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"Cruise Impressions" Column

Cruise Impressions (4/07): Latest and Greatest
Original Run Date - April 2007

Ships of the Class of 2007

 Photo of Carnival Freedom goes here.

The Carnival Freedom was the first new ship out of the blocks this year. In total 10 new ships launch this year. Three of them will home port in the U.S. South.*

by Anne Kalosh

From big to small, expeditionary to ocean liner, this year’s 10 new cruise ships run the gamut. There will be more bowling alleys, surf parks, lavish spas and poolside movie screens. Plus some new attention-grabbers.

Three ships in this new flotilla will make their year-round or seasonal homes in southern U.S. ports. These include the latest “Fun Ship” for Carnival Cruise Lines, a sister to Royal Caribbean International’s largest cruise vessel and a twin to 2006’s Crown Princess of Princess Cruises.

Other members of the Class of 2007 will make port calls in the U.S. South. They include the third Queen in the Cunard Line fleet and Norwegian Cruise Line’s second ship to offer bowling.

Freedom of Choice

Photo of the atrium of Carnival Freedom goes here.

The atrium of the new Carnival Freedom boasts the line's signature frenetically fun decor.*

Carnival Freedom was the first newbuild out of the gate in March. Christened in Venice, Italy, by super model Kathy Ireland, the ship now sails the Mediterranean. But starting in November, Carnival Freedom will make Miami its winter base for weekly cruises alternating to the eastern and western Caribbean.

The eastern route includes San Juan, Puerto Rico; St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands; and St. Maarten. The western route will visit Cozumel, Mexico; Grand Cayman; and Ocho Rios, Jamaica. During winter 2008-2009, Carnival Freedom also will sail from Fort Lauderdale for six- and eight-day cruises.

The 110,000-ton Carnival Freedom is a sister to 2005’s Carnival Liberty. Both ships sport 22 lounges and bars, an immense spa, four pools, a pair of two-story main dining rooms, a posh supper club and a large buffet restaurant. Fun touches are a twisting water slide, an outdoor movie screen and ample facilities for youngsters. The ship's teen club is sure to impress even the most jaded 15- to 17-year-old.

Photo of a water slide on the top deck of Carnival Freedom goes here.

This water slide on Carnival Freedom shows that the top deck is truly all about fun.*

Carnival's decor is entertaining and original. For the Freedom's look, architect Joe Farcus settled on a theme of "Decades through the Centuries" – from ancient Babylon to the future.

So passengers will find a lounge reminiscent of Hemingway’s Havana of the 1940s, complete with bar stools in the shape of giant cigars. Other rooms were inspired by Louis XIV, Victorian England, “the golden age of sports” (the 1950s) and the disco craze of the 1970s.

Don’t miss the line’s first Tandoori Grill, serving spicy Indian dishes poolside. Also, for those who simply must stay connected, there’s cellular telephone service and bow to stern wireless Internet access (take your own laptop or rent one on board).

Photo of Carnival Freedom christening with Carnival officials and godmother Kathy Ireland goes here.

Carnival officials and godmother Kathy Ireland celebrate the christening and launch of the new Carnival Freedom.*

Liberty and Vitality

Arriving in May, Royal Caribbean’s Liberty of the Seas  follows last year’s groundbreaking Freedom of the Seas, the world’s largest cruise ship. Also measuring a whopping 158,000 tons, Liberty is large enough to house a surf park, boxing ring, ice skating rink, rock climbing wall and Latin dance club.

Photo of Liberty of the Seas goes here.

Royal Caribbean's Liberty of the Seas is seen above in its recent sea trials off the coast of Finland.*

The new ship has plenty of razzle dazzle and youth facilities for tots to teens. Two adults-only whirlpools jut from the sides of the ship, a dizzying 112 feet above the ocean. 

The top accommodation, the Presidential Family Suite, encompasses 1,215 square feet and sleeps up to 14 people. The adjacent 810-square-foot balcony alone outsizes the top suites on some other vessels.

Liberty of the Seas will launch Royal Caribbean’s new “Vitality” program, an optional wellness initiative that encompasses healthy eating choices, spa and fitness classes, special activities ashore and even take-home work-out plans and recipes. Passengers can sample individual elements or participate in the comprehensive program.

New teen, family and wedding programs will also pop up on Royal Caribbean’s newest ship, which will sail weekly from Miami, year-round.

Photo of Liberty of the Seas goes here.

Liberty of the Seas will sail year-round from Miami.*

Cruises will alternate to the eastern and western Caribbean. The eastern route takes in San Juan and St. Maarten. The western itinerary calls at Montego Bay, Jamaica; Grand Cayman; and Cozumel, Mexico. Both routes also visit Royal Caribbean’s private beach at Labadee, Haiti.

New Princess Jewel

Princess Cruises, meanwhile, will introduce Emerald Princess, the sister to last year’s Crown Princess. Emerald will begin plying the Mediterranean in April. Look for a big splash surrounding the christening ceremony in May. Stars from “The Brady Bunch” and “Happy Days” will name the ship and little sister Royal Princess in joint festivities off the Greek island of Santorini. (Royal Princess is Swan Hellenic’s former Minerva II, which Princess acquired.)

