Travel Weekly's Cruise E-letter: Jan. 11, 2004

STAR CLIPPERS will return the Star Flyer to its Phuket, Thailand, homeport for its Feb. 12 sailing; the Feb. 5 cruise was revised to sail from Singapore to Phuket. The 170-passenger ship has been sailing from Singapore in January after the tsunami swept through parts of Asia. After receiving reports that the infrastructure in Thailand is ready to receive tourists, Star Clippers executives decided that returning & to Phuket was the best way to aid the recovery efforts.

SEABOURN, meanwhile, dropped its April calls in Sri Lanka on the Seabourn Spirit and instead will visit Ko Ngai, Thailand.

THE NORWEGIAN SEA will stay in Houston for an additional two months before it leaves the Norwegian Cruise Line lineup for a position in sister line Star Cruises fleet. The 16-year-old Sea was scheduled to transfer to Star Cruises in May, but NCL said last week that the ship will stay for an additional 11 sailings from Houston. No reason was given for the date change, but NCL said the revised date would narrow the gap between the Seas departure from Houston and the Norwegian Dreams arrival in October.

PRINCESS CRUISES last year unveiled two shipboard spas that it operated in-house a break from spa-operations giant Steiner Leisure, which runs most shipboard spas under various brand names. But that program is over: Last week Steiner said it signed a renewal contract for Princess that includes the two in-house spas, on the Caribbean Princess and the Sapphire Princess, as well as two future builds and any other ships contracted by the end of 2006.

CRYSTAL CRUISES released its 2006 schedule, which includes a cruise to the Arctic Circle on the Crystal Serenity; a Christmas and New Years cruise in Australia, Tasmania and New Zealand on the Crystal Harmony; and uninterrupted summer Mediterranean cruising on the Crystal Symphony. The line said it will offer 20% more ports and visit 50% more countries next year than it visited in 2004 and added more overnight stays in ports than at any time in the past. Crystal said 17 maiden calls are scheduled, including Tripoli, Libya; Pisco, Peru; and Ayr, Scotland.

THE CARNIVAL FREEDOM will debut earlier than expected (February 2007), but Cunards Queen Victoria will be delayed (until December 2007) under a revised new building schedule from Carnival Corp. and shipbuilder Fincantieri. The delivery dates were altered to make room at Fincantieri for another ship for Costa Cruises, which will be a sister to the 3,000-passenger Costa Concordia. In addition, the Costa Tropicale veteran Carnival cruisers know it as the Tropicale will move to Australia in October to become the third vessel in the rapidly growing P&O Cruises Australia unit.

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