Travel Weekly's Cruise E-letter: June 7, 2005

THE U.S. SUPREME COURT, settling conflicting opinions in the lower courts, has ruled that foreign flag cruise ships must abide by Title III of the Americans with Disibilities Act (ADA) when in U.S. waters. Writing for the majority, Justice Anthony Kennedy said that modifications for disabled passengers can be made where barrier removal is readily achievable and that Congress could not have intended for barrier removal to conflict with international rules such as the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea. The ruling involves a class action suit filed against Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) in 2000 by Douglas Spector, et al. Justice Antonin Scalia said that Title III plainly affects the internal order of foreign-flag cruise ships, subjecting them to the possibility of conflicting international obligations, adding there is no clear statement of coverage.

NCL AMERICA was poised this week to take delivery of its U.S.-flagged flagship the Pride of America. The ship is just finishing its stay at the Lloyd Werft shipyard in Bremerhaven, a stay that was lengthened by nearly a year after the ship sank in its berth in January 2004, necessitating repairs and reconstruction. The Pride of America, said CEO Colin Veitch during a speech onboard on Monday, is a long time coming. The 2,138-passenger, 81,000-ton ship is scheduled to depart Germany for its June 17 christening in New York. The America is manned with a U.S. crew. It and the Pride of Aloha in Hawaii are overstaffed at the moment, as NCL will start training staff for a third U.S.-flagged ship, the Pride of Hawaii (which debuts in 2006) and looks to compensate for turnover along the way. A decision to skip a call in Dover, U.K., on the way to the U.S. had to do with vessel, not crew, readiness, Veitch said.

NCL, MEANWHILE, will roll out a new feature to its Freestyle Dining program: flat-panel TVs around the ships that tell passengers how long the wait for dinner is at the vessels restaurants. The restaurant names on-screen will be color-coded according to the number of diners and, if the eatery is full, how long the wait will be. Staff at each of the restaurants will be able to make reservations for guests at other restaurants. The system, which has been tested on the Norwegian Spirit, will officially debut on the Pride of America by the time the ship reaches Miami, and will roll out on the Norwegian Jewel and then the rest of the fleet, Veitch said.

CELEBRITY CRUISES will be making changes to the Century by clamping 314 balconies to the ships sides during a five-week drydock in spring 2006. The company estimated the project will cost about $55 million. Celebrity President Dan Hanrahan said the goal was to bring the ship more in line with Celebritys newest builds, the Millennium-class ships. Other Millennium-esque changes: An alternative restaurant and some of the newer bars and lounges will be added to the Century.


PRINCESS CRUISES will send two ships, the Golden Princess and the Pacific Princess, to South America late next year for the 2006-2007 winter season. The line said that will be its first two-ship South America season.


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