Despite the ongoing challenges of COVID-19 and its variants, major lines such as MSC Cruises and Celebrity are sailing full-speed ahead, drumming up excitement with perks like bigger ships, new ports and even private islands.
MSC was successful in launching two new ships in 2021—MSC Seashore and MSC Virtuosa—giving cruise-goers 19 vessels to now choose from. And that number is expected to increase to 23 by 2025.
“Alongside our aggressive growth, we have a strong commitment to the environment,” says Rubén Rodríguez, USA president of MSC Cruises. “We are working toward a more sustainable future with a commitment to reach net carbon neutral operations by 2050.”
When it comes to U.S. cruising, MSC’s new homeport of Port Canaveral gives passengers easier access to popular destinations in the Bahamas and Caribbean. In addition, the line’s recently debuted private island, Ocean Cay MSC Marine Reserve, provides a bonus stop for its Caribbean itineraries—featuring 2 miles of white sandy beaches, numerous restaurants and bars, and other adventure-packed land and sea excursions exclusively for MSC passengers.
“We are also very excited that our newest ship, MSC Seashore, launched in August in the Mediterranean, will make her debut in Miami this November, offering our guests the most outdoor space of any MSC Cruises ship,” Rodríguez says.
MSC Seashore also will be equipped with next-generation health and safety technology; it’s the line’s first ship with “Safe Air” technology, which sanitizes all air with UV-C light technology, eliminating 99 percent of all viruses and bacteria.
Not to be outdone, Celebrity is bringing the newest luxury ship from its groundbreaking Edge series to South Florida in fall 2022. Celebrity Beyond (which launches next April) will sail her maiden Caribbean season from Port Everglades in Fort Lauderdale. Beyond features world-class amenities such as the Retreat, Celebrity’s resort-within-a-resort; as well as 30 restaurants, bars and lounges—among them, the new Le Voyage by Celebrity’s culinary ambassador and Michelin-starred chef, Daniel Boulud.
In all, nine award-winning Celebrity ships will sail during the 2022-23 Caribbean winter season—including the three Edge Series ships (Beyond, Apex and Edge). They will be joined by four ships (Celebrity Equinox, Celebrity Millennium, Celebrity Silhouette and Celebrity Summit) recently “revolutionized” as part of a multimillion-dollar fleet renovation program. The nine ships (including Celebrity Constellation and Celebrity Reflection) will sail to island destinations from Fort Lauderdale and Miami (as well as from Tampa or San Juan, Puerto Rico) connected to an array of four- to 11-night itineraries—including once-in-a-lifetime Panama Canal voyage.
Celebrity has added to its already five-star experience with an “always included” program that folds Wi-Fi, drinks and tips into a cruise purchase—as well as a “cruise with confidence” program that offers flexible cancellations and best-price guarantees.
Carnival, meanwhile, recently launched its newest ship, Mardi Gras, from PortMiami—becoming the first cruise ship in the Americas to be powered by nontoxic, eco-friendly liquefied natural gas. It’s also the first ship to feature a roller coaster, plus restaurant concepts by celebrity chef Emeril Lagasse, Food Network personality Guy Fieri and retired NBA star Shaquille O’Neal.
“Mardi Gras’ sister ship, Carnival Celebration, is set to debut from PortMiami in late 2022, coinciding with our 50th birthday festivities and operating weeklong cruises to the Caribbean and Bahamas,” says Vance Gulliksen, Carnival Cruises’ senior news desk manager.
Though the 18 months and change have been challenging, many in the industry agree that the lessons learned will lead cruise lines to create even better experiences for passengers.
“We’ve learned a great deal about the loyalty and dedication of our guests, employees and partners,” Gulliksen notes. “They have been with us through thick and thin—we don’t know where we would be without them.”
Adds MSC’s Rodríguez: “Even prior to the pandemic, we have always focused on protecting the health and safety of our guests and crew. We adapted quickly because we already have this experience in what we do every day—it’s in our DNA.
“No other vacation right now offers the level of health and safety that a cruise offers, and these measures are in place to give guests the peace of mind they need to enjoy their vacation [and] to relax.”