Photo of Emerald Princess goes here.

After its May launch, Emerald Princess will sail in Europe and then head for Fort Lauderdale for winter season sailings.*

After its inaugural Mediterranean season, Emerald Princess will reposition to Fort Lauderdale in late October for 10-day cruises until early April. The “Southern Caribbean Medley” includes Princess Cays in the Bahamas, St. Thomas, Dominica, Grenada, Bonaire and Aruba. The “Eastern Caribbean Voyager” itinerary features Antigua, St. Lucia, Barbados, St. Kitts, St. Thomas and Princess Cays.

Princess is known for its balcony-rich accommodations, and the 113,000-ton Emerald Princess is no exception. Nearly 900 of the 1,540 staterooms come with balconies. Also reprised from Crown Princess are a piazza-style atrium with casual food outlets, Sabatini’s Trattoria for elegant Italian meals, the Asian-style Lotus Spa and a poolside movie screen.

Photo of Sabatini's Trattoria goes here.

Expect to see Sabatini's Trattoria, a signature venue for Princess, onboard the new Emerald Princess.*

Debuting with Emerald Princess is the Chef’s Table, a chance for up to 10 “foodies” on select nights to join the executive chef in the galley for champagne, hors d’oeuvres and a preview of the menu he will prepare just for them. The group will then go to their special table in the dining room where wines chosen by the maitre d’ are included. The chef will join the table for dessert. The cost is $75 per person.

Other Newcomers 

Other new ships of 2007 will touch southern U.S. ports during cruises originating elsewhere. For example, the plucky expedition vessel Fram will operate primarily in Greenland and Antarctica for Norwegian Coastal Voyage. But on a 66-day repositioning odyssey between the two regions, Fram will skirt the U.S. eastern seaboard.

 Photo of Fram goes here.

While often sailing in cold weather climates, Fram will visit such sunny, southern U.S. ports as Charleston, SC, Savannah, GA, and Port Canaveral and Key West, FL, later this year.*

Southern ports on the “Pole to Pole” adventure include Charleston, SC; Savannah, GA; and Port Canaveral and Key West, FL. Then the ship will scoot through the Panama Canal to the western coast of South America.

In early October, Norwegian Cruise Line's Norwegian Gem will sail into service with diverse Mediterranean cruises, prior to settling in its year-round home base of New York. Starting in December, Gem will transport winter-weary Northeasterners on week-long get-aways to Florida and the Bahamas, and 10- and 11-day cruises to the southern Caribbean.

Photo of Norwegian Gem goes here.  

This rendering shows what the new Norwegian Gem should look like when it launches later this year.*

On the seven-day roundtrip itineraries from New York, the ship will visit Port Canaveral and Key West, FL, as well as Great Stirrup Cay, NCL’s private island in the Bahamas. Departures are in December, February, March and April.

Like last year’s Norwegian Pearl, the Norwegian Gem will be equipped with bowling lanes, multiple restaurants and a vast range of accommodations. Families and groups will find many interconnecting cabins. The ship will also bring NCL’s signature Courtyard Villas, which surround their own private courtyard and pool, as well as a pair of enormous Garden Villas.

Rounding out 2007 is only the second ocean liner to be built in the last 40 years. Cunard Line's Queen Victoria follows the headline-grabbing Queen Mary 2. Unlike that 150,000-ton behemoth, Queen Victoria will measure 90,000 tons, enabling more flexible itineraries.

Rendering of Queen Victoria goes here.

Cunard's new Queen Victoria will be a grand ocean liner but smaller and thus more flexible (for itinerary development) than the line's mammoth Queen Mary 2.*

The liner debuts in December with a sold-out maiden voyage to the Christmas markets of northern Europe, followed by a 106-day world cruise that sails Jan. 6, 2008 from Southampton, England. When the liner arrives in New York on Jan. 13, it will be an historic day for Cunard with a rendezvous of all three Queens, including Queen Elizabeth 2. Queen Victoria’s next stop will be Fort Lauderdale, FL, on Jan. 16.

While Queen Victoria will be endowed with such classic Cunard characteristics as the line's authentic pub, the vessel will also boast new touches. These include private viewing boxes in the Royal Court Theater, al fresco dining for Grill-class passengers, a museum of Cunard memorabilia and a two-deck library.

Thinking of taking a cruise this year or next? If so, you might consider booking passage on one of the new, razzle-dazzle ships from the Class of 2007. Happy sailing!

Anne Kalosh is a Miami-based journalist who has been covering the cruise industry for national and international publications for 25 years. She is the U.S. editor for Seatrade Cruise Review and Seatrade Insider. Kalosh got hooked on cruising when, fresh out of college, she signed on with Royal Viking Line as a shipboard newspaper editor sailing the world.

*Photos of Carnival Freedom are by Andy Newman, Carnival Cruise Lines. Photos of other vessels are by those lines. All photos are owned by the lines listed above. All rights reserved. Please do not link to nor copy these photos.

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