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Disneyland Unveils New Annual Pass

By Andrea Smith, Lonely Planet Writer
January 12, 2022
A view of Disneyland's Sleeping Beauty Castle.
Starletdarlene/Dreamstime
If you’re a regular at Disneyland and Disney California Adventure, the option of buying an annual pass might work out well for you.

Disney is introducing its new Disney Flex Annual Passport for $599 on May 21, which gives access to both the Disneyland and Disney California Adventure theme parks, in Anaheim, California, and comes with a set of benefits and a few rules.

Defining “Flex”

The Flex Annual Passport can be used with no restrictions from Monday through Thursday every week, when demand is usually lower. Then, during weekends and the high-demand months and holidays, Flex Pass holders must book a reservation via a Disneyland website or its smartphone app. With the Flex Pass, you can visit the theme parks all day or simply stop by for dinner or to take a quick spin on some favorite attractions. It also offers discounts on food, merchandise, special events and guided tours.

Blackout Dates

It’s worthwhile noting that the pass can’t be used at all during the two weeks around Christmas, and on other blockout dates. It also can’t be used if access to the theme parks, lands, and experiences is restricted or unavailable due to capacity. Prospective visitors should check the calendar of admission dates to see which dates are marked as “Good to Go” so no reservation is required, “Reservation Required” and “Blockout Dates,” where admission is not available.

Reservations

Reservations can be made up to 30 days in advance, and each Disney Flex Passport can hold two reservations during a 30-day window. It is hoped that with the new pass, guests will have more flexibility in planning their trips to Disneyland and Disney California Adventure, and it will also let the theme parks have crowd control – which will be essential when the much-anticipated Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge opens.

For further information, please see the Disneyland website here.

