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.
When it comes to culinary prowess, cruise lines are constantly trying to one-up each other with specialty restaurants, guest celebrity chefs, and unique fusion recipes. In a major coup, Celebrity Cruises went to the World White Truffle Auction in Grinzane Cavour, Italy -- and scored two of the world's most rare and sought-after wild mushrooms. Celebrity, which bills itself as a “modern luxury” line, is planning to use the coveted truffles to create special menus (think: risotto with truffle slices and dessert topped with Chantilly truffle cream) on certain upcoming Caribbean sailings. Lucky you, if you're a foodie headed onboard!Ready or not, the holiday shopping season is about to get into full swing. And if there’s someone on your list who has it all, it may be time to put a ribbon and a bow on a cruise gift card. Princess Cruises is the latest line to offer them , and the credit can be applied toward the purchase of a cruise as well as onboard treats like specialty dining, drinks, spa treatments, and shore excursions. Gift-givers can customize the Princess cards with a dollar amount up to $2,000, choose the delivery date, and even personalize the gift with an audio message and a digital photo. (Other cruise lines selling gift cards include Carnival Cruise Lines and Norwegian Cruise Line , while Royal Caribbean International offers gift certificates .)
Beverage packages are the new must-have amenity at sea. In the last few years, virtually every cruise line has created deals that allow cruisers to pay upfront for the cocktails, beer, and wine that they’ll enjoy during their sailing. It's a money saver -- these offers typically shave around 20 percent off what a passenger would shell out for individual drinks in a lounge or at a poolside bar. Now, upscale line Oceania Cruises has taken the concept one step further, uncorking a special deal for wine lovers with its Wine by the Bottle package. Cruisers can select from more than 50 wines handpicked by the line's master sommeliers. The package includes seven bottles and costs $297.50 -- or $42.50 per bottle. And if seven bottles won't see you through? There's no limit, as long as you purchase more in increments of seven.
The British Invasion is about to conquer Silversea Cruises. This luxury line soon will debut a new musical called “Mind the Gap,” a lively journey back to the 1960s featuring songs by The Beatles, Rolling Stones, Tom Jones, and others -- complete with era fashions and a London tube station set. The performances will launch this winter aboard Silver Wind, Silver Cloud, Silver Whisper, and Silver Shadow, plus on Silver Spirit next spring.