Travel Weekly's Cruise E-letter: Aug. 24, 2004

NCL AMERICA will refund half of the service charge paid by passengers who have sailed on the line's first U.S.-flagged ship, the Pride of Aloha, and said the refund was "in recognition of the shortcomings of the Pride of Aloha's past cruises." The line also will issue cruise credits worth 20% of the cruise portion of the Pride of America ticket, good for cruises booked and sailed through 2005. And, it said, past Pride of Aloha passengers who wish to sail on an NCL Hawaii cruise next year can buy cruises on the Pride of America or the Pride of Aloha at 2003 rates. Travel agents will receive a $50 rebooking fee.

NCL SAID in a statement that it was taking "aggressive actions to address specific issues" on the Pride of Aloha. "The company has faced a number of start-up challenges that have affected some of the Pride of Aloha's guests' experience, and the company would like to apologize for that," NCL said.

NCL, MEANWHILE, will be the first North American cruise company to offer cell phone service to its cruise passengers and plans to roll it out over the next year starting on the Norwegian Sun. Passengers would be able to use their own cell phones and numbers -- the technology works with most U.S. mobile phones -- and would be billed by their own carrier at roaming rates, "just as if they were roaming on land instead of at sea." NCL Executive Vice President Andy Stuart said having access to cell phones is just "another choice."

THE COLUMBIA QUEEN is nearly ready to roll under its new cruise line, American Rivers Cruise Line. Michael Lomax, American Rivers' president, said the river ship was transferred to him Aug. 16 and that he's relocated the ship to a shipyard for some repairs and upgrades before setting sail from Portland, Ore., on its first cruise April 2. The ship will offer seven-day cruises along the Columbia and Snake rivers, coupled with one-night, pre-cruise stays in Portland, Lomax said.

HOLLAND AMERICA LINE ratcheted up the amenities available with group bookings with an eye toward increasing group business in 2005. The revised 2005 Group Amenity Program (GAP) menu includes options for dinners at the Pinnacle Grill, half-hour massages, monogrammed bathrobes, wine packages and rental of beach equipment at Half Moon Cay. Agents who book groups on select cruises by Aug. 31 also earn a GAP marketing co-op bonus of up to 3%.

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