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.We know all about spa and beverage packages that you can purchase aboard cruise ships, but here comes the first-ever social media package: Carnival Cruise Line is pilot testing a new app that provides unlimited access to Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and other popular sites . The download is free and the cost for service is $5 per day, or $25 per voyage. The offer is good on cruises aboard Carnival Freedom, Carnival Breeze and Carnival Sunshine, and enables cruisers to avoid the fees charged by a guest's mobile contract while at sea. Meanwhile a second pilot test on Carnival Breeze, the Carnival Hub app, also at $5 per day, brings shipboard events and a chat function to iPhone and Android users. We like the idea of these plans for lots of reasons, but mostly this one: They offer lots of value. Consider that pay-as-you-go internet packages aboard other Carnival ships start at .75 per minute.
If Regent Seven Seas Cruises is looking to set a new standard for opulence on the seas, their plush new cabin might be the way to do it. The luxury line revealed that its new ship, Seven Seas Explorer, will include a 3,800-plus square foot suite with its own spa, including a sauna, steam room, and treatment area. The Regent Suite also will feature two bedrooms, a living room and an outdoor, glass-enclosed sitting area with views over the ship's bow. The 750-guest ship is under construction and will debut in 2016. The cruise line is keeping mum for now on what the cruise fare will be for the Regent Suite, but we'll keep you posted.
Is it chilly in here? Norwegian Cruise Line has revealed another first in vacations at sea -- a “snow room.” Its Norwegian Escape, which is due to launch in November, will offer what it calls Arctic refreshment in the form of a relaxation area that's kept under 32 degrees Fahrenheit. Chilly technology will send out “a flurry of powdery snow throughout the day,” says the line. The special room will be part of the ship's Mandara Spa, which will provide more typical amenities, too, such as steam and sauna facilities, and a hydrotherapy pool. No word yet on what entry to the snow room will cost cruisers.
The year was 1840 when Samuel Cunard first offered transatlantic service on a 700-ton wooden paddle steamer, the RMS Britannia. His company eventually became the Cunard Line, and this year the three-ship luxury cruise line is celebrating its 175th anniversary with a slew of special onboard events. Passengers aboard the Queen Mary 2, Queen Victoria, and Queen Elizabeth will enjoy gala dinners and balls, commemorative drinks and desserts, and themed entertainment. Celebrity authors, politicians, and actors will sail with the line, too, so if you're booked on a Cunard cruise this year, get ready for a party.
If you've ever dreamed of sailing through the French countryside on a luxury barge, it's time to check out French Country Waterways. The American-owned company’s 2015 brochure just came out, and we found a couple of interesting changes for this year. The company has lengthened the route of its Upper Loire Valley itinerary from Chatillon-sur-Loire to Saint-Satur, and added two new chateau visits to that trip -- Chateau de Sully-sur-Loire, a UNESCO World Heritage site, and Chateau Guedelon, which is undergoing a refurbishment by workers using only medieval tools and techniques. It also is adding a fifth barge to its fleet, the 18-passenger Esprit. Rates for these all-inclusive journeys, which operate from April through October, begin at $4,995 per person.