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Family

10 Places Every Kid Should Visit

Your family has hit the theme parks, the iconic art museums, the baseball stadiums, and national parks. You've done a road trip, walked through Times Square, conquered white-water rapids, and eaten lobster rolls in Maine and barbecue in Texas. And all that's done is kindle your kids' wanderlust. When you're planning your next trip, check out one of these destinations where learning, adventure, and fun are all part of the package. 1. Roam with Dinosaurs in Utah (Kelsey Mcquisten/Dreamstime) “Back in the time when dinosaurs roamed the earth" is a familiar refrain, but until you see the fossils up close, it’s easy to underplay the significance of these near-mythic beasts. A trip to Utah's Dinosaur National Monument (nps.gov/dino/index.htm) gives kids a clear understanding of how very real and astonishing the ancient reptiles were. There are all the standard activities that you’d expect to find in a state known for its outdoorsiness—white-water rafting, fishing, hiking, camping, and hiking in the rugged, remote backcountry. But this 80-acre area, the largest quarry of dinosaur bones in the U.S., features something the kids won’t expect from a National Monument: fossilized bones, many of which are partially exposed and intact, from hundreds of prehistoric creatures embedded in rock formations. As an added bonus, they can get a closer look at dinosaur remains at the Utah Field House of Natural History Museum State Park in Vernal, 20 minutes from the monument. (You can’t miss it from the road—it’s the building with the tremendous stegosaurus outside.) Plan your trip right, and you’ll catch one of town’s seasonal festivals or rodeo celebrations. 2. Study African-American History in Washington D.C. The Smithsonian Museum of African American History and Culture (nmaahc.si.edu), which opened in September 2016, is the culmination of years of work, from the search for and acquisition of the 35,000 items that make up the collection—many donated by descendants of slaves and slave owners—to the hard-fought Congressional battle for funding, which started when President George W. Bush authorized its construction. Located on the National Mall, the sweeping 400,000-square-foot museum is a chronological telling of centuries of African-American history in the United States—the anguish and the accomplishments. The story starts 70 feet below ground in a dramatic space dedicated to the trans-Atlantic slave trade. The exhibit halls cover slavery, emancipation, segregation, civil rights, and today’s current events, telling stories in text, verse, and images, punctuated with objects like Frederick Douglas’s cane, Nat Turner’s bible, Rosa Parks’s mug shot, and Harriet Tubman’s shawl. The top floors are a celebration of culture and sports, with music video footage and recordings enlivening the space. It’s an American history lesson that the kids will never forget. 3. Dance and Dine in New Orleans (Kenneth D Durden/Dreamstime) If there’s one thing you should know about New Orleans, it’s that there is much, much more to the city than Bourbon Street. Especially for kids. First, there’s the food. Who wouldn’t love to sit under the giant tent that stretches over the tented patio of Café du Monde, the smell of powdered sugar and fried sweets in the air, and indulge in a classic beignet or two. (Parents: there’s a steady supply of the café's famous chicory coffee for you.) Guided excursions that give kids a sense of New Orleans’s legends and fabled past are readily available. Try a voodoo tour or a ride through the swampland for a sense of the myths and folklore that define this town. Then check out the global history on display at the the National World War II Museum (nationalww2museum.org). Among its many interactive exhibits are ones devoted to the D-Day invasion, submarine warfare, and the Nazis' rise to power, plus a 4-D film narrated by Tom Hanks. But you could make the case that the brassy, jazzy music best captures the city’s spirits. Clubs and music halls are not ideal for little ones, but music is everywhere. Small ensembles—heavy on the trumpet and trombone—and solo sax players often spontaneously break out in music on the sidewalk or in parks, and dancing cannot be contained. 4. Head West to a Dude Ranch The legend of the American West is a cornerstone of our country's mythology, and the idea of a dude ranch is the stuff of cowboy fantasies, what with the cattle drives, horseback riding, campfires, and lackadaisical pace. Every child should have a chance to get a glimpse of the day-to-day reality—the duties and pleasures alike—of a rancher in Wyoming, Montana, Arizona, or any of this country’s magnificent western states, a back-to-the-land lifestyle that might even make you forget about your beeping, buzzing, ringing device. All dude ranches are not created equal, though, so it’s important to seek out places that are particularly kid-friendly. The Crossed Sabres Ranch (crossedsabresranch.com) in Cody, Wyoming, eight miles from Yellowstone’s east entrance, features archery, scavenger hunts, Yellowstone tours, and, for aspiring rodeo stars, roping lessons. At Averill’s Flathead Lake Lodge (flatheadlakelodge.com) in Bigfork, Montana, about an hour from Glacier National Park, kids can learn the basics of horse care with a Junior Wrangler program, kayak and swim in the lake, and partake in a mountain steak-fry in the woods, a Wednesday night tradition with live music. 5. Show Some Texas Pride (Island_images/Dreamstime) Remember the Alamo? A visit to the battle site in San Antonio will ensure that kids never forget the historic clash. But now’s a prime time to explore the south Texas city, the seventh largest in the U.S., because 2019 marked its 300th anniversary, so things are livelier than ever. Allow yourself ample time to explore Broadway Cultural Corridor, a two-mile stretch along the San Antonio River that recently underwent a $500 million rejuvenation. You can duck in and out of remarkable sites like the San Antonio Museum, which turns back the clocks with its classical art; the DoSeum (thedoseum.org), an interactive children’s museum; the San Antonio Botanical Gardens (sabot.org), the 50-acre San Antonio Zoo (sazoo.org), and the Witte Museum (wittemuseum.org), an institution that chronicles the Lone Star State’s galvanizing history, from ancient times through today. Kids can dive deeper into the region’s history at the missions, built by Franciscan priests when they arrived in the 1700s. These mini-cities, which collectively make up a UNESCO World Heritage Site, encompassed everything early settlers needed to maintain a self-sufficient community, like