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.
If you book a Royal Caribbean cruise in early December, don’t be surprised to see capes, pointed ears, and furry feet on some of your fellow passengers. Trilo3y Voyages, with the blessing of J.R.R. Tolkien’s family, is planning the first in a series of cruises for fans of the author’s works, including The Lord of the Rings. Onboard activities will include a cosplay competition and masquerade gala.
In March, a ban forbidding the largest cruise ships from entering Venice, was lifted leading to renewed protests by concerned citizens and scientists who claim that the mega ships erode the city’s delicate waterways and ecosystem.
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Royal Caribbean is taking an (ahem) quantum leap with its culinary offerings, as revealed at their glittery event in New York last night. When 4,180-guest Quantum of the Seas launches this fall, you’ll notice some sweeping changes onboard. For starters? They’re doing away with the main dining room, replacing it with a collection of complimentary full-service restaurants, from American Icon Grill (creamy New England clam chowder; sugar-dusted New Orleans beignets) to The Grande, a “nod to a bygone era” where you’ll find lobster on the menu every single night.
To kick their specialty restaurants up a notch, Royal Caribbean is bringing the work of star chefs to the table: Jamie Oliver and James Beard Award-winner Michael Schwartz, both of whom have restaurants on board. As Schwartz said: “The secret to good food is good food. Right?” Right. And one of the secrets to a good cruise is good food, too.
Virgin Group founder Richard Branson—the knight best known for his planes, trains, and spaceships—is turning his sights to the cruise industry.
Branson recently told The Nationalhe has been interested in launching his own cruise company since he was in his twenties. Now 63, he’s seeking $1.7 billion to finally develop a premier fleet of Virgin liners.