To Cruise, or Not to Cruise?

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The cruise industry carried more than 23 million passengers in 2015, and nine new oceangoing ships will debut this year. But if you’re among the millions of Americans who have never cruised, here’s a primer on what’s happening on the high seas.

What’s new in the cruise industry?

Ships from mainstream lines continue to break size barriers as they compete against megaresorts on terra firma, with giant slides, skydiving simulators, and cooking classes.

If you enjoy Orlando’s Disney World or Nassau’s Atlantis resort, megaliners such as the 5,479-passenger Harmony of the Seas can dazzle. Increasingly, major lines enlist outside brands to sell their experience: Royal Caribbean offers Starbucks, Carnival offers Guy Fieri burgers, and Norwegian lures with Broadway shows like Legally Blonde.

But size isn’t everything. There also is action on the boutique and luxury side, most notably with the arrival of Viking Ocean Cruises in 2015. “Viking already has 50 percent of the river cruise business, and now they’re really shaking things up with their oceangoing line,” explains Gene Sloan, travel and cruise editor for USA Today.

“They’re catering to an underserved niche with more intimate smaller ships,” Sloan says. “Viking is more upscale than the big mass-market lines, yet not as expensive as the superluxury lines.”

Virgin Cruises, due to launch in 2020, may prove to be another game changer.

The industry also is capitalizing on the solo cruiser market. Cunard, Norwegian, Royal Caribbean, and Holland America are building (or adapting existing) ships with a few smaller cabins for single occupancy.

I think I’m prone to seasickness. Are cruises a bad idea?

Most modern ships are well stabilized, but if you’re concerned, such over-the-counter meds as Dramamine are remedies for mild cases, while Transderm Scop, a prescription patch, is another solution.

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