Back in the golden day of cruising, travelers could barely believe their eyes when they stepped aboard a luxury cruise liner and found fully equipped gymnasiums, relaxing Turkish baths, and even well stocked libraries and outdoor, European-style cafes. Of course, all of these features, and indeed much, much more, are pretty standard across the board now, with most of us expecting high-end restaurants, shopping malls and casinos at the very least when taking a cruise. With the bar being well and truly raised, cruise companies around the world are seeking out new features that will make their ships stand out over all others and what the industry is starting to see on the newer ships, and on those that have been recently renovated, is a level of excitement and a level of utter luxury that has simply never before been seen at sea.
The North Star, which features aboard Royal Caribbean’s newest vessel scheduled to set sail in 2014, is the first of its kind in the world. Suspended by a rotating arm-style mechanism attached to the ship’s uppermost deck, the glass-encased gondola can only be described as a blend of the capsules of the London Eye and the glass elevator in the Roald Dahl classic. Holding up to 13 passengers at any one time, the North Star gives unrivaled 360-degree views over the vast ocean, from a 300 meter high vantage point. Royal Caribbean wanted to create a new feature that would simply be irresistible to travelers, and based on the 6.8 million annual visitors to the Eiffel Tower, and the 3.65 million people who ride to the top of the Empire State building each year, it seems that high viewpoints are right on trend. There’s just something about the perceived breathtaking sights that travelers cannot say ‘no’ to. It’s anticipated that the newer ships of the Quantum class will also feature a similar attraction.
Outdoor movie screens are becoming quite common on newer cruise ships as more and more cruise companies aim to make use of the great weather, particularly throughout the Mediterranean, Caribbean, and around the Australian coast. However, none are quite as spectacular as the ‘Movies Under the Stars’ screens on many of the Princess Cruises vessels. ‘MUTS’, as it has become known, debuted on the Grand Princess and, with a screen measuring 300 square feet, it is now one of the largest outdoor movie screens in the world. Located poolside for the ultimate in atmospheric impression, the screen shows up to 7 recent Hollywood blockbusters each day, along with sporting events, concerts, and kid’s films. Utilising state-of-the-art technology, the screen can be seen and heard even in brilliant sunlight and against the sounds of the ship’s engines, so you get excellent quality all of the time. The latest edition to the fleet, Royal Princess, unveiled an even larger screen towering over the open deck space.
Balcony cabins are a great choice of accommodation that give you the chance to gaze out over the ocean from your own private space. It’s an especially good option for those taking a romantic cruise, to enjoy the intimacy of watching the ship sail along the water’s surface together. Sadly, balcony cabins don’t always fall within the holiday budget, but all that is about to change. Royal Caribbean’s newest ship, Quantum of the Seas, features 373 ‘virtual balcony’ cabins, which include 80 inch LED screens stretching from floor to ceiling of an indoor cabin. What’s even more impressive is that these virtual balconies display real-time images of the outside, both at sea and in port. You can even turn the screen on and off as you please, so if you’re trying to have a little nap in the day, just switch the screen off for instant sleep-inducing conditions. Virtual balconies are expected to be rolled out on other Quantum class ships, as well as Navigator, Voyager, Adventure, and Explorer of the Seas, and it’s estimated that they will revolutionise cruise accommodations to a point where indoor cabins become the most popular rooms on the ship!
Love him or loathe him, Marco Pierre White has become a household name in the UK, and his culinary skills cannot be questioned. Marco lends his name to not one but four different restaurants across a number of P&O vessels with The White Room aboard Ventura considered by many to be one of the finest speciality dining venues at sea. The menu is varied but has a definitive European theme, with French-inspired chicken coq au vin, Italian risotto, and, of course, the obligatory snail side dish. If you’re lucky, you may even catch a glimpse of the man himself, who frequently steps aboard to whip up some mouth-watering cuisine and ensure that standards are being maintained. He’s even been known to offer on-board cookery lessons for children, helping to teach them about good health, good nutrition, and the finest of foods. If you’re keen to dine at a celebrity chef restaurant on board, try to reserve a table when you embark, as these restaurants do book up quickly. If you’re traveling in a suite aboard Ventura then you will also have exclusive use of this superb dining venue for breakfast each morning, should you wish.
Cruising is evolving to a point where it is almost unrecognisable from the days of the 1920s and 30s when simply a good meal at sea was considered to be an amazing feat. As more and more ships are being designed and constructed, we’re starting to see features, activities, and attractions that were once never mere pipe dreams now becoming spectacular realities. Bumper cars, skydiving simulators and the worlds most talented performance artists are just some of the additional features we can expect to see on ships in the near future.
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