chapels and craftsmen’s workshops, and some are still-functioning villages, complete with modest taquerias and public art. 6. Follow the Maple Syrup Trail in Vermont A quintessentially New England industry, the sugar houses and maple-tree forests of Vermont can serve as the keystone of a memorable nature-centric getaway. At many farms, workers head out to the forest to tap the maple trees year-round, and many properties are open to visitors, offering a lesson in the age-old process with guided tours and, of course, plenty of samples. Some are family-run operations, like Sugarbush Farm (sugarbushfarm.com), which has 8,500 trees producing four different grades of syrup, as well as a dairy operation making cheddar cheese. Mitch’s Maples (mitchesmaples.com), a 70-plus-year-old institution, is open year-round, but tours are only offered during the spring. The rest of the year, it’s a popular destination for stocking up on all types of maple candy. Goodrich’s Maple Farm (goodrichmaplefarm.com) is known for its “sugar on snow” parties, part sweet indulgence, part physics lesson. (How else to explain 231-degree sugar caramelizing on contact with snow?) For a deep dive into the science of the process and the history of the industry, make sure you have the town of Rutland, home of the Maple Museum, on the itinerary. 7. Look Up at the Milky Way Cleaning up the planet is the center of many conversations these days, from eliminating single-use plastics and the importance of recycling to green energy and wildlife conservation. But we don’t talk as much about cleaning up the sky. As cities expand, light pollution increases, and to bring greater awareness to the matter, the International Dark-Sky Association (darksky.org) is making great strides in preserving night’s darkness. A nonprofit that raises awareness on the negative impacts of artificial nighttime light on human health and wildlife, it's established Dark Sky Places on five continents. In North America, sites range from national parks and monuments to forests and lakes, some of which have family programs to orient visitors to the celestial landscape. The Astronomy Rangers tour at Bryce Canyon National Park, for instance, promises views of about 7,000 stars on its tour. You don't have to be a kid to be gripped with childlike wonder when confronted with gliding comets and countless stars piercing the darkness. 8. Batter Up and Throw a Left Hook in Louisville (Thomaskelley/Dreamstime) The bourbon boom has increased tourism to Louisville, Kentucky, by millions over the past few years, but there are reasons for kids to visit this vibrant city, too—things that illustrate the deep impact of sports on culture and society. The downtown Louisville Slugger Museum (sluggermuseum.com) greets guests with a 120-foot replica of Babe Ruth’s bat and gives kids a behind-the-scenes peek at the classic American pastime. The destination is a working factory as well as a museum, and families can take a guided, hands-on tour of the production line. There are also batting cages where kids can take a swing and a bat vault that houses about 3,000 models designed over the decades for the league’s most famous players. A few blocks down is a shrine to native son Muhammad Ali (alicenter.org), and it’s as much a sports institution as it is a museum chronicling civil rights in America. It’s compact but jam-packed, so it’s worth reserving a generous chunk of time in your schedule. Look for memorabilia from his boxing career, like his gloves and flamboyant robes, and an elaborate display of his art, plus cuts of interviews and a sitting station where you can watch entire fights on a personal television. Ali's involvement in civil rights, social activism, and anti-war activity as well as his spiritual journey is recounted in photographs and interactive videos. 9. Get in Touch With Your Inner Cowboy and Cowgirl Dating back to 1887, Cheyenne Frontier Days is the second-oldest event in the United States, outdone only by Mardi Gras. For 10 days in July, thousands of people overtake the state capital for an epic event that includes rowdy standoffs between bulls and cowboys, bronco-bucking events in Frontier Park, parades, concerts, and parties. But the grounds are a destination year-round, thanks to the Cheyenne Frontier Days Old West Museum (cfdrodeo.com/cfd-old-west-museum/), which houses a vast and comprehensive collection that defines the old west. Costumes, videos, and artifacts, along with a rodeo hall of fame, tell the history of Frontier Days, while separate exhibits focus on other chapters of western life, like the evolution of covered wagons. Women take the spotlight at the Cowgirls of the West Museum (cowgirlsofthewestmuseum.com), a modest storefront affair that chronicles the many achievements of boundary-blasting western women in the past two centuries. These trailblazers were an integral part of Wyoming's history--as you'd expect from the first state where women were granted the right to vote. 10. Soak Up Science in New York and New Jersey From iconic art palaces like the Guggenheim and the Met to smaller gems spotlighting unique topics, like the history of lighthouses or the public-transit, there’s no shortage of museums in New York City. And if there’s one category that can hold the kiddos' attention for a marathon stretch of the day, it’s the city’s science museums. The most obvious, of course, is the Museum of Natural History (amnh.org), known for its 94-foot-long fiberglass whale and renowned planetarium. But it’s definitely worth making time to visit spots that are a little more far-flung. In Queens, the New York Hall of Science (nysci.org) features exhibits on biology, nature, technology, and physics, plus mini golf and other outdoor activities. There’s a preschool playroom and workshops for older kids. It's located near the Queens Zoo, the Mets’ baseball stadium Citi Field, and the Billie Jean King Tennis center (home to the U.S. Open), so it's easy to make a day of it. Back in Manhattan, the Intrepid Air, Sea & Space Museum (intrepidmuseum.org) is located on a historic aircraft carrier—a WWII fighting vessel and a National Historic Landmark—docked in the Hudson River at Pier 84. Kids can explore the Enterprise space shuttle and the Growler, the only American guided missile submarine open to the public. Virtual visits to the International Space Station are a highlight of the shuttle exhibit. You can also take the PATH train across the Hudson to the increasingly vibrant and hip Jersey City, where the Liberty Science Center (lsc.org) has interactive exhibits on space, wildlife, microbiology, and architecture, plus a high-tech planetarium and lots of climbing space for the little ones.

