Making a big splash Ships: Cruise lines plan to launch 14 ships in the next 15 months from the giant 2,600-passenger Grand Princess to a barkentine that will carry 120 under sail.

October 12, 1997|By Arline Bleecker | Arline Bleecker,ORLANDO SENTINEL

Ready or not, here they come: The next barrage of new ships that will float out between now and the end of next year will bring 14 vessels in 15 months.

For cruisers who love to sail inaugurals, here's the lineup. For more information, contact a travel agent.

* Carnival Cruise Lines will introduce two sister ships in 1998: Elation March 20 and Paradise in November. Paradise will be the first totally smoke-free cruise ship. Both 70,000-ton, 2,040-passenger vessels will boast an expanded Children's World area. Also new will be a futuristic Virtual World, an electronic game area for children and adults, and Fun Vision, a remote-controlled TV system available in cabins.

Elation will cruise year-round from Los Angeles, making Mexican Riviera voyages. Paradise will sail from Miami to the Caribbean.

* Celebrity Cruises will launch Mercury, third in a series of identical 77,000-ton ships, on Nov. 2. Except for decor, the ship will mirror the line's 1,750-passenger Century and Galaxy.

Mercury will depart every Sunday from Fort Lauderdale, Fla., on seven-day western Caribbean cruises; from May through September, it will make one-week Alaska cruises.

* Clipper Cruise Line will add a third ship to its fleet of small expedition vessels in April 1998. The 4,575-ton, 122-passenger ClipperAdventurer (formerly Alla Tarasova, a Russian passenger vessel) will have expert lecturers and naturalists on all voyages.

The Adventurer's 10-night inaugural voyage will explore the Iberian Peninsula, Madeira and Morocco. Subsequent sailings, from seven to 21 nights, will cruise to Europe; Greenland; the Atlantic coast from Halifax, Nova Scotia, to Fort Lauderdale; the Amazon River; Brazil; and Antarctica.

* Disney Cruise Line will introduce Disney Magic on March 12 and Disney Wonder in December 1998. With double occupancy, each 85,000-ton vessel can carry 1,760 passengers. Third- and fourth-passenger occupancy can bring the number to 2,400. The ship will offer four theme restaurants, including one for adults only. The ships will have a large, adults-only night life venue and, to nobody's surprise, some of the best children's facilities afloat. Cabins will be unusually spacious (240 square feet).

Both ships will offer identical seven-night cruise/hotel packages that combine a stay at Walt Disney World with a Bahamas cruise.

* Holland America Line will launch its newest flagship, Rotterdam VI, in Europe next month. The 62,000-ton, 1,320-passenger ship is built for long voyages, including an annual world cruise, and will feature this line's first alternative dining venue, an Italian restaurant for 90 people.

Rotterdam VI will sail two Mediterranean voyages before beginning a season of Caribbean/Panama Canal cruises. Its first 97-day world cruise will depart Jan. 19 from Los Angeles and will be followed by a season in Europe.

* Princess Cruises' 109,000-ton Grand Princess, carrying 2,600 passengers, will be the biggest ship afloat when it enters service May 14. For the bean counters, that's a mere 8,000 gross-registered tons more than Carnival's Destiny, the vessel now holding the title of biggest. Grand's "firsts" will include a wedding chapel, three main dining rooms and three alternative dining restaurants (one with a Southwestern theme). It also will have the industry's first "swim-against-the-current" pool, one of five pools aboard the vessel.

Through September, Grand Princess will visit Scandinavia, Russia, Western Europe and Norway's North Cape. Between October and April, it will cruise the Caribbean from Fort Lauderdale.

* On Jan. 31, Radisson Seven Seas Cruises will introduce the industry's first small luxury ship in years, the 320-passenger, 18,800-ton Paul Gauguin. The ship will boast a large spa operated by Carita of Paris, a retractable aft watersports platform and guest lecturers on every cruise. Fifty percent of its cabins will have verandas, and staterooms (the smallest of which will be 200 square feet) will have marble bathrooms. The lines claim the ship will have more space per passenger than any cruise vessel afloat. It also will have a casual dress code with no ties required.

The Paul Gauguin will cruise year-round from Papeete, Tahiti, to other parts of French Polynesia: Rangiroa, Raiatea, Bora-Bora and Moorea.

* In April, Royal Caribbean Cruises will introduce the 1,950-passenger Vision of the Seas, a 78,491-ton sister ship to Rhapsody of the Seas that boasts an amphitheater-type show lounge and a two-story dining room. Vision will sail the Mediterranean from May through September, then will reposition Boston for New England/Canada cruises. From November 1998 through April 1999, Vision will make Panama Canal voyages between San Juan, Puerto Rico, and Acapulco, Mexico.

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