11 Biggest Cruise News Stories of 2011

December 27, 2011

11 Most Popular Cruise Ships of 2011

11 Hottest Cruise Topics in 2011

Main Page: 2011, the Year in Cruising

Fare Compare: Check Prices on 2012 Cruises

(3:45 p.m. EST) -- Cruise lines emerged as hurricane season heroes and zeros. Readers debated the merits and pitfalls of all-you-can-drink packages. And numerous lines announced that they were stamping out smoking (sort of).

Well over a million of you visited Cruise Critic's news page in 2011 to follow breaking news and emerging trends. We were happy to report a story about how the voice of the people can will a line to admit a wrong and make good, and less so when the news of the day involved disappearing crewmembers, sick cruisers or a passenger killed in a tragic parasailing accident.

But the biggest surprise of the year was that two mega-ships -- Queen Mary 2 and Monarch of the Seas -- were put to shame in the CDC's vessel sanitation inspection. The double fail hasn't happened since 2004, when an unprecedented five mega-ships bombed the rigorous pop cleanliness exam.

Good, bad and confusing, it's been another banner year in cruising. And now it's time to relive the most talked about, most recommended and most viewed news stories of the year.

Royal Caribbean Introduces All-You-Can-Drink Packages

Borrowing from sister line Celebrity Cruises' playbook, Royal Caribbean began testing all-you-can-drink packages on a trio of ships in March. Nine months later, the offer still stands, and for a flat daily rate, passengers can imbibe at will. The program, however has yet to become a fleetwide staple. Read more.

Readers Fight Back on Azamara "Bait-and-Switch" -- and Win!

Perhaps nothing -- not even for-fee main dining room steak -- angers cruisers like a perceived "bait-and-switch" deal. So when Azamara offered a deal for 50 percent off shore tours, then pulled the offer before travelers could take advantage of it, Cruise Critic members were outraged. Read more.

Itchy and Scratchy: Are There Bed Bugs on Cruise Ships?

Bed bugs have long been the bane of hostels and motels, even luxury hotels. But after months of occupying a prominent place in headlines around the globe earlier this year, we -- and Cruise Critic readers -- began to wonder: Are they on cruise ships as well? Read more.

Lost in Hurricane Irene's Wake: Cruise Lines Strand 100's in San Juan

Nearly 450 cruisers were stranded in San Juan in August when port authorities ordered Carnival and RCI vessels to leave early to avoid Hurricane Irene. What followed was a tale of two cruise line responses, with one lauded for its generosity and the other slammed for its negligence. Read more.

Restaurant Up-Charges: Would You Pay $75 to Dine at Sea?

Has the nickel and diming of onboard dining options become more like quartering and dollaring? With the debut of Remy, a $75-a-head venue opened on Disney Dream in January, the for-fee dining debate boiled anew. So how does the Mouse justify the extravagant fee -- and are we buying it? Read more.

Oil Tank Explodes in Gibraltar Near Royal Caribbean Cruise Ship

In May, thousands of guests on Independence of the Seas had front-row seats to a show nobody wants to attend. A fuel tank exploded near the ship in Gibraltar, injuring 12. The pictures told the story best -- and a quick-thinking onlooker actually filmed Indy as it made its escape. Read more.

Why Did Royal Caribbean Sail Into a Storm Two Other Lines Avoided?

Rough seas had the Dramamine flowing, souvenirs tumbling from shelves and dinner canceled on Freedom of the Seas as it departed Port Canaveral. But here's what was really strange: Two other ships delayed their departures until conditions improved. So why did Royal give the all clear? Read more.

Mystery at Sea: Disney Wonder Crewmember Disappears

In March, a youth activities counselor on Disney Wonder vanished during a Mexican Riviera cruise from Los Angeles. Police in the Bahamas -- the ship is registered there -- ruled out foul play, but the mysterious and tragic case remains open. Read more.

CDC Inspection Failures: Monarch of the Seas and Queen Mary 2

We'll never forget the human hair found in QM2's ice machine. The hair and a litany of other violations earned the Cunard mega-liner a failing grade in its June CDC inspection. (It's since passed.) Then in December, Monarch of the Seas, failed, too. It's yet to be retested.

Deaths at Sea: Helmet Diver, Newborn, Icy Plunge, Parasailer

Royal Caribbean Passenger Dies After Bermuda 'Helmet Dive'

Dead Newborn Discovered on Carnival Dream

Sick Cruise Passenger Who Was Dropped Into Icy Waters Dies

Lines Cancels Parasailing Tours Following Deadly Accident

Put it Out: Lines Clamp Down on Smoking at Sea

Citing changing passenger preferences, four lines announced new, more restrictive smoking policies. Passengers sailing with Carnival, NCL and HAL will no longer be able to smoke in their cabins, and Princess went so far as to ban smoking on cabins and balconies. Read more.

More on 2011 in Cruising

11 Most Popular Cruise Ships of 2011

11 Hottest Cruise Topics in 2011

Fare Compare: Check Prices on 2012 Cruises

--by Dan Askin, News Editor