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.
If you know who Lady Mary, Tom Branson, and the Earl of Grantham are, read on. Crystal Cruises has taken the wraps off a two-night, post-cruise trip to the land of Downton, themed after the popular series about early 20th century English aristocrats. It's an extension of the luxury line's 17-night cruise departing July 8, 2015 from Reykjavik to London. Cruisers, who will pay $4,600 per person for the land tour (we never said it was cheap), will live like royalty while visiting Highclere Castle, the fictional home of the Grantham clan. They'll arrive in vintage 1920s cars (chauffeured, of course) and be guests of honor at a private champagne reception and tour, among other Downton-related activities. Cruise fares on this itinerary -- which crosses the Arctic Circle on its way to London -- start at $1,730 per person if booked by January 2.Wellness-themed cruises are growing in popularity at warp speed, as vacationers look to wind down from high-pressure jobs, crazy schedules, and 24/7 connectivity. Yoga instruction and meditation sessions have become common offerings, but cruisers seeking full immersion will have even more choices in 2015. One is the Zen Cruise, a yoga retreat at sea aboard Royal Caribbean International's Liberty of the Seas. The five-night voyage from Fort Lauderdale to Jamaica and Haiti on February 9 offers guided meditation and yoga practices, plus dance experiences along with presentations and workshops by experts. Outside of the zen activities, cruisers can relax in the ship's six whirlpools and book treatments at its Vitality Spa. Bonus: You can feel good that a portion of the $899 per person cruise fare will be donated to the Bhatti Mines School in New Delhi.
If you love a good deal, you'll want to bookmark ncl.com. In the spirit of the holidays, Norwegian Cruise Line has rolled out a special promotion called 12 Days of Savings. Every day through December 14, the line will post a new cruise deal on its website, offering a variety of money-saving options on its 13 cruise ships. (In 2015, Norwegian’s ships will sail in the Caribbean, Hawaii, Alaska, Canada and New England, the Panama Canal, Mexico, South America, and Europe.)
Speaking of deals, Silversea Cruises is offering suite upgrades and up to $1,000 on certain 2015 sailings booked on December 31. One qualifying itinerary under this Silver Wave promotion is an 11-night Northern Europe voyage aboard Silver Cloud from Copenhagen to London on July 7. Cruise fares start at $6,850 per person. While you’re booking the promotion, check out this upmarket line’s site redesign, which integrates its special expedition sailings into its main site, for easy browsing. Mobile optimization means easier trip planning on-the-go, too.
Any trendsetters among us? Keep an eye on Virgin Cruises, coming to South Florida sometime at "the end of the decade." That's because, as the New York Times points out, cruise ships are typically $1 billion and a few years in the making. There aren't really more concrete details out at this point, but we’re going to guess the ship will channel the hip, fun atmosphere of the Virgin Group’s flights.