender platform. It can also be moved up and down to different decks to serve as an alfresco specialty restaurant or as an extension of the main pool deck.
Launch date: Celebrity Cruises’ Apex ship will set sail from Athens in June, 2021, for an inaugural season of Greek Islands’ cruising, before moving to the Caribbean in November for the winter cruise season.
11) Enchanted Princess
An adults-only pool “Sanctuary”? A very cool glass-floor walkway arcing out from the top deck, where you can see the waves 128 feet beneath you? A “Rock Opera” musical performance with a live 8-piece orchestra?
Say hello to the new Enchanted Princess (passenger capacity 3,560) from Princess Cruises.
Splash out in one of the ship’s new Sky Suites. (The Celebrity Edge and Apex – see #10 – aren’t the only ships with Sky Suites!)
The Sky Suites on Enchanted Princess are a whopping 1,873 square feet in size, with two bedrooms, two bathrooms, a living room and dining area. The best part? The 270-degree views – and you can watch the ship’s “Movies Under the Stars” without leaving your suite.
Launch date: November, 2021, is when the Enchanted Princess will make her debut, for a season of Caribbean cruises.
12) Crystal Endeavor
So you want to get adventurous in an intimate, all-suite, all-veranda expedition ship – where butlers pamper you silly with 6-star service?
Meet the Crystal Endeavor from Crystal Cruises! This polar-class mega-yacht can break through ice to visit polar regions not accessible to most other luxury cruise ships. And she’ll do it in style.
We’ve cruised on the Crystal Serenity, so we know Crystal Cruises ranks right up there as one of the world’s best cruise lines. But with only 200 passengers, the new Crystal Endeavor cruise ship promises to kick up the luxury experience even further – and offer some of the most deluxe expedition cruises, period.
Suites feature king-size beds, spa-like bathrooms with heated floors, Nespresso coffee machines and storage closets in the corridor for your expedition gear. The smallest suites are a generous 350+ square feet (including veranda).
And when it comes to dining options, you have no less than six restaurants to choose from – including the divine Umi Uma from acclaimed celebrity Chef Nobu Matsuhisa.
We could never get enough of his steamed black cod, infused with ginger and lemon! (His privately branded Nobu Chardonnay is rightly famous too.)
You can explore ashore via a whole host of expedition vehicles, including wave runners, kayaks, SCUBA, two helicopters and even two 7-person submarines.
Launch date: Keep an eye out for a scheduled July, 2021, launch date, when the Crystal Endeavor embarks on a series of 10-night Iceland expedition cruises.
13) National Geographic Venture
Built in the U.S. as an expedition vessel, the 100-passenger National Geographic Venture explores remote spots in Alaska and the Pacific Northwest in the summer.
The state-of-the-art vessel then heads south in winter for water sports, hiking and bird watching in Costa Rica, Panama, Guatemala and Belize. (Snorkeling and diving are popular things to do in Belize.)
The ship carries a fleet of 24 two-person kayaks, so you can explore on your own.
Launch date: The National Geographic Venture started cruising in 2019.
14) Ritz-Carlton Evrima
Yes, the luxury hotel company is getting into the cruise biz with the debut of the Evrima yacht.
As the first cruise ship in the new Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection, the 298-passenger Evrima will appeal to discerning travelers who trust the Ritz-Carlton brand and want the same kind of service and style the hotels feature.
Staterooms are spacious (312 square feet for entry-level cabins), and everyone gets a personal assistant who books your dinner reservations and organizes your tours ashore. Itineraries are cafted to explore small ports (like Saint-Malo in France) not visited by the big ships.
No mingling with the hoi polloi necessary! When the ship is anchored in port, a large marina-style platform at the stern means you can lounge on this sundeck, then walk down stairs directly into the sea for a cooling swim.
Launch date: The Evrima will make her first cruise appearance with a season of Caribbean voyages starting in November, 2021.
15) Odyssey of the Seas
Get ready for high-flying fun on the new Odyssey of the Seas from Royal Caribbean International – one of the coolest new cruise ships for families!
Feel what it’s like to go skydiving in a freefall simulator. Drive bumper cars and play laser tag in the “SeaPlex” activity center – the largest indoor active space at sea. Grab a boogie board and ride the waves on a 40-foot-long surf simulator.
Young ones will love the fountains, water cannons and waterslides at the ship’s water park.
Holy moly – there’s no way you and the kids will get bored on this new 4,180-passenger ship!
New specialty eateries include an Italian kitchen and wine bar plus a hibachi-style Japanese resto.
Don a virtual headset, strap yourself into a bungee harness and jump on a trampoline inside the yellow bubble-shaped Sky Pad balanced at the back of this ship – and make like you’re traveling light years into the future!
Launch date: The Odyssey of the Seas’ inaugural sailing is June, 2021, for a season of cruises out of Israel, then she moves to Fort Lauderdale in November.
16) Atlas World Navigator
Virgin Voyages (#1), Tradewinds Voyages (#2) and the Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection (#14) aren’t the only new cruise lines to float out this year.
Newcomer Atlas Ocean Voyages is launching the high-end World Navigator cruise ship.
Accommodating 196 passengers, the World Navigator is a polar class expedition vessel with butler-serviced suites and gourmet dining.
All-inclusive fares on the super-yacht include roundtrip airfare from select U.S. and Canadian cities, fine wines and alcohol onboard, WiFi, exercise classes (yoga, Pilates and spin classes), gratuities, shore excursions and (if ever needed) emergency medical evacuation insurance.
Spa like you’re in Provence, but at sea.
The new 947-square-foot SeaSpa is the world’s first L’Occitane spa on a cruise ship, using those beautiful L’Occitane products you find at some luxury hotels. The spa has treatment rooms, an infra-red sauna and the “serenity” lounge.
Launch date: When the World Navigator sets sail in July, 2021, she’ll cruise the globe, from the Black Sea to South America and Antarctica
More cruise information
We write a lot about cruises for various magazines and newspapers, as well as for this blog. (Cruising is just such a great way to travel!) Be sure to check out our free Cruising Guide!
Which of these new 2021 cruise ships floats your boat?
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Photo credits: New cruise ship photos courtesy of the respective cruise lines