With a whole host of new cruise ships taking to the seas or readying to launch, we thought we’d run the rule over some of the new innovations and features coming soon, to a cruise ship near you.

Perhaps the stand out concept of the new breed of cruise-liners is Royal Caribbean’s creation of distinct neighbourhoods. The Oasis of the Seas due to sail in November 2009, has seven such neighbourhood areas, including the first tropical garden at sea – Central Park, a Boardwalk entertainment area, and Aquatheatre. Maintaining their mantle as leading leisure innovators the ship also includes a 25m zip-line, nine decks up - for a thrilling descent!

Celebrity Cruises new Solstice class continue the green theme with real grass lawns on deck, giving you the opportunity to practice your putting or simply stretch out. Another impressive feature of this class of ship is the Aquaspa wellness facility - a common trend with new builds seems to be investment in quality health and wellness facilities. The P&O Azura will feature an Oasis Spa and MSC Cruises new flagship, MSC Magnifica, will come complete with an Aurea Spa, offering Turkish baths and Thalassotherapy treatments.

Entertainment is also key - a must on all ships is a state of the art theatre and some quality performers. You will soon be able to enjoy the Blue Man Group in the Epic theatre on NCL Epic and Broadway production Hairspray in Oasis of the Seas’ Opal Theatre. For something more refined the Royal Court Theatre and Queens Room ballroom on Cunard Line’s new Queen Elizabeth promise evenings of high culture, and for something laidback, you can watch blockbuster movies under the stars, poolside, on ships like the Grand Princess and P&O Azura.

With accommodation and dining facilities also greatly improving, it’s no surprise the cruise holiday market is growing. Staterooms are becoming more spacious and luxurious, with a higher percentage having balconies. Royal Caribbean bring us 51m² Loft Suites sleeping up to 10 persons and NCL introduce the equally impressive Courtyard Villas. The choice of restaurants and cuisine has improved across the board with dining options inspired by world-renowned chefs becoming the norm. Michelin-starred chef Atul Kochhar joins the ranks of James Martin, Marco Pierre White, Gary Rhodes, Aldo Zilli and Nobu Matsuhisa, as his Indian fusion restaurant Sindhu comes to the Azura.

Other new innovations include a pool area with retractable roof on MSC Magnifica and an elevator bar that moves between three levels on Oasis, but the common theme is massive improvements to established facilities. You can expect finer dining, more comfortable cabins, higher class spa centres and more leisure options than ever on the next generation of cruise ships.