LARGEST, LONGEST, TALLEST, widest. That's how the new $780 million, 150,000-ton Queen Mary 2 is being touted. Scheduled for her maiden voyage from Southampton, England, to Fort Lauderdale, Fla., in January 2004, the Cunard Line ship boasts the most extensive meeting facilities of any vessel at sea, featuring a 10,225-square-foot conference center comprising seven classrooms with adjustable walls. Illuminations, the ship's planetarium, can convert into a 492-seat theater and is equipped with state-of-the-art audiovisual equipment. The largest auditorium aboard the QM2 is the Royal Court Theatre, which seats 1,094. The ship also has a 20,000-square-foot Canyon Ranch SpaClub; five swimming pools, one with a retractable dome; a full basketball court; and a golf simulator, putting green, and driving range. There are 10 dining venues, including Todd English, a Mediterranean specialty restaurant. The QM2 will sail itineraries to the Caribbean, Northern Europe, New England and Canada, the Mediterranean, and ports in Africa and South America. With its spacious staterooms ranging in size from 200 square feet to 2,249 square feet, it will accommodate 2,620 guests. www.cunard.com
Royal Caribbean International will debut its 3,114-passenger Mariner of the Seas in Port Canaveral on November 16. The new 142,000-ton ship will be the fifth in the company's Voyager class. It features a rock-climbing wall, an inline skating track, and a full-size basketball court. Also onboard are a 900-seat ice skating and entertainment venue, a 1,350-seat theater, a miniature golf course, and a spa and fitness center. Itineraries will alternate between seven-night Eastern and Western Caribbean cruises. In other Royal Caribbean news, Baltimore is being added as a port of departure for Caribbean cruises in 2004. Grandeur of the Seas will sail out of that port from July through October.
Building on the popularity of its Voyager-class ships, Royal Caribbean has ordered an even larger model, the Ultra Voyager, for delivery in May 2006. Destined for the Royal Caribbean International fleet, the new ship will be built in Finland. About 15 percent larger than Voyager, the Ultra Voyager will be 126 feet by 1,112 feet, and will stand 18 stories high while cruising at approximately 22 knots. At 100 percent occupancy, it will carry 3,600 guests and 1,400 crew. www.royalcaribbean.com
Viking River Cruises has added four new itineraries to its roster of European and Russian itineraries and has lengthened its sailing season from the end of March through December. Viking now offers a 17-night Eastern European cruise along the lower Danube, from Vienna to the Black Sea; a 5-night Rhine trip from Basel to Amsterdam; a 12-night Rhine and Moselle cruise, stopping at ports in the Netherlands, Germany, France, and Switzerland; and a 14-night France itinerary along the Seine and Rhàne rivers. www.vikingrivercruises.com