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Cruise

5 Best Wave Season Cruise Deals for 2015

Norwegian Cruise Line

For savings-savvy cruisers in search of great value, welcome to “wave season” 2015. Like clockwork, when the new year rolls around, the cruise industry’s incentive-packed annual sales blitz known as wave season kicks in, as cruise lines compete to curry customers’ favor and kickstart the year’s sales. Look for a bevy of great cruise deals running from January through March — offering reduced rates, onboard credits, free upgrades, and plenty of other perks. Here are our top five picks.

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what's new entertainment on cruise ships - holland america line - dancing with the stars

Vladimir Ramljak/Holland America Line

When I started cruising back in the early 1990s, after-dinner cabaret shows and piano players dominated the onboard lounges. Besides trying my luck in the casino, there wasn’t much else to do.

But advancing in recent years by leaps and bounds, entertainment at sea now provides vacationers with an astounding variety of options, many of them interactive. Take, for example, my recent weeklong sail from Fort Lauderdale to the Eastern Caribbean on Holland America’s 1,916-passenger Westerdam.

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top cruise trends 2015 - hong kong - facebook-princess cruises

facebook.com/PrincessCruises

Here at ShermansTravel, cruise expert Donna Tunney has been sharing the inside track on trends and updates to help readers plan the perfect vacation at sea. With the start of the new year, we thought it’d be a great time to pick her brains on excellent cruise trends that she’s loving right now. Here are some of her favorites:

1. More deals, better prices.
We all love a good deal, and happily we’re seeing more and more chances to save money on a cruise. It used to be that the cruise lines waited until “wave season” — typically the first quarter of a new year — to roll out discounts and perks aimed at jumpstarting advance bookings. But now we’re seeing many more discounted cruises and lots of free amenities being offered throughout the year, especially on Caribbean and Europe voyages. For examples from the past year, Princess Cruises launched a suite and balcony cabin sale in July, while Royal Caribbean held two of its signature Wow sales in late summer and early fall. In October, MSC Cruises offered weeklong Caribbean voyages for an eye-popping $299 per person. One note: These deals always have a short booking window, so be ready to put down your deposit when a great discount, an onboard credit, or other valuable offer comes along.

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Royal Caribbean Quantum of the Seas

Laura Motta

Every cruise ship has its quirks. Royal Caribbean’s newest — and third-largest — vessel, the Quantum of the Seas, is no different. Here are a few tips and tricks that we learned onboard that will help you sail smoothly.

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yoga - royal caribbean

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.

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shark - Hermanus Backpackers - 620

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. 

Windstar Cruises took the wraps off a discount promotion that has some of the lowest fares that I’ve ever seen on this luxury line. It’s offering savings of around 70 percent on voyages to the Caribbean, Tahiti, and Asia, to cruisers who book their sailing by December 12. This translates to starting fares of $1,449 per person for six nights — again an almost unheard-of deal for this top cruise line. The cruises in this Best of the Tropics sale also each feature one free cultural excursion, known as “private events” (free). In Bora Bora, for instance, a traditional Tahitian feast complete with fire dancers gives cruisers a taste of local dishes and tradition.

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Flickr Trish Hartmann 2

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. 

Want to win 100 days of free cruises? We sure do. And that’s exactly the grand prize in a new campaign from Carnival Corp., the parent company of 10 well-known cruise lines. Here’s all you need to do: Visit worldsleadingcruiselines.com and choose the advertising concept that you think does the best job of  debunking cruising myths and bringing the cruise experience to life. The winner will be selected at random, and the free cruises can be taken on any of the company’s lines — including Carnival Cruise Lines, Princess Cruises, Seabourn, and Holland America Line. The campaign kicked off just yesterday (along with a Twitter contest encouraging past cruisers to share what they love about vacations at sea).

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etihad airways - 620

Space travel. Bitcoin payments. Suites on airplanes. Some trends just keeping popping up on our news feeds time and time again. Some of these are fantastic and others… not so much. But for better or worse, here are nine that we think are here to stay.

