Just a week ago, maritime history of a sort was made when Cunard's three queens - the Queen Mary 2, Queen Elizabeth 2, and Queen Victoria - rendezvoused in New York Harbor amid fireworks and fanfare. The meeting was surely something to see, but it also symbolized the excitement encompassing the industry. There are new ships, onboard attractions, destinations, excursions, and dining options. To all but the staunch landlubber, cruisegoing offers new opportunities for enjoyment. Such as:
The new 2,000-passenger Queen Victoria has such new features as the Royal Court Theatre, with private West-End-style boxes, and the first two-story library at sea, with a spiral staircase. But it also has an arcade that lets you stroll (almost) along London's shopping streets, with Harrods and H. Stern among the retailers. There is even recreational fencing available, as well as Cunard's first floating museum. Fares range from $2,445 for an inside cabin on a 12-day Mediterranean voyage to $203,004 for the master suites on a 105-day world cruise.
Visit cunard.com or call 800-7-CUNARD (728-6273).
Passengers on Princess Cruises' Alaska trips can learn to blow glass, experience the life of a commercial fisherman, or dine at an Alaskan chef's table, as the line debuts 37 shore excursions for 2008. During the season, eight ships sail in Alaskan waters on a total of 136 departures aboard vessels that carry from 670 to 2,670 passengers. One of those ships, the Tahitian Princess, has a 14-day itinerary featuring a number of calls not usually included, among them Kodiak, Valdez, and Seward. Through Feb. 29, Princess is having an Alaska Wilderness Sale, with seven-night cruises beginning under $600 and 10-night cruise-tours starting at $1,399.
Visit princess.com or call 800-PRINCESS (774-6377).
Crystal Cruises, which always rates at or near the top in surveys of cruisegoer satisfaction, plans a wine and food-themed cruise aboard the Crystal Serenity, departing May 7. Highlighted by a two-day overnight call in Bordeaux, the 12-day voyage from London to Rome offers 18 excursions in the French wine country, Portugal, Spain, and the French Riviera, as well as onboard events with master chef André Soltner and master sommelier Evan Goldstein. Travelers can choose a six-day segment. Fares for the full Epicurean Adventure begin at $4,595, for the six-day segments at $2,530.
Visit crystalcruises.com or call 888-799-4625.
Just as there are many more healthful dining options these days, cruise lines are taking other steps to safeguard health. Peter Deilmann Cruises, following the US lead, has virtually banned smoking aboard its flagship MS Deutschland as it had earlier on the company's nine European River ships. Guests will be allowed to smoke only on outside decks. Among this year's special interest voyages on the 513-passenger Deutschland are concerts by classical musicians, golf at top overseas courses; visits to renowned gardens; equestrian riding through the Baltics, Europe, and the Middle East; and hiking or cycling along scenic paths. Rates begin at $4,297 per person. A Round-Trip Air and Shore Excursion package, available on 27 departures, is $99 per person with a choice of flights from 69 US gateways, including Boston, and a package of prearranged shore excursions valued up to $700.
Visit deilmann-cruises.com or call 800-348-8287.
Spa treatments at sea are becoming increasingly popular. In July, Carnival, which bills itself as the world's most popular cruise line, will inaugurate the 3,000-passenger Carnival Splendor, which has "spa staterooms" that provide exclusive spa access, priority appointments, unlimited use of the thermal suite and thalassotherapy pool, and free fitness classes. The ship will have a total of 12 itineraries, visiting ports in the Caribbean, Europe, Mexico, and South America. Cruise prices begin at $529, but spa suites cost about $100-$150 per person more than similar suites without the spa-related perks. Nonetheless, the spa suites are already sold out on a number of voyages.
Visit carnival.com or call 888-CARNIVAL (888-227-64825).
River cruising is a relaxing way to visit destinations, and Grand Circle Travel is currently offering savings of $400 per couple on April-June departures of its 13-day cruise-tour The Seine: Paris to Normandy. The ship will visit the Normandy beaches, Deauville, Honfleur, Rouen, Giverny, Auvers-sur-Oise, and Paris. Prices, which begin at $2,995 from Boston, include round-trip airfare, seven nights aboard the MS Bizet, and four nights in hotels, 26 meals, and seven tours.
Visit gct.com or call 800-221-2610.
Norwegian Cruise Line will have a new ship plying the familiar Boston- to-Bermuda route. The 1,748-passenger Norwegian Dream will replace the Norwegian Majesty in conducting the popular seven-night cruises, with departure dates from May 11-Aug. 17 and prices beginning at $829.
Visit ncl.com or see a travel agent. For the 17th annual Doo-Wopp and Rock 'n' Roll Boston to Bermuda Cruise May 25-June 1, call 978-256-6472.
This is the time of year when both Internet sites and brick-and-mortar agencies have good sales. Orbitz, which has just revamped its cruise site, is in the midst of its Catch the Wave Cruise Event, running through Jan. 28. Travelers booking qualifying cruises can get free spa treatments, a complimentary iPod, discount booklets, or $100 off selected trips of seven nights or more. Travelocity, meanwhile, has a Cruise Super Sale, with up to $250 onboard credit. Expedia, too, has a Winter Getaway Sale with free upgrades, onboard credit, and added amenities. All three travel sites have cruises beginning at $199.
Super Bowl seaside
Bolongo Bay Beach Resort in St. Thomas invites guests to celebrate Super Bowl XLII on Feb. 3 Caribbean-style, with a five-night package featuring oceanview rooms, a tailgate party with a big buffet, and televisions located steps from the sea. In addition, participants will get two complimentary squares per room on the football pool board, valued at $10 per square with at least five pools running throughout the day and potential winnings of $500. The package is $1,750 per room.
Guests can snowshoe through red rock canyons by moonlight with the Full Moon Snowshoe Tour package from Gateway Canyons Resort in Gateway, Colo. It begins with a one-hour guided tour and ends with dinner around a bonfire with built-in snow seats. The package is available through March 31, but participants must plan to stay one of the evenings of Jan. 24-26, Feb. 22-23, or March 21-22 to experience the full moon. The one-night package, starting at $212, includes accommodations, use of snowshoes, the guided hike, the bonfire with choice of soup, chile, or stew, hot cocoa, cider, and wine, and shuttling to and from Sky Mesa Ranch from the resort. The package is also available on nights without a full moon, in which case guests will be provided with headlamps or can head out earlier to enjoy the sunset.
Visit gatewaycanyons.com or call 866-671-4733.
Cape Cod festival fix
Because of outdated information received, incorrect dates were given in the Jan. 13 Real Deals column for the Cape Cod Life Food & Wine Festival. The event, at various locations throughout the Cape, will be June 1-4.
When not included, hotel taxes, airport fees, and port charges can add significantly to the price of a trip. Most prices quoted are for double occupancy; solo travelers will usually pay more. Offers are subject to availability and there may be blackout dates. Richard P. Carpenter can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.