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.
Major cruises will be calling in Cuba.
In May, we shared how small ship company AdventureSmith Explorations is sailing to Cuba, and now not one but two major cruise lines are getting in on the action. Just a few hours ago, Carnival Corp. announced a weeklong itinerary for their new Fathom sailings, priced at $2,990 per person and launching in May. The cruise will more strictly follow People-to-People programming, in compliance with current travel restrictions, though the company is working with the Cuban government on how to incorporate a volunteer angle (per general focus of the new brand). Bookings are open now.
But before that, Italian line MSC Cruises is on track to become the first major line to base a ship in Havana. MSC Opera will homeport there for Caribbean cruises starting this December, with two Cuba overnights on the itinerary. Don’t get overexcited just yet, however: the cruises aren’t People-to-People-licensed and so are currently only open to Europeans, South Americans, and Canadians.
More free, unlimited WiFi.
Another win for 21st century consumers: Seems like Royal Caribbean International is continuing the free WiFi program it was testing earlier this year. When the Majesty of the Seas comes back into commission at the end of next May, all of its guests will enjoy unlimited connection at no extra charge. This “Voom” service, Royal Caribbean says, will be able to handle music and movie streaming.
Oceania Cruises has launched an early-booking promotion for 2016 vacations called OLife Advantage. Plop down a deposit for any spring, summer, or fall voyage in Europe, Alaska, and Canada/New England by September 30 — for a balcony stateroom or higher category — and receive free shore excursions, unlimited Internet access, and pre-paid gratuities.
New to Norway:
Summer heat getting to you? Look forward to Norwegian cruise line Hurtigruten acquiring another expedition ship. Temporarily named Norway Explorer, the six-year-old ship will be renovated in Scandinavia before re-entering service next year. The makeover will include upgrading the cabins and public areas as well as adapting the ship to polar waters.
Calling all zombies…
Norwegian Cruise Line is hosting a Walker Stalker Cruise aboard its 2,400-passenger Norwegian Pearl, featuring actors from hit TV show “The Walking Dead.” Sailing January 15-18 of next year, the eerie itinerary includes costume parties and other zombie-themed activities while sailing from Miami to Nassau. From $750 based on double occupancy.
Goodbye, Spongebob and Dora.
Norwegian Cruise Line’s partnership with Nickelodeon — featured themed parties, workshops, and character visits since 2010 — will be phased out starting this October. No word yet on what Norwegian has in mind for kid cruisers, but we’ll keep you posted.