Travel Weekly's Cruise E-letter: Aug. 17, 2004

RETAILERS hailed successive moves by the two largest cruise lines to curtail rebate advertising and said they welcomed the chance to compete for sales with service instead of on price. But several top producers said the new programs -- launched first by Carnival Cruise Lines and then followed a day later by Royal Caribbean Cruises' two brands -- would be difficult to police, and some said that reducing retailers' ability to advertise lower prices could give the lines' direct sales departments an advantage.

THERE WAS A LITTLE CONFUSION about what types of advertising are "public advertising" -- for example, is it ok to advertise that you'll give a lower rate over the phone? Carnival boss Bob Dickinson said he wasn't concerned about deals struck "between two consenting adults." RCCL president Jack Williams said that RCCL will look for e-mails that advertise rebates, discount-oriented agency clubs and ads that encourage consumers to call for lower rates. "The policy is that you cannot rebate, regardless of the medium," Williams said.

CAN THEY DO THIS? It's legal for cruise lines to set the price of the vacation and to cut back on pay if agents sell it at a lower rate, industry attorneys said. "The agent is the agent of the cruise line here, at least that's the position the cruise lines have taken," said attorney Arthur Schiff. "This is [the lines'] own product, and they're selling at the price they want to sell it at."

WHAT'S UP with the Legend of the Seas? The Royal Caribbean International ship is moving to the U.K. in 2005 and will be sold almost entirely in the British market. Dan Hanrahan, Royal Caribbean's senior vice president of marketing, told Travel Weekly that this isn't the first time Royal Caribbean dedicated a ship to a non-North American market. Three years ago, the Splendour of the Seas was sold to South Americans and Europeans. But this is the first time the burgeoning British market is getting a Royal Caribbean ship to call its own. "The U.K. is an important market for any product. It doesn't matter what it is," Hanrahan said.

MEANWHILE, THE HORIZON will be back in Philadelphia next summer with an additional four departures to Bermuda. Celebrity Cruises slated 13 Bermuda cruises from Philly this year, and the port said last week that "strong bookings and positive customer response" brought Celebrity back for a third year.

SILVERSEA will return to Africa in 2005 after a year hiatus. It expanded a 2002 partnership with Micato Safaris to offer pre- and post-cruise packages.

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