Travel Weekly's Cruise E-Letter: July 30, 2002 July 30, 2002 Share 1 -- CARNIVAL CORP. placed an order for Carnival Cruise Lines' fourth Conquest-class ship, scheduled for delivery in fall 2005. The announcement from Carnival came just days after both P&O Princess and Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. said they were holding off on placing ship orders. At 2,974 passengers and 110,000 GRT each, the Conquest-class ships are the largest in the Carnival fleet. The as-yet-unnamed vessel will be built at the Fincantieri shipyard in Italy for about $460 million, Carnival said. PRINCESS CRUISES scheduled 52 Panama Canal voyages in its 2003-2004 season, more than twice the number of departures offered during the 2002-2003 season. Princess' upcoming 88,000-ton Coral Princess and Island Princess each will offer 20 10-day cruises through the canal, roundtrip from Fort Lauderdale. A proposed 13% hike in canal tolls, however, could prompt Princess to alter its 2003 season and reposition ships away from the canal. As reported, Princess officials, along with the Florida-Caribbean Cruise Assn., met with officials of the Panama Canal Authority to protest the toll hike, which Princess officials said would cost the line an extra $40,000 per cruise.AFTER TWO YEARS under the Travelbyus umbrella, cruise-oriented consortium Cruise Shoppes is on its own. The assets of Cruise Shoppes Operations, a division of Travelbyus.com Ltd., were foreclosed on by its main creditor, Chicago-based Aberdeen, and sold to a newly formed company, Cruise and Vacation Shoppes, said Cruise Shoppes president and chief executive, Shawn Tubman.NORWEGIAN CRUISE LINE expanded its 2003 Bermuda schedule and will send two ships to the island: The Norwegian Majesty from Boston, and the Norwegian Sea from both New York and Philadelphia. The line will extend its Freestyle Dining concept shoreside: For $5, guests can purchase a $25 lunch voucher from NCL for use in nearly 50 Bermudan restaurants; or for $10, guests can purchase a $50 dinner voucher. NCL also tweaked its Alaskan itinerary on the Norwegian Wind, shifting its Seattle departure dates to Sundays from Mondays, and adding Wrangell, Alaska, as a new call.THE EUROPEAN COMMISSION rubber-stamped Carnival Corp.'s proposed takeover of P&O Princess Wednesday, saying that although it was "initially concerned" about competition effects in the U.K. and German markets, it concluded that those fears were "unjustified." Predictably, Carnival boss Micky Arison hailed the decision; an RCCL statement said the company was "disappointed."P&O PRINCESS CEO Peter Ratcliffe, during a conference call to discuss the company's second-quarter earnings, said it was "clearly premature" to ask shareholders to decide on their future partner. But, he said, 'We continue to believe the combination with RCCL will ... maximize global positioning of our brand. We also believe we can create value as an independent company." And now to the numbers. P&O Princess Cruises reported a second-quarter profit of $94 million, compared with $89 million in the year-ago quarter. Revenues decreased 1%, to $638 million.ROYAL CARIBBEAN Cruises Ltd., meanwhile, recorded a $66.7 million profit during its second quarter, down from $81.7 million in second-quarter 2001, while revenue remained virtually unchanged at $821.8 million. RCCL president Jack Williams said booking prices have recovered, but the trend to close-in sales is continuing.PORT OF CALL • Silversea Cruises will introduce custom designed cruise vacations next year on the Silver Cloud with a new program called "Personalized Voyages." Guests choose the cruise length and their embarkation and disembarkation ports. • Carnival Cruise Lines will do a test run on accepting advance shore excursion registrations for two Europe cruises aboard Carnival Legend. If the plan works, it could be implemented fleetwide.