Best New Cruise Amenities of 2016

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–By Brittany Chrusciel, Associate Editor

Carnival Vista

With all the new ships arriving in 2016, cruise fans are being showered with new onboard attractions from lines large and small. Additions run the gamut from fresh takes on classic concepts to first-of-their-kind innovations; you’ll find breweries and brasseries, giant slides and giant screens, homey hammocks and spiffed-up suites. If you want to find out what’s new on your favorite line, or are curious about what’s coming in the year ahead, we’ve collected the best new cruise amenities that can be found onboard in 2016.

Beer sampler in Carnival Vista's RedFrog Pub

A Working Brewery Onboard Carnival Vista

Already known for setting an industry standard regarding craft beer onboard its cruise ships, Carnival Cruise Line is taking small-batch suds to the next level with a working onboard brewery. Found on Carnival Vista inside RedFrog Pub, the line’s Caribbean-meets-Key West hangout, two copper kegs sit behind a glass wall producing one of three new original recipes developed in partnership with Magic City-based Concrete Beach Brewery: ThirstyFrog Port Hoppin’ IPA, ThirstyFrog Caribbean Wheat and FriskyFrog Java Stout. While trying your hand at homebrewing isn’t available at the pub, tabletop taps will let you pour your own beer. Tours and tastings will also be available.

Sel de Mer French Restaurant on Holland America’s Koningsdam

At Sel de Mer, the feeling of an authentic French brasserie begins with the blackboard outside indicating the catch of the day. It’s not kitsch; chefs onboard Koningsdam actually bring back local fresh catches from port and feature them each night as specials. The filets and shellfish are even displayed on ice in the center of the dining room. The market catch can be served in any style of your choosing, and is presented to you at the table ahead of cooking, like a fine wine. This commitment to using locally sourced ingredients is a concept new to the cruise line and to larger, mainstream vessels in general, who have typically left food shopping in port to the smaller lines.

Sel de Mer patrons can share a traditional fruits de mer, which includes lobster, oysters, crab and more, or opt for salt-crust baked branzino, bouillabaisse Marseillaise, moules frites or a seafood platter. Appetizers might include a ceviche or sashimi dish or baked escargots. Non-seafood dishes are available as well; try the beef Pot-au-feu, which is a beef soup served in a metal pot on a wooden board. Sel de Mer is a for-fee, a la carte venue.

Three cruisers at slide entrances for the Perfect Storm

The Slides on Royal Caribbean’s Harmony of the Seas

Already sporting an impressive lineup of outdoor recreation — a sports court, rock climbing wall, two FlowRider surf simulators, mini-golf and a zipline — Harmony of the Seas is also debuting a massive dry slide and the line’s first-ever waterslides. The trio of waterslides is collectively called Perfect Storm, and each has an equally ominous name: Typhoon, Cyclone and Supercell. The blue, yellow and green slides will twist and turn the length of three decks before plunging the rider into a landing pool. The dauntingly named “Ultimate Abyss” slide might be a first at sea, but it will be a last for anyone nervous about heights; you drop 10 stories from the Pool and Sports deck to the Boardwalk area in mere seconds. Not intimidating enough? To ride, you have to enter through the jaws of a giant angler fish and leap from a plank. Incentive? The slides are free to ride.

Regent Suite on Regent Seven Seas’ Explorer

Billed as the most luxurious accommodations ever built at sea, Regent Seven Seas’ new suite on Explorer is 2,917 square feet with two bedrooms and a wraparound balcony measuring 958 square feet. (The line claims it is the first cruise cabin to stretch the width of a ship for 270-degree views.) Among the ultra-high-end amenities are a glass-enclosed sunroom, a custom Steinway grand piano and an in-cabin spa with sauna, steam room, private treatment room and two heated mosaic tile loungers facing windows to the sea. The actual spa treatments? They’re free and unlimited — as are excursions with private drivers. It’s an extravagant way to sail with a price tag to match: $10,000 per couple, per night.

Carnival Multiplex entrance

Carnival Multiplex on Carnival Vista

Forget first-run movies or even movies under the night sky, Carnival is introducing two new theaters onboard Vista. The Multiplex will feature a three-deck-high IMAX Theater — the first at sea — showing new releases and documentaries. Prices range from $5.50 for the all-ages documentaries to $12.95 for adult entry to blockbuster films. The Thrill Theater, a movie-meets-amusement ride, provides a multisensory experience through special effects, 3D images and moving seats. Available on Carnival Breeze as well as Vista, it tickles the senses with water jets and other surprises for $5.50 per showing. A special “Thrillology” viewing is available — if you dare — for ages 17 and older.

Thomas Keller Restaurant on Seabourn

A heavyweight of haute cuisine, Thomas Keller has lead restaurants like The French Laundry, Per Se and Bouchon into Michelin star infamy on the east and west coasts. Now heading off the coast and into the sea, Keller has partnered with luxury cruise line Seabourn to not only consult on its food fleetwide but also to create his own cruise ship restaurant. The onboard venue, called The Grill, is inspired by the classic American chophouse and will debut on Quest, rolling out to the entire fleet including Encore and, subsequently, Ovation in 2018. The menu will feature refined visions of steakhouse favorites like tableside Caesar salad, lobster thermidor and ice cream sundaes. The elegant dining room will include an outdoor dining area as well. As part of Seabourn’s all-inclusive philosophy, there is no additional charge to dine at The Grill.

Havana Cabana patio

Havana Cabanas on Carnival Vista

Imagine lazing in your own private hammock facing an exclusive, tropical pool area; it’s not a VIP beach club, it’s the Havana Cabanas onboard Carnival Vista. Deck 5 on Carnival’s new cruise ship is the land of Havana, lined with palm trees, outdoor patios facing the promenade and a secluded bar and pool area for those staying in the cabins. If you’re staying in a Havana suite, enjoy amenities like rain showers and your very own hammock, perfect for people-watching; small gates separate the lanai or “yard” from the walking track. While the area is restricted access during the day, keeping it calm and quiet, the Havana pool opens to the public at night for lively partying.

Music Walk on Holland America’s Koningsdam

Koningsdam is a self-proclaimed ship of music, and its Music Walk is a collection of three music venues located on Deck 2, consisting of BB King’s Blues Club, Billboard Onboard and Lincoln Center Stage. BB King’s is a Memphis blues and rock-and-roll club found on other Holland America ships, but never before has it been paired with these other venues to form an entire space dedicated to various types of tunes. Billboard offers the chance for piano sing-alongs of popular hits, but the standout is Lincoln Center Stage, drawn from the famous Lincoln Center theater of New York. Here, you can find top-form classical recitals daily, performed by musicians playing at the peak of their craft. The venues are complimentary.

SkyRide on Carnival Vista

SkyRide on Carnival Vista

Ever wish you could ride your bike around a cruise ship? Well Carnival has taken the concept and bumped it up a couple notches (150 feet above the sea, to be exact). SkyRide, located in Vista’s SportSquare, will be an open-air ride on a recumbent bicycle in a pod (called a go-mobile), in which passengers use the power of their own pedaling to move around one of two 800-foot-long suspended tracks. Riders can compete for lowest lap time or simply soak in the views. There is no additional cost to enjoy the SkyRide.

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