Travel Weekly's Cruise E-Letter: April 30, 2002

CITING CONCERNS for the safety of its passengers and lack of demand for the destination, Carnival Cruise Lines said it will pull out of St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands, after the Carnival Triumph visits the island May 11. The Carnival Victory made its last call there April 24. The concerns about crime were "ongoing" and "well-documented," the spokeswoman said. She added it was rare for a cruise line to switch itineraries midseason. A spokeswoman said Victory, which is alternating eastern and western Caribbean itineraries, will shift to St. Maarten. Triumph is on its way to New York for a scheduled series of Bermuda cruises, but when it returns to the Caribbean this fall, it also will call in St. Maarten.

SMALL-SHIP LINE Cruise West canceled 17 of its new Central America sailings this year, saying a typically slow inaugural season was coupled with a general downturn in international travel, making it difficult to predict 2002 sales. The line said guests on the canceled voyages were switched to other sailings and offered cabin upgrades and/or shipboard credits; agent commissions were protected. Despite the slower performance this year, Cruise West said the line will have 29 sailings in Central America in 2003, including a new call in Portobelo, Panama.

THE WESTERDAM will return to the Holland America Line fleet -- at least, the name will return. The line picked the name Westerdam for its third Vista class ship, which is scheduled to be delivered in spring 2004. The name hardly was picked out of a hat: The new Westerdam will be the third vessel to bear the title.

A NEW VISTA: Holland America, meanwhile, exercised an option with Italy's Fincantieri-Cantieri Navali Italiani shipyard to build an 1,848-passenger vessel for delivery in spring 2006. The 85,000-ton ship, which will cost roughly $400 million, will be the fifth built on HAL's Vista platform. The first of the Vista-class ships, the Zuiderdam, is expected to be delivered Nov. 15, followed by the Oosterdam in 2003, the Westerdam in 2004 and another unnamed vessel in 2005.

CARNIVAL CRUISE LINES next year will offer a brand-new roundtrip Caribbean cruise schedule from New York. The series--eight-day voyages aboard the new 2,124-passenger Carnival Legend--will operate May 13 to Oct. 12. The program will feature three different tropical destinations: San Juan, St. Thomas/St. John and Tortola/Virgin Gorda.

RADISSON SEVEN SEAS, meanwhile, will enter the Bermuda market from New York with its Seven Seas Navigator in 2003. The 490-passenger ship will operate seven-night voyages from New York to Bermuda April through September, with a break in July and August, when the ship will be in Europe.

THE NORWEGIAN SUN will be Norwegian Cruise Line's third Alaska ship next year when the line repositions that ship to Seattle from the Caribbean in May 2003. The Norwegian Sky already calls Seattle home, and the Norwegian Wind is offering Alaska cruises this year and next from Vancouver, B.C.

HOLLAND AMERICA LINE tweaked its rebooking policy again, this time formalizing a price protection program for clients on both Holland America and Windstar Cruises. Beginning July 1, passengers can request a fare adjustment after the final payment due date if the gross cruise-only fare dips to at least 10% less than the original fare booked. Rebooking fares had been handled on a case-by-case basis until this February, when HAL formalized its rebooking policies and ended close-in fare adjustments altogether. A HAL spokeswoman said the change was made because the line wanted to "give consumers confidence to book early."

CARNIVAL CORP. pled guilty to federal criminal charges of falsifying records about illegal oil dumping in Florida waters by the Tropicale, Sensation, Fantasy, Ecstasy, Paradise and Imagination. In a statement filed with the Southern District Court of Florida, the company admitted to discharging oily waste into the sea in violation of health and safety regulations over a period of five years. Carnival agreed to pay a $9 million fine and an additional $9 million earmarked for community service to fund environmental projects. As a condition of a five-year probation, Carnival must implement an environmental compliance program that includes hiring personnel whose responsibility it will be to ensure the company's compliance with environmental regulations. For its part, Carnival issued a statement saying, among other things, that it is "committed to environmental compliance."

• Royal Caribbean Cruises' first-quarter revenue was up 10% from first-quarter 2001, $800 million compared with $727 million last year, but net income after expenses was essentially flat at $52 million. Company executives attributed the higher revenue to a 23% increase in capacity but said that was offset by reduced yields because of discounting. Although prices have returned to pre-Sept. 11 levels, the company said, yields are expected to be down 5% to 7% from 2001 levels in the second and third quarters.
• P&O Princess Cruises posted an operating profit of $42.2 million in the quarter ended March 31, up 29% over last year's $32.7 million. Gross revenue for the period was $512.1 million compared with $542.1 in 2001, down 6%. Peter Ratcliffe, CEO of P&O Princess, said in a statement accompanying the report, "Bookings in North America have maintained a pace well ahead of 2001, and current pricing is now close to levels at this time last year."

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