Several new cruise ships will call South Florida ports home in the 2012-13 cruise season, and they're sporting many bells and whistles for local cruisers to experience.
Other not so new ships will also make a first appearance, including Celebrity Silhouette at Port Everglades and Disney Wonder at PortMiami.
"It's the nicest, newest ship sailing [regularly] out of Port Everglades this season," Stewart Chiron, CEO of Miami-based CruiseGuy.com, said of Silhouette.
Celebrity Cruises, which is Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. 's premium line, has "more elegant ships," Chiron noted.
New ships debuting at PortMiami later this year are Carnival Breeze, Oceania Riviera and Celebrity Reflection.
Port Everglades won't welcome a newly built ship in fiscal 2013, which runs October through September, but Princess Cruises' new Royal Princess is expected to begin Caribbean sailings in late 2013.
Port officials still expect a busy year with 42 multi-day cruise ships and are projecting 3.49 million multi-day cruisers, down from an estimated 3.66 million in fiscal 2012 ending Sept. 30.
"This summer we invested in our facilities by completely renovating four cruise terminals so our cruise guests will enjoy a greatly improved passenger experience," said Steven M. Cernak, chief executive and port director for Port Everglades. "We are poised for growth in the cruise sector."
One cruise line however will be pulling up anchor.
Regent Seven Seas Cruises plans to relocate operations from Fort Lauderdale to PortMiami later this year, which will result in a loss of 29 ship calls and about 13,000 passengers for the season, port officials said.
Two more cruise ships, however, will sail from or make a port call in Fort Lauderdale for the first time this season.
Celebrity Eclipse will be based at the port while Hapag Lloyd Cruises' Columbus 2 will call on Nov. 22, spokeswoman Ellen Kennedy said.
Chiron says a 'must-do' Silhouette experience is The Lawn Club, which offers an interactive, open-air setting where guests can grill their own meats and vegetables or have a chef do it for them.
"It's one of the most unique dining experiences on a cruise ship and with ocean views," Chiron said of the grill. "It was a humongous hit with passengers."
Chiron dined at the grill on Silhouette when it debuted in Europe in July 2011.
"Celebrity Silhouette will indeed be bringing some new experiences to the South Florida cruise vacation scene," Celebrity spokeswoman Tavia Robb said.
The expanded Lawn Club experience has more options for relaxation and dining than Celebrity's other Solstice Class ships and its massive Adirondack chairs are a "really fun and unexpected feature," on Silhouette and Reflection, Robb added.
At Port of Palm Beach, officials are still awaiting the launch of day casino cruises operated by Black Diamond Casino Inc., which is expected to start before year-end.
Celebration Cruise Line, its only multi-day cruise operator should continue two-day cruises to the Bahamas from the port.
With the new ships headed to PortMiami, officials are expecting another banner year in fiscal 2013 and are forecasting 4 million cruise passengers.
"For cruises to the Bahamas, Caribbean, Mexico and beyond, PortMiami continues to offer an exciting roster of ships and itineraries for all tastes and budgets," Port Director Bill Johnson said in statement about the new ships.
Carnival Cruise Lines' Breeze will be its newest and largest South Florida ship and will debut a few firsts: the Thrill Theater and full-service sushi restaurant Bonsai Sushi.
The theater's multidimensional special effects make viewers feel as though they're a part of the movie, Carnival said.
The free, open-air Fat Jimmy's C-Side BBQ area and the ropes course and mini-golf course in SportsSquare should be hits with South Florida cruisers, cruise specialists say.
'It's just a hoot," Chiron said of the ropes course. "These types of things make the ship fun, and the kids love it."
Several amenities and features on Oceania's Riviera are sure to appeal to passengers seeking a more elegant voyage.
"From the moment you step on board you feel the elegance of the ship from the grand staircase to the amazing and interesting art that can be found throughout the ship," said Dwain Wall, senior vice president and general manager of Fort Lauderdale's CruiseOne and Cruises Inc. cruise agency networks.
Riviera's country club casual ambience and personalized service were standouts for Wall, who attended its christening this summer in Venice, Italy.
South Floridians sailing on Celebrity's Reflection are sure to talk about its 1,636-square-foot Reflection Suite with its all-glass shower that extends over the ship's edge.
The shower has special reflective glass, but guests can change it from transparent to translucent for additional privacy.