Travel Weeklys Cruise E-letter: March 8, 2004

ROYAL CARIBBEAN CRUISES plans to buy a third Ultra-Voyager vessel -- a 160,000-ton, 3,000-passenger ship that would be identical to the Freedom of the Seas. The company signed a letter of intent with Aker Finnyards to build a third Freedom class vessel, which would enter service in early 2008. The agreement is subject to certain conditions, including board approval, Royal Caribbean said. The company estimated that the cost of the third ship, including contract price, capitalized interest, owner-delivered items and engineering and construction oversight, would be about $828 million.

IN OTHER SHIPBUILDING NEWS, Aker said it has again extended a letter-of-intent with NCL Corp. regarding a prototype ship that would put balconies on all the outside cabins. That deal, which was to expire at the end of February, was extended for another few weeks as the yard and the line mutually agreed to continue the work related to the finalizing of the new design and other outstanding issues.

THE NORWAY, Norwegian Cruise Lines (NCL) storied ocean liner (formerly the France), may be headed for the scrap yard. NCL CEO Colin Veitch estimated the company has spent $10 million maintaining the ship at a berth in Germany after it was damaged in a 2003 boiler explosion. Weve done our bit in giving the ship the best chance of finding [new owners], he said. Lots of people want it, but they havent got any money.

CRUISE SHIPS were the talk of the town in Washington last week. The Supreme Court heard the case Spector v. Norwegian Cruise Line, which seeks to determine whether foreign-flagged cruise ships should abide by the Americans with Disabilities Act. During the presentation, the Supreme Court justices took an active interest in the issue, although it was unclear which way the justices were leaning.

FOR THE CRUISE LINES, the issue is whether U.S. laws could, and should, apply outside U.S. boundaries. The issue is, really, whether Congress intended to apply the domestic ADA statutes to foreign-flagged vessels, said International Council of Cruise Lines CEO Michael Crye during a post-hearing interview. If they did, how do you reconcile safety treaties and other accessibility laws? An enforceable international regime is the way to go, he added. 

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