Family

6 Family-Friendly All-Inclusive Resorts We Love

Think of it as a one-stop shopping spree through paradise. All-inclusive resorts stay true to their name—throwing in food, drinks, entertainment, and activities for one price. Little wonder they’re such a popular choice with families. A simple way to help ease the burden of non-stop helicopter parenting, these resorts provide supervised care for younger children as well as daily activities and clubs for teens and tweens. And, because almost everything is built into the initial rate (spa treatments, high-end activities like wave runners, expensive bottles of wine, and other luxuries often come as add-ons) and there’s no tipping and no signing bills, you won’t give a second thought when your kids want to order extra sodas, ice creams, or smoothies. (Well, there is the calorie factor, but that’s a whole other story.) And let’s face it, more freedom for the kids equals more relaxation for you. The only downside? Because of the sweeping size and scale of most of these resorts, you likely won’t get the most personalized, customized experience. And exploring outside the property’s grounds may take a backseat to your already-purchased comfort. Most properties, however, offer excursion desks to help you plan at least one family adventure. But if you’re devoted to finding a laid-back way to enjoy family time, here are our choices for the best all-inclusive resorts to visit right now. 1. Reflect Krystal Grand Cancun, Mexico Reflect Kristal Grand Cancun, Mexico. (Courtesy of Reflect Kristal Grand Cancun) Just under a year old, the Krystal Grand Cancun resides on the southern tip of Punta Cancun, walking distance of downtown. Some of the nearly 400 rooms and suites provide kid-friendly features like bunk beds and step stools for sinks. Almost every room has ocean or partial-ocean views of Bavaro Beach, and the resort’s Unlimited-Luxury philosophy offers 24-hour room service and a constantly restocked minibar. There are four pools to choose from, including the adults-only infinity pool and a kids’ pool. If you’re restless, join in the daily beach volleyball and soccer games. Or check out any one of the number of classes, from cooking and mixology to Mayan history and astronomy. The supervised Explorer’s Club for kids between 3 and 12 affords you well-deserved “me time” and the Core Zone Teens Club, is equipped with a pool table, air hockey, foosball, and videogames. In addition to the six dining options on site, your rate offers inclusion (reservations needed) to the Hacienda El Mortera Mexican restaurant, which is a five-minute walk from the hotel and included in the hotel’s price. (reflectresorts.com/en_us/resorts/mexico/cancun.html) 2. Melia Caribe Beach Resort, Dominican Republic Melia Caribe Beach Resort, Dominican Republic A tropical paradise with access to Punta Cana’s Bavaro Beach, in addition to beachside and pool-facing rooms, this sweeping resort offers The Level suites with access to private spaces and upgraded services. The Caribe Tropical offers a vast assortment of activities for kids and adults, including eight tennis courts and an 18-hole golf course. Horseshoe tournaments, beach volleyball, and even candle workshops are among the mix of daily activities. Or take advantage of the resort’s beachside locale with kayaking, canoeing, windsurfing, and sailing. What makes this destination stand out, though, is its interactive waterpark, Splash Island and the children’s Adventure Park, The Kid’s Club offers supervised care for ages 8 months to 4 years old, 5 to 8 years old, and 9 to 13 years old, with each day culminating in family Olympics on the beach. Dining is auspicious, with two buffets and 11 a la carte restaurants to choose from. (meliatropicalcaribe.com) 3. Mohonk Mountain House, New York Mohonk Mountain House, Ulster County, NY. (Courtesy Mohonk Mountain House) This relaxing lakeside sanctuary sits in a secluded mountain preserve in the Hudson Valley. It’s just a two-hour car ride from Manhattan, but with its sweeping views of the Shawangunk Mountains and glacier-formed Lake Mohonk, it feels worlds away from urban life. More Victorian castle than rollicking resort, the rooms, suites, and small cottages—many with private balconies—are low-tech affairs designed for inner peace. But it’s the daily activities that make Mohonk stand out. To wit: archery, rock-climbing, biking, ice skating, fishing, cross-country skiing, tennis, snowshoeing and—for the brave—tomahawk throwing. That’s to say nothing of the 85-plus miles of the grounds’ hiking trails. There’s no shortage of water activities, too. Take a boat out on the lake, dip in the indoor pool, schedule a forest bathing session, or relax in the Spa’s eucalyptus steam room and