Which cruise lines are making headlines this week? Travel journalist Donna Tunney — ShermansTravel’s cruise expert — has all the latest news. Check back every Tuesday for trends, new amenities, and money-saving ideas that help you plan a perfect vacation at sea.
A major, major expansion.
Consider this one of the biggest pieces of cruise news this year, and arguably in cruise history generally. Crystal Cruises, a luxury line that currently has two mid-sized ships, is expanding in a huge way. In addition to building three new "executive class" ocean-going ships -- featuring top-deck Residences with private restaurants -- it's also creating a whole new Crystal Yacht Cruises brand and a Crystal River Cruises unit. The first yacht, the renovated 62-guest Crystal Esprit, is launching later this year, while the river itineraries will launch in 2017. But wait, there's more: Crystal is buying its own Boeing 787 Dreamliner aircraft and will begin offering 28-day around-the-world tours, also in 2017.
Suggested gratuities go up.
More from Norwegian: On August 1, the line will raise its suggested daily gratuity to $15.50 per person per day for suite guests (from $14.95) and to $13.50 per person per day in all other cabin categories (from $12.95). It's the second time this year Norwegian has upped the fee. Cruisers who have already booked or who book by August 1 can prepay at the existing rates.
Good news for solo travelers (and scenery lovers).
Cunard's ocean-liner Queen Mary 2 is heading into drydock for a major refurbishment next spring, which will add 15 solo cabins as well as balconies to 30 double rooms. The 11-year-old ship -- the only one providing seasonal transatlantic service between New York and Southampton, is also adding 10 more kennels to accommodate a dozen dogs and cats at its boarding facility.