Latest from the oceans

From famous restaurant openings to innovative children's entertainment, Joanna Hall reports on what's new on the international cruise scene.

Hollywood at sea

P&O Australia has a fun new movie-making program for kids, one of a number of family activities being introduced and rolled out across its fleet of three ships in 2013. Broad Shorts is based on the animation technology behind the hit series Wallace and Gromit and The Pirates! Band of Misfits; it enables older children and teens in the HQ and HQ+ clubs to let their creative juices flow, and make their very own animated short movies.

A Taste of Italy

Love Italian cuisine? MSC Cruises has partnered with the popular Turin-based restaurant chain Eataly to create two new dining options on-board MSC Preziosa, launching in Genoa on March 23. The line's new flagship will feature an Eataly Restaurant, where up to 80 diners can sample, and learn about, the best of Italian food in a minimalist environment, while the exclusive Ristorante Italia will offer a table d'hote menu every night featuring artisan foods.

Sports fans ahoy

P&O Cruises and Cunard have introduced a 24-hour sports channel, Sport 24, ahead of their ships returning to Australia this year. Sport 24 offers fans the chance to enjoy live action from a variety of major global events including the English Premier League football, formula one, Wimbledon tennis, and the British and Irish Lions rugby tour. The channel will be available in public bars and lounges across P&O's fleet of seven ships, and Cunard's three "Queens".

Bottoms up

If you enjoy a tipple, Royal Caribbean has two new all-inclusive drinks packages, charged by the day for each guest. Costing $49, the Classic package includes beer, house wines by the glass, non-alcoholic cocktails, fountain sodas and juices, while for $59, the Premium package is a step up with the added bonus of frozen drinks and cocktails using premium brands. The new packages are available fleet-wide this year on itineraries of seven nights or longer.

Anyone for cake?

Buddy Valastro, star of the hit TV show Cake Boss, is setting up shop on Norwegian Breakaway. The revolutionary new ship will have a Carlo's Bake Shop on deck eight. On the menu will be treats and confections for which the original bakery is famous: freshly baked cookies, cakes and pies, including Buddy's Oreo Dark Chocolate Mousse. Guests can also sign up for cupcake-decorating classes, and order speciality cakes for celebrations including birthdays.

Upstairs, downstairs

Fancy a peak behind the scenes? Next time you cruise on the Queen Mary 2, Queen Elizabeth or Queen Victoria, you can sign up for a new tour to do just that. Led by senior officers, the tour gives access to normally restricted areas such as the medical centre, engine control room and the on-board butcher shop. Curiosity has a price tag, however; the tour costs $US120 ($117) a person and is limited to 16 guests.

Crucial conversations

Seabourn is adding a new twist to its on-board enrichment program with the launch of Seabourn Conversations. This new program takes lectures to the next level, with esteemed guest speakers and entertainers participating in Q&A sessions, and mingling with guests to "join in the conversation". Topics vary from food and wine to science; examples include "Culinary Conversations" with the Miami-based chef Michelle Bernstein, or "Arts Conversations" with the stage and screen performer Penelope Ann Miller.