dry rock saunas. (Treatments are not included in the all-inclusive price). A Kid’s Club, which has morning, afternoon, and evening sessions, accommodates children from 2 to 12 years old. The Teen Program includes guided rock scrambles, disc golf, tennis clinics, and hikes for kids aged 13 to 17. At night, the older kids can mingle in the Teen Lounge to play video games, watch movies or just hang out. Dining options are plentiful with a buffet available for all three meals. You can also picnic al fresco for lunch and make a reservation in the Lower Dining Room for the nightly three-course, farm-to-table dinner. (mohonk.com) 4. Club Med Sandpiper Bay, Florida The original all-inclusive resort, Club Med is still going strong after all these decades. Geared towards active families, it sits on the St. Lucie River, midway between Orlando and Miami—making it a perfect stop if you want to spend a few extra days in Disney or South Beach. Waterskiing and wakeboarding, paddle boarding, kayaking, and group boating lessons are just a few of the ocean activities. You can also sign up for surfing, tubing, and sea scooters on the river for an extra cost. Staying active on land is no problem here. Daily activities include volleyball, tennis, golf, and even trapeze school. When you’re ready for a break, there are three pools on the property, including one for adults only. There are programs for kids between the ages of four months to 17 years, though only the Mini Club and Cub Med Passworld,(ages 4 to 17), are included. The restaurants are limited to the pool-front Marketplace buffet and the Riverside Grill & BBQ, where reservations are suggested. (clubmed.us/r/Sandpiper-Bay/y) 5. Blue Waters Resort & Spa, Antigua Blue Waters Resort & Spa, Antigua. (Courtesy Blue Waters Resort Spa Antigua) This posh resort on Soldier’s Bay, situated in the northeast corner of Antigua, feels wonderfully secluded, but it’s only a short drive from St. John’s, the island’s capital. A family-run business for 25 years, it retains its storied elegance while projecting a youthful, modern enthusiasm for all types of families. The staff at the Blue Waters is especially noteworthy, many of whom have been at the resort for decades and make it feel extremely personable. The 17 acres of tropical gardens are enticing, but the beach, known for its powder-soft sand, is the star here. Nine different pools are scattered around the property, including one for adults only and a beachfront pool with views of the Caribbean. Four of the others each coincide with block of hotel rooms and suites. Water sports include snorkeling, windsurfing, and kayaking. And for landlubbers there’s tennis, a dedicated yoga pavilion for when you need to unplug, and a PGA-rated golf course. The Creche Kids Club is for children between 14 to 47 months and costs extra, but the Blue Waters Kids Club, for 4- to 12-year-olds, is complimentary and includes a line-up of daily activities. The Spa at Blue Waters offers high-end treatments for adults but also provides mini bathrobes and non-toxic manicures for little divas-in-training. The food is high-quality at the three restaurants with a more casual dining experience at the beach pool for lunch. (bluewaters.net/resort) 6. Beaches Turks & Caicos Miles of sandy white beaches and the third-largest barrier reef in the world, Turks & Caicos is better known for trendy luxury than family fun. The Beaches property on the island’s north shore, however, bridges this divide with a 75-acre resort featuring five different villages, each with their own unique accommodations. Not only can you swim and splash in the glimmering turquoise of Grace Bay, water sports like kayaking, windsurfing, hydrobiking, paddleboarding, and snorkeling are also included in the price. The resort houses six different pools, including one which is strictly for adults, but it’s the massive, 45,000 square-foot Pirate Island waterpark with swim-up smoothie bars, waterslides, and a surf simulator, that the kids will be talking about weeks after they get home. The youngest in your crew will also appreciate the Sesame Street partnership, which includes shows, parades, and treasure hunts. While the Kid’s Camp offers supervised child care from certified nannies, teens and tweens can duck into the well-stocked game room to play foosball, air hockey, and basketball. They can also dance the (early) night away at the under-21 Club Liquid, before it turns into an adults-only bar for late-night partying. There are a dizzying 21 different restaurants to choose from and 15 bars. With everything from pizza and burgers to pate and lobster on offer—not to mention food trucks parked at the waterpark—nobody will find any reason to complain. (beaches.com/resorts/turks-caicos/)

