Nothing starts the new year right like lining up a vacation to look forward to. An escape to the Caribbean promises balmy tropical breezes, white-sand beaches and Instagram shots to make your followers green with envy. A jaunt to Europe promises incredible local food, fascinating ancient history and rich modern culture. In Alaska, you’ll find pristine natural beauty, rare wildlife and roads rarely traveled. And in between, Royal Caribbean’s thrilling new onboard innovations will redefine your opinion of cruising. The world is filled with places to explore, just take a look at the options below for inspiration on where to go next.
True explorers can experience Caribbean adventures onboard Harmony of the Seas, the most anticipated addition to Royal Caribbean’s fleet. The adventure isn’t just onboard, in Jamaica you can treat yourself to a limestone facial in the crystal clear spring waters at Dunn’s River Falls. Looking for something more heart-pumping then jump on a sail boat and race through the clear blue waters on an America’s Cup course in Philipsburg, St. Maarten. If adventure is more up your alley then hit the rides at Aquaventure, the premier water park in the Bahamas (ranked #14 on US News & World Report’s Best Places to Visit in 2015 – 2016). Or just get your record-breaking adrenaline fix onboard: at 10 stories high, Harmony’s The Ultimate Abyss is the tallest slide at sea.
Look into the future onboard Anthem of the Seas, Royal Caribbean’s cutting-edge “smartship,” as it embarks on its maiden season to Bermuda (featured in National Geographic Traveler’s Best of the World Places For 2016). Deep-sea fish for blue marlin by day and party calypso-style by night in King’s Wharf, Bermuda. Or if you prefer, bask in the natural beauty of El Yunque Rain Forest in San Juan, Puerto Rico (ranked #24 on US News & World Report’s Best Places to Visit in 2015 – 2016). Either way at the end of the day, when a robot is serving you cocktails at the Bionic Bar, you’ll understand how Anthem is taking cruising to the next level.
Oasis and Allure of the Seas boast seven distinct “neighborhoods” with something to offer everyone, from hit Broadway shows like “Mamma Mia” to rock climbing to a full-sized basketball court. Wake up refreshed and disembark for offshore adventures where you can soar 500 feet above sun-dappled beaches on the Dragon’s Breath Flight Line in Labadee, Haiti, or snorkel with turtles in Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas. The adventures don’t end there: back onboard, head to the Sports Zone to try the 82-foot zip line, the first one ever at sea.
After her multi-million dollar makeover, Liberty of the Seas deploys from Galveston, Texas with a collection of new water slides called the Perfect Storm—notably, Tidal Wave, the first boomerang-style slide at sea—and 26 new panoramic ocean view staterooms.
However, traditionalists might prefer Royal Caribbean’s streamlined classic Empress of the Seas. Both ships will transport you to unforgettable Caribbean destinations such as George Town, Grand Cayman, where you can visit a green and hawkbill sea turtle nursery, or to Puerto Costa Maya, Mexico to explore the ancient Mayan city of Chacchoben.
Starting in May, Explorer of the Seas makes its 7-night debut in Alaskan waters, breaking records as the largest cruise ship to ever sail the region. Embark in Seattle, Washington (#45 on Travel + Leisure’s Best Places To Travel 2016) and scan the waters of the Inside Passage for humpback whales or steep yourself in the rich history by panning for gold in Juneau’s Gold Creek river. If you love Mother Nature’s beauty then the summit of the White Pass in Skagway, a 2,865-foot elevation, gives you an incredible view of the mountain terrain.
Harmony of the Seas will spend its inaugural season sailing from Barcelona to the Mediterranean. Movie buffs will jump at the chance to bask in Rome’s Trevi Fountain like Anita Ekberg in “La Dolce Vita.” Go much further back in history at your next destination, Naples, by wandering the ruins of Pompeii, buried in ash by Mount Vesuvius 1,900 years ago. Then grab some authentic tapas and paella at your final stop, Barcelona. If all this adventuring tires you out, no worries: the 80-inch high def “virtual balcony” in your stateroom allows you to admire the majestic ocean view from your bed.
Royal Caribbean’s third “smartship,” Ovation of the Seas, launches its 52-night Global Odyssey in May—Europe is just the first leg of the journey. Depart from Southampton, England, and head to Spain to take in the coastal scenery and fisherman culture of Gijon and Vigo. Next stop is Barcelona, ranked #29 in The New York Times’ 52 Places To Go in 2016. Visit the Picasso Gallery, adjoining 15th century palaces where you can look at over 2,000 pieces of the master’s work up close. You can then haggle in the authentic flea markets of Monastiraki in Athens, and sail down the Suez Canal to continue your global adventure in the UAE. Rest assured, during this epic journey, you’ll never be bored. Spend an afternoon hanging ten on the FlowRider surf simulator, then refuel with a world-class dinner, featuring menus from celebrity chefs like Jamie Oliver.
If you’d rather linger and immerse yourself more fully in Mediterranean culture, opt for a luxurious week-long cruise in the Greek Isles onboard Jewel of the Seas. Pay tribute to Apollo and Athena by visiting their temples in your first few stops: Mykonos and Athens. Then sip a glass of red wine on the island of Santorini, just a few hundred feet from the grapes it was made from. Before heading back, don’t forget to pick up other home-grown Grecian specialties like honey, olives and feta. History enthusiasts can opt for a tour with an alternate Turkish detour, allowing you to explore a Venetian-Byzantine castle and Ottoman mosque in Ephesus, Turkey. At your next stop, wander through even more fascinating layers of history in Aptera, the ruins of a 12th century Minoan city in Chania, Crete. After a long day of cultural enrichment, get back onboard and pamper yourself at Vitality at Sea Spa, the largest floating spa at sea.
Royal Caribbean ships are sailing all around the globe to some of the best places for 2016 and some of the best places ever.