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How to Take a Luxury Cruise For Less

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Crystal Cruises, the #1 large-ship cruise line in our annual World’s Best Awards since 1996, is re-introducing the idea of stand-by travel on five of their sailings in May and June. The potential savings from the brochure price are a mind-boggling 70%, bringing the cost of a 12-day cruise to $2,995, or $250 a day.

The itineraries available for standby are pretty exciting: three 12-day Alaska cruise out of San Francisco, an 11-day Scandinavia and Russia trip  (Hamburg to Stockholm); and a 14-day North Cape/Arctic Circle cruise (Copenhagen to Stockholm).

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Europe's Newest River Cruise + Scandinavia Sails

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This spring there are plenty of new ways to sail the Continent’s waters. Launching its maiden voyage on the Danube River, the Viking Prestige (vikingrivercruises.com; trips from $1,556 per person, double) has whisper-quiet electric engines and French balconies along the top two decks.

On Crystal Cruises Serenity (crystalcruises.com; $118 per person for four-hour tour), the Stieg Larsson’s Stockholm tour sends guests traipsing through Södermalm Island, where the author’s Girl with the Dragon Tattoo spent many evenings.

In Finland’s bucolic Åland Islands, Seabourn Pride (seabourn.com; trips from $5,249 per person, double) now calls at Mariehamn, as famous for its cobblestoned streets as it is for the saunas dotting its shores.

Photo courtesy of Viking River Cruises

Technology Aboard Cruise Ships

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Gone are the days of heading out to sea and losing all contact with the world. Cell and Internet services are now standard (though free in-room Wi-Fi is not), and some lines have gone even further with their tech amenities. Holland America has introduced a series of classes covering such subjects as digital photography and blogging. And on its October voyage, Crystal Symphony will offer a digital filmmaking workshop, led by BBC producer Michael Rosenblum, that includes instruction on shooting and editing travel videos.

Sherri Eisenberg is a contributor to Travel + Leisure.

Illustration by Jean-Philippe Delhomme

Crystal Cruises’ New Voluntourism Program

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This year, Crystal Cruises is taking voluntourism at sea to a new level with its just-launched You Care, We Care program, which offers passengers the option of free, service-oriented shore excursions on all 2011 itineraries. Each of the 58 trips has been carefully designed by local tour operators to help communities. You can decorate a children’s center in Lima, Peru; tend to an urban farm in Cartagena, Colombia; or help in beach clean-up efforts in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico.

Sherri Eisenberg is a contributor to Travel + Leisure.

Illustration by Laurie Rosenwald

Celebrity Cruises Reacts Swiftly After Armed Attack in St. Kitts

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Fresh from the Carnival Splendor mess, the cruise industry is facing yet another public relations problem after armed robbers accosted a busload of Celebrity passengers in St. Kitts. The cruise company was quick to respond. AOL Travel explains:

A spokesman for Carnival Cruise Lines tells AOL Travel News a call at St. Kitts by the Carnival Miracle, scheduled for today, has been canceled "as a precautionary measure," while the line awaits information from tourism and law enforcement officials on the island...

The attack by the masked gunmen occurred over the weekend as passengers from the Celebrity Mercury were visiting Brimstone Hill Fortress, a popular tourist spot on bus tours of the island.

The masked robbers reportedly blocked the road with a fallen tree and then emerged from the bushes to rob those on the bus. The armed gunmen then disappeared into the woods.

No one was injured in the incident. The robbers made off with valuables including cash, jewelry and cameras. Local police are investigating.

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Photo courtesy of iStock.

Royal Caribbean's Record-Size Cruise Ship Nearly Ready

USA TODAY | Will Royal Caribbean's much-awaited new ship, Allure of the Seas, be ready for its late November unveiling? It's looking more and more like a sure thing.

Royal Caribbean Cruises Chairman and CEO Richard Fain—just back from touring the 5,400-passenger vessel at the shipyard in Finland where it is under construction—writes on his blog this week that he doesn't think he's ever seen a ship at this stage of construction so ready.

"Despite regular status reports and photographs from the newbuilding team, I was astounded by how far along she was," Fain says.

Fain goes on to hint things are going so well at the shipyard the company might even rethink inaugural activities planned for November.

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Strict New Regulations Set for Cruise Ships

201007-b-cruiseillojpgTravel Agent Central |  A new U.S. bill aimed at increasing safety on cruise ships is set to become law. The Cruise Vessel Safety & Security Act will require cruise lines to install peepholes on cabin doors, ensure rails are no lower than 42 inches and provide passengers with information on how to report crimes. The law means business: non-compliance can result in denial of entry into U.S. ports, civil penalties up to $50,000 per violation and criminal penalties up to $250,000 and/or one year’s imprisonment. (Image credit: Ryan Heshka)

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Interest Grows in Trans-Atlantic Travel to Europe

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Despite the ash cloud that closed European airports and stranded passengers in April, more Americans intend to travel to Europe this year. Yet many would-be vacationers are considering traveling by ship instead—and reliving the glory days of trans-oceanic travel.

“There’s definitely an upsurge in interest, which is terrific,” says Peter Shanks, president of Cunard Cruise Line which operates the Queen Mary 2’s six-night crossing between New York and Southampton, England. “There’s a feel-good factor about trans-Atlantic travel. It’s back on people’s radar.”

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Twiggy on the High Seas

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Okay, we admit we are tickled pink—maybe even 1960s hot pink—to hear that none other than Twiggy will serve as Godmother of the new, ultra-luxury Seabourn Sojourn.

For those of us who remember the ‘60s, Twiggy (Lesley Hornby) was a cultural icon, right up there with The Beatles. Guys may have cut their hair in Beatles shags. But for many of us gals (even preteens like me) the British invasion was also very much about the “supermodel” of the decade. To look like Twiggy, only 16 when she exploded on the international scene in 1966, we cut our hair short and begged our parents to let us wear minis and eye makeup. And we assessed our own lumps and bumps—Twiggy being the thinnest model we had ever seen.

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New Disney Ship’s (Michelin) Star Power

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Disney and Michelin-starred French restaurants may seem like an odd pairing, but when the new cruise ship Disney Dream debuts early next year, one onboard restaurant will have an impressive French accent. So much so that Disney Cruise Line decided to announce the restaurant, Remy, in New York, at a press dinner at Michelin three-star Le Bernardin.

The restaurant’s name is of course a nod to the diminutive star of Disney Pixar’s animated film Rataouille. But kids are not the focus here. Rather, Remy is adults-only with a cover charge (likely to top $75 per person).

Based on a sample menu served to journalists at Le Bernardin, it will be well worth the price—impressive dishes liked smoked bison with fennel salad and Honeywell oranges and market fresh asparagus with black truffles and vin jaune. Remy may just become the ship’s must-do attraction (well, along with the 4,000-passenger Dream’s AquaDuck, the first water coaster at sea).

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