FamilyTheme Parks

Travel News: A Sneak Peek at Disney's New Star Wars Lands

Batuu is a planet on the Outer Rim of a galaxy far, far away. Ask any Star Wars fan, and she’ll tell you that it’s home to Black Spire Outpost, a place where grifters, adventurers, traders, cheats, and runaways famously take shelter. And starting on May 31, you can get there easily from Disneyland Park in Anaheim, California. Then on August 29, it’ll be just as simple to get there from Disney’s Hollywood Studios at Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Florida. To Use the Force, Use the App Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge is the newest addition to Disney's suite of theme parks, and it promises to be a fantasy land of its own—a wildly high-tech one, no less. The interactive theme park allows for full immersion, thanks in no small part to the Play Disney Parks mobile app, which lets you take part in a variety of escapades familiar to any Star Wars fan (i.e., joining the Resistance, pledging your loyalty to the First Order). Disney's iconic attractions—the whirling cups of Alice's Mad Tea Party, the whimsical boats that cruise through It's a Small World—will never lose their charm, but these new 14-acre lands are, according to the company's statement, “the largest and most technologically advanced single-themed land expansions ever in a Disney Park." Tomorrowland just might seem quaint by comparison. Both the California and Florida parks are opening in two phases. The grand opening will center on the unveiling of Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run, a life-size recreation of the renowned spacecraft. Onboard, intrepid visitors will play the part of gunners or flight engineers or even take a seat in the cockpit and steer the “fastest hunk of junk in the galaxy" as it rips through space. Later this year comes the second phase, the debut of Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance. Guests will be given an active role in the Rebellion, and, thanks to high-tech tricks, come face-to-face with familiar characters. Take a Piece of the Distant Galaxy Home With You Galaxy's Edge will play host to an expansive marketplace featuring all sorts of merchant stalls and DIY activities. At the Droid Depot, you can select pieces from a conveyor belt to custom-build your own droid. Pre-built droids and droid-inspired products are also for sale. At Savi’s Workshop, you can design and craft your own Lightsaber. Elsewhere in the bustling marketplace is Toydarian Toymaker, a stall full of toys crafted by a Toydarian (the flying alien species first seen in Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace) and Dok-Ondar’s Den of Antiques, which specializes in items from the many movies. Drinks to Quench an Intergalactic Thirst Food and drink are also on offer at both parks, including the highly anticipated bar Oga’s Cantina. Cocktails here promise to be out of this world, with creations like the Outer Rim, a jazzed up margarita with a black-salt rim, the Bespin Fizz, a bubbly exotic tipple made with rum and yuzu, and all sorts of spectacle-caliber drinks made with dry ice. Word to the wise: The space, complete with details you’ll recognize from the Cantina in the movie, is relatively small, so factor in time for the wait.

