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.
In a first for ocean-going cruises, Norwegian Cruise Line is expanding its all-inclusive concept to cover free beer, wine, and cocktails (up to $11 in value) for adults, plus free soda and juices for youngster ages 3 to 20. It's a practice typically found only on luxury lines and on river ships, and it's being rolled out next January on just one ship, the 2,000-passenger Norwegian Sky (at least for now). But how much of a bargain is it, exactly? It would depend on your typical bar tab. Here's a comparison: The cruise fare for a three-night Bahamas cruise from Miami in January aboard Norwegian Sky starts at $339 per person -- while a Carnival cruise for three nights to the Western Caribbean the same month, aboard the 2,000-passenger Carnival Ecstasy, begins at $179 per person sans free drinks.Steel has been cut and construction has started on MSC Cruises ' newest ship. MSC Meraviglia , which means "marvel" or "wonder" in Italian, will accommodate 4,500 guests when it launches in 2017. It's the first in the line's new Vista class of ships, offering new designs such as “cluster cabins” for families -- meaning up to three connecting staterooms. Cruisers can also expect a bigger MSC Yacht Club luxury area, a three-deck high interior promenade, and amusement and water parks.
The Alaska summer cruise booking season is in full swing, and Holland America Line has a new app to make planning easier. Tablet users can access the line's entire Alaska Land & Sea Journeys brochure -- the line offers a range of sailing and tour combos with stays in Denali and the Yukon. Other enhancements include interactive maps with destination and excursion details as well as a sampling of the line's Glacier Bay podcasts. No tablet? No worries. There's a "desktop viewer” that offers the same content.
This fall, Disney Cruise Line will transport youngsters to a faraway galaxy aboard its 4,000-passenger Disney Dream with a new play area designed like a spaceship, Star Wars: Millennium Falcon. Kids can launch into epic battles of good versus evil, by helping to navigate the space vehicle, and partake in a whole host of Star Wars-themed crafts, games, and activities. For adults, there's Satellite Falls, a circular splash pool with benches and a gently falling rain curtain that provides cool comfort. The ship sails from Port Canaveral to the Bahamas and Castaway Cay, Disney's private island.
Per person rates for a four-night cruise in mid-November start at $716.
Want to give back while vacationing? Luxury line Crystal Cruises has added several more You Care, We Care shore excursions that offer cruisers the chance to participate in humanitarian and conservation activities of organizations around the world. The excursions are free to all guests, and 16 are on schedule this year. At a marine wildlife rehab center in Barcelona, for example, guests can participate in a training drill for a beach rescue of a stranded dolphin. In Dubrovnik, guests can offer companionship and friendship at Domus Christi, a facility that shelters the poor, elderly, and infirm.