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Travel

You can be part of their maiden voyages

Aerial of Carnival Panorama Exterior--Digital Rendering
A digital rendering of the Carnival Panorama, which is expected to launch in 2019. If you like to be the first on a ship, there are launches aplenty in the next two years.
(Carnival Cruise Line / Carnival Cruise Line)

If you ship out on an inaugural cruise, you’ll probably impress your friends and family, as long as no one brings up the maiden voyage of the Titanic, which sank in 1912 after hitting an iceberg.

That aside, many people get excited by the idea of inaugural sailings, which are known for their pomp and circumstance.

If you’re considering one, 2018 will be a banner year for such launches.

Many major lines have introduced or are introducing new vessels this year, including:

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►Norwegian Bliss, May 30;

►MSC Seaview, June;

►Holland America Nieuw Statendam, December;

►Seabourn Ovation, which was to embark Saturday;

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►Carnival Horizon, April;

►Royal Caribbean Symphony of the Seas, April;

►Celebrity Cruises Edge, December;

►Viking Ocean Cruises Orion, June 19, the fifth vessel since the line made its ocean-going debut in 2015.

(Be sure to contact the cruise line or a travel agent because inaugural voyages are subject to change.)

Some of the sailings are open only to VIPs and the press, but others are open to the public.

If you wait, you can even go on an inaugural cruise from a local port: Long Beach. Carnival recently began taking reservations for its Panorama, which is to launch in December 2019.

The ship, the first new Carnival vessel to home port on the West Coast in 20 years, will sail weeklong cruises to the Mexican Riviera.

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Before the launch of seven-day itineraries, there will be a special cruise Dec. 11-14, 2019, from Long Beach to Ensenada, Mexico.

Rates for an inside cabin start at $304 per person, double occupancy. Or you can splurge for a suite at $859 per person, double occupancy.

You might even score a commemorative souvenir.

“Passengers have the cachet of sailing on the maiden voyage of a brand new ship,” said spokesman Vance Gulliksen, adding that the line also has previously given out commemorative coins and other gifts.

On Carnival Horizon’s April inaugural, for instance, passengers who cruised on the Barcelona, Spain, itinerary received a special keychain, a letter from Carnival President Christine Duffy and a Carnival Horizon commemorative book.

If you don’t want to wait until next year for an inaugural voyage, you might think about sailing on Celebrity Cruises’ Edge, the line’s first new ship in six years. The vessel features several innovations, including a movable deck and cabins with flexible balcony spaces.

Celebrity has scheduled two three-night preview sailings open to the public: Dec. 1 (starting rate: $1,129 per person, double occupancy) and Dec. 6 (starting rate: $1,429 per person, double occupancy). Both will depart from Port Everglades, Fla., sailing to the Bahamas.

After the previews, there will be a weeklong Caribbean maiden voyage, with rates starting at $1,299, double occupancy. Edge will then sail seven-night Caribbean itineraries before transitioning to Europe in May 2019.

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Why take an inaugural cruise?

“Everything is brand new and clean; it’s like being the first person to sleep in a new hotel,” said Heidi Allison-Shane, publisher of the website AllThingsCruise.com. Allison-Shane, who formerly worked for several lines, has been on more than 100 maiden voyages.

“The crew is really excited and happy,” she said. “Every city you visit makes a lot of hoopla when the ship comes in. “

The hoopla isn’t reserved just for giant cruise ship inaugurals. European riverboats are also greeted with fanfare and festivities when they enter a port for the first time.

Fireboats spray the harbor to welcome the ship when it enters, officials sometimes come aboard wearing traditional folk costumes, and local boats and residents turn out to wave the ship in and out during its first visit.

What’s the downside?

“There are always things that don’t work,” said Cynthia Boal Janssens, editor of AllThingsCruise.com who has sailed on several inaugurals.

“Most of the time, they can kind of cover up things that are going wrong,” she said.

“I always tell people that an inaugural is kind of a shakedown cruise. The service may not be perfect, but they’re often priced decently.”

travel@latimes.com

@latimestravel


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