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Which cruise lines are making headlines this week? We’ve got the latest on charitable itineraries, new pricing structures, and more in this week’s weekly cruise news column.

Call your cousins and neighbors! American Cruise Lines passengers who refer a friend or family member to cruise with the small ship river line will get a reward in the form of a $500 credit toward their next cruise. Planning a group cruise and have already sailed with ACL before? You could conceivably have friends or family make a booking, get your credit, then join them on the same sailing so that everyone can enjoy a little extra.


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Carnival Cruise Lines is returning — and lending a helping hand — in Cabo San Lucas. Its Carnival Miracle departed Long Beach, California on Saturday, October 4, on the first sailing of the ship’s new year-round cruise schedule to the Mexican Riviera.  The 2,124-passenger ship will be the first to call at Cabo since Hurricane Odile hit the region on September 17, causing widespread damage. Carnival Miracle will be loaded with relief supplies such as bottled water, canned foods, and paper products for local residents provided by the cruise line. The ship’s Mexico program will feature three weeklong itineraries, including a three-port cruise calling at Puerto Vallarta and Mazatlan, in addition to Cabo. Rates for this winter’s schedule start at $459 per person for a seven-day sailing.

If you ever need to find a member of your travel party elsewhere on a ship during the cruise, Princess Cruisesnew Princess@Sea Messenger function — debuting aboard the Regal Princess next month — is your solution. How it works: The service is integrated with the free Princess@Sea mobile app and allows passengers to text each other via a smartphone or tablet browser using the ship’s WiFi service. It will roll out to all ships in the fleet in 2015, when guests can download Princess@Sea Messenger for free before sailing at the Apple or Android App Store or on board with the purchase of an internet package. The Regal Princess begins sailing the Caribbean on November 6, when seven-day eastern Caribbean cruises from Fort Lauderdale will start at $449 per person.

For those who enjoy a little more beyond the bare minimum, MSC Cruises has launched Inclusive Experiences, a new pricing structure that lets vacationers choose an “experience” based on personal preferences. Four choices range from a la carte to all-inclusive fares based on departure dates and destination. Here, four examples of the experiences you can have on MSC. Which would you choose?

  • Bella Experience (Best Price): This is a basic cruise fare to which guests can add on amenities such as a beverage or spa package.
  • Fantastica Experience (Priority Choice):  This category includes some amenities, such as half-off fitness classes, priority reservations for early or late dining; and cooking classes for kids.
  • Aurea Experience (Premium Choice): Offered for Aurea balcony staterooms and suites only, this option bundles several amenities like priority boarding, a beverage package, and a spa package.
  • MSC Yacht Club (Elite Choice): For a truly memorable experience, the MSC Yacht Club is for guests interested in an all-inclusive VIP club level experience. You’ll enjoy butler service, 24-hour concierge, free drinks, and the use of a private MSC Yacht Club restaurant.

Royal Caribbean International cut the first piece of steel for its new Ovation of the Seas, the third in the line’s new Quantum class. Like sister ships Quantum of the Seas and Anthem of the SeasOvation of the Seas is being constructed at the Meyer Werft shipyard in Papenburg, Germany. Each ship will have 18 decks, carry 4,180 guests, and debut new features such as robotic bartenders in the Bionic Bar, RipCord: the first skydiving at sea experience, and Sea-Plex, the industry’s largest indoor sports complex. Quantum launches later this fall, while Anthem enters service next spring. Ovation will be unveiled in the fall of 2016.

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