As 2016 swings into full force and winter blues hit their peak, we’re all ready to ditch the cold and go seeking the warm sun. But instead of embarking on the old song-and-dance routine of all-inclusive vacations this year, FlightHub recommends cruising instead.
With the ships getting bigger, the entertainment larger-than-life, and the food experience getting even more varied, you’d be crazy not to check out some of these magnificent floating cities. Battling it out this year for the most noteworthy cruise ships are Royal Caribbean’s Harmony of the Seas and Carnival’s new Vista.
Harmony of the Seas
Among the newest additions to the Royal Caribbean fleet is Harmony of the Seas, set to sail in May. Royal Caribbean calls it the world’s largest cruise ship, with a capacity of 5,479 passengers and staterooms distributed around RC’s patented seven “neighbourhoods”. And it has set the bar high: in fact, its slogan — “This changes everything” — rings truer than you’d imagine.
Harmony of the Seas has pulled out all the stops with its innovative stateroom design, including some new twists to make life better for families. One problem that deters many families (and especially intergenerational families) from booking cruises is having to book more than two rooms if they have more than two adult children. But Harmony’s new staterooms have been designed to accommodate a variety of different families and budgets.
The staterooms can accommodate up to eight people, and some are equipped with a dining table and two private bathrooms so you won’t have your family feuding over who gets mirror time when you’re getting ready for dinner!
And speaking of dining, there are some new looks as well. After all, there’s nothing worse than being dissatisfied with your meals, especially when you’re trapped on a floating vessel too far from land to jump ship. On Harmony of the Seas, you get the full range of dining choices that Royal Caribbean is renowned for.
Eateries range from all-day restaurants to snack bars, so there’s no reason to go hungry. But what makes the dining experience special is one of Royal Caribbean’s newest features: its “Dynamic Dining” plan, first introduced on Quantum of the Seas. You’re in charge of when you eat and who you sit with, and you’re free to come as you are, without the obligatory formal dining night. This shift makes for a dining experience uniquely tailored to your tastes and vacation style.
Once your appetite is satisfied, try not getting queasy while experiencing some of RC’s famous entertainment. Harmony features two FlowRider® surf simulators and The Ultimate Abyss, the tallest slide on the high seas, which rockets you down 10 decks to the Boardwalk.
Of course, if that kind of activity makes you turn green, then head down to the theatres for some other forms of entertainment. The Harmony will feature shows like Grease, The Musical, from Broadway, plus an ice show with a “high-definition multimedia experience” that transforms the rink, and spectacular new water shows at the AquaTheater.
Also readying for its maiden voyage in May, the new star of Carnival’s fleet is the one and only Vista. With a length of more than 1,055 feet, the ship can accommodate up to 3,939 passengers as it sets sail around the world.
Vista also follows the growing trend of larger staterooms that can accommodate a family comfortably. Its Family Harbour rooms are equipped for families to cruise in comfort, rather than being squeezed in, with hideaway beds in the walls. A nice complement to these staterooms is access to the Family Harbour Lounge, an exclusive 24-hour spot that provides breakfast, snacks and a concierge service to help you and your family get whatever you need.
Among Vista’s unique features is the state-of-the-art SkyRide, a testament to nerve and gravity alike: you take a bike ride suspended high above deck in a pedal-powered “go-mobile” (seen above). If you’re into something a little lower-key, then FlightHub review suggests grabbing tickets and heading down to the IMAX theatre, the first of its kind at sea. Don’t worry about missing the newest blockbuster: Carnival has you covered, with instant access to new releases.
Another key feature that makes this ship stand out is the on-board microbrewery. Yes, you read that right: microbrewery. Start your night off right by enjoying a premium beer before hitting up some of the Vista’s bars, lounges and dance clubs. And don’t worry about the little headache you might get in the morning — that’s why Carnival has Camp Ocean for the kids, and the Serenity Retreat (seen at right) for mom and dad.
Camp Ocean is designed to keep kids active and engaged throughout the entire trip, with fun activities, games, and professional animators: a perfect formula to give you some “alone” time at the adults-only Serenity Retreat. You can relax, sleep in hammocks, finish a book or do absolutely nothing with no distraction.
While the Harmony of the Seas and the Vista sail for different lines, they both seem to be following the same trends – ones seen right across the cruise industry. Most prominent is a new focus on cruisers with particular needs, like families and solo cruisers. But there’s also a move toward new and different kinds of dining, leaving behind the traditional dinner-at-eight formula, and a continuing race among cruise ships to offer new and more spectacular entertainment features.
And that’s good news: it shows the cruise lines are listening to their passengers and trying to create a better experience for them. Cruising may not be perfect yet, but there’s no denying that these days there’s a little something for everyone.
Photos courtesy of Carnival Cruise Line and Royal Caribbean
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