Travel Weekly's Cruise E-Letter: August 27, 2002

THE CABINET COUNCIL of Panama approved an average 12.5% increase in fees for ships using the Panama Canal. The increase will be staggered, with 8% going into effect Oct. 1 and the remaining 4.5% in July.

NORWEGIAN CRUISE LINE will buy the partially completed "Project America" ship that was under construction at Northrop Grumman's Ingalls shipyard in Mississippi, but NCL's executive vp-sales and marketing Andrew Stuart said the ship would not necessarily sail in Hawaii, where the former American Classic Voyages had planned to deploy it. Stuart said the purchase was "not related" to discussions the line has been having with Hawaii Sen. Daniel Inoyue about expanding NCL's Hawaii offerings -- NCL currently is the only line offering year-round Hawaii cruises. The partially completed hull will be floated to Europe for completion; the ship will fly a foreign flag