Cruise Ships

Setting Sail: 7 New International Cruise Ships For The 2023/2024 Season

The world of cruising is about to embark on an unforgettable journey as the 2023/2024 cruise season welcomes 6 magnificent new international cruise ships to the high seas.


  • These state-of-the-art vessels promise to redefine luxury, adventure, and exploration, offering travelers an array of exciting experiences and destinations.
  • From innovative amenities and world-class dining to thrilling onboard activities and mesmerizing itineraries, these ships are set to leave a lasting impression on the hearts of cruise enthusiasts worldwide.
  • So, pack your bags, bring your sense of adventure, and set sail with us as we embark on a journey of discovery and excitement.
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Each ship boasts its own unique personality and design, offering travelers an unparalleled range of options for their dream vacation. Whether you seek relaxation and indulgence or seek adrenaline-pumping adventures, there’s something for every traveler on these remarkable vessels.


These six new ships are waiting to welcome you on board, promising an extraordinary cruise experience like no other. Whether you’re a seasoned cruiser or a first-time adventurer, these new ships are sure to leave you in awe! Step aboard with The Sandton Times as we take a look at the 2023/2024 cruise season’s most anticipated new arrivals:


1. Celebrity Ascent: The Epitome of Luxury and Innovation


Coming in the fourth quarter of 2023, Celebrity Ascent is set to revolutionize the cruising experience as the latest addition to the highly acclaimed Edge Series. This award-winning resort at sea promises an unforgettable journey, taking travelers to some of the Caribbean’s most sought-after destinations before embarking on a summer of Mediterranean dreams.


The pinnacle of elegance and innovation, Celebrity Ascent boasts an impressive array of 32 distinctive restaurants, bars, and lounges, including the newly designed Le Voyage by Chef Daniel Boulud. Culinary enthusiasts will be treated to plant-based tasting menus at Eden Restaurant, the mesmerizing animated Le Petit Chef dinner, and a revitalized main dining experience at Cosmopolitan restaurant, inspired by the culture of champagne.


Accommodations on Celebrity Ascent are nothing short of luxurious, catering to all travelers’ needs. From the spa-inspired AquaClass staterooms to the revolutionary Infinite Veranda staterooms, which transform from windows to terraces at the touch of a button, and The Retreat, an exclusive haven with a private restaurant, lounge, and sundeck for suite guests.
Entertainment options on board are equally impressive, featuring the world’s first cantilevered lounge and gathering space at sea – The Magic Carpet. Guests can enjoy live music, movies, and al fresco dining at the Rooftop Garden Grill or experience state-of-the-art technology and imaginative performances at The Theatre.


For travelers seeking rejuvenation, the SEA Thermal Suite at the spa provides a tranquil escape with eight distinctive therapeutic experiences inspired by nature. The sprawling Resort Deck, with its main pool, two-story martini-glass-shaped hot tubs, and The Solarium, an adults-only spa-inspired retreat, beckons relaxation.


For those looking to indulge, Craft Social offers high-end bourbon tastings, and the Martini Bar features an expanded menu with low-sugar cocktails. Guests can also explore the redesigned Casino floor featuring new slot machines with the latest technology.


Ascent will be based in South Florida for the 2023-2024 Caribbean season, departing from Port Everglades in Ft. Lauderdale from December 2023 to April 2024. The ship will whisk travelers away to paradise-like destinations such as the Bahamas, Grand Cayman, Puerto Rico, and the British Virgin Islands. Afterward, Ascent sets sail for the Mediterranean for a summer of bucket-list cruises in Greece, Italy, Turkey, Spain, and France.


2. Cunard Queen Anne: A Majestic Addition to Luxury Cruising Arriving in 2024


Cunard, the esteemed luxury British cruise line, is no stranger to creating unforgettable experiences for travelers worldwide.


With an impressive 183 years of operation, Cunard has been a pioneer in transatlantic journeys, cementing its status as a world-class cruise operator. Offering fine dining, hand-selected entertainment, and outstanding service, every aspect of the Cunard experience is meticulously crafted to ensure an unforgettable voyage. From five-star restaurants and in-suite dining to inspiring guest speakers, libraries, and film screenings, guests are treated to an unmatched level of luxury.


Currently consisting of three magnificent ships, Queen Mary 2, Queen Elizabeth, and Queen Victoria, Cunard has exciting plans for the future. In 2024, Cunard’s much-anticipated fourth ship, Queen Anne, will grace the seas, marking the first time since 1999 that the cruise line will have four ships in simultaneous service.


