The global health pandemic of 2020 has seen numerous delays for the industry's orderbook, with new ships under construction being pushed back months, and sometimes years, from their original launch dates.
That means the best 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.
Fortunately, there remains a multitude of new ships, big and small, set to debut in 2021, from the successor to Virgin Voyages' Scarlet Lady; to Seabourn's brand-new, ultra-luxury expedition vessel, Seabourn Venture.
A look at what ships are scheduled to hit the waves next year:
Delayed from 2020
Several ships that entered service in 2020 never had a chance to begin passenger operations due to the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic. Fortunately, these state-of-the-art vessels will be ready to welcome passengers once the time is right.
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 newbuild.
Celebrity Apex Itineraries: Caribbean, Europe, Transatlantic
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 speciality 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.
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's 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 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 layup in the Bahamas, followed by a long stint at anchor off Genoa, Italy, without ever receiving revenue passengers.
As of December 9, 2020, the ship is now delayed until May 9, 2021.
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's newest ultra-luxury vessel Silver Moon officially debuted with a handover ceremony October 30 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 each and 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, 2021.
Silver Moon Itineraries: Africa and the Indian Ocean; Asia; Caribbean and Central America; Mediterranean; South America; Transoceanic; World Cruises
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 newbuilds in the future.
Silver Origin is expected to set sail on April 3, 2021.
Silver Origin Itineraries: Galapagos Islands
MSC Virtuosa, the second ship in MSC Cruises' Meraviglia Plus Class, was slated to launch in September 2020, but will now launch in April 2021.
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 331 meters (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 5 May.
Coming in 2021:
Carnival Mardi Gras
Quite possibly Carnival's most hotly anticipated ship in decades, the first-in-class Mardi Gras was scheduled to debut February 6, 2021, after COVID-related construction delays at the Meyer Turku shipyard in Finland.
On December 3, Carnival announced the debut of Mardi Gras would be pushed back to April 24, 2021.
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
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 lines 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'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, 2021 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 2021, 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 yacht-like styling and amenities, including five different 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 & New England, Transatlantic Crossings, Northern Europe
Odyssey of the Seas
Originally set to debut in November 2020, 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 2021.
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
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 panelled 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.
Spirit Of Adventure
Saga Cruises' long-awaited second newbuild was originally scheduled to debut in August 2020 before being pushed back to May 4, 2021 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 was due to launch in 2020 but was delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic and its impact on shipbuilding worldwide. Instead, Crystal's first oceangoing newbuild 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: Antarctica, Artic, Worldwide
An evolution of MSC Cruises' popular MSC Seaside and MSC Seaview, MSC Seashore will be 52 feet longer and will boast an entirely redesigned deck layout offering more dining spaces, bar and entertainment venues, new public spaces and, behind the scenes, new engines.
Some of the new features include a redesigned aft pool area on Deck 8; a new two-story show lounge located directly below the Deck 8 pool; new clusters of family and connecting cabins; a larger indoor pool area with a retractable glass magrodome roof; and redesigned dining venues, lounges and bars.
Some of MSC Seashore's new features have yet to be revealed -- MSC hasn't even released plans for entertainment decks 6, 7, and 8 as of this writing -- but the ship looks to address some of the passenger flow and other concerns raised by cruisers aboard MSC Seaside and MSC Seashore.
The third time really could be the charm for MSC's newest internationally minded passenger ship.
MSC Seashore Itineraries: Mediterranean
The debut vessel for Atlas Ocean Voyages, the 196-passenger World Navigator will enter the luxury expedition segment when it sets sail in the second half of 2021.
At 423 feet in length, World Navigator will still be large enough to offer all the amenities cruisers have come to expect, including a few that they may not have, like The Water's Edge: an outdoor, bow-mounted viewing area with heated seating for cooler climates. The ship also sports a jogging track; glass-enclosed, forward-facing observation lounge; inclusive dining venues; an onboard theatre; a SeaSpa by L'Occitane; a fitness center and a juice bar.
The ship will be defined as much by its inclusions as its physical characteristics, with Atlas offering things like roundtrip airfare; premium beverages; butler service in suites; L'Occitane toiletries; yoga, Pilates and spinning classes; prepaid gratuities; and a complimentary shore excursion in selected ports of call.
