Travel Weekly's Cruise E-Letter: July 9, 2002 July 09, 2002 Share 1 -- THROUGH A PUBLIC STATEMENT and, yes, another fax, Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. last week defended its effort to get travel agents to write letters in opposition of regulatory approval of Carnival Corp.'s proposed takeover of P&O Princess to the Federal Trade Commission. RCCL said it had contacted several dozen agencies to see if they were interested in writing to the FTC -- and that just four agencies were sent a fax of "key points" to include in their letters. But many more agencies got the Carnival response -- faxed to 45,000 locations -- first. Sources familiar with FTC proceedings said it's not unusual for companies to "seek allies" to petition the regulatory agency. A spokesman for Carnival said the company has not organized an agent lobby and said the idea was "inappropriate."HOLLAND AMERICA LINE became the latest cruise firm to pull out of St. Croix. HAL canceled 36 port calls in the coming season aboard its new, 1,848-passenger Zuiderdam, a spokesman said, citing passenger safety as the reason for the change. In May, Carnival Cruise Lines canceled 52 calls by the Triumph and Victory, and Norwegian Cruise Line opted not to return the Norwegian Sky to St. Croix next year, substituting eight calls in Tortola, British Virgin Islands, instead. The U.S. Virgin Islands' tourism officials planned to meet with the Florida-Caribbean Cruise Assn. to develop solutions to reverse the lines' decisions.CRUISE EXECS from Carnival Corp., Crystal Cruises and Royal Caribbean Int'l made their way -- independently, of course -- to Europe to check out some new tonnage. • Royal Caribbean took delivery of its newest ship, the 2,100-passenger Brilliance of the Seas, in Eemshaven, Netherlands. That ship will begin a series of cruises to the British Isles, Scandinavia and Russia on July 15. • Carnival boss Micky Arison and Cunard president Pamela Conover were at the Chantiers de l'Atlantique shipyard in St. Nazaire, France, for the keel-laying ceremony of the Queen Mary II. That ship will be Cunard's new transatlantic liner when it debuts in 2004. • The keel-laying ceremony for the Crystal Serenity, which will debut in July 2003, also took place at Chantiers last week. On hand were executives from Crystal's parent company, Nippon Yusen Kaisha.SEADREAM YACHT CLUB announced its 2003 itineraries, with 30 new port calls in the Mediterranean and Greek Isles, and new "weekend sampler" cruises in the Caribbean. But the price of luxury is going up: For example, seven-day sailings in the Mediterranean next year will start at $6,900 per person, up from a starting price of $3,500 this year. There is some price relief, though -- a discount program will offer early-bird bookers up to 50% off those prices.SHIP BITS • Carnival Cruise Lines said it will offer six additional "Stop Smoking Caribbean Cruises" aboard their smoke-free ship the Paradise next year. From January through June, one cruise per month will feature the program, complete with workshops and "relaxation techniques." • Seabourn guests can ship their luggage from home to their Seabourn suite through the line's new Personal Valet service. The cost depends on the weight of luggage and the destination -- agents can earn $25 commission per bag. • Holland America Line passengers who opt for the Amsterdam's full Grand World Voyage next year can save more than $7,000 on their outside cabin, thanks to a new promotion. HAL also is offering guests a half-voyage segment, either from Fort Lauderdale to Papeete, Tahiti, or Papeete to Los Angeles.