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.
Disney Cruise Line is taking its magic back to the Big Apple in the fall of 2016, after homeporting elsewhere since 2012. The 950-guest Disney Magic will sail a series of five- to eight-night voyages from New York to Florida, the Bahamas and Caribbean, and Canada. On three of these sailings, guests can visit Disney's private island, Castaway Cay -- and, in Florida, enjoy a one-day Walt Disney World Park Hopper ticket with roundtrip transportation between the ship and the resort.
Rates not yet released.
Talk about the royal treatment. Windstar Cruises announced that Chef Darren McGrady -- a former personal chef to Britain's Queen Elizabeth II, Diana, Princess of Wales, and the Princes William and Harry -- will sail a seven-night British Isles cruise from London to Dublin on June 19 aboard the Star Legend. The chef is the launch host for Windstar's new Private Event program, a complimentary “private event” designed to showcase a certain destination. On this particular cruise, guests will visit the 13th century Picton Castle in Wales, then enjoy a three-course "royal feast" onboard by McGrady, paired with stories from his time cooking at Buckingham Palace.
From $1,799 per person.
Ready for an adventure -- of the Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn variety? The American Queen Steamboat Company, known for its two beautifully restored paddlewheel riverboats, is planning an eight-night Mark Twain tribute Mississippi cruise departing August 22. Round-trip from St. Louis, Missouri, the journey includes a tour of Twain’s hometown, a visit to the Mark Twain Museum, onboard lectures from historians, and special appearances by a Mark Twain tribute. As with all American Queen sailings, fares cover a one-night pre-cruise hotel stay, shore tours in all ports, and free wine and beer with dinner.
From $2,699 per person.
Royal Caribbean International is set to hike its suggested daily per person gratuity charge to $12.95, up from $12 (or $15.95, up from $14.25, for suites). The new fees take effect June 1 for cruises departing on or after July 1 -- though if you're already booked on a Royal cruise departing after July 1, you can still prepay gratuities by June 1 at the old rate. These new fees match those on Norwegian Cruise Line, which raised its gratuity charges earlier this year. Reminder: Like other cruise lines, Royal automatically adds the charge onto each guest's bill, but cruisers can adjust the amount if they wish.