Cruise Tracker: New Ships, Wine Certifications, and More

by  Donna Tunney | Sep 23, 2014
Cruise ship in Turks and Caicos
Cruise ship in Turks and Caicos / mikolajn/iStock

Which cruise lines are making headlines this week? We've got the latest on new ships, onboard activities, and itineraries in the first edition of Cruise Tracker, our freshly minted weekly cruise column.

It looks like Carnival Cruise Line's money-back guarantee is doing its job in enticing would-be cruisers to get onboard. The line has extended its Great Vacation Guarantee for another year, pledging to provide a 110 percent refund, free transportation home, and a $100 shipboard credit on a future cruise if passengers are dissatisfied with their vacation at sea for any reason. The  guarantee went into effect last year after a fire and a series of technical problems on three of its ships caused big public relations challenges. Since, Carnival says, its fleet of 24 ships has carried 4.5 million guests in the last year, and the guarantee has been invoked only 47 times.

Premium line Holland America is naming a new king. The line revealed that its new ship, under construction in Italy, will be christened the Koningsdam when it launches in early 2016. Koning means “king” in Dutch -- a nod to the cruise line's heritage. Back when it was founded in Rotterdam, The Netherlands, in 1873, it was known as the Netherlands-American Steamship Company. Today, though the company name has been updated, all of its 15 ships fly the Dutch flag, and most of its officers are Dutch as well. The new vessel will carry 2,650 passengers.

Along with having a relaxing cruise getaway, passengers aboard either of SeaDream Yacht Club's two luxury ships now can become bonafide wine experts. The line was approved by the British Wine and Spirits Education Trust to deliver wine courses, exams, and certifications under the organization’s umbrella beginning next spring. The trust offers courses in four levels, and SeaDream has been sanctioned to offer levels 1 and 2 to its guests. Level 1 provides a basic introduction to wine and to wine and food pairings, while Level 2 is a 12-day program offered on a Wine Education Voyage from San Juan, Puerto Rico to Malaga, Spain, departing April 18, 2015.

Un-Cruise Adventures, the small ship line with a name that attempts to differentiate it from the ho-hum of the industry, designed a new itinerary in Mexico's Sea of Cortes: The Baja’s Bounty! Whale Sharks, Whales & Mobulas. The voyage will sail from San José del Cabo in Baja, Mexico and back, starting in January aboard the 84-passenger Safari Endeavour. The cruise combines active explorations with seasonal sea life encounters.

Soon, more cruisers than ever will be able to enjoy an MSC Cruises vacation. The Italian-based line, which has been aiming to capture more attention from American travelers, is in the process of enlarging its 1,544-passenger MSC Armonia. At a shipyard in Sicily, the vessel's bow is being separated from its stern to allow a multi-deck, 80-foot long section to be added midship. The project is part of the line's $273 million Renaissance Program that will also enlarge three other of its ships, with each section adding close to 200 staterooms per ship. The MSC Armonia will return to service in mid-November.

Aerial view of Palm Island, Dubai
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