Travel Weekly's Cruise E-letter: Jan. 2, 2008

THE CRUISE INDUSTRY overwhelmingly opposed a proposed clarification of the Passenger Vessel Services Act that would require a foreign-flagged cruise ship that begins and ends a cruise in U.S. ports to include a foreign port call of at least 48 hours; in addition, the time spent in foreign ports on the cruise must equal at least 50% of the time spent in U.S. ports. In comments submitted to the Department of Homeland Security's Customs and Border Protection, cruise companies, the Cruise Lines International Association, travel agents and travel suppliers from around the country told the CBP that the proposed interpretation would harm U.S. ports; businesses and hotels in those ports; and travel agents. In its comments addressing the 48-hour/50% criteria, CLIA said that there had been no analysis or discussion to define it and "to proffer such criteria in such a manner smacks of an arbitrary and capricious decision making process."

NCL AMERICA in its comments to the CBP said that it had invested $1.3 billion into its fleet of Hawaii-based, U.S.-flagged ships "in direct reliance on the protections of the Passenger Vessel Services Act and its proper enforcement." Citing a "significant increase" in lower-cost, foreign flag ships providing service to Hawaii with a "token stop in Mexico," NCL America said that competition had unfairly hurt its operations and "poses an imminent threat to the remaining U.S. flag passenger vessels operating in Hawaii trade."

STAR CLIPPERS said it would eliminate the 5% commission it currently pays on airfare on all reservations made after Dec. 31. The tall-ship cruise line said that "changing market forces" led it to follow "recent trends in the industry." Larry Haugh, vice president of sales for Star Clippers, said that when travelers look for the least expensive flights they typically use frequent-flier miles or book online, making it "extremely difficult for us to procure air at competitive prices." The move follows decisions by Carnival Corp., Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. and NCL Corp. to eliminate air commission beginning in September.

CUNARD'S THREE QUEENS will be in New York on Jan. 13 for the first and only time together. The British line's three ships, the Queen Mary 2, the Queen Elizabeth 2 and the recently launched Queen Victoria, will sail together out of New York harbor at 6:30 p.m.  The QM2 will depart from its homeport in Brooklyn, and the QE2 and Queen Victoria will depart from piers on Manhattan's West Side; the three vessels will rendezvous to sail past the Statue of Liberty during a fireworks display at about 7:00 p.m. The QE2 will then depart on its 26th and final world cruise -- it retires in November to Dubai, where it will be used as a floating hotel.

DUBAI may get a second cruise terminal within the year, according to reports published in a United Arab Emirates newspaper, the Gulf News; the terminal would handle an estimated doubling of cruise traffic there by 2010. Awad Seghayer Al Ketbi, the executive director of the Dubai Convention Bureau and Heritage Division and the Dubai Cruise Terminal, would not confirm whether Dubai was building a new cruise terminal, but he said that the DCBHD has commissioned a study to determine whether a new terminal is necessary. The Dubai Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing said that 165,000 cruise passengers passed through Dubai during the current season, a number that is expected to reach 350,000 by 2009-2010. Dubai's current cruise terminal opened in 2001 at Port Rashid and is able to handle up to two ships simultaneously, the Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing said.

Cruise E-Letter Editor: Johanna Jainchill

Phone: (201) 902-2065

[email protected]

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