Travel Weekly's Cruise E-letter: February 14, 2006

AN ALASKA JUDGE upheld an initiative last week that will allow voters to decide whether to impose a $50 per-person head tax on foreign-flagged cruise ships. If approved, cruise ships visiting Alaska will incur a $50 per-person head tax and a tax on onboard gambling profits; it also would require ships to obtain discharge permits and would reinstate an income tax on the lines' Alaska marine operations. In January 2005 the North West CruiseShip Assn. and 14 other groups sued the state and its division of elections, claiming Alaska's lieutenant governor unlawfully certified the initiative. The initiative is scheduled to appear on the primary election ballot in August.

NORWEGIAN CRUISE LINE and ROYAL CARIBBEAN INT'L each unveiled plans for new shipside activities last week. RCCL unveiled the latest amenity on Freedom of the Seas, set for a June debut: a regulation Everlast boxing ring. NCL's next ship, the Norwegian Pearl, will debut in 2007 with a bowling alley.

MSC CRUISE LINE became the latest cruise company to put Wi-Fi access aboard its ships. Two vessels, the Opera and the Lirica, will have hot spots in various areas throughout the ship, including on the pool decks and in select bars, cafes and lounges. Wi-Fi access cards can be purchased onboard.

OCEANIA CRUISES will not call in Libya this May on its Insignia ship's route from Barcelona to Lisbon. The cruise line has indefinitely removed Tripoli and Benghazi from its Mediterranean itinerary citing immigration complications that make it difficult to guarantee passengers entry into the country. According to the U.S. State Department's Web site, travelers with an Israel stamp on their passports are not allowed to enter Libya. The itinerary will instead include stops on the Italian coast.


COSTA CRUISES will offer the first departures from Dubai, United Arab Emirates, beginning in December. Costa will homeport two of its ships in Dubai for the winter season and offer 25 seven-day cruises until April. Itineraries will includes stops in call in Oman, Bahrain and other UAE ports. 


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