Royal Olympic scraps three more Greek Isles cruises

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NEW YORK -- Blaming the war in Kosovo for a continued slowdown in bookings, Royal Olympic canceled three more one-week Greek Isles cruises on it Stella Solaris, bringing the number of canceled cruises for that ship to 10.

The latest round of cancellations are for sailings on July 2, 9 and 16. The 620-passenger ship is scheduled to return to service on July 23. The line also canceled three additional sailings of the 300-passenger Stella Oceanis, scheduled for Aug. 14, 21 and 28, bringing the number of cancellations for that ship to 11.

Cy Hopkins, Royal Olympic's vice president for North America, said the cancellations are a result of the line "not seeing a revenue booking stream" due to the situation in Kosovo. He said the line decided to address the situation "on the cost side" by canceling the sailings and moving passengers to other ships in the fleet. Hopkins added the line's bookings for August "are good," and he said he does not expect any further cancellations.

Jim Winchester, an analyst with Lazard Freres & Co., said Royal Olympic's decision to cancel the cruises shows how tough the situation in the Mediterranean is this summer. He said it would not have made sense for the line to run the ships at a loss. "They are taking a guerrilla warfare approach to holding things together," Winchester said.

The line made only a small profit last year, but Winchester said he believes Royal Olympic can handle the slowdown financially. "It's going to be tough for them this summer, absolutely. But I don't see a dire issue or anything severe," Winchester said.

Passengers on the canceled Stella Solaris sailing are being offered a transfer to the Olympic Countess, the Greek line's largest ship, with 840 passengers. Those who accept the transfer also will be offered a 50% discount on a future cruise.

Those on the canceled Stella Oceanis sailings are being offered a choice of a full refund or an alternative three-, four- or seven-day cruise. The line, the largest in Greece, was to have six ships offering Greek Isles cruises throughout the summer.

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