For their new $450 million ship, Regent Seven Seas Cruises is pulling out all the stops. The 750-passenger Seven Seas Explorer, which will begin sailing the Mediterranean in the summer of 2016, will have ten suite categories, the brand's highest space ratio, and a slew of enhancements.
Curious eyes followed us as we trekked under tamarind trees on a dirt path that traced the shore of the Mekong River. With villagers watching expectantly, we turned to enter the gates of a 19th-century mansion, a beautifully decaying French-Vietnamese pile near Cai Be. At that moment, a shirtless old man emerged, confused, then began to laugh. “You didn’t tell me you were coming,” he chided our guide, Yee Nguyen, in Vietnamese, throwing on a loose polo shirt. The owner of this architectural relic, it turned out, was Nguyen’s uncle. I couldn’t imagine what the jocular 80-year-old was thinking—with our global group of Italians, Mexicans, Americans, Australians, and French, it’s like the UN showed up at his door—and we were equally surprised to be standing in his living room. A behind-the-scenes tour of this fresco-lined house wasn’t on the day’s agenda, but I’d already come to expect the unexpected on day two of this five-day trip, the inaugural upriver cruise with Aqua Expeditions through Vietnam and Cambodia.
Sting relived his past as a cruise ship entertainer with an intimate performance aboard Cunard’s Queen Mary 2 earlier this week. The show took place just two days after the Broadway debut of his first-ever musical, The Last Ship, now playing at the Neil Simon Theatre.
Oceania Cruises is the latest luxury line to launch complimentary Internet access on its five ships—a first for the brand. It joins Regent Seven Seas, which announced that it was adding free WiFi last month. The on-board Wi-Fi system was recently upgraded across its five mid-size ships, bringing connectivity that’s twice as fast as before to public spaces, outdoor decks, plus all suites and staterooms.
These seasonal cruises, when ships relocate from one part of the world to sail in another, can offer as much as 70 percent off the price of regular voyages—though be prepared for more days at sea and potentially costly one-way flights. We asked cruise editor Jane Wooldridge to find the best ones.
Crystal Cruises, San Diego to Auckland, New Zealand; Cost per day*: from $212; 15 days You’d ordinarily pay more than $400 per night on the luxury 922-passenger Crystal Symphony, where a recent update added Murano glass, Calcutta marble, and a 37-foot-long living wall. Guests have two days to explore Oahu, Hawaii, then a dozen more on board that are filled with filmmaking and art classes, magic shows, and lectures on maritime history and international relations. Oct. 28, 2014.
Free, reliable Wi-Fi is becoming standard practice at many hotels—but not so for cruise lines, where passengers are expected to pay for the service. In a sign of good things to come for the industry, Regent Seven Seas Cruises will now offer free Internet access in all public spaces and suites for voyages setting sail after January 1, 2015.
Last month marked the debut voyage of Pearl Seas Cruises, a new small-ship luxury operator that’s offering itineraries through the Canadian Maritimes, the Great Lakes, and the St. Lawrence Seaway, with Caribbean journeys starting in 2015. A sister company to American Cruise Lines, it currently has one vessel: the 335-foot-long, 210-passenger Pearl Mist, complete with six decks and a balcony on each of the 108 cabins. (There are plans to add another ship in the future.)
The "fun ships" are becoming healthier too: Carnival Cruise Lines announced this week that, starting October 9th, it will ban smoking on stateroom balconies, joining an ever growing fleet of companies restricting where guests can light up.
Cigarettes will still be permitted in designated areas—such as certain nightclubs, casino areas, and several outdoor decks. Why the new restriction? According to Carnival’s official statement, the shift comes in response to the “preferences of a majority of our guests.” It also brings Carnival in line with its sister companies Cunard and P&O, which updated their policies last August. Other brands owned by the Carnival Corporation, such as Seabourn and Holland America, still permit balcony smoking.