(3 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 snippets we think you might like to know about.
Princess in Shanghai
Princess Cruises has based one of its ships in Asia for the first time. Sapphire Princess began sailing a four-month season from Shanghai on Thursday, kicking off a schedule of 24 three- to five-night itineraries. Featured stops on the voyages include Seoul (Incheon), Busan, Jeju Island, Fukuoka (Hakata), Kagoshima, Okinawa and Nagasaki. To cater to the ship's Chinese clientele, the line has made what it refers to as "Princess Class" changes, which feature Tai Chi, an enhanced shopping experience, Chinese satellite television channels, movies with subtitles and predominantly Chinese menus, as well as crewmembers who are fluent in Chinese.
Carnival Cruise Lines is increasing its presence on the West Coast as it offers year-round seven-night voyages to the Mexican Riviera aboard Carnival Miracle. Additionally, Carnival Legend will sail Alaska itineraries from Seattle, and both ships will feature a handful of Hawaii sailings during the 2015/16 season. Each ship has received FunShip 2.0 enhancements, and Carnival Legend also boasts Green Thunder, the tallest waterslide at sea.
Norwegian Jewel has re-entered service as the first Norwegian ship to be retrofitted with O'Sheehan's Neighborhood Bar & Grill, first introduced on Epic and also available on Breakaway and Getaway. During the two-week dry dock, the Brazilian-style steak house Moderno Churrascaria was relocated on Deck 13, and a new Sugarcane Mojito Bar was added next to it. Other additions include a Carlo's Bake Shop by Buddy Valastro -- star of the U.S. TV series "Cake Boss" and "Next Great Baker" -- in the Java Cafe. Following the summer season in Alaska, Jewel will sail from Houston starting on November 11.
... And salut!
French-owned small ship and expedition specialist Compagnie du Ponant, which currently serves complimentary wine, beer and soft drinks with lunch and dinner, is introducing an open bar in a two-phase roll out. All beverages and alcohol, including cocktails, Champagne and mini-bars, will be included in the price of its South American cruises during winter 2014/15. The open bar included in the price of cruises will be available throughout the five-vessel fleet by summer 2015.
New partners for Azamara
Azamara Club Cruises has announced partnerships with 50-and-older specialist Saga Holidays and Titan Travel through its new third party cruising program. Aimed at the "discerning traveller," Azamara's two ships -- Journey and Quest -- offer culture-rich itineraries in Europe, Asia, South America, the West Indies and Central and North America. Saga Holidays says the joint venture will allow the company to offer more choice. Saga Cruises, which operates Saga Sapphire and Saga Pearl II, will not be affected by the new alliance.
--By Ashley Kosciolek, Ports and Copy Editor, and Jeannine Williamson, Cruise Critic contributor