New cruise ships set to launch in 2021: Carnival Mardi Gras, Odyssey of the Seas


The global coronavirus pandemic of 2020 has caused numerous delays for the cruise industry’s orderbook, with new ships under construction being pushed back months, and sometimes years, from their original launch dates.

That means new cruise ships for 2021 include some favorites that were due to come out in 2020, like Carnival Cruise Line’s much-anticipated Mardi Gras.

And several ships that entered service in 2020 never had a chance to begin passenger operations due to sailing suspensions amid the pandemic.

So a multitude of new ships, big and small, are set to debut this year, from the successor to Virgin Voyages’ Scarlet Lady; to Seabourn’s brand-new, ultra-luxury expedition vessel, Seabourn Venture.

Here’s a look from at what ships are scheduled to hit the waves in 2021 and when:

Celebrity Apex

The sister-ship to Celebrity’s trendsetting Celebrity Edge, which debuted in the winter of 2018, Celebrity Apex will feature more of what made Celebrity Edge so unique among the cruise industry’s fleet.

The 2,910-passenger vessel will offer Celebrity’s “The Retreat” ship-within-a-ship luxury concept with top-of-the-line suites and a private rooftop terrace set high above the vessel. It will also offer the iconic Magic Carpet dining-bar-and-tender-platform, along with Celebrity’s Rooftop Garden, and numerous bars, lounges and free and extra-charge restaurants.

The ship has kept mostly to the formula introduced aboard Celebrity Edge, though you’ll see some minor design changes here and there, as is common with any second-in-class new build.

Celebrity Apex Itineraries: Caribbean, Europe, Transatlantic

P&O Cruises: Iona

The biggest ship ever built for the U.K. market and the first to be powered by Liquefied Natural Gas technology, P&O’s 5,200-passenger Iona was delayed by the coronavirus pandemic just as the cruise industry shut down.

The vessel – which was finally handed over to P&O Cruises in October – has eight specialty restaurants, 13 entertainment venues, four swimming pools including an infinity pool, and a total of 16 whirlpools.

Iona also includes a two-deck SkyDome on the top of the ship, functioning as a pool by day and a dining and entertainment venue by night.

The ship will get an as-yet-unnamed sister ship in December 2022.

Iona Itineraries: Canary Islands, Northern Europe, Norwegian fjords, Spain & Portugal

Princess Cruises: Enchanted Princess

After months of pandemic-related delays, Princess Cruises finally took delivery of its newest vessel, Enchanted Princess, at the end of September.

The 3,660-passenger ship is the fifth Royal Class vessel to enter service. The ship has the line’s Ocean Medallion technology built into it – and even has an Ocean Medallion welded into its keel.

Expect Enchanted Princess to offer more of the same features cruisers have come to know and love about the line and this class of ship, including an expanded Piazza atrium, Movies Under The Stars, the adults-only Sanctuary deck space, plus Princess’ lineup of cabins, suites and mini-suites. The ship will also feature Princess Cruises’ lavish Sky Suites.

Enchanted Princess Itineraries: Caribbean, Europe, Transatlantic

Virgin Voyages: Scarlet Lady

May 9

Virgin Voyages debut ship, Scarlet Lady, came this close to entering revenue service before the coronavirus pandemic. Cruise Critic even had a preview of the ship in Southampton prior to its journey across the Atlantic to its homeport of Miami.

Then COVID-19 happened, and one of cruising’s most eagerly anticipated ships was sent to lay up in the Bahamas, followed by a long stint at anchor off Genoa, Italy, without ever receiving revenue passengers. The ship is delayed until May 9.

It’s a shame, because Scarlet Lady represents a unique style of cruising. Sure, there are aspects that are likely to underwhelm (what were they thinking with that small pool?), but there are plenty of other innovative spaces and features that are sure to delight cruisers who don’t think of themselves as such. Scarlet Lady gets a sister-ship, Valiant Lady, next year. More on that below.

Scarlet Lady Itineraries: Caribbean, Bahamas

Silversea Cruises: Silver Moon

April 1

Silversea’s newest ultra-luxury vessel Silver Moon officially debuted with an Oct. 30 handover ceremony in Italy.

The 596-passenger vessel is a close sister to Silversea’s Silver Muse, but with some distinctions: It will be the first vessel in the Silversea fleet to inaugurate the line’s new Sea and Land Taste culinary concept that introduces itinerary-specific cuisine and beverages in a dedicated bar, restaurant and test kitchen.

Silver Moon will also debut revised versions of La Dame, Silversea’s signature French dining experience; and the cigar-and-brandy enclave that is the Connoisseur Club. Both venues will offer dedicated outdoor dining spaces for the first time.

Silver Moon continues Silversea’s tradition of offering butler service for every suite onboard, a nine-option pillow menu, Bulgari designer toiletries for all accommodation grades and Savoir beds in the highest-level suites.

Silver Moon is expected to debut on April 1.

