October 4, 2010 at 2:44 pm , by Jennifer Castoro
Fall is a fabulous time to take a cruise: The end of hurricane season (in November), fall-only foliage itineraries and shoulder-season prices in hot spots like the Caribbean, Mexico and the Mediterranean make the next few months a prime time to hit the seas. And two of the more recent ships on the water, Royal Caribbean’s Oasis of the Seas (soon to be joined by sister ship Allure of the Seas, which sets sail in December) and Norwegian’s Epic, are, in a word, insane. Really, they’re monstrous – and awesome. Disney will be launching the Disney Dream, it’s first new ship in 10 years, in January 2011. And despite what you might think, the feedback is that you probably won’t notice the thousands of travelers on board when these colossal ships are full: They’re designed to give you the best big-ship experience with the ease and fun of smaller options.
If it’s been a while (or never!) since the last time you cruised, consider the new features on these super-cool ships. Move over, Love Boat!
You’ve probably heard about the much-hyped Oasis of the Seas, which launched in November 2009. This December, Royal Caribbean will launch the identical Allure of the Seas, which will travel in the Caribbean. These floating cities are broken into distinct “neighborhoods,” including a boardwalk with a carousel and classic carnival games and a pool and sports zone (shown at left), and each has an AquaTheater at the rear of the ship where brave (bonkers?) divers take flight off of 10-meter high-dive platforms into the deepest saltwater pool at sea. One of the ship’s most interesting innovations is the variety of balcony cabins available: Besides the view of the ocean, you can book a room overlooking the boardwalk area, Central Park or the AquaTheater. The ship can hold 5,400 guests at capacity and has about a zillion dining options (and by zillion, I mean 24), most without additional charges.
Read about the Epic and the Dream, and find out how to win a Celebrity cruise, by clicking here.
If the Oasis and Allure are all about super-size family fun, the Norwegian Epic is going for the entertainment factor. They’ve got performances by the Blue Man Group, Legends in Concert (faux Elvises and Michaels and Madonnas, hooray!), Second City sketch comedy troupe and Cirque Dreams and Dinner, a full-scale Cirque du Soleil-style dinner show. In the Aqua Park (pictured at right), there’s a 200-foot waterslide that shoots riders in inner tubes down a giant funnel-like slide and out the bottom. Among Epic’s other advances are their studio rooms, designed for solo travelers: There are no surcharges if you cruise alone, as there may be on ships where rates are based on double occupancy, and the one-person suites are modern and relatively roomy. I’m most interested in the SVEDKA ice bar, which is kept at a frosty 17 degrees and equipped with faux-fur parkas. What a cool idea! (Sorry, I had to do it.)
Disney’s Dream, only the third ship in its cruise line, is, not surprisingly, totally family-focused. And as are most things Disney, it’s a top-notch experience from bow to stern. You can see 3D movies and Broadway-caliber Disney shows in the impressive art-deco theater and of course go to meet-and-greets with your kids’ fave characters. (Though I’d plan for those ahead of time: No need to kill your kid’s dream of a tete a tete with Belle if she’s not on the ship that day.) There’s also an adults-only pool and nightlife section, dubbed The District, for when you want to ditch the little rascals. Interior staterooms have virtual “portholes” that show live video feed of the ocean and scenery you’re sailing by, so you don’t feel quite as much like you’re sleeping in a closet. Another neat innovation is the Enchanted Garden restaurant: During dinner, you’re seated in booths that look like tea cups, and the walls and ceiling surrounding you change from a light-filled, green garden space to a sunset and finally to a starry sky as time passes. They’ve also got the 765-foot-long Aqua Duck, a “water coaster” that takes riders off the side of the boat in a see-through tube and loops back in to splash down a 4-deck drop. (There’s a cool video of the ride here.) Guess where your kids will be all day?
And don’t forget, you or a do-gooding loved one could win a cruise! LHJ, with Cabot Creamery, CommonKindness and Celebrity Cruises, are giving away six 6-day, 5-night Western Caribbean cruises to deserving volunteers who make a difference in their communities. Check out the entry form on CommonKindness.com and nominate a friend or loved one asap!
Don’t miss the full cruising story in our October issue, on newsstands now.
Categories: Ladies' Lounge | Tags: Allure of the Seas, cruise, cruising, Disney Cruise Line, Disney Dream, Epic, fall travel, family travel, family vacations, Norwegian Cruise LIne, Oasis of the Seas, Royal Caribbean, travel, vacations | 13 Comments
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