Cruise Tracker: Sweet Deals, Pro Poker, Culinary Sailings, and More

by  Donna Tunney | Sep 30, 2014
Oceania Riviera
Oceania Riviera / Photo courtesy of the cruise line

Which cruise lines are making headlines this week? We’ve got the latest on new deals, onboard programming, and special itineraries in this week's weekly cruise news column. 

The cruise industry is gearing up for its annual CLIA Cruise Week on October 6 through 13, when members of the Cruise Lines International Association will roll out a slew of incentives for booking a vacation at sea -- so if you’ve been considering a cruise, this is the time to do your homework. Twenty six cruise lines, both ocean and river, are participating this year with special promotions like cabin upgrades, onboard spending credits, airfare deals, discounted shore excursions, and more. Sample savings include up to $300 in onboard credits with Holland America Line. (CLIA estimates that 21.7 million people will cruise worldwide this year!)

Put on your poker face for this cruise. The first annual Norwegian Poker Challenge will take place aboard Norwegian Cruise Lines' Norwegian Epic November 9 to 16, with World Series of Poker champion Joe Cada in attendance. The challenge offers passengers on the Caribbean cruise a chance to win a share of a $200,000 prize pool during the tourney. Players, who must each pony up $1,100 to participate, can join cash games and go head to head with Cada, who also will be available for meet-and-greet events with tournament entrants. The cruise visits Ocho Rios, Jamaica; Costa Maya, Mexico; and Cozumel, Mexico. Fares start at $399 per person.

Princess Cruises has a rosy future ahead. The premium line will ring in 2015 and celebrate its 50th anniversary with a 60-foot-long cruise ship float in the Rose Parade January 1 in Pasadena, California. The float, adorned with 24,000 flowers, will depict the line’s newest ship, the Regal Princess -- with six original cast members of TV show “The Love Boat” on the bow. (The hit show was filmed aboard several Princess ships between 1977 and 1987, and is credited with helping to bring the idea of cruise vacations to the masses.) Show stars Gavin MacLeod, Fred Grandy, Ted Lange, Bernie Kopell, Lauren Tewes, and Jill Whelan will be godparents to the new 3,560-passenger vessel when it's christened in Florida next month.

Master chef and Oceania Cruises' Executive Culinary Director Jacques Pépin will host a special sailing onboard the 1,250-passenger Riviera in 2015 with his whole clan. The chef’s daughter, Claudine, co-host of Pépin's award-winning “Cooking with Claudine” television series, and other family members will join him on a 10-day Iberian Inspiration cruise departing Lisbon for Rome on July 7, 2015. The sailing will feature exclusive cooking demonstrations, specially designed signature menus, book signings, and other events. The chef, author of more than 20 cookbooks, will also be celebrating his 80th birthday on the sailing. Fares start from $4,299 per person.

Italian line Costa Cruises rolled out free upgrades and reduced deposits on select bookings for the 2,260-passenger Costa Luminosa and the 2,112-passenger Costa Mediterranea, both of which are repositioning to Miami in December for a series of 10-, 11- and 12-night cruises to the eastern, western and southern Caribbean. Costa Luminosa’s 10-night itineraries call at Nassau, Bahamas; Grand Turk, Turks and Caicos; Ocho Rios, Jamaica; Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands; Roatan, Honduras; and Cozumel, Mexico. Costa Mediterranea's 11-night sailings dock at Samana, Dominican Republic; Road Harbour, Tortola; St John’s, Antigua; Point á Pitre, Guadeloupe; and Philipsburg, St. Maarten. The ship's 12-night cruise adds a visit to St. Kitts. Fares start from $799 per person.

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