“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”

TravelHaven Tips – Cruise Trends: New Features

If you like to vacation by cruise, get ready for better entertainment, water parks, and one of the most innovative concepts to come along in awhile – rooms designed for the solo traveler that offer accommodations without a surcharge the supplemental charge that single passengers on cruises have traditionally paid. This is an innovation long overdue being introduced on the Norwegian Epic. The Epic, which launches this summer, will offer 128 studios for singles. The cabins open onto a lounge area where solo travelers can socialize.

“I think it’s genius,” said Cynthia Boal Janssens, editor and chief blogger at AllThingsCruise.com. “I’m amazed with so many new ships coming on line that this hasn’t been done sooner. Lots of single people cruise and want to cruise, but right now, if you are going on a cruise as a single person and you occupy a double cabin, they charge you an additional fee, sometimes as much as 200 percent.”

Paul Motter, editor at CruiseMates.com, thinks the single studio “will take off. We have a whole message board on CruiseMates for people seeking cruise companions. It’s a huge potential market.”

Motter said another emerging trend in cruises is more brand-name entertainment. For years, mediocre musical revues with names like “Salute to Broadway” were standard fare on ships, to the point where they “kind of became a joke,” said Motter. In contrast, the Epic will feature Blue Man Group and Second City improv shows. Royal Caribbean’s megaship, Oasis of the Seas, which launched last fall, offers a full-scale production of “Hairspray.” This marks the first time a cruise ship has fully licensed a Broadway production, on par with a national touring company.

Oasis of the Seas was the most exciting ship of 2009, attracting enormous publicity as the largest cruise ship ever built. It carries 6,300 passengers and 2,100 crew members, with facilities that include an ice rink, golf course, volleyball and basketball courts, a 1,300-seat indoor theater and seven “neighborhoods,” including a boardwalk and a mini-Central Park. There is so much to do onboard that, when the ship pulls into a port, a lot of people don’t get off.

The cruise industry will launch a dozen new ships this year. Ships debuting in 2010 include a Royal Caribbean sister ship called Allure of the Seas, a new Queen Elizabeth from Cunard, and Celebrity Eclipse, the third in a series of Celebrity ships that started with the Celebrity Solstice in 2008 and the Celebrity Equinox in 2009.

Another long-term trend in cruising is the increase in family friendly programs and attractions. In the last 10 years, the median age of cruise passengers has dropped from 57 to 47, according to Bob Sharak, executive director of the Cruise Lines International Association.

“Multigenerational groups — the groups that bring adults, kids and grandkids — are bringing down the average age,” said Mimi Weisband, spokeswoman for Crystal Cruises. One thing younger passengers will love are the water parks on many new ships. Carnival Dream, which launched last year, has an aqua park called WaterWorks with a 300-foot-long water slide, the longest water slide at sea.

A new Disney ship, the Dream, launching a year from now in January 2011, will have a 765-foot-long water coaster, the AquaDuck, that will wrap around the perimeter of the ship’s top deck, with one loop jutting 13 feet over the side of the ship, 150 feet above the ocean. Other innovative features on the Disney Dream include virtual portholes for windowless staterooms that will offer live views of the sea and sky from video cameras mounted around the ship. The Dream will also have an adult lounge called Skyline with changing backdrops offering views of famous skylines around the world.

At the other end of the spectrum are small and medium-sized ships from lines like Silversea, Star Clippers and Crystal that may be especially appealing for older, more traditional travelers.

“They may not have all the razzle-dazzle, but there’s a lot of elegance with this type of cruising — lovely dinners and you meet so many well-traveled people,” Cynthia Boal Janssens of AllThingsCruise.com said, “They tend to be more luxurious, and you go to interesting places that the big ships can’t reach, where there aren’t 10,000 people in port.”

While megaships like Oasis may get the headlines, Janssens theorized that “people who like small ships are becoming even more loyal to them as big ships get bigger.”

[Information for this post was taken largely from a story by the Associated Press.]