The Great Cruise Comeback

We spotlight two newcomers that embody the next-level big-cruise experience

After a lengthy pandemic pause, big-ship cruising is back with a vengeance. With this grand return comes a slew of eye-catching new ships that speak to the industry’s evolution and growing appeal. Kitted out in modern designs, cutting-edge amenities, eclectic dining spaces, and singular entertainment zones, these freshly minted ships are rewriting the cruise narrative. 

The Haven Sundeck
The Haven Sundeck

Norwegian Prima

Five years and more than a billion dollars in the making, the just-launched Norwegian Prima marks the first in an entire Prima class of ships by Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL). The 143,535-ton, 20-deck, 1,646-stateroom megaship is packed with firsts—big and small—plus groundbreaking amenities catering to all ages and vacation types.

Norwegian Prima
Norwegian Prima

Recreation reaches new heights—literally—on the world’s only three-level racetrack at sea, the Prima Speedway, which snakes around the ship’s upper decks. Below, discover a colossal outdoor game zone that features everything from a cozy dart bar to 3D Ping-Pong tables and the fastest (and scariest) slide in the industry, The Drop, a 10-story freefall from deck 18 to 8. 

Countering the white-knuckled thrills, serenity beckons in a multimillion-dollar sculpture garden (with installations by famed artist Alexander Krivosheiw) as well as at Infinity Beach, a resort-style expanse of infinity-edge pools and plush loungers. The Mandara Spa dazzles by design, underscored by an indoor waterfall that leads to a pair of relaxation pools, one cool, another warm. 

Scenes from the Norwegian Prima; Cabana-style seating at Indulge
Cabana-style seating at Indulge

A highlight of the ship’s 18 dining venues and 17 bars and lounges is Indulge, a veritable food hall with eight globally inspired outposts. Another is Metropolitan, the cruise industry’s first sustainable cocktail bar, home to zero-waste libations crafted with commonly discarded ingredients (think: repurposed watermelon rind and surplus almond croissants made into orgeat syrup).

Yet, among all the exciting newness and achievements, what truly sets the Norwegian Prima apart is the fact that it has highest staffing levels and space ratio of any contemporary or premium cruise ship. She also carries the greatest variety of suite categories available at sea, including those in The Haven by Norwegian, a multistory enclave occupying prime real estate on the top decks. 

Scenes from the Norwegian Prima; balcony with a hot tub in The Haven
Balcony with a hot tub in The Haven

The Haven comprises the ship’s best accommodations, from 368-square-foot penthouses to the 2,100-square-foot, three-bedroom Premier Owner’s Suite, plus a dedicated restaurant, library, bar, lounge, sundeck, and gravity-defying infinity pool. It promises the atmosphere and intimacy of a superlative small ship, and it’s here that the industry-leading staff-to-guest ratio and the luxury of space feel most palpable. A Haven-specific team, from butlers to concierges to maître d’s, ensures a five-star experience, while wide open spaces abound for the likes of sunbathing, lounging, or simply enjoying deep thoughts at sea. It’s no wonder that those who stay in The Haven rarely leave, even at ports of call. 

Scenes from the Norwegian Prima; Concourse Sculpture Garden
Concourse Sculpture Garden

While enhancements and additions are erasing previous megaship stereotypes, some elements remain—just bigger and better. Those include the presence of a sprawling buffet, which is polarizing, to say the least, but it does feature some amazing Indian cuisine and barbecue specialties. There’s also a Vegas-esque casino and a theater for nightly entertainment that’s anything but the cheesy cruise ship performances of yore. In fact, a high point of a recent sailing was a Broadway-caliber rendition of Tony Award–nominated Summer: The Donna Summer Musical starring American Idol finalist Kimberley Locke. 

Scenes from the Norwegian Prima; Prima Speedway
Prima Speedway

With the new Norwegian Prima, NCL brings a futuristic, floating, five-star city to life, branding the ship itself as an oceanfront destination. With a suite in The Haven and a plethora of innovative amenities at one’s disposal, big-ship cruising has never looked so fabulous. 

Celebrity Beyond

The latest in Celebrity’s Edge class series, Celebrity Beyond made her American debut in November at Fort Lauderdale’s Port Everglades, which she’ll call home half of the year. (The other half she docks in Rome.) Enhancing the original 3D-engineered Celebrity Edge blueprint, the 104,600-ton Beyond is longer and taller than her predecessors, with an additional deck (now totaling 17), 179 more staterooms and suites (for a total of 1,646), and even more wow-factor moments.

Scenes from Celebrity Beyond
Celebrity Beyond

The ship’s design stuns thanks to an excess of panoramic glass combined with sleek, personality-heavy spaces that bring the outdoors in. The multilevel Sunset Bar, for example, is a hybrid of an Italian beach club and a sexy Miami rooftop bar, with floor-to-ceiling glass that envelops the main dining area, fostering endless ocean vistas. Nearby, a rooftop garden presents an idyllic expanse for quieter cruise moments, while two double-story, martini-shaped hot tubs flank a sculpture-strewn lap pool. The open-air Magic Carpet lounge slides along the edge of the ship, positioned off a different deck daily. And across the staterooms, multi-award-winning British designer Kelly Hoppen has crafted soothing, nautical-inspired interiors. 

Celebrity Cruises Beyond
Pool deck

Other big names help Beyond live up to her name, too. Michelin-starred chef and restaurateur Daniel Boulud debuts his first restaurant at sea, Le Voyage, serving elevated French cuisine. As Celebrity Cruises’ well-being advisor, actress and Goop founder Gwyneth Paltrow contributes to the wellness programming and product lines found onboard. Finally, Captain Kate McCue, the first and only woman to be named captain of a mega cruise ship, has become a star attraction in her own right due to her recent television appearances and newly found Instagram fame.

Scenes from Celebrity Beyond; Eden Restaurant
Eden Restaurant

The ship’s retail component also breaks barriers. Starboard Cruise Services, the leading cruise retailer and part of ultra-luxe LVMH company, has introduced a series of haute boutiques across the ship. Shop for jewelry, watches, handbags, and accessories at a stand-alone outpost of Italian luxury brand Bulgari. Pick up handsome Louis Vuitton duffels and Montblanc writing instruments at the first men’s lifestyle boutique at sea, Mankind. Or check out new finds from Stella McCartney and Marni at Sense of Self and snag a vintage handbag at What Goes Around Comes Around.  

In total, Celebrity Beyond ticks all the boxes of the next-gen cruise experience we’ve been searching for, inclusive of splashy design, pioneering amenities, stellar retail, and an incredible vibe.

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