Travel Weekly's Cruise E-Letter: April 29, 2003

REGAL CRUISES ceased operations April 28 and canceled the future sailings of its only ship, the Regal Empress. The mid-century ocean liner, which operated cruises from New York and Port Manatee, Fla., had been idled in its berth at Port Manatee after a creditor was granted a lien against the ship April 18. In a statement from the cruise line, Regal said it sought a buyer for the line but was unsuccessful due to a worldwide decline in travel and "the short time frame within which the Company could conclude its ongoing sale negotiations necessitated by the arrest." A telephone message at the company's headquarters Palmetto, Fla., said information about how to apply for a refund will be made available "shortly." The message said Regal posted a bond with the Federal Maritime Commission, as is required for ships operating from U.S. ports. Visit www.regalcruises.com for updates.

CARNIVAL CORP. added a new ship to its newly acquired Princess Cruises fleet and reduced the number of Vista-class vessels slated for Holland America Line from five to four. The company also extended the delivery dates by about three months each on three ships under construction at Italy's Fincantieri yard: Carnival Cruises Lines' Carnival Valor; HAL's fourth and final Vista-class ship; and Cunard Line's Queen Victoria. CEO Micky Arison said slowing the delivery schedule gives the group a "more rational and efficient timetable" to absorb the upcoming capacity increases. "It is also a testament to our excellent relationship with Fincantieri," he added.

PRINCESS' new 116,000-ton ship will be slated for a Caribbean-based itinerary when it is delivered in May 2006. The ship, a sister to the Caribbean Princess, is part of an aggressive strategy by Princess to increase its presence in the Caribbean market--and target what it termed its "primary rival", Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. By 2006, the line said it will have about 50% of its total capacity in the Caribbean. The ship, currently known as the Caribbean Princess 2, will be constructed by Fincantieri at a cost of about $500 million.

MEMBERS of the International Council of Cruise Lines adopted a uniform set of guidelines for screening embarking passengers for signs of SARS. The 16 member lines will be expected to deny boarding to guests who have been in Hong Kong, mainland China, Singapore and Vietnam within the previous 10 days, and to anyone who has had close contact with a confirmed or suspected SARS patient. Passengers who have passed through Toronto, meanwhile, will be screened by a ship's physician before being allowed to board. Most cruise lines already had adopted some or all of the ICCL's measures in the past few weeks, but ICCL president Michael Crye said it soon became clear that the industry needed to establish a consistent policy. "The travel agent community are in closer contact with the American consumer, and they are being asked: 'what are the cruise lines doing about this illness?'," he said.

CRYSTAL CRUISES, an ICCL member, went a step further and is denying boarding to all passengers arriving from Toronto through the end of May. The line also canceled late-summer calls in Turkey and other Black Sea ports. But Crystal did get some good news: Three Crystal Harmony cruises from Los Angeles, scheduled with only three-weeks lead time after the ship was pulled from Asia, sold out within a week. Vice president of group sales Eric Graves said Crystal was in "a state of euphoria" and attributed the success to Crystal's West Coast popularity and ultra-low prices.

"NON-CREDIBLE" threats were what caused a Royal Caribbean Int'l ship to call in the FBI and divert to Honolulu for an investigation. Two notes, containing nonspecific threats to the Legend of the Seas, were found in an onboard restroom en route from Ensenada, Mexico, to Hawaii.

ROYAL CARIBBEAN CRUISES LTD. reported a 10% increase in revenue during first-quarter 2003, from $800 million in first-quarter 2002 to $880.2 million. But net income was essentially flat quarter over quarter, gaining 7%, to $53.2 million. Occupancy levels dipped to 101.7%, compared with 103.9% last year. Although RCCL said it has seen recent improvement in booking levels, it anticipates net yields for the second quarter will be down by 6% to 9%. "Not enough time has passed since the end of the war to determine if booking levels will return to pre-war levels," the company said.

NORWEGIAN CRUISE LINE detailed its expanded set of 52 weekly Bermuda departures in 2004. The Norwegian Crown, formerly Orient Lines' Crown Odyssey, will make Bermuda runs from Baltimore, New York and Philadelphia and will call in Hamilton, King's Wharf and St. George's. The Norwegian Majesty, meanwhile, will reprise its Bermuda sailings from Boston.

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