Travel Weekly's Cruise E-Letter: April 22, 2003

CARNIVAL CORP. and P&O PRINCESS -- the latter now is known as Carnival plc -- closed their merger transaction Thursday, bringing to an end the 16-month saga that began with a merger agreement between P&O Princess and Royal Caribbean Cruises and ended with a marriage to Carnival -- the biggest cruise line combination in history. Micky Arison is CEO and chairman of the combined group, and former P&O Princess CEO Peter Ratcliffe became an executive director. Carnival Corp. remains the world's largest cruise conglomerate, with 13 lines, 66 ships and about 100,000 berths. The two companies had a combined net income last year of $1.33 billion.

TWO CRUISES on Regal Cruises' Regal Empress were canceled after Motor-Services Hugo Stamp, an engine maintenance company, placed a lien against the ship due to what Regal said was a dispute over an invoice. The ship is currently tied up in Port Manatee, Fla. The canceled cruises were scheduled to depart April 18 and 21.

OCEANIA CRUISES postponed the delivery and inaugural date of its second ship, the Insignia, by six months. The company said the decision was based on the "severe and continuing effects of the Iraqi War and its impact on American travel to Europe." The Insignia will now debut April 10, 2004; the schedule for Oceania's first ship, the Regatta, is unaffected. The line said it was contacting agents with passengers booked on the affected sailings.

CRYSTAL may have the answer for clients who want to book close and stay close. After it cut short the remainder of its Asia program due to SARS-related cancellations, the line hastily arranged a May 1 and a May 10 cruise to Mexico from Los Angeles. Rates are going for less than $130 per day. The Harmony will sail from Los Angeles to Vancouver on May 17 to start its Alaska season.

MEANWHILE, STAR CRUISES relocated two of its ships to Australia from homeports in Singapore and Hong Kong after two crewmembers who were hospitalized for possible SARS infections last week were discharged; a company statement said the two had bronchitis.

COSTA CRUISES said a fire on the Costa Fortuna, which is under construction, will not delay the work schedule or the vessel's delivery. The fire broke out on the aft section of deck 8, which will house passenger cabins. The fire was extinguished after three-and-a-half hours and there were no serious injuries. The cause of the fire was under investigation. The 2,720-passenger ship -- Costa's largest -- is under construction at the Fincantieri shipyard in Genoa, Italy, and is scheduled for a November delivery, Costa said.

THE CARNIVAL CONQUEST, Carnival Cruise Lines' largest vessel, will remain in Gulfport, Miss., through the week of June 1. The ship was pulled from its homeport in New Orleans in March after the Mississippi River rose too high for the ship to safely pass underneath a low-hanging power line owned by Entergy Corp. Passengers with air booked to New Orleans will be transferred to the ship by coach. The ship will have spent 12 weeks in Gulfport waiting out the high waters before it returns to the Crescent City.

• A man who fell overboard the Carnival Celebration during a five-day cruise from Galveston, Texas, was rescued by a cargo ship after keeping afloat in the Gulf of Mexico for several hours. The man was last seen on board April 13 in the "early morning hours" and was plucked from the water around 5:30 p.m., a Carnival spokeswoman said. "My understanding is the situation was deemed accidental," she added.
• Judge Patrick McGann of Cook County Circuit Court in Chicago reportedly ordered Pritzker family members (of Hyatt Corp. fame) to give him details of their agreement to break up their holdings, which include the hotel chain, a stake in Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd., real estate and other businesses. With a hearing set for May 19, the judge wants to review the break-up plan.
• Carnival touted a new agent training video, "Power Selling," which features the line's president, Bob Dickinson. In the hour-long session, taped on board the Carnival Legend, Dickinson is said to use a "direct, no-nonsense" approach in imparting tips on qualifying prospects, overcoming objections and up-selling.

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