Everything new is old again.

The multimillion-dollar makeovers of old cruise ships could steal the thunder from 2007's nine new-builds, which are mostly cookie-cutter versions of ships already afloat.

All but three are replicas of their sister ships, and the Queen Victoria, the most innovative of the crop, won't debut until December.

Royal Caribbean's Liberty of the Seas, sister to the Freedom of the Seas, will have the second surf park at sea. The Norwegian Gem will get bowling alley No. 2. And the Costa Serena will have a race car simulator, just like the Costa Concordia. The cruise lines could still surprise with some newfangled additions to these reproductions, but as of now, they're keeping quiet. In the meantime, here's what to look for in 2007. 

Carnival Freedom

Launch: March, in Venice

The fifth in Carnival's Conquest class of ships, the 2,974-passenger Carnival Freedom will debut in Venice, from where it will begin the line's first-ever itineraries to the Greek islands and Turkey.

The 110,000-ton ship's interior, designed by Carnival architect Joe Farcus, is supposed to "take guests on a journey through the centuries by decade." Public rooms on the ship will be designed to represent everything from ancient Babylonia, the heyday of disco, the 19th-century Victorian era and contemporary design.

Emerald Princess

Launch: April, in Santorini, Greece

As sister ship to the Crown Princess, there won't be much here that wasn't seen there. As on the Crown, a piazza-style atrium will be surrounded by casual eating venues with "street entertainers" doing everything from singing a capella to juggling. The Emerald will also have the Sanctuary, an adults-only, quiet retreat on the uppermost forward deck of the ship that became so popular on the Crown that Princess started charging for its use.  

Princess will create some buzz during the ship's inaugural in Santorini, when it does a double christening with Swan Hellenic's Minerva II, nee the R8, which will transfer to Princess in March, get a face-lift and join the fleet as the Royal Princess. The ship will operate itineraries in the Mediterranean, southern Caribbean and Amazon.

The AidaDiva

Launch: April, in Europe

The AidaDiva is German operator Aida Cruises' first of four ships in the Sphinx series, currently on order with German shipyard Meyer Werft.

The 68,500-ton, 2,050-passenger vessel will have new features for Aida, including a three-story atrium with bars, a theater and a retail area. The spa and fitness area on the AidaDiva will be the line's largest.

The Fram

Launch: April, in Oslo, Norway

Norwegian Costal Voyage designed the 12,700-ton expedition ship, by far the smallest new-build this year, for cruising in Arctic waters. Its cabins will be decorated by Greenlandic artists, as the ship will spend its summers cruising the Greenland Sea.

Costa Serena

Launch: May, in Italy

The Serena's sister ship, the Costa Concordia, last summer floated out the first "spa cabins," where passengers had exclusive spa privileges. Due to the high demand for the Samsara Spa cabins, the Serena will have 87 such cabins, 30 more than the Concordia.

The 112,000-ton vessel will have the Concordia's other features, including the Grand Prix driving simulator.

Liberty of the Seas

Launch: May, in New York

It's hard to follow the biggest ship in the world, but the Freedom's not-so-little sister will make its mark by being the first major cruise vessel to have a travel agent serve as its godmother.

Besides that, the ship will have the same features that made the Freedom famous, including the Flowrider surf machine, cantilevered hot tubs off the side of the ship and the H20 Zone, a children's water park. 

MSC Orchestra

Launch: June, in Italy

The 89,600-ton, 2,550-passenger MSC Orchestra will be the newest ship from the fastest-growing cruise line in the world. Like its predecessor and sister ship, the MSC Musica, 65% of the ship's cabins will sport balconies.

The main difference between the Orchestra and the Musica is that the Kato Sushi Bar on the Musica will be replaced with a Chinese restaurant on the Orchestra. MSC said the decision was made to offer more variety on its ships.

Norwegian Gem

Launch: October, in Europe

Another big-name godmother could give the Gem's inaugural some pizzazz. As of now, the ship is slated to be an exact replica of the Norwegian Pearl, recently christened by television personality Rosie O'Donnell.

Like the Pearl, the Gem will have a bowling alley, a rock wall and luxury suites atop the ship, including the 5,750-square foot garden Villas, exclusive Courtyard Villas and ultraluxurious Black Pearl suites.

The Queen Victoria

Launch: December, in Southampton, England

Cunard's newest ship, the 90,000-ton Queen Victoria, is being billed as a sister ship to the Queen Mary 2, but since the Victoria is being built on the hull of a Holland America Vista-class vessel, the ships will likely be quite different.

Hull aside, the 2,000-passenger vessel appears to be a winner so far, with its first two cruises sold out and with the world cruise that follows filling up fast.

New features on the ship include a three-story theater with private viewing boxes, a three-tiered lobby with a sweeping staircase and a two-story, 6,000-book library, the largest at sea.

To contact reporter Johanna Jainchill, send e-mail to [email protected].

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