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Looking for a 2013 cruise adventure that won’t break the bank? Set sail into the New Year and save with one of these five budget-friendly cruise picks. Cruising from close-to-home cities to popular ports in Mexico, the Bahamas, the Caribbean, and beyond, these great-value 3-, 4-, and 7-night cruises all ring in from under $409/person – and one from as little as $199.

Just hurry up and book – prices are sure to spike soon, so don’t miss the boat on these priced-to-go sailings. Read more

Mazatlan PortPrincess Cruises is cutting ports of call to Puerto Vallarta and Mazatlán along the Mexican Riviera, despite the fact that the U.S. Department of State’s omitted the two cities on its updated Travel Warnings list. Princess claims broad security concerns present in the region as the reasoning behind the re-routing, and the company isn’t alone in its concerns. Carnival, Disney, and Holland America have also canceled calls to Mazatlán this year, citing similar security concerns. The news of Princess’s decision has hit hard in Mexico, which just launched a weeklong anti-crime campaign in an effort to win back a portion of the tourism revenue it’s lost as cruise companies re-route. The November 19, December 10, and December 31 7-night cruises aboard the Sapphire Princess will alternatively stop in Ensenada and add a second day in Cabo San Lucas.

Smoking BannedCome January, Princess Cruises will enforce a fleet-wide ban on smoking in passenger staterooms and on private balconies. The announcement comes following company research results showing that smokers comprise just a small minority of the line’s passengers, and that the majority of cruisers value having a smoke-free environment onboard. These new regulations echo popular concerns and regulation changes in many public places and businesses on terra firma and follows suit for several other major cruise lines: Holland America and Royal Caribbean will put the same regulations into effect on the same date, while Disney has never allowed smoking in its staterooms. Carnival launched smoke-free rooms in January of this year, while Celebrity ended smoking in cabins back in late 2009. Norwegian Cruise Line is the only major holdout – while they have kept all public areas smoke-free, smokers can still indulge cigarettes in their designated staterooms or on their private verandahs.

What do you think Cruise News readers? Is this a welcomed change or an unwelcomed jab at vacation freedoms?

Carnival Cruise LineCruisers looking to hit the high seas with their ship’s hull pointed south of the border can officially dust off those sombreros. Thanks to the  U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC’s) downgrade from a “Travel Alert” to a “Travel Health Precaution” for Mexico, concerning the swine flu (or the H1N1 strain), Carnival and Royal Caribbean (in partnership with Celebrity) cruise lines have just announced that they’re soon to resume their Mexican itineraries. Royal Caribbean and Celebrity sailings to Mexico are now slated to start up again on May 24, while Carnival will head back to the region in mid-June.

While flu cases in Mexico have been, for the most part, reported in areas of inland Mexico (especially Mexico City), far away from the popular ports of calls, most mainstream cruise lines cancelled or modified at least one of their Mexican-inclusive itineraries in response to the outbreak. Holland America and Disney have since resumed their regular itineraries as of early May, though Princess will hold off until the summer season to dive back into its turf there. Norwegian has no scheduled itineraries in the region until September.

Each cruise line is taking steps to assure guests that precautions against swine flu are being taken, including screening passengers for flu-like symptoms and carrying anti-viral medications on board.

If you’d like to be your own swine flu sleuth, visit the CDC’s H1N1 section of their website for precaution updates, and the best personal preventative measures you can take.

pig.jpgFirst by land, now by sea – the swine flu has caused numerous cruise lines to temporarily suspend calls at Mexican ports. Princess, Norwegian, Royal Caribbean, Holland America, and Carnival have all announced that they will be being rerouting their ships, or adding additional days at sea to itineraries with ports of call in Mexico.

A handful of these cruises were only scheduled to call in Mexico, meaning the cruise lines are going to have their hand’s full keeping passengers satisfied after they were set on enjoying an ice-cold Margarita on a tropical beach. (The cruise directors better hope the bartender on board makes a mean Margarita.) In the case of the Carnival Splendor, instead of sailing to Mazatlan, Cabo San Lucas, and Puerto Vallarta the cruise is now making only one call in San Francisco.

To make amends, Carnival is allowing cruisers who do not wish to accept the alternative ports of call the option of taking the cruise at a later date.  Princess is offering passengers that were booked on one of the three cruises that were sailing exclusively to Mexico 50% off a future cruise fare. Should all cruise lines be following this example? The Swine Flu outbreak is obviously beyond their control, but yet for many people this was their time off work, and they were expecting the cruise line’s to deliver the vacation they had purchased.

Should cruise lines offer compensation for rerouted  itineraries? What do you think?

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