Vacationers looking to escape on a cruise this winter are going to find a plethora on choices, thanks to the launching on several new ships, including the Oasis of the Seas, the largest cruise ship to ever hit the seas.
And thanks to the lingering recession, many cruise lines are still offering some steep discounts but not necessarily as generous as travelers saw last winter when free shore excursions and big onboard credits were being offered.
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"Those types of offers are not available anymore but the price points for cruises are still at a very good level," said Stewart Chiron, president of Cruiseguy.com, a travel marketing group specializing in the cruise industry.
The biggest thing -- literally -- hitting the cruise world this year is Royal Caribbean's Oasis of the Seas.
This mammoth ship will have its maiden voyage Dec. 5. It has a shocking 2,706 staterooms (1,956 of them with balconies), 16 different passenger decks, 24 elevators, 21 swimming pools and whirlpools and a wide range of entertainment and dining options.
At maxim capacity, it will have 5,400 passengers and 2,100 crew members.
The ship also claims a number of firsts: The first zip line – an 82-foot ride suspended nine decks in the air – and the first ever park at sea with 12,175 plants, 62 vine plants, 56 trees and bamboo – some over 24 feet high.
Chiron said the ship will be a game changer.
"They outdid themselves," he said, adding that the ship is 40 percent larger than any other cruise ship ever built.
But don't expect any discounts on this hot new ship.
Chiron said tickets on it will be about 30 percent higher than similar itineraries on other ships. Still, some people will want to splurge just to be on this ship.
"Some people are going to be goo-goo ga, ga over sailing on the newest, largest ship in the world," he said.
There are plenty of other new ships that have just been launched, or are about to come online this year. Carnival just launched Dream, its longest ship yet, which can accommodate 3,646 passengers. And in August, Celebrity launched Equinox, a 2,850- passenger ship. (That comes less than a year after the launch of sister ship Solstice.)
But not all new ships are giants. The luxury cruise lines are unveiling new, smaller upscale boats.
In December, Silversea Cruises is launching its first new ship in almost 10 years: Silver Spirit. Forgot thousands, this ship only accommodates 540 guests.
The Yachts of Seabourn just launched Odyssey in June, the smallest ship to launch this year about one-seventh the size of the Oasis' size. Odyssey holds up to 450 guests in 225 rooms. Seabourn notes that its smaller size will enable the vessel to access to unique ports, from Korea to Uruguay.
And other cruise lines, if not adding ships, are adding new amenities.
Regent Seven Seas Cruises has brought in luxury spa developer Canyon Ranch to run the spas, beauty salons and fitness facilities on all three of its ships.