Seven big cruise ships debut this fall and in 2011, bringing more glamour, more size, and more capacity to the already crowded cruising world.
Although the great recession has hit the cruise industry just like every other, "keep in mind that these ships were ordered about three years ago," before the downturn, says Stewart Chiron, Florida cruise industry analyst and chief executive officer of CruiseGuy.com.
In the next few years, there will be a slowdown in the number of new ships, Chiron says. Carnival and Royal Caribbean have fleets of more than 20 each, more than enough to serve markets and destinations worldwide.
As a passenger, is it important to have the newest ship?
"A lot of cruise lines want you to think that - especially if you have a terrible itinerary," Chiron says. In general, look for the best itinerary first.
The newest ships continue certain trends. There are more high-tech links aboard (Apple stores, WiFi, worldwide cell service), fewer art auctions (more simply have art galleries where you can buy what you like), and even more activities (roller coasters, ropes courses, cooking classes).
Many of these new ships will sail the Mediterranean in summer and the Caribbean in winter.
Here's a preview of the newest ships. Prices are samples from each line's website. They may differ from what you find, depending on cruise date or special rates.
Theme: Sleek and modern; verandas in 85 percent of its staterooms.
Sails: Holy Land/Mediterranean; Caribbean; from Cape Liberty, N.J.
12-day, ocean-view room: $1,509
Info: www.celebritycruises.com, 1-800-647-2251.
Cunard's Queen Elizabeth
Theme: A throwback to elegance, reminiscent of the old QE2.
Debut: Last month
Sails: From Southampton, England, to points in Europe; will make a round-the-world cruise in January.
7-day, ocean-view room: $2,200.
Allure of the Seas
Theme: Gigantic floating city that keeps passengers so busy they'll barely notice they're sailing. Sister ship to Oasis.
Sails: Eastern and western Caribbean from Fort Lauderdale.
7-day, ocean-view room: $980.
Info: www.allureoftheseas.com, 1-866-562-7625.
Theme: Upscale small ship that will have a culinary studio for cooking classes.
Sails: Panama Canal and Caribbean in winter from Miami; Mediterranean in summer.
12-day, ocean-view room: $3,699.
Info: www.oceaniacruises.com, 1-800-531-5619.
Theme: Fun and entertainment; will have a ropes course and its own private-label beer.
Sails: Mediterranean in summer; Caribbean from Galveston, Texas.
7-day, ocean-view room: $719.
Info: www.carnivalmagic.com, 1-888-227-6482.
Theme: Small and luxurious. Literary and culinary celebrity speakers are a big draw.
Sails: Mediterranean in summer; Caribbean in winter from Fort Lauderdale.
7-day, ocean-view room: $3,499
Info: www.seabourn.com/YourYachts/Quest, 1-800-929-9391.
Theme: Family fun on a large scale. Its inside staterooms will have virtual portholes featuring live feeds from the ship's exterior, making people feel like they have a window even when they don't.
Sails: Short cruises to Bahamas and Disney island Castaway Cay, from Port Canaveral, Fla.
5-day, ocean-view room: $1,350.