Cruise lines reporting strong results through 'wave' season

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NEW YORK -- Strong and steady cruise bookings through January have augured a strong cruise "Wave" season lasting through March, said suppliers, agents and industry analysts.

Cruise lines reporting strong results include Holland America Line, which saw bookings surge 40% during the second week of January, although exact booking figures were unavailable.

Costa Cruises booked more than 1,500 cabins during January, a 10% increase over the previous year's results, according to the Cruise Lines International Association.

Mass-market giant Carnival Cruises and premium line Celebrity Cruises had earlier announced record booking days in January. Also, luxury operator Radisson Seven Seas Cruises processed 25% more calls this January compared with the same period in 1999.

Radisson also raked in 18% more revenue on cruise bookings, compared with 1999, and earned more commission dollars this January than in any month in company history, making for the best 30-day period in Radisson annals. Meanwhile, Crystal Cruises, another luxury line, said revenue for the January 2000 Wave month period is twice last year's total.

First European Cruises, a European-based line in its third full year of marketing in North America, booked 400 guests in early January, a 100% increase from last year.

Mediterranean Shipping Cruises, another European operator marketing in North America, said its bookings are up 21% compared with last January, and the line is sold out for the winter 2000 season.

Cruise analysts said Wave season momentum should continue to build. In fact, "if anything, the fundamental outlook appears to be improving," stated an analysts' report from San Francisco-based Bofa Montgomery Securities.

European and Alaskan cruise sales continue to be strong, said the report, citing conversations with cruise-selling agents.

February call volumes and bookings "are off to an excellent start," the report added. Cruise bookings appear to be up in early February as cold weather has gripped the U.S.' eastern region, a primary cruise market.

Bookings for European cruises seem to have returned strongly, said cruise sellers, and pricing remains steady.

Additionally, new capacity historically has stimulated demand in the cruise industry, and major North American suppliers will introduce at least 13 new ships through the end of the year

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