Lines to ring in holidays with slew of new ships

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NEW YORK -- Break out the bubbly and pass around those cigars. In a few weeks, several cruise lines will have new additions to their families.

Less than two months after it premiered the Legend in New York, Carnival will showcase the 2,900-passenger Carnival Conquest in New Orleans on Nov. 15.

A trio of lines will debut their vessels Dec. 14: Holland America Line will unveil the Zuiderdam in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.; Royal Caribbean International will roll out the Navigator of the Seas in Miami; and Princess Cruises will inaugurate the Coral Princess with a partial Panama Canal transit.

One week later, on Dec. 21, Norwegian Cruise Line will debut the Norwegian Dawn in Miami.

With those five ships, the cruise industry will bring a little more than 12,000 lower berths to the market in over a month.

Travel agents from across the country will be wined and dined on their preferred line's new ship. But before the festivities begin, here's a rundown of what to expect from the new vessels:

Carnival Conquest

Carnival had barely finished introducing the 88,500-ton Carnival Legend, its final Spirit-class vessel, to London and the East Coast markets when it began preparations to debut the Carnival Conquest.

At 110,000 tons, the Conquest-class ships will be the largest vessels in the Carnival fleet.

Like all other Carnival ships before it, the Conquest interiors will be designed by Joe Farcus. This ship's overarching theme will pay homage to Impressionist- and post-Impressionist-era painters.

For example, recent moviegoers will recognize the "Moulin Rouge" windmills on either side of the stage in the Toulouse-Lautrec Show Lounge. Gauguin's Polynesian world is revisited in the Tahiti Casino, and Monet and Renoir each get their own main dining room.

The ship will sail year-round, seven-day western Caribbean itineraries from New Orleans. Farcus said the vessel's theme was tied to its home port.

"Edgar Degas actually lived in New Orleans for a time," he said. "[New Orleans] is an artist's city with a definite French influence."

There will be plenty of nooks on the ship to display the artwork. Aside from the two main restaurants, there is an alternative-restaurant, Supper Club, and a two-deck, poolside restaurant.

Zuiderdam

Holland America Line's new Vista-class series, of which the Zuiderdam is the first member, is a departure from the line's previous offerings.

The Vista ships each will carry 1,848 passengers, far more than the other ships in the HAL fleet.

Kirk Lanterman, the line's president, said the Vista class "will define the next generation of Holland America cruising."

Among some of the highlights of the Zuiderdam are exterior elevators, ocean views in 85% of the cabins, a new "cabaret-style" show lounge, a nightclub, an extensive Club HAL children's area and the largest spa facilities in the fleet.

HAL also created a new cabin classification, deluxe veranda outside. The vessel offers 461 of the cabins, which measure 200 square feet and include a 54-square-foot veranda. In addition, Internet access will be available in all the ship's cabins.

The Zuiderdam will offer plenty of HAL hallmarks, including the Explorers Lounge and the Crow's Nest observation lounge.

The vessel will spend its inaugural year operating seven-day Caribbean cruises from Fort Lauderdale.

Navigator of the Seas

The Navigator of the Seas is the latest Voyager-class giant to sail for Royal Caribbean International. These ships feature many industry firsts -- rock-climbing walls, ice-skating rinks, Johnny Rockets restaurants at sea and interior, Main Street-esque promenades.

The Voyager-class vessels also are the largest at sea, boasting 142,000 tons and holding 3,114 passengers.

The Navigator has a few new tricks up its sleeve: the Vintages wine bar -- a partnership between Royal Caribbean, Robert Mondavi and Beringer Blass Wine Estates -- that pairs wine-tasting with various social events; Jade, an Asian fusion restaurant; and 6,000 extra square feet of space for the line's Adventure Oceans kids areas, including three teen-only areas.

Richard Fain, chairman of RCI International parent Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd., said the Voyager-class series is doing "remarkably well and continues to be the ship of choice for the Caribbean."

And that's where the Navigator of the Seas will be positioned, with alternating, year-round seven-day cruises to the eastern and western Caribbean from Miami.

Coral Princess

Like the other ships debuting this winter, the Coral Princess will homeport in Florida. However, unlike the others, the vessel will spend its time in the Panama Canal and then reposition to Alaska.

The Coral Princess will sail weekly cruises from Vancouver to Skagway, Juneau and Ketchikan and cruise Glacier Bay.

The Coral and its sister ship, the Island Princess, scheduled to debut in June, are new designs for Princess; vice president of sales Dean Brown said the ship was "designed specifically to offer ... big-ship choice with small-ship feel."

The new ships will have Princess' first cigar lounge and "retro" martini bar. A new lounge concept, featuring high-definition television and three revolving stages, will house Princess' ScholarShip at Sea program, which offers classes on cooking, arts, computers and photography.

Norwegian Dawn

Although the ship will debut from Miami, Norwegian Cruise Line is heavily promoting its seven-day Bahamas/Florida itineraries from New York.

Passengers can embark on those sailings from Port Canaveral, Fla., and cruise roundtrip New York/Bahamas itineraries, thus enabling NCL to hit the lucrative drive market in two regions.

The formula for obtaining that drive market, said CEO Colin Veitch, was "brand-new ships, new ports. It's more convenient, and it's cheaper [for guests]."

The Dawn, the sister ship to the Norwegian Star in Hawaii, is the first vessel built from scratch for NCL's Freestyle Cruising program.

The vessel will have 10 restaurants. NCL tweaked some of the restaurants, adding more teppenyaki tables in the Asian-themed restaurant and changing the tapas lounge into a steakhouse.

Veitch said every venue will have a different themes. Le Bistro, the line's signature French restaurant, will feature an Impressionist theme: Tan Sri Lim Kok Thay, chairman, president and CEO of Star Cruises, NCL's parent company, lent four original paintings from his private collection.

NCL also will import a nine-piece band and guest DJs for its high-energy Fuacata parties on Dawn sailings from Miami to Port Canaveral.

Fuacata -- all-night parties with Latin music, special food and drink -- are popular in Miami Beach.

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