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Cruise Guide: New ship launches pending

By Mike Coleman

Could it get any better for cruise ship travel aficionados?

Over the next 12 months, a series of new ships will be launched by various cruise lines, and a host of other vessels are now being constructed in shipyards around the globe for debuts in the coming years.

Kicking off the parade will be the December 15 launch of the 2,384-passenger Norwegian Pearl, in Miami, complete with bowling alley. Up next, in March, both the 2,974-passenger Carnival Freedom and 2,550-passenger MSC Orchestra will be unveiled in Europe. The 3,000-plus-passenger Costa Serena comes on line in May, with year-round European itineraries.

In a historic first for Princess Cruises, the 3,100-passenger Emerald Princess and 710-passenger Royal Princess will formally join the fleet in a dual christening ceremony with the Greek Island of Santorini as a backdrop in May, 2007. Both ships begin sailing in Europe this April on a series of Mediterranean itineraries, including the Greek Isles, Crimean Coast, Egypt and the Holy Land, and a number of new ports for Princess on the Adriatic Sea.

Royal Caribbean, fresh from the successful summer 2006 launch of Freedom of the Seas, the world’s largest passenger vessel, will add another mega-liner to its fleet when the 160,000-ton, 3,634-passenger Liberty of the Seas begins sailing from Miami in May, 2007.

Norwegian Cruise Line, meanwhile, will be at it again, launching yet another vessel – the 2,430-passenger Norwegian Gem in October 2007. The ship will be home-ported year-round in New York, and will feature itineraries to the Bahamas, Florida and the southern Caribbean.

The biggest splash is just a year away, however, when Cunard’s 2,000-plus-passenger Queen Victoria enters service in December 2007. The 90,000-ton vessel will include the top-drawer amenities cruise passengers have come to expect from Cunard.

She will house an 800-seat Royal Court Theater, complete with private viewing boxes, a cruise industry first. Her two-story, wood-paneled library with spiral staircase will feature a collection of 6,000 books, and if you seek to hone your nautical mind, check out her floating “Cunardia” onboard museum, complete with historic memorabilia. 

Holland America Line will launch its 80th passenger ship since the company’s first vessel, Rotterdam, sailed to New York City in October 1872. The new 2,044-passenger, 86,000-ton Eurodam will enter service in the summer of 2008.

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