Cruise Tracker: A Free 7-Night Cruise (Seriously), Better WiFi at Sea, and More

by  Donna Tunney | Nov 13, 2014
MS Orchestra
MS Orchestra / Photo courtesy of the cruise line

Which cruise lines are making headlines this week? We’ve got the latest on how you can score a free cruise this month, game-changing technology that'll improve onboard internet speeds by 10 times, and exciting new launches. 

In a first-of-its-kind deal, MSC Cruises is running an very generous promotion: a free seven-night Caribbean cruise out of Miami this month. To snag the trip, vacationers must book any nine-night Mediterranean cruise and land combo departing between May 16 and September 19, 2015 from Europe. But plan quickly -- the offer is good only on reservations made by this November 15, and the free cruise must be taken on one of two departures, November 22 or November 29, 2014. (The bonus cruise is transferable, though, so you can gift it to other passengers if you're unable to take it yourself.) Rates for the Europe cruise start at $2,311 per person and include roundtrip airfare from Miami, New York, or Chicago as well as airport transfers.

For those who prefer staying connected on vacation, excruciatingly slow WiFi on cruises has been a sore point. But all that is set to change, now that Carnival Corp.'s announced a hybrid "WiFi@Sea" network that'll boost internet speeds by 10 times. The network will use multiple technologies -- port Wi-Fi, long-range Wi-Fi, and a fleet of advanced satellite systems over multiple frequency bands -- rather than the standard satellite systems currently used. The user experience will be much improved as the network seamlessly switches back and forth between optimal connection types, much like the way cellphones change from one data connection to another on the go. The new technology will roll out on some ships across the company's 10 brands (including Carnival Cruise LinesCosta CruisesCunardHolland America LinePrincess Cruises, and Seabourn) starting with ships sailing in the Caribbean this fall and winter. In 2015, the networks will hit ships sailing Alaska, Europe, and Asia.

The Galapagos is getting hot, hot, hot. Just a few weeks ago, we reported about Silversea's spruced up ship getting back into the region's waters. This week, we were just as excited to hear about Un-Cruise Adventures's small-ship debut into the Galapagos, departing in 2016 from February to November. The nine-night voyage -- Unequaled Ecuador! Colonial Quito & Galápagos Islands -- begins with a two-night stay in Quito’s historic center and a city tour. Then once aboard the intimate 48-guest La Pinta, cruisers sail from San Cristóbal Island and visit Española, Genovesa, Santa Cruz, Bartolomé, Santiago, and Chinese Hat Islet. Rates start from $8,995 per person.

The big day finally arrived. Princess Cruises has christened and launched its new 3,560-passenger Regal Princess in Fort Lauderdale, with a Hollywood who's who in tow. All six of the original cast members of “The Love Boat” served as godparents to the new ship -- many episodes of the nine-season show from the late '70s and early '80s were filmed aboard Princess ships, giving millions of consumers their first glimpse of a vacation at sea. Captain Stubing (Gavin MacLeod), cruise director Julie (Lauren Tewes), Doc (Bernie Kopell), and others were all on hand for the naming ceremony, along with celebs who often appeared on the hit show. If you missed the inaugural trip, don't worry -- the Regal Princess will be offering Eastern Caribbean sailings all season long, with balcony rates starting from $599 per person this winter.

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