1. Wearable tech.
Now that Apple’s in the game, wearable tech seems more and more like a part of the future — and not just as an ugly fashion trend. While we all love to hate Google Glass, travel brands are already responding to the Apple Watch unveiled in September. For example, Starwood’s new SPG app, which will let guests unlock rooms with their iPhone, is already designed to be Apple Watch-compatible. Of course, at nearly $349 dollars, Apple Watch isn’t a casual purchase, and we bet there will be some software and hardware challenges to overcome. Plus, it needs to be paired with an iPhone, though brands like Samsung are attempting to market what’s essentially a mini-smartphone to wear on your wrist.

2. Space voyages.
Despite the unfortunate Virgin Galactic crash at the end of last month, space travel is going to happen. The brand’s CEO shared that the company is continuing full steam and will “have a new spaceship that’s going to be ready in a few months” (as investigations into the crash continue). Having recently received massive funds from NASA, Boeing is also working on developing passenger aircraft for space. And it’s not just planes we’re talking about here. A Beijing-based company called Space Vision is developing a “high-tech balloon” powered by helium to bring tourists into space, and a Japanese construction company, Obayashi Corporation, is aiming to operate an elevator into space by 2050.

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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!

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Caribbean - Grand Cayman - George Town - MSC Cruises - 620

Which cruise lines are making headlines this week? We’ve got the latest on how you can score a free cruise this month, game-changing technology that’ll improve onboard internet speeds by 10 times, and exciting new launches. 

In a first-of-its-kind deal, MSC Cruises is running an very generous promotion: a free seven-night Caribbean cruise out of Miami this month. To snag the trip, vacationers must book any nine-night Mediterranean cruise and land combo departing between May 16 and September 19, 2015 from Europe. But plan quickly — the offer is good only on reservations made by this November 15, and the free cruise must be taken on one of two departures, November 22 or November 29, 2014. (The bonus cruise is transferable, though, so you can gift it to other passengers if you’re unable to take it yourself.) Rates for the Europe cruise start at $2,311 per person and include roundtrip airfare from Miami, New York, or Chicago as well as airport transfers.

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Azamara Club CruisesDid you know that people care far more about port stops on a cruise than they do days at sea? Or that there’s such a thing as port stop overkill? We caught up with Claudius Docekal, who oversees all itineraries as Azamara Club Cruises’ Head of Deployment, to find out how he caters to the cruise line’s passengers and keeps them happy.

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4132910198_50b9d465b1_zThe best things about birdwatching? You can do it at almost any time of the year, it can be a relaxing break from a packed travel itinerary, and it’s often a fairly low-cost activity. With migratory birds on the move or already at the their winter habitats, now is the perfect time to grab a pair of binoculars (and field guide) and explore some of the nation’s best bird watching destinations. Here are some of our favorites…

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Seabourn  Caviar in the Surf

Which cruise lines are making headlines this week? We’ve got the latest on ocean and river combo itineraries, a new East Coast cruise terminal, and more.  

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cruise fix

Which cruise lines are making headlines this week? We’ve got the latest on luxury sales, a great idea for crowd-funding your next vacation, holiday itineraries, and more. 

Now here’s a great idea for newlywed travelers: Rather than asking for home appliances, why not have friends and family contribute to your post-nuptial trip? Princess CruisesHoneymoon Wishes Registry allows others to chip in for everything from cruise fare and shore excursions to specialty dining and drinks by the pool to relaxing spa treatments. All gifts are applied as an onboard credit to the couple’s stateroom account to use during their honeymoon cruise, and the bride and groom can create an accompanying website to share wedding details and personal photos.

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Disney Land and Sea Packages

Flickr Joe Turco2

Want the ultimate Disney vacation? There’s a way you can enjoy Mickey and friends on both land and sea: by combining a stay at a Walt Disney World hotel with a trip aboard Disney Cruise Line that embarks from Port Canaveral.

The easiest way to do this is to first book the cruise, then make your stay at Disney World an add-on with a Land and Sea Vacation package. But there are some caveats with this method of booking — here’s the dish on what you should know.

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