Which cruise lines are making headlines this week? Travel journalist Donna Tunney -- ShermansTravel’s cruise expert -- has all the latest news. Check back every week for trends, new amenities, and money-saving ideas that help you plan a perfect vacation at sea.
Tour a monastery in Oudong. Visit the Royal Palace in Phnom Penh. Ride through local villages in a trishaw. These are the adventures that await AmaWaterways guests on seven-night Mekong River cruises in Vietnam and Cambodia. Even better: Passengers who book by March 31 save up to $2,500 per stateroom, and those traveling solo pay no single supplement. With the price break, balcony cabins on these sailings cost $1,648 per person -- a super value for this luxury river cruise line. Optional pre- and post-cruise land stays are offered, too, at an extra charge.
Looking for the next Caribbean destination? Cruise lines will soon begin calling at a new port in the Dominican Republic called Amber Cove -- where arts of the movie Jurassic Park were filmed. Carnival Corporation is building the development, which will open up the little-visited Amber Coast region, for a whopping $85 million. You’ll start seeing Amber Cove calls aboard Carnival Cruise Line, Holland America Line, Cost Cruises, and Cunard beginning next fall.
Here's a tip: Norwegian Cruise Line is raising its daily service charge to $12.95 per person per day for regular cabins starting March 1, while guests in suites will get charged $14.95 per person per day. The fee covers gratuities for all service workers onboard and is added automatically to the bill -- though guests can adjust the amount retroactively if they wish. If we do the math, according to the new fee structure, $181.30 would be billed to a couple on a seven-day cruise in a non-suite cabin. (For comparison, competitors Carnival Cruise Line and Royal Caribbean charge slightly less at $11.50 and $12 per day.)
The popular farm-to-table trend will make its way aboard the Koningsdam, Holland America Line's newest ship launching in 2016. The Dinner at the Culinary Arts Center concept will feature an immersive experience where the chefs prepare simple, artisanal dishes in a show kitchen for guests to enjoy as they’re freshly prepared. By day, the culinary center will provide hands-on cooking lessons to guests booked on the 2,650-passenger ship.
In another sign that cuisine is a big draw for cruisers, Oceania Cruises is adding 20 new cooking classes to its Oceania Culinary Center this April aboard the Marina and Riviera (heading for the South Pacific and Western Mediterranean respectively). Cruisers can sign up for Planet Veggie, Viva Tapas, Rock Your Wok and other tempting classes inspired by the regions the ships are visiting. Both ships carry 1,250 guests, and fares for an seven-night Riviera cruise from Barcelona to Rome in late April start at $3,299 per person.