Silver Moon Itineraries: Africa and the Indian Ocean; Asia; Caribbean and Central America; Mediterranean; South America; Transoceanic; World Cruises

SilverSea Cruises: Silver Origin


Silversea’s second debut of the year, Silver Origin, is noteworthy for being one of the newest and most luxurious hybrid cruise-expedition vessels in the Galapagos Islands. The 100-passenger ship replaces the outgoing Silver Galapagos (the ex-Renaissance Three) in sailing weeklong voyages to the Galapagos Islands, coupled with Silversea’s trademark butler service and inclusive amenities that include expansive pillow menus, complimentary beverages, Wi-Fi internet access and more.

Silver Origin introduces a number of new concepts, including Basecamp – a hybrid lounge, gathering space and Zodiac embarkation meeting point, all rolled into one. Expect this world-class design to work its way onto Silversea’s other forthcoming expedition-style new builds. Silver Origin is expected to set sail on April 3.

Silver Origin Itineraries: Galapagos Islands

MSC Virtuosa


MSC Virtuosa, the second ship in MSC Cruises’ Meraviglia Plus Class, was slated to launch in September 2020, but will now launch in April.

In terms of stats, MSC Virtuosa will come in at 177,100 gross registered tons, carry 6,297 passengers (at full occupancy) and span a length of 1,086 feet.

In addition to the bells and whistles afforded to the Meraviglia Plus Class by the Meraviglia Class, the Plus ships will also feature Cirque du Soleil performances, an indoor promenade with a digital sky ceiling, an indoor amusement park, an outdoor water park and the first contemporary fine art museum at sea.

Further, passengers will be able to access their cabins, book reservations and make purchases throughout the ship using wristband technology.

MSC Virtuosa Itineraries: Cruising in the Med and cruises from Kiel from May 5

Carnival Mardi Gras


Quite possibly Carnival’s most hotly anticipated ship in decades, the first-in-class Mardi Gras was scheduled to debut Feb. 6 after COVID-related construction delays at the Meyer Turku shipyard in Finland.

On Dec. 3, Carnival announced the debut of Mardi Gras would be pushed back to April 24. Every indication is that Mardi Gras will be worth the wait:

The biggest ship Carnival has launched, it will offer six distinct theme areas, including a reimagining of the classic atrium design, new eateries by Shaquille O’Neal and Emeril Lagasse, the much-vaunted BOLT roller coaster and 32 suites with access to a private enclave known as Loft 19.

Mardi Gras will make its home in Port Canaveral, offering cruise itineraries to the Bahamas and Caribbean. It will be the first ship in North America to be powered by clean-burning Liquefied Natural Gas technology and will debut an entirely new livery for Carnival: a swooping royal blue “wave” across the ship’s bow, topped with a red cheat-line and golden letters for the ship’s name.

Mardi Gras Itineraries: Caribbean from Port Canaveral

Viking Venus

Early 2021

The latest in Viking’s line of oceangoing vessels, Viking Venus continues the company’s tradition of providing an engaging onboard atmosphere coupled with crisp Scandinavian design and thoughtful features.

Expect to see more of the same aboard this all-balcony, 930-passenger vessel – and that’s not a bad thing. Since the introduction of sister-ship Viking Star in 2015, Viking has continually won awards and accolades for its oceangoing vessels. The cruise line’s ships, by design, are virtually identical to one another, though the company chooses small spots for big innovation; its most recent vessels include onboard planetariums, for example.

Viking Venus Itineraries: Worldwide

Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection: Evrima


Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection’s debut vessel Evrima has had one struggle of a birth. The ship, which floated out in 2018 and was slated to debut in February 2020, was pushed back to June 2020 before being rescheduled for an April 22 debut.

While the coronavirus pandemic didn’t help, ongoing issues at the Hijos de J. Barreras shipyard in Spain, where the vessel is under construction, had resulted in earlier delays.

When it does set sail in April, Evrima will bring Ritz-Carlton’s trademark style and sophisticated service to the high seas. Carrying just 298 passengers in all-suite accommodations, the vessel will boast yachtlike styling and amenities, including five dining venues and 24/7 in-room dining.

Passengers will also be treated to dining experiences like Aqua from celebrity chef Sven Elverfeld, whose restaurant at The Ritz-Carlton, Wolfsburg, was awarded three Michelin stars.

Evrima Itineraries: Mediterranean, Caribbean, Canada and New England, Transatlantic Crossings, Northern Europe

Royal Caribbean: Odyssey of the Seas


Originally set to debut in November, Royal Caribbean’s new Odyssey of the Seas was delayed until 2021 due to the knock-on effect on construction as a result of shutdowns imposed by the coronavirus pandemic.

The second Quantum Ultra Class ship after Spectrum of the Seas, Odyssey of the Seas will debut from Southampton, England, in April.

