By Anita Dunham-Potter Travel columnist
updated 5/27/2008 3:17:09 PM ET 2008-05-27T19:17:09

People paying top dollar for a cruise vacation expect certain perks, and new ones arise every couple of seasons. Lately it’s been exotic spa treatments and Wi-Fi, but over the last two years several premium and luxury lines have come up with something new: They’re supplying their guests with iPods loaded with music and tour information.

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Each cruise line has put its own spin on the iPod trend. Holland America Line offers iPods loaded with art tour information so guests can tour and better understand the ship’s artwork, while Princess Cruises loans out iPods for guests to use while relaxing in its Serenity relaxation areas. Windstar Cruises, SeaDream Yacht Club and Regent Seven Seas Cruises offer not only preloaded iPods for use but also sound dock speaker systems in the staterooms so guests can experience the ultimate in private musical relaxation.

There is no better traveling companion than an iPod, and many travelers including me don’t leave home without it. Some cruise lines are turning to podcasts to give their guests and even non-guests information on various topics from ship tours to travel destinations. In the podcast format, anyone with an iPod can download the information.

Last year Holland America introduced audio tours of its ships’ impressive art collections. The 30- to 40-minute tours are narrated by popular radio hosts Paul Lasley and Elizabeth Harryman. The tours include photo images to display on the iPod screen and interviews with the artists, the line’s CEO, Stein Kruse, and the ship’s interior architect, Frans Dingemans. The tours are popular, and as word about the podcasts got around Holland America made all the tours available to everyone through iTunes.

In February, Regent Seven Seas Cruises jumped on the bandwagon, launching a series of 90-minute personal walking tours dubbed “iJourneys,” an addition to its “Regent Travel Concierge” program.

“As we see more and more Regent guests traveling with digital audio players such as iPods, it seemed only fitting to harness this technology to create a personalized and fun new way to explore individual ports of call,” says Darius Mehta, Regent’s director of land programs.

Mehta says the tours are compatible with iPods and other MP3 players and are currently available on Mediterranean voyages. For a fee of $14.95, guests can download tours about Venice, Florence, Rome, Pompeii and Barcelona. Each tour comes with a map and offers commentary, historical perspectives and tips like where to find hidden entrances to popular attractions, how to avoid long lines, and details such as the exact spot in Rome where Marc Antony delivered his eulogy for Julius Caesar. Regent says additional tours are under development for other ports worldwide.

IPods are also being used by cruise lines to market their products. Last year, Windstar offered several podcasts detailing its fleetwide upgrade program. With the launch of Liberty of the Seas in May, Royal Caribbean offered podcast descriptions of new onboard offerings like its “Weddings with a Twist” program.

IPod perks are on the rise on the high seas, proving that this ultimate on-the-go gadget can do a lot more than just play tunes. That’s music to all cruise travelers’ ears.

Sound off! Do you have a comment, an idea, a complaint or a problem for Anita to solve? Send her an e-mail and you might find yourself in her next column. And check out her blog, ExpertCruiser.com.

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