Queen Anne will be the 249th ship to sail under the Cunard flag, joining the prestigious fleet alongside her sister ships. As with all Cunard vessels, the iconic red and black funnels will proudly adorn Queen Anne, symbolizing the company’s rich seafaring heritage and its dedication to luxurious ocean travel. The striking color scheme, conceived by Robert Napier, the shipyard owner who built some of Cunard’s earliest ships, remains a timeless symbol of the brand’s elegance and grandeur.


Queen Anne’s design concept is built on a foundation of heritage, craftsmanship, style, storytelling, and innovation. Spanning 113’000 tons and 14 decks, the ship will accommodate 3’000 guests and offer a myriad of breath-taking moments, including the largest curated art collection at sea. Cunard’s commitment to providing unique experiences is evident throughout the ship, with five-star dining options featuring the renowned White Star Service, luxurious spa facilities, and state-of-the-art entertainment venues.


In her maiden season, Queen Anne will take travelers to some of the world’s most enticing locations, from the cultural gems of the Mediterranean to the awe-inspiring landscapes of the Norwegian fjords. Guests can expect nothing less than an extraordinary journey filled with elegance, sophistication, and unparalleled hospitality.


3. NCL Viva: A Cruise Experience Like No Other


Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) is set to redefine the cruising experience once again with its groundbreaking Prima Class, and at the forefront of this revolution is the much-anticipated NCL Viva. As the second ship in the Prima Class and sister ship to the award-winning Norwegian Prima, NCL Viva is all about elevating the guest experience to new heights.


The Prima Class is designed to prioritize passenger satisfaction, offering world-class cuisine, spacious designs, and exceptional onboard activities. One of the highlights of NCL Viva is the Viva Speedway, a three-level racetrack that promises thrilling excitement for speed enthusiasts. This vessel also showcases the same outstanding experiences that make the Prima Class exceptional, including the Indulge Food Hall, an upscale food market with 11 unique eateries; The Drop and Rush, the fastest slides at sea; and the Metropolitan Bar, NCL’s industry-exclusive sustainable cocktail bar.


Launching in August 2023, NCL Viva will embark on a series of bucket-list-worthy Greek Isles and Mediterranean voyages through November before finding its homeport in San Juan, Puerto Rico, in December 2023. From there, it will set sail on a season of Caribbean itineraries, offering guests the chance to explore destinations like Tortola, St. Maarten, St. Lucia, and more.


The christening of a new ship is a fundamental nautical tradition, and NCL Viva’s ceremonial breaking of a champagne bottle on the bow will be officiated by none other than global music sensation Luis Fonsi. Known for his chart-topping hit “Despacito,” Luis Fonsi will bless and officially name the ship at the christening ceremony in Miami on November 28, 2023. The event will be a star-studded affair, featuring performances by Latin celebrity superstars like Paulina Rubio, Marcello Hernandez, and Pedro Capó, promising an unforgettable night of celebration.


4. Carnival Jubilee: A Cruise Ship of Fun, Adventure, and Ocean-Themed Delights


Carnival Cruise Line is set to introduce an exceptional addition to its fleet with the arrival of Carnival Jubilee in the fourth quarter of 2023. As the second ship in the Excel class, Carnival Jubilee promises an array of new and immersive ocean-themed experiences that will delight guests of all ages.

One of the standout features of Carnival Jubilee is the Currents zone, spanning Deck 6 and Deck 7. This awe-inspiring and transformative space takes guests on a journey below the waves, immersing them in mesmerizing underwater worlds. Through six huge LED windows and a wave-shaped LED ceiling, guests will be transported to ever-changing environments that shift from day to night and throughout the cruise. Within Currents, guests can enjoy a range of innovative dining and bar venues:

  • Dr. Inks, Ph.D: This playful bar adorned with eight crafty octopus arms offers unique ocean-themed drinks, including color-changing cocktails, jellyfish and layered shots, and drinks with playful garnishes like sea foam and boba pearls.
  • The Golden Mermaid: A stylish lounge home to a mysterious golden mermaid who unveils cocktail recipes inspired by precious gemstones and metals, presented with edible glitter and elegant glassware.
  • Emeril’s Bistro 717: Featuring renowned chef Emeril Lagasse’s signature creole cuisine, seafood delights, and Louisiana specialties, all served in an extraordinary underwater dining setting.


