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It’s hardly an idle quip to say that ships are getting bigger and brassier. Next year four of the big names in cruising will launch four mega ships, each with more jaw-dropping glitz and gadgetry than you’d find in a Baz Luhrmann film.

While none of the quartet will eclipse the world’s largest ship (Allure of the Seas wears that crown at 225,062 tons), each will carry more than 3,500 passengers. For Norwegian Cruise Lines (NCL) and Princess, it’s their second near-identical big ship in consecutive years, while Costa and Royal Caribbean have taken a breather of a few years between big roll-outs.

With the price of these ships ranging from US$734 to US$963 million, cash flow doesn’t seem to be a problem in this buoyant industry.

The 145,655-ton Norwegian Getaway will be first to slip off the German shipyard blocks in January 2014 sporting a jazzy mermaid and sunshine mural on its ample hull, reflecting the tropical clime of home port Miami. It will duplicate many of sister Breakaway’s features including the Waterfront boardwalk flanked by eight dining venues and lounges and an ice bar where 25 chilled-out drinkers sip vodka in a frozen chamber from glasses made entirely of ice. But where Breakaway paid artistic homage to New York in her hull and design, Getaway is a fully-fledged Florida gal and boasts restaurants inspired by Miami’s glamorous heyday of the ’40s and ’50s with names like the Tropicana Room and Flamingo Bar and Grill. Cruising the Caribbean over seven nights, it will appeal to fun-loving holidaymakers of all ages who don’t mind another 4,028 funsters aboard.

Much more sedate, Princess Cruises’ Regal Princess will launch in May as the 18th ship in the fleet and identical sister to Royal Princess. It was christened last year by the Duchess of Cambridge. The multi-level central atrium, dominated by two marble spiral staircases, will make a memorable first impression, although the talking point should be the over-water SeaWalk, a glass-bottomed walkway that extends by 8.5 metres from the edge of the ship over the ocean. A central bar is perfectly positioned for a strong drink for those with vertigo. Americans have a soft spot for Princess Cruises; they love the food, the comfort, the style and the absence of over-the-top razzle-dazzle. It will cruise the Mediterranean on 12-day itineraries between Venice and Barcelona.

Costa Cruises will launch its 17th vessel and flagship, the 114,500-ton Costa Diadema in October. Meaning “tiara”, the 3,500-passenger ship will display all the Italian company’s hallmarks – glass lifts, bejewelled ceilings, 15 bars, seven restaurants and non-stop entertainment. It will operate five-night cruises from Venice to Savona, and seven-night round-trip itineraries from Savona to Barcelona, Palma, Rose and La Spezia (for the resort of Cinque Terre). A company known for its competitive prices, on this ship Costa will continue to offer seven nights from a low US$569.  The mainly Italian and European clientele loves to have fun (read: up on deck dancing within minutes of stowing their bag in the cabin), so expect a week of high-energy high jinks.

The knockout of the newcomers, with a plethora of bells and whistles, will debut in November. At 167,800 tons and carrying 4,180 passengers, Quantum of the Seas will transport adrenalin seekers to yet another new stratosphere. Its big attraction will be North Star, a glass-enclosed capsule poised at the end of a 41-metre crane that lifts 14 people to a height of 91 metres and sweeps them over the ocean in a 250-degree arc. The mini London Eye-like contraption will be free to all comers, as will be the new bumper cars zooming around the SeaPlex sports complex.  Quantum will depart Cape Liberty, New Jersey for weekly runs to the Caribbean, Bahamas and Bermuda.

You can read the full article in the summer edition of Cruise Passenger magazine.

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