Carnival Firenze is the newest ship in Carnival's fleet. Credit: Carnival Cruise Line

The best new cruise ships for 2024

Author: Dave Monk

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New ships launching in 2024 will offer magic, music – and massive suites. Here’s our pick of the amazing features you’ll find on board...

A taste of Florence at sea

La dolce vita
is coming to California as 4,126-guest Costa Firenze joins sister line Carnival. After an extensive makeover (details yet to be revealed but we know she’s had her hull painted) the reborn Carnival Firenze will sail out of Long Beach from May, offering many of the same ‘Carnival Fun Italian Style’ experiences that Carnival Venezia introduced to New York in 2023.

The aim is to get the best of both worlds, so the decor has a Tuscan theme and guests will be able to enjoy Italian street food in thePiazza Duomo – named after Florence’s famous cathedral – but Carnival regulars will find plenty that’s familiar, including Guy’s Burger Joint and many other food and drink venues

Living on the Edge...
and a dream family suite

Just about everything on Icon of the Seas, which launches in Miami in January, will be amazing or record-breaking – or both. Royal Caribbean proudly claims that the biggest ever cruise ship will have the tallest drop slide, largest pool and most extensive waterpark at sea.

‘Crown’s Edge’ offers a sky-walking challenge that could be cruising’s ultimate test of bravery, while onboard entertainment includes everything from spectacular ice shows to intimate comedy gigs. And for those who like to eat to the beat, the Empire Supper Club offers live music specially chosen to complement the flavours of its Old New York-style cuisine.

Accommodation on this super ship is super-sized too. One of the most sought-after suites will be the three-storey Ultimate Family Townhouse, which has a cinema and karaoke room, indoor slide, two balconies, a whirlpool and even its own white picket fence and mailbox. Don’t hang around if you want to book it though – this amazing suite is already 92 per cent sold for its inaugural year, despite an eye-watering £65,000-a-week tariff.

A second Icon-class ship, Star of the Seas, is due to sail in 2025.

Icon of the Seas can offer a wide range of cabins - some of which are a world first. Credit: Royal Caribbean

Ship with a magic touch

Setting sail in February for the Caribbean and the Med, this 4,300-guest debutante is Princess Cruises’ biggest ship to date. Her flagship entertainment venue is The Dome, a glass-enclosed structure, inspired by the terraces of Santorini.

But there’s also something rather special behind a nondescript black door on deck 8. This is the entrance to a Victorian-style venue called Spellbound, where international illusionists perform close-up tricks against a backdrop of magical artefacts, vintage curiosities and special effects, while mixologists conjure up enchanting cocktails behind the bar.

Guests enter via a music room, where they meet the resident ghost, before heading into a parlour bar featuring Artemis the owl, and finally filing into the 30-seat theatre for what promises to be a mesmerising magic show.

Lights, cabaret… action!

For its 249th ship, Cunard has come up with something new – a cabaret lounge called the Bright Lights Society, with twice nightly shows on a stage surrounded by tables and seating.
The name of the 1920s-style Art Deco venue – where no two evenings will be the same – is a nod to Cunard’s past as the first ocean-going line to use electric lighting on its ships.

There’s a dance-floor, too – though if your style is strictly ballroom you’ll prefer to whirl your partner around the Queens Room, which will also provide afternoon teas as acrobats spin down from the ceiling unravelling silks. The 3,000-passenger Queen Anne will set off on her maiden voyage from Southampton to Lisbon in May.

Queen Anne is Cunard's first new ship in a decade. Credit: Cunard

Going loco for dinner

Hungry guests on Royal Caribbean’s latest Oasis-class ship can enjoy a whole new dining experience – a virtual train. The journey begins when a ticket is delivered to your cabin with a ‘departure’ time.

You arrive to be greeted by uniformed guards who show you to your carriage, where you’re treated to the sights, sounds and flavours of a culinary tour through the golden age of rail travel. Technology will combine with storylines to "engage all the senses," says Royal.

Also on Utopia of the Seas – the sixth in what was previously the line’s biggest class – will be the longest dry slide at sea, the 259ft Ultimate Abyss. The 5,668-passenger ship will make her debut at Port Canaveral, Florida, in July.

Cocktails under the sea

To call somewhere a dive wouldn’t normally be a compliment, but the new Periscope Pub on Disney Treasure takes you as close to the ocean depths as you’re likely to get on a cruise ship.

Inspired by the 1954 Disney film 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea, the bar has a glass ceiling that appears to look up through the waves. There’s a submarine-style interior, and guests will be able to order from a menu of craft beers and light bites while watching sport on a big screen.

Meanwhile, those who prefer a bar with plenty of spirits can sip cocktails in the Haunted Mansion, which brings ghouls to life in the setting of a classic ocean liner with a typically Disney blend of humour and horror.

Disney Treasure, the 4,000-guest sister ship to Disney Wish, which launched in 2022, will embark on her maiden voyage from Port Canaveral in December 2024

Disney is launching a brand new cruise ship in 2024. Credit: Disney Cruise Line

Space beyond compare

Hotel group Ritz-Carlton is going large with its second ship, Ilma (it means ‘water’ in Maltese). Launching in September 2024 with 448 guests on board, she will dwarf her fleet mate Evrima, which appeared in 2022.

There are two new suite categories – Ilma and Concierge – with terraces large enough to accommodate a dining table and an outdoor shower, and the ship is claimed to offer the most space per passenger of any cruise vessel afloat. She also has five restaurants, six bars and a wine vault, plus a water sports marina at the stern, and you can even toast your good luck (or vast wealth) with a complimentary bottle of champagne on arrival.

Ilma, meaning 'water' in Maltese, is the second new-build super-yacht from The Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection. Credit: Ritz-Carlton

Raise your glass to alfresco drinks

When Uniworld’s new luxury ship SS Victoria sets sail along the Rhine in March 2024, one of the most popular spots on board is bound to be the alfresco Vista Bar. Here the ship’s 110 guests can enjoy complimentary drinks as they glide past fairytale castles and vineyards.

A relaxed ambience should make this the perfect place to get to know your fellow travellers before you head downstairs for a sumptuous dinner. On summer evenings the bar will host open-air barbecue parties too.

Today's cruise ships are packed with impressive technology but some of the most significant innovations are never seen by the guests.

One feature that Icon of the Seas, Sun Princess, Utopia of the Seas, Disney Treasure and Ilma have in common is concealed belowthe waterline - they’re allpowered by liquefied natural gas. Although not as visually exciting as a new ride or luxurious suite, this is a highly significant development because LNG is the cleanest burning marine fuel, cutting greenhouse gas emissions by 20 per cent, reducing nitrogen oxides by 85 per cent and virtually eliminating sulphur oxide and particulates.

Innovations such as this, alongside shore power connections and waste heat recovery systems, will help the cruise industry towards its target of net-zero by 2050.

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