Travel Weekly's Cruise E-Letter: April 15, 2003

SARS UPDATE: Asia operator Star Cruises said two of its crew members were hospitalized after displaying symptoms, such as fever and coughing, that are consistent with severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS). The line quarantined 13 crew who may have been in contact with the two hospitalized workers. No passenger illnesses were reported.

• Asia operator Star Cruises said two of its crew members were hospitalized after displaying symptoms, such as fever and coughing, that are consistent with severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS). The line quarantined 13 crew who may have been in contact with the two hospitalized workers. No passenger illnesses were reported.
• Crystal Cruises canceled its April 15 Crystal Harmony cruise from Yokohama, Japan, to Beijing, citing a high rate of passenger cancellations for that itinerary. The cruise had previously been modified to avoid a Hong Kong embarkation.
• ResidenSea canceled the remainder of the World's Asia season and will bring the ship to Hawaii, Mexico and the western U.S. after its revised Australian season finishes April 24. The ship resumes its published schedule on July 11 in Anchorage, Alaska.
• China river cruise operators are taking a hit. A spokesman for Victoria Cruises reported "loads of cancellations" and said the line was operating only four ships. A China Regal Cruises representative said business was down by at least 60% to 70%.
• Several cruise lines stepped up efforts to prevent SARS from appearing on board their ships. For example, passengers checking in on all Carnival Cruise Lines and Princess Cruises ships are now required to fill out a SARS-related questionnaire on embarkation--passengers will be denied boarding if they have visited or passed through China, Singapore or Vietnam in the past 10 days.

CARNIVAL CORP. shareholders approved the merger between P&O Princess at a special meeting in New York. Now all eyes turn to the P&O Princess shareholder vote, which will take place Wednesday in London.

NORWEGIAN CRUISE LINE purchased the ocean liner the United States, a classic vessel built in 1950 that had been dormant in Philadelphia for the last several years. NCL plans to refurbish the ship for cruise operations as the fourth ship in the line's U.S.-flagged fleet. NCL also purchased the Independence at a U.S. Maritime Administration auction. The Independence sailed in the Hawaii market until October 2001, when its former owner American Classic Voyages Co. went bankrupt. NCL is evaluating whether the Independence will be used as the fifth vessel in its U.S. flag operation.

ARE CRUISE BOOKINGS ON THE REBOUND? A few cruise lines reported a slight increase in business last week, but Mark Conroy, CEO of Radisson Seven Seas Cruises cautioned it's still too early to tell if cruise travel was bouncing back--this week will be the one to tell, he said. "Everything that's moving positively is domestic stuff," he noted. Travel agent Roland Largay, with Largay Travel in Southbury, Conn., agreed: "I'm an eternal optimist," he said. "But I'm also realistic ... I think it's going to be a few weeks before we see a real increase in business."

SILVERSEA CRUISES is looking to improve its onboard entertainment. The line hired Jim D'Amico away from Celebrity Cruises to head up Silversea's entertainment department, and the line said it "will be moving away from production shows ... pursue live music of quality and take a fresh and innovative look at entertainment." Look for that fresh feel on the Silver Shadow in September and the Silver Whisper in April 2004.

CRUISE BRIEFS
• Cunard Line picked its china pattern for its blushing bride, the Queen Mary 2. To be more precise, Wedgwood designed a signature pattern exclusively for the ship, which will be used in its exclusive Queens Grill and Princess Grill restaurants.
• Oceania Cruises upped the ante on its inaugural sailings of its ship the Regatta by offering free economy-class air on its first six sailings, as well as two-for-one pricing. Fares start at $2,995 per person, air-inclusive, for the Regatta's 15-day Europe cruises.
• Kosher-only cruises will begin in December on board Windstar Cruises' Wind Surf. The cruises, slated for December and January, will be offered under charter by Chosen Voyage, a new enterprise, and will be the first kosher-only cruises, the company said. Wind Surf's galleys will be rendered into kosher facilities, with new utensils and dishes brought in for the charters in the Eastern Caribbean. The spokesman said Jewish-oriented activities will be an on-board focus.
• Carnival Cruise Lines added a new teen shore-excursions program to its cruises. Kids ages 12 through 15 vote on the tours of their choice and the excursion with the highest number of votes is then selected as the group's chosen activity for that port.

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