Travel Weekly's Cruise E-letter: Dec. 21, 2004

NCL CORP. will build two ships for its Norwegian Cruise Line brand to be ready for service in 2007, including one that will equip all outside cabins with a balcony. That ship, which will carry 2,430 passengers, will be built at Aker Finnyards (which incorporates Kvaerner Masa-Yards) for a May 2007 delivery. The other ship, with a February 2007 delivery, will be built by Meyer Werft and will be a replica of the 2,384-passenger Norwegian Jewel, which is under construction at Meyer Werfts yard in Papenburg, Germany. NCL said the orders are subject to documentation and certain conditions such as securing specified financing packages, before they become effective. The all-in cost of the two ships is about $1 billion, the company said. NCL also took an option with Aker Finnyards for a second vessel.

CARNIVAL CORP. improved its annual profit by nearly 53% during its fiscal 2004, earning $1.85 billion on revenues of $9.73 billion. For the fourth quarter, which ended Nov. 30, the worlds largest cruise company earned $294 million, a 43% year-over-year increase, on revenues of $2.24 billion.

Net yields for the year increased 9.8%, which Carnival said was the largest annual increase in its history. Yields rose 10.1% during the fourth quarter, primarily due to higher ticket prices and onboard revenue and, to a lesser extent, the strong value of the euro and pound.

CARNIVAL WAS RELATIVELY QUIET on a few of its future plans. An order for the Pinnacle Project, which is a collaborative effort with shipbuilder Fincantieri on a massive new build, is on hold at least until exchange rates improve. CEO Micky Arison said a ship probably wouldnt be completed until 2009 and thats if the dollar started gaining momentum now. And the company deferred comments about its expected entry into the Asian market until mid-2005.

CARNIVAL CRUISE LINES, meanwhile, was talking up several new initiatives during the launch of its newest ship, the 2,974-passenger Carnival Valor. The line's executive team continued to stress the Today's Carnival theme, which projects a more sophisticated, less Spring-Break-party experience. CEO Bob Dickinson was on hand to introduce the Presidential Wine Club; he will personally select the wines of the month. The club was promoted to passengers on the Valor (and at www.presidentialwineclub.com), and the final details will be in place by early 2005. 

KATIE COURIC, meanwhile, christened the Valor during a pierside ceremony on Dec. 17. The vessel itself, with a heroes theme, is pure Fun Ship, from the One Small Step dance club (a lunar landscape), the Ivanhoe theater (knights and castles prevail), the Washington and Lincoln restaurants (pink and orange and Federal-style detailing) and Scarlett's Supper Club (think antebellum South).

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