World Navigator Itineraries: Mediterranean, Caribbean, South America, Antarctica, Transoceanic
The ship was originally to be named Ryndam and was renamed to Rotterdam after the line's existing Rotterdam was transferred out of the fleet in summer 2020. With construction pushed back as a result of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, Holland America announced Rotterdam would debut in Northern Europe and the Baltic at the end of July 2021 before repositioning to Fort Lauderdale in October 2021.
Rotterdam will offer classic Holland America hallmarks including the musical venues Lincoln Center State, B.B. King's Blues Club and Billboard Onboard. It will also feature a 270-degree World Stage theater, Rudi's Sel de Mer specialty restaurant and the Grand Dutch Cafe.
Rotterdam Itineraries: Northern Europe Baltic, Transatlantic, Caribbean
The sixth and final of Princess Cruises' Royal Class vessels, Discovery Princess sets sail in November 2021 on its maiden voyage.
Though the ship isn't a radical departure from its fleetmates, the Ocean Medallion-enabled vessel offers Princess favorites like The Sanctuary private enclave; the social and performance hub that is the atrium Piazza; and Sky Suites that offer the largest balconies in the Princess Cruises fleet.
Discovery Princess Itineraries: California Coast, Mexican Riviera, Caribbean, South America, Europe, Transatlantic
Swan Hellenic's recently announced newbuild, Minerva, makes its debut in November 2021.
The first of two polar ice-class vessels, Minerva is named after the much-beloved Minerva of the former Swan Hellenic, which went bankrupt in 2017. This new iteration, though, will provide the British heritage beloved by the line's past passengers while adding new features and amenities to appeal to today's cruiser.
The ship will carry 152 passengers in 76 spacious cabins and suites, most of which will offer balconies. Set at the luxury end of the expedition market, it will also carry a fleet of Zodiac rafts and a team of experienced expedition guides.
The green-hulled beauty sets sail in November 2021.
Minerva Itineraries: Arctic, Antarctic, Russian Far East
The sister to 2020's Silver Moon, Silver Dawn will debut November 9, 2021. Exact details and differences haven't been revealed yet, but it is widely expected the ship will offer Silversea's hallmark features that were present aboard Silver Moon and near-sister, Silver Muse.
This includes Silversea's pioneering culinary SALT concept that pairs local flavors and dishes with authentic experiences ashore that change with the deployment of the vessel.
The ship will also offer the casual Arts Cafe, the popular Dolce Vita main bar and the aft-facing Panorama Lounge for cocktails and evening dancing.
In keeping with Silversea's long-standing policy, all suites onboard Silver Dawn, regardless of category, will have the included services of a butler.
Silver Dawn Itineraries: Mediterranean, South America, Transoceanic
The sister-ship to Virgin Voyages' first vessel, Scarlet Lady, Valliant Lady will offer more of the company's hip, trendy designs and onboard amenities, including multiple dining venues, interactive entertainment activities, and a wide array of cabins and suites.
What isn't known, though, is how Valliant Lady will differ, if at all, from its fleetmate. Tweaks and changes are often made to the second ship in any class of vessel.
Originally due to debut in May in the Mediterranean, Valliant Lady will now set sail on November 14, 2021 in the Caribbean.
Valliant Lady Itineraries: Mediterranean, Transatlantic, Caribbean
Seabourn's newest class of dual luxury-expedition vessel debuts in December 2021 with its 264-passenger Seabourn Venture.
Outfitted with a PC6 polar class ice-strengthened hull and 132 all-verandah oceanview suites, Seabourn Venture will build on the quietly elegant spaces that have become Seabourn's hallmark onboard experience.
Of particular note is the new, 270-degree Constellation Lounge. Building on Seabourn's trademark observation lounge, this new space will offer floor-to-ceiling windows and will serve as a gathering spot for expedition lectures, wildlife viewing sessions, cocktails, canapes and even continental breakfast and afternoon tea.
The unique Bow Lounge is another new space, offering up commanding forward-facing views and interactive screens that display much of the vessel's navigational data. It's the next best thing to being on the ship's navigation bridge.
Seabourn Venture will spend most of its inaugural season in the world's polar climates. Expeditions will be aided by two onboard submarines and a fleet of double kayaks, mountain and e-bikes, and 24 inflatable Zodiac rafts.
Seabourn Venture Itineraries: Antarctica, Artic, South America