It will be the first Quantum Ultra class vessel to sail in North America (Spectrum of the Seas is primarily deployed in Asia), and will offer the top-deck SeaPlex entertainment zone, complete with bumper-cars; the innovative Two70 aft show lounge; the popular Music Hall entertainment venue; and Royal Caribbean’s iconic North Star, an elevated viewing complex unique to its Quantum Class vessels.

Other noteworthy features include the RipCord by iFLY skydiving simulator, the Clash for the Crystal City onboard laser tag venue and a variety of inclusive and specialty dining venues.

Odyssey of the Seas Itineraries: Northern Europe, Mediterranean, Caribbean

Sea Cloud Spirit


Sea Cloud’s first new build in two decades offers balcony staterooms plus the classic sailing yacht ambiance of the line’s venerable 1931-built Sea Cloud and its modern sister, Sea Cloud II.

The 132-passenger Sea Cloud Spirit features three masts of billowing sails and, in a first for the line, a forward-facing fitness center, spa and wellness facility. Stateroom accommodations will offer suitably nautical touches, like wood-veneer paneled walls, rich textures and colors, plus all the modern conveniences cruisers have come to expect from the international luxury line.

Sea Cloud Spirit will debut on a 10-day voyage from Palma de Mallorca and will then sail on to Barcelona, Tarragona, and Valencia before returning to Palma de Mallorca.

Sea Cloud Spirit Itineraries: Mediterranean, Northern Europe, Caribbean, Central America, Transatlantic

Saga Cruises: Spirit of Adventure


Saga Cruises’ long-awaited second newbuild was originally scheduled to debut in August 2020 before being pushed back to May 4 as a result of the global health pandemic. The 999-passenger newbuild is a direct sister to Saga’s popular Spirit of Discovery, which launched in 2019.

Like its sister-ship, Spirit of Adventure targets ardent British cruisers over 50 years old, though companions in their 40s are also allowed to join. What results is a mature, but classic, cruise experience devoid of much of the hubbub that fills most North American ships.

Expect Spirit of Adventure to be a boutique, country-club homage to all things British that is sure to suit Saga’s loyal passenger base.

Spirit of Adventure Itineraries: Northern Europe, Mediterranean, Canary Islands, Caribbean, Americas

Crystal Endeavor


Crystal Endeavor was due to launch in 2020 but was delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic and its impact on shipbuilding worldwide. Instead, Crystal’s first expedition ship and its first oceangoing new build in over a decade will debut in mid-2021, though an exact date has not yet been announced by the company.

Offering a crew-to-passenger ratio of 1:1 and an unheard-of passenger-to-space ratio of 100 (in layman’s terms: very, very spacious), Crystal Endeavor has been designed to offer a premium luxury expedition cruise experience.

Designed purposely for the world’s polar regions, Crystal Endeavor will also sail expedition voyages to numerous other parts of the planet. Butlers and expedition staff will mingle onboard, while passengers can enjoy popular Crystal dining venues including the Waterside Restaurant and acclaimed chef Nobu Matsuhisa’s Umi Uma and Sushi Bar. The ship will also offer a two-level, glass-enclosed solarium for perfect scenic cruising regardless of the outside weather conditions.

Crystal Endeavor itineraries: Alaska, Asia, Europe, South America, Australia and New Zealand

Other expedition ships

Crystal Endeavour is one of eight new expedition ships debuting around the world. All but one (Silver Origin) are being built to sail in polar waters, with all others having ice class ratings that allow them to linger in Antarctica longer. All will be small, ranging from the 100-passenger Silver Origin to the 200-passenger Endeavor and Ocean Victory.

All but two of the ships are part of the burgeoning luxury expedition movement that blends expedition-style cruising (Zodiacs, wet/dry landings, hikes) with high levels of service, gourmet cuisine and luxury amenities. Two of these luxury vessels also feature high-tech “toys” in the form of helicopters on two ships (Crystal Endeavor and Ultramarine), and a submarine on one (Crystal Endeavor). Others are notable for their low environmental footprint (Hurtigruten’s MS Fridtjof Nansen is the second of the line’s new hybrid-powered ships).

A few represent firsts for their lines: National Geographic Endurance (which has the highest ice class of all the new ships) is Lindblad’s first polar new-build; Ocean Victory will enable Victory Cruise Lines to sail to Alaska for the first time; and Ultramarine will be the first ship owned by Quark Expeditions, rather than chartered. Others, like Ponant’s Le Bellot and Le Jacques Cartier, are additional ships in classes introduced over the past two years.

National Geographic Endurance itineraries: Norwegian Fjords, Svalbard, Northwest Passage, Iceland and Greenland, Antarctica and Patagonia

Fridtjof Nansen itineraries: Antarctica, Western European coast, Greenland, Norway, Iceland

Le Bellot itineraries: Antarctica, Asia, Mediterranean, Middle East, Australia and New Zealand, Baltic Sea, South Pacific

Le Jacques Cartier itineraries: Mediterranean, Middle East, Baltic, Africa

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