CruisesFamily

Bargain Cruises: Where to Go in 2019 and 2020

Just when you thought cruise lines couldn’t get any bolder, 2019 and 2020 bring more onboard innovations. Here are our top picks for affordable new cruises to the Caribberan, Mexico, the Mediterranean, and beyond, all starting at less than $200 a night. 1. Carnival Panorama (Courtesy Carnival Cruise Line) Launching in late 2019, this shiny new vessel combines California cool and Carnival’s signature amenities—on a fun and fiesta-filled itinerary along the Mexican Riviera. Sailing out of Long Beach, California, and exploring ports such as Cabo Los Cabos and Puerto Vallarta, guests can enjoy the coastal scenery from both indoor and alfresco spaces. Aside from a new massive trampoline court with a recreation area (a climbing wall, a balance/jousting beam), some passenger favorites are making an encore: Guy’s Pig and Anchor barbecue joint (slow-smoked beef and molasses-baked beans, anyone?), the top-deck bike-in-the-sky ride, and a sports arena with dodgeball, basketball, and black-light glow parties. The most posh accommodations include the exclusive Havana staterooms, with tropical-inspired decor and a private pool area, and the key-carded Harbor staterooms designed specifically for families.Seven-day cruises from $539 per person; carnival.com. 2. Costa Smeralda (Courtesy Costa Cruises) Named after Sardinia’s Emerald Coast, this 6,518-passenger ship (launching in October 2019) is a tribute to all things Italian. Start with a Campari cocktail toast at the three-level, domed Colossea, before heading to one of two piazzas to soak in the panoramic views. Then choose from the 11 on-board restaurants, from a family-style pizzeria to the Laboratoria del Gusto (translation: Taste Lab), where guests can devour their own creations. The cabins are decorated with custom-designed furniture (made in Italy, of course) and photographic murals and graphics inspired by cities such as Milan, Florence, and Rome.Six-day Mediterranean sailings from $444 per person; costacruises.com. 3. MSC Bellissima and MSC Grandiosa (Courtesy MSC Cruises) For some sun and style, MSC Cruises is introducing a pair of ships where passengers can relax and enjoy, just as they do in the sun-soaked Mediterranean. Highlights on the 4,500-passenger MSC Bellissima, debuting in March, include a new voice-enabled artificial intelligence device that acts as a customer-service portal, a magic-themed children’s program, and the HOLA! Tapas bar, in partnership with Michelin-starred Spanish chef Ramon Freixa. Meanwhile, the Grandiosa, much larger at 6,300 passengers, makes her inaugural voyage in October, with a set of never-before-seen Cirque du Soleil shows, a two-deck promenade with a massive LED Skyscreen, and the French-inspired L’Atelier Bistrot lounge.MSC Bellissima’s seven-night cruises from $1,199 per person; seven-night sailings on MSC Grandiosa from $799 per person; msccruisesusa.com. 4. Norwegian Encore (Courtesy Norwegian Cruise Line) The fourth and final ship of the Norwegian Breakaway-Plus class, Norwegian Encore (launching in autumn 2019) offers features similar to those of her sisters—except a notch above on the wow factors. For starters, the race track is larger, and part of it even loops over the side of the ship—not to mention there’s a viewing area for spectators who can shoot laser guns to turbo-boost their favorite drivers. The laser tag course, which spans a good portion of the sun deck, resembles a resurrection of the city of Atlantis, complete with sea creatures and hidden treasures. Meanwhile, the 10,000 square-foot augmented reality complex, Galaxy Pavilion, combines interactive gaming and cutting edge technology. Last but not least, the entertainment roster does nothing short of dazzle: Cyndi Lauper’s Tony Award-winning Kinky Boots takes a lively tour at sea, while UK-based group the Choir of Man performs a variety of genres, from pub tunes to classic rock to folk music, and the Happy Hour Prohibition recreates a New Orleans speakeasy with rip-roaring tales of bootleggers and retro cocktails with a modern bend.Seven-day Eastern Caribbean cruise from Miami from $849; ncl.com. 5. Sky Princess (Courtesy Princess Cruises) The 3,660-passenger Sky Princess (on the sea starting October 2019) reinvents of some of the brands’ signature experiences, bringing fresh and modern spaces and elevating the line's popular venues such as Sabatini’s Italian Trattoria, the classic Crown Grill, and the Salty Dog Pub, known for its Ernesto Burger (a rib-eye and short-rib patty with pork belly, Gruyere, caramelized kimchi, and beer-battered jalapeño). Plus this ship will debut a French bistro with an exclusive menu from Chef Emmanuel Renaut, who runs the three-Michelin-star Flocons de Sel in the French Alps. Stay tuned for more details on a cool jazz lounge featuring music from New Orleans, and the breathtaking Sky Suites, whose 1,102 square-foot balconies are the most spacious at sea—and where you can watch movies on the big screen under the stars.Seven-night Caribbean cruises from $859 per person; Mediterranean cruises from $1,289 per person; princess.com. 6. Looking Ahead... (Courtesy Virgin Voyages) There’s already been a lot of buzz about Virgin Voyages’ Scarlet Lady, even though the launch is more than a year way. That’s probably because Virgin mogul Richard Branson is behind the adults-only ground-breaking vessel—and he’s brought some big-name designers on board (Tom Dixon, Roman and Williams, Concrete Amsterdam, among others) to create thought-provoking, imaginative spaces: retro-futuristic Rockstar Suites, a Korean barbecue restaurant with drinking games, a vegan bar with bold black and white stripes, and terraces with handwoven hammocks. Cabins have mood-lighting and beds that convert to loungers—should you ever find the time to sleep.The Scarlet Lady will sail four- and five-night Havana After Dark itineraries featuring an overnight stay in Havana, Cuba; five-night Mayan Sol voyages to Costa Maya, Mexico; and five-night Dominican Daze voyages to Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic. No prices yet; virginvoyages.com.