HAL stretching Caribbean options

SEATTLE -- Holland America Line's Caribbean schedule is dedicated to extended voyages in 2001.

The line is offering a series of 10- and 14-day Caribbean cruises through March, continuing a company trend toward longer Caribbean voyages.

Two of HAL's newest ships, Zaandam and Volendam, will offer departures from Fort Lauderdale, Fla., to a broad selection of diverse Caribbean destinations.

One itinerary will sail to Willemstad, Curacao; La Guaira, Venezuela; Port of Spain, Trinidad; Fort de France, Martinique; St. Thomas (with excursions to St. John), Virgin Islands, and Half Moon Cay, HAL's private Bahamian island.

A second 10-day itinerary cruises to Kralendijk, Bonaire; Isla de Margarita, Venezuela; Basseterre, St. Kitts; St. Thomas, Nassau, and Castries and Soufriere in St. Lucia. Rates for the 10-day sailings start at $1,469 per person, double.

Meanwhile, HAL's 1,216-passenger Noordam is offering 14-day Caribbean cruises through March, departing roundtrip from Tampa, Fla.

The itinerary features port calls at San Juan, Puerto Rico; Bridgetown, Barbados; Castries and Soufriere; Porlamar and Isla de Margarita, Venezuela; Kralendijk; Oranjestad, Aruba and Georgetown, Grand Cayman; St. Thomas, and Pointe-a-Pitre and Basse-Terre in Gua-deloupe. Rates start at $1,539 per person, including port charges.

The longer itineraries are part of an HAL strategy to increase its Caribbean presence.

While the company has increased its capacity on Caribbean voyages of 10 days or more by 17% since 1999, HAL also increased its capacity in the seven-day Caribbean market by 53% between 1999 and 2000.

Company officials said HAL has been "under-represented" in the Caribbean in years past.

"The growth in our fleet has allowed us to increase capacity in both our traditional market as well as the seven-day market, covering more options in the Caribbean," said an HAL spokesman.

But depending on stateroom category, agents earn $60 to $150 more per booking by selling a longer Caribbean voyage, said the spokesman.

For passengers, the 10-day voyages offer an opportunity to cruise the Caribbean's southern regions without flying to St. Thomas, San Juan or Barbados.

According to HAL's statistics, top booking states for longer Caribbean cruises are Florida, California, Washington, New York, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Virginia and Illinois as well as Canada's Ontario.

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