Cruise News Shorts: Mazatlan Returns, Cunard Ups Tips and Other Cruise News

April 19, 2013
(3:20 p.m. EDT) -- Every week we catch wind of so much cruise news, we don't always know what to do with it all, but a few standout bits sometimes catch our attention. Here are some interesting cruise tidbits we think you might like to know about.

It's Back
Cruise ships are scheduled to return to Mazatlan this fall, tentatively ending a two-year absence prompted by violence in the region. Major players involved in the pull-out included Carnival, Disney, Norwegian Cruise Line, Holland America and Princess; of those, Norwegian and Holland America are returning this year. Norwegian Star will begin including Mazatlan on select Mexican Riviera sailings in November and December. Holland America also will return to the port, with calls resuming in November through at least early 2014. Princess also plans to return in 2014.

Here's a Tip…
Good service deserves recognition. After several years without a raise in tips, Cunard crew are finally getting a little bit more in their pockets. Effective this month, Cunard is increasing the daily gratuity by 50 cents "in recognition of a job well done by the stateroom steward, restaurant waiting team and other back of house staff who contribute to the smooth running of so much of the experience on board." The raise comes after the cruise line benchmarked its charges against the other cruise lines. "By applying a small increase we feel we will not be out of line with them," a Cunard spokesperson told Cruise Critic. Gratuities: Britannia Staterooms - $11.50 pp/per day; Princess Grill and Queens Grill Suites - $13.50 pp/per day. The increase is already in effect on Queen Elizabeth and will go into effect on Queen Victoria and Queen Mary 2 on April 26.

Top o' the Spa
What happens when a penthouse suite and spa cabin get married? Why, they have penthouse spa babies, of course. The first such hybrid suites will soon appear on Seabourn's three ships, with Seabourn Quest the first to emerge from a May 2013 dry dock with four of the new cabins. Located above the Spa at Seabourn, suite occupants get unlimited access to the spa's Serene Area, as well as a menu of in-suite spa amenities and the services of a spa concierge. Seabourn Odyssey and Seabourn Sojourn will each get four of the 516- to 538-square-feet penthouse spa suites during their next dry docks. Penthouse spa suites also feature living and dining areas with seating for four, separate bedrooms, walk-in closets and bathrooms with tub and spa shower.

Rain Boot Alert
Numerous news outlets report the Mississippi River is expected to begin flooding next week, but at least one river cruise operator isn't worried. "The American Queen is running as scheduled and there are no plans for this to change," a spokesman for American Queen Steamboat Company told Cruise Critic. Flooding is expected to occur in parts of Iowa, Illinois and Missouri.

Another One Joins the Fray
Australian tour company, Evergreen Tours, is expanding its cruise business with plans to launch a four-star European river cruise brand in 2014. Two ships for the as-yet-unnamed cruise line will each carry 184 passengers, feature a pool and movie theater, and will compete with lines such as Viking and AMAWaterways. A sister company, Scenic Cruises, recently launched Scenic Jewel, its eighth river boat plying European rivers.

Now Wait One Minute
Cruise Lines International Association President and CEO Christine Duffy is none too happy with the president of the American Maritime Officers. According to Duffy, Tom Bethel, who represents the interests of U.S. maritime officers, spread "misinformation and inaccuracies" during an interview with Fox & Friends this week. "All crewmembers, regardless of nationality, undergo rigorous training before serving on a cruise ship and participate in continuous drills and exercises to hone their skills," Duffy said in response to Bethel's questioning of cruise ship officer training. "While it's understandable that, as the head of the union representing a number of U.S. maritime officers… it's unfortunate that you chose to malign the competency of cruise line officers and crew, many of whom are in fact U.S. maritime officers."

Amazon Dreaming
Want an Amazon river cruise with all the amenities of a European river boat? Avalon Waterways is betting someone does and has introduced an 11-day cruise and tour that sails the Amazon, Yarapa, Yanalipa and Ucayali Rivers. Passengers will sail on the MV Aria, built in 2011, which features 16 250-square-foot suites and carries 32 passengers and 24 crew members, including four naturalists.

--by Dori Saltzman, News Editor, and Ashley Kosciolek, Associate Editor