Cruise Tracker: French Culture Cruises to Alaska & More

by  Donna Tunney | Apr 7, 2015

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.

Looking for a bit of Europe in the States this summer? The Marseille-based luxury expedition line Ponant is making its first foray into Alaska with two yachts, carrying just 264 guests each. The seven- and 14-night cruises will be bilingual, but American guests will have many chances to make new friends from across the pond as they sail either between Juneau and Vancouver (L’Austral) or from Nome to Vancouver (Le Boréal). Expect perks like open bar, butler service for suite guests, and close-up experiences with polar bears, caribou, puffins, and other wildlife.
Seven nights aboard L'Austral in July starts from $3,990 per person.

The ring, please. Norwegian Cruise Line has become the first major cruise line to offer weddings (or vow renewals) on the seas  performed by the ship's captain. While other cruise lines offer "at sea" packages, ceremonies previously had to be performed either onshore or onboard only when the ship is docked in port. Now, couples can declare their love, toast with champagne, cut their wedding cake, and more while actually sailing on the  Norwegian Breakaway  and Norwegian Getaway . The service will be available on the  Norwegian Escape,  when it launches this fall, too.

Soaking in a bubbling jacuzzi while sailing from one pristine Galapagos island to another isn't a common travel experience. But you'll be able to do just that aboard Ecoventura's newest ship, Origin, when it launches in early 2016 and heads for Ecuador's coast. This mega-yacht, the first luxury vessel of the currently three-yacht company's fleet, has a few special amenities like said tub and fitness center that other smaller ships usually don't have space for. We also love that there are two naturalists on board for just 20 guests, promising personalized education and plenty of encounters with Galapagos wildlife. Meals, beverages, excursions, wetsuits, and snorkel gear are all included.
From $6,500 per person based on double occupancy.

A few updates about Viking Cruises' first ever ocean-going ship, the Viking Star: the 930-guest ship was officially handed over in Italy and is now heading to Bergen, Norway for its May 17 christening. We're excited to see one cross-over from Viking's river cruising traditions: the cruise line will be offering one free shore excursion in each port of call -- something not typically offered on other blue-water cruises. Like the sound of that? Keep an eye out for two more ocean ships debuting next year.
Fares for a 15-day May cruise from Bergen to Stockholm begin at $5,799 per person.

Is cruising one of your favorite things? To celebrate both of their 50th anniversaries, Princess Cruises is bringing the classic film The Sound of Music aboard all its 18 ships in the line's fleet, starting this month through the rest of 2015. While the giant Movies Under the Stars top deck screens let you enjoy the elements, diehard fans will love the sing-a-long version featured in the Princess Theater -- and the themed trivia challenge to test their knowledge.

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