ALTHOUGH THE UNITED STATES ELIMINATED its cruise travel to Cuba in June, affecting some 800,000 passengers, travel by sea shows no sign of slowing worldwide, and cruise lines are expanding their fleets and destinations for 2020, expected to be a record year. North Americans will make up nearly half of the expected 30 million passengers in the coming year, an increase spurred on by the continuing popularity of cruises to Alaska, the Caribbean and the Mediterranean, along with the rising tide of river cruises and expedition-style sailing.
A score of brand-new ships, ranging from luxury-laden yachts to lavish floating resorts, will take to the waters in 2020. Virgin Voyages launches its first vessel, the 2,800-passenger Scarlet Lady, while The Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection introduces the first of its three yachts, the 298-passenger Azora. Princess Cruises will showcase its newest ship, the 3,660-passenger Enchanted Princess, on 21 alternating seven-day Caribbean sailings out of Fort Lauderdale starting in November 2020.
In most cases, new ships mean added luxuries and novel features. Celebrity Cruises’ new ship for 2020, the 2,800-passenger Celebrity Apex, will feature the “Magic Carpet,” a movable deck cantilevered over the side of the ship that elevates from decks 2 to 16 to serve as a restaurant and embarkation plat- form. P&O’s new Iona, powered by liquid natural gas, includes a half-mile-long lanai deck featuring 17 eateries, 12 bars, 13 entertainment venues, 16 whirlpools and four swimming pools.
Silversea Cruises will debut two new ships in 2020, the 596-passenger Silver Moon and the 100-passenger Silver Origin, an ultra-luxury expedition ship specially designed for Galápagos cruising, with eight Zodiacs and butler service for all suites.
Among other full-luxury expedition ships christened next year are Lindblad Expeditions’ 126-passenger National Geographic Endurance, with saunas, yoga rooms and infinity Jacuzzis; Crystal Cruises’ 200-passenger Crystal Endeavor, designed for polar exploration with helicopters and a submarine aboard; and Scenic Cruises’ 228-passenger, all-suite Scenic Eclipse II, also with its own submarine and helicopters as well as 10 dining options, a gym and butler service.
While smaller ships with bigger luxuries are leading the way in 2020, new mega-ships have not been pushed aside. Royal Caribbean will launch another in its line of behemoth cruisers, the 4,246-passenger Odyssey of the Seas, complete with room for bumper cars, robotic bartenders and “virtual balconies” for its inside cabins. MSC Cruises’ MSC Virtuoso is laden with 6,334 passenger berths, a fine arts museum, “cluster cabins” for families, Cirque du Soleil performances and a double-deck amusement park. And Carnival Cruise Line’s Carnival Mardi Gras, coming August 2020, will accommodate 6,600 passengers, a new world record.
Qatar Airways is expanding this year, adding eight new destinations to its network. The list includes:
oneworld is an alliance of 13 world-leading airlines committed to providing the highest level of service and connecting you to more than 1,100 destinations around the world.
Hotel Indigo recently launched its Clues to the Neighborhood initiative, a fun way for travelers to discover experiences in property neighborhoods. Clues to the Neighborhood uses curated artifacts to artfully present travelers with a new look at a locale, with the hope of leading them to local museums, shops, music venues, restaurants and bars.
United Airlines’ environmentally friendly efforts lessen the impact on local U.S. communities.
Travelers in Las Vegas can enjoy a new dining concept at Wynn Las Vegas starting March 19. A new restaurant, Elio, will debut, offering an energetic environment and thoughtful menu items reflecting Mexico’s rich culinary traditions. Small plates focus on seafood and produce, while entrees are shareable. A lounge offers agave-based spirits.
ForwardKeys.com found an increase of 4.5 percent in 2019 was significantly slower than the 6 percent growth in 2018 and the average over the last decade of 6.8 percent per year. The increase last year was less than expected, but projections for quarter one of 2020 is more optimistic. Bookings are expected to grow 8.3 percent when compared to the same period in 2019.
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Château Élan Winery & Resort reopened in Braselton, Georgia, following a $25 million comprehensive renovation. The first major refurbishment since the resort’s inception in the mid-1980s pays homage to the estate's 16th-century charm, while taking the property into the future. Now, the resort offers 251 brand-new guestrooms and 24 suites, four new food and beverage venues, an immersive spa, pool terrace and new lobby. The winery likewise received a facelift.