In addition to Currents, Carnival Jubilee boasts The Shores zone on Deck 8, which is inspired by the pleasures of the seaside, including piers, boardwalks, and beaches. Guests can stroll along the boardwalk, enjoying a Ferris wheel-inspired ceiling feature and casual seating areas. Here, they can indulge in hot pizza at Coastal Slice or savor delicious sandwiches and hot dogs at Beach Buns. Marina Bar offers comfortable lounge seating for guests to enjoy coffee and cocktails with ocean views.


The ship also features other zones that have proven popular on Carnival’s Mardi Gras and Carnival Celebration vessels:

  • Grand Central: A stunning area spanning Decks 6, 7, and 8, featuring breathtaking ocean views during the day and transforming into an innovative entertainment space at night with movable LED screens and a stage.
  • The Ultimate Playground: The top deck is home to BOLT, the Ultimate Sea Coaster, an exhilarating 800-foot-long track that allows guests to race at speeds of up to 40 miles per hour above the sea.
  • Summer Landing: A relaxed zone on Deck 8, housing Guy’s Pig & Anchor Smokehouse Brewhouse, where guests can savor smoked-onboard favorites and ParchedPig craft beers.
  • Lido: The vibrant poolside zone on Decks 16 and 17, offering the Carnival Seaside Theater, RedFrog Tiki Bar, BlueIguana Cantina, Guy’s Burger Joint, and more.


Carnival Jubilee will make its inaugural sailing from Galveston on December 23, 2023, joining Carnival Breeze and Carnival Dream to offer week-long Western Caribbean cruises. Carnival’s deployment in Galveston will further increase in 2024 when Carnival Miracle begins operating longer cruises from the port, providing guests with even more exciting options to explore the seas on Carnival’s ships.


5. Adora Magic City: China’s First Home-Built Cruise Liner Sets Sail


China’s cruise industry is set to make waves with the launch of its first domestically built cruise ship, ‘Adora Magic City’. The ship is scheduled to hit the waters by the end of 2023. As a 135,500-ton vessel with a capacity of 5,246 passengers and a length of 323.6 meters, the Adora Magic City is poised to provide a unique and unforgettable cruising experience.


The ship’s name pays homage to Shanghai’s moniker, ‘modu’ or the ‘magic city’, a term often used by the city’s younger generation. In Chinese, ‘mo’ represents magic and fascination, while ‘du’ translates to city or capital, perfectly reflecting the captivating charm of Shanghai. Adora Magic City aims to recreate the allure of Shanghai on the sea by incorporating an East-meets-West style in a ‘maritime city’. The ship’s name, blending the concepts of ‘Modern, Magic, and Miracle’, showcases Shanghai as the ‘capital of cruise liners’ and epitomizes the innovative glamour of the city’s classic culture, blending Eastern and Western influences in its design.


The ship’s design and manufacturing reflect Shanghai’s identity and ambition to promote haipai (Shanghai-style) culture and preserve the city’s cultural essence. Adora Magic City will serve as a ‘floating name card at sea’, proudly representing Shanghai and offering tourists from both home and abroad a chance to experience the charm of haipai culture.


With a home port in Shanghai, the Adora Magic City’s sailing routes will encompass ports in Japan and Southeast Asian countries, as well as along the Maritime Silk Road, providing travelers with an array of exciting possibilities. The ship is set to offer a range of thrilling attractions, from an expansive shopping center to a live comedy theater, ensuring guests have a truly immersive and delightful experience onboard.


6. Royal Caribbean Icon of the Seas: The Ultimate Family Vacation


Get ready to embark on a new era of vacations with Royal Caribbean International’s highly anticipated cruise ship, Icon of the Seas. Set to arrive in late 2023 and make its debut in January 2024, Icon of the Seas promises to redefine the concept of family vacations. This revolutionary ship will combine the best of every vacation, from beach retreats to resort escapes and theme park adventures, offering something for every kind of family and adventurer.


With eight neighborhoods onboard, including five new adventures and three returning favorites, Icon of the Seas is a destination in itself. Let’s take a glimpse at some of the exciting new neighborhoods:

  • Thrill Island: An adventure-packed center of excitement featuring Category 6, the largest waterpark at sea, with record-breaking slides and thrilling rides. Crown’s Edge, a part skywalk, part ropes course, part thrill ride, will provide a heart-pounding experience 154 feet above the ocean.
  • Chill Island: A three-deck paradise with seven pools, each offering different ocean views. Guests can enjoy the vibrant Swim & Tonic swim-up bar, the Royal Bay Pool, Cloud 17 – an adults-only retreat, and the serene Cove Pool. The Lime & Coconut, Royal Caribbean’s first frozen cocktail bar, returns with four locations.
  • Surfside: Designed for young families, this neighborhood is a haven for kids aged six and under. Splashaway Bay, Baby Bay, Adventure Ocean, and Social020 for teens ensure non-stop fun for everyone.
  • The Hideaway: This elevated neighborhood, 135 feet above the ocean, combines beach club vibes and uninterrupted ocean views. The suspended infinity pool is a centerpiece, surrounded by a sun terrace, whirlpools, and a dedicated bar.
  • AquaDome: Located at the top of Icon, AquaDome is a transformational space. By day, it’s a tranquil oasis with ocean views and a waterfall. By night, it turns into a vibrant entertainment hub with restaurants, bars, and the AquaTheater, featuring marquee aqua shows.


In addition to the new neighborhoods, Royal Caribbean will continue to offer signature favorites like the grand Royal Promenade, lush Central Park, and the largest Suite Neighborhood with luxury accommodations.


Icon of the Seas will accommodate families of all sizes with thoughtfully designed rooms, including Family Infinite Balcony and Surfside Family Suite. The ship will also pioneer clean-energy technology, powered by liquefied natural gas (LNG) and fuel cell technology, making it the cruise line’s most sustainable ship to date.


7. MSC Explora I: Luxury Lifestyle Cruising


Excitement is building as luxury travelers eagerly anticipate the maiden journey of EXPLORA I, the newest addition to the Explora Journeys fleet. Departing from Copenhagen, Denmark, on 1 August 2023, this remarkable seven-night sailing promises to take guests on an unforgettable adventure through the majestic landscapes of Lerwick, Shetland Islands, and Kirkwall, Orkney, before reaching the awe-inspiring destination of Reykjavik, Iceland.


What sets Explora Journeys apart is its commitment to creating unparalleled experiences for its guests. Following the maiden voyage, EXPLORA I will embark on several weeks exploring Northern Europe, offering a range of captivating itineraries, both on and off the beaten path. The ship will then chart a course across the Atlantic Sea via Greenland, spending the autumn in North America, the winter in the Caribbean, and the spring on the US West Coast and Hawaii. Finally, it will return to Europe in Summer 2024 to grace the Mediterranean Sea with a collection of unforgettable journeys. Throughout all sailings, EXPLORA I will call on lesser-traveled ports, offering guests a more authentic and immersive experience.


The onboard experience is tailored to ensure the utmost comfort and relaxation for guests. With journeys ranging from seven to 11 nights, passengers have the flexibility to combine different itineraries to suit their preferences. Non-conventional arrival and departure times, along with overnight stays in ports, grant exclusive access to once-in-a-lifetime experiences and a slower pace of travel, allowing guests to savor each destination fully.


Designed with the utmost precision and craftsmanship, EXPLORA I seamlessly blends elegance with modern European flair. Collaborating with world-renowned superyacht and hospitality designers, the ship stimulates the senses and encourages an ‘Ocean State of Mind,’ embodying the brand’s philosophy rooted in European heritage, style, and intuitive design.


The maiden voyage of EXPLORA I marks the first chapter in a grander saga. The MSC Group, headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland, owns Explora Journeys—a privately-owned luxury lifestyle brand. Drawing on the Aponte family’s 300-years of maritime heritage, the brand aspires to redefine the ocean experience for discerning luxury travelers. Their vision is to connect guests with the sea, themselves, and like-minded others, inspiring discovery in all its forms.


To bolster its commitment to sustainability, Explora Journeys ensures that all its vessels, including EXPLORA I, incorporate the latest environmental and marine technologies. From selective catalytic reduction to shore power plug-in connectivity and underwater noise management systems, the company strives to protect marine life and reduce emissions. The investment of over €500 million in the new ship reflects the brand’s dedication to its vision, with a total investment plan of €2.5 billion for the four ships on order.


As the maiden voyage approaches, anticipation and wonder grow, as EXPLORA I readies to embark on its unforgettable journey. Explora Journeys has set a new standard for ocean travel, offering luxury, sustainability, and authentic exploration in one truly extraordinary experience.


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Sandton Times Correspondent

Curated content from The Sandton Times newsroom desks.


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