Travel Weekly's Cruise E-Letter: April 16, 2002

THE EUROPEAN COMMISSION is opening an in-depth regulatory review of Carnival Corp.'s proposed acquisition of P&O Princess Cruises, saying in a statement that preliminary indications indicate the deal raises "serious concerns regarding the market for oceanic cruises in the U.K. and Germany." The extended review could take up to four months to complete. The EC also denied a request by the U.K. Dept. of Trade and Industry that it be allowed to review elements of the merger for competitive concerns. The rival offer for P&O Princess by Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. already is under review in the U.K., with a decision expected in mid-May. Both bids are undergoing antitrust review in the U.S. by the Federal Trade Commission.

AMERICAN CLASSIC VOYAGES has a buyer for the Mississippi Queen and the venerable Delta Queen steamboats: Waveland Investments, a Chicago-based investment firm. Waveland has agreed to bid $3.75 million for the two ships at auction May 2. Assuming Waveland is the highest bidder, vp-operations David Simmons said, it'll be full-steam ahead: The Delta Queen Steamboat Co. division will continue to be headquartered in New Orleans, and both the Mississippi and Delta Queens are set to begin their 2002 itineraries on May 7 and Aug. 26, respectively. Waveland also expressed interest in buying other AMCV ships, such as the Cape May Light and the American Queen, but those ships are still tied up in bankruptcy proceedings.

• Royal Olympic Cruises' long-awaited ship, the Olympia Explorer, will begin its regularly scheduled service May 3 from Piraeus, Greece.
• Society Expeditions' new ship, the World Discoverer, debuts April 26 with a voyage from Darwin, Australia.
• The World of Residensea set a new christening ceremony date and location: Venice, Italy, on May 17.

WHO'S ON FIRST? Princess Cruises, which is introducing five ships over the next three years, will add another to its lineup in 2004 by transferring a vessel that is on order for sister line P&O Cruises. The new Grand Princess-class ship will be christened the Crown Princess, replacing the current Crown Princess, which is being shifted this month to P&O Princess' German-based line, A'Rosa Cruises. Meanwhile, in another transfer, Princess' Sea Princess will move to P&O Cruises in spring 2003. The ship will be renamed the Adonia and will replace the Arcadia. For its part, the Arcadia will move to a new U.K. cruise line, Ocean Village. P&O Princess is developing Ocean Village as an informal cruise product for the U.K. market. Get all that? Good.

ROYAL CARIBBEAN INT'L signed a five-year contract to sail from Galveston, Texas. The deal comes on the heels of the Rhapsody of the Sea's successful three-month run there last fall. The Rhapsody returned to Galveston Sunday, where it will be based for the "extended future."

PESKY PODS: Radisson Seven Seas Cruises canceled three cruises on the 700-passenger Seven Seas Mariner and will send the ship to dry-dock this month for repairs to the bearings in one of its propulsion pods. Passengers booked on April 22, 26 and May 9 cruises will receive a full refund, plus either a discount or a credit on future cruises.

SEABOURN will upgrade its spa packages when next month the line introduces the Spa at Seabourn, a new menu of onboard treatments and services, and Ceremonies, which are combinations of spa treatments for "spa enthusiasts." Seabourn will offer discounts to guests, and free treatments for frequent customers.

CARNIVAL CRUISE LINES is deploying its VIP check-in service, called the "Skipper's Club," in six additional cities: Los Angeles, Tampa, New Orleans, San Juan, Galveston and New York. The perk, which had been available only in Miami and Port Canaveral, Fla., enables passengers booked in suites to bypass the regular check-in lines.

SEADREAM Yacht Club named David Vass director, yacht adventures & land activities. Vass will work to develop shoreside programs for the upscale line.

CLIENTS booked on some Europe cruises with Windstar can take advantage of a deal offering a $95 two-night pre- or post-cruise hotel stay in Athens; Barcelona, Spain; Istanbul, Turkey, or Nice, France. The package is priced per person and features accommodations at one of four "deluxe" properties: Athenaeum Inter-Continental Hotel in Athens, Barcelona Hilton, Istanbul Hilton or Le Meridien Hotel in Nice.

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