Travel Weekly's Cruise E-letter: September 27, 2005

CRUISE SHIPS were on the run again last weekend from Hurricane Rita, which came ashore between Galveston, Texas, a major home port for cruise ships, and New Orleans, where two of Carnival Cruise Lines chartered vessels have been docked. Those ships, the Ecstasy and the Sensation, were moved from New Orleans before the storm in the interest of caution, a Carnival spokeswoman said. The Elation and the Carnival Conquest, which are sailing with passengers, stayed at sea and are expected to return to Galveston Sept. 27. The Elation and the Conquests next voyages were shortened to a two-day cruise to nowhere and a five-day cruise, respectively.

THE RHAPSODY OF THE SEAS, which normally sails from Galveston on Sundays, is expected back in port Sept. 28. Passengers scheduled to depart on a Sept. 25 sailing will now sail on a four-day cruise to Cozumel, Mexico, Royal Caribbean International said.

CARNIVAL, MEANWHILE, set October 2006 for the return of New Orleans cruising, when it plans to again deploy the Sensation on four- and five-day cruises from the city. But the Sensation will not sail directly to New Orleans once its charter with the Federal Emergency Management Agency expires; the ship will kick off a new program of four- and five-day cruises from Port Canaveral, Fla., on March 23 that will call at Nassau and Freeport, Bahamas; Carnivals new facility in Grand Turk, Turks and Caicos; and Half Moon Cay, the private Bahamian island owned by Holland America Line.

IN OTHER CARNIVAL 2006 DEPLOYMENT NEWS:

* The Elation, which currently is sailing seven-day cruises from Galveston, will launch seven-day cruises from Miami to Half Moon Cay; St. Thomas; San Juan, Puerto Rico; and Grand Turk. That new itinerary begins April 30.

* The Elation will take over the four- and five-day Canaveral route on Oct. 19, when the Sensation redeploys to New Orleans.

 * The Holiday will resume year-round, four- and five-day cruising from Mobile, Ala., on March 27. The ship is under charter to FEMA.

* The Ecstasy, which also is under charter, will resume its four- and five-day schedule from Galveston on April 8. Carnival said its three chartered vessels would each receive a comprehensive refurbishment once the FEMA charter expires.

P&O CRUISES will get its first megaship in 2008, thanks to a decision by parent company Carnival Corp. to assign P&O one of two post-Panamax ships that the company ordered last year. The 116,000-ton, 3,100-passenger ship, which will be named the Ventura, is similar in design to Princess Cruises most recent builds. It will be the largest cruise ship built specifically for the British market, Carnival said. The line ordered four ships from Italian shipbuilder Fincantieri last year but deferred a decision on which of its brands would get two of the ships. Look for an announcement about the second ship this week.

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