By the end of the year, a new generation of cruise ships will sail from South Florida: the major cruise lines’ biggest and most innovative additions yet.
Last week, Royal Caribbean International’s 5,479-passenger Harmony of the Seas was launched from French shipyard STX France in Saint Nazaire, completing 32 months of construction on the more than $1 billion ship — the largest in the world.
On April 28, Carnival Cruise Line launched its biggest ship ever, the 3,954-passenger Carnival Vista from the Fincantieri shipyard in Italy.
In November, both ships will sail from South Florida — Harmony of the Seas from Port Everglades in Fort Lauderdale and the Carnival Vista from PortMiami.
The two are brimming with features that push the limits of what can and can’t be on a cruise ship.
For the first time, Royal Caribbean International is adding slides to its new ships. On Harmony of the Seas, the Ultimate Abyss features a 100-foot drop that plunges passengers 10 stories from the 16th deck to the Boardwalk on the sixth deck, making the slide the tallest at sea. The ship is just ever-so-slightly bigger than sisters Oasis of the Seas and Allure of the Seas.
The Carnival Vista’s new open-air cycling experience, SkyRide, is a cruise-industry first. The attraction suspends riders on a track above the sports deck atop the ship. In an homage to the ship’s name (vista means view in Spanish), the dual-track pedaling experience gives travelers a new perspective of the ship — and the ocean about 150 feet below.
Coincidentally, both ships are the 25th vessel in each cruise line’s fleet.
In Port Everglades, Harmony of the Seas will replace Oasis of the Seas, which is moving to Port Canaveral near Orlando, and begin with a three-day sailing on Nov. 5 followed by alternating week-long voyages to The Bahamas, St. Thomas and St. Maarten or Haiti, Jamaica and Mexico.
The Carnival Vista will sail from Europe until October, when it will head for New York and then Miami for Caribbean sailings to Jamaica, The Bahamas and Grant Turk Island beginning Nov. 27.
Here are some of the new features coming to these behemoths:
Harmony of the Seas
▪ “Perfect Storm” water slide trio.
▪ Broadway production of Grease.
▪ A two-story specialty restaurant called “Wonderland,” first on the Quantum ship class, featuring an imaginative menu that guests paint water on to reveal selections
▪ Carnival Multiplex, a complex that includes a 187- seat IMAX Theatre and the Thrill Theater, a multi-sensory movie experience where chairs move and viewers are sprayed with water and bubbles.
▪ A high-energy show featuring American classics by artists such as Bruce Springsteen and Aerosmith, called America Rocks!
▪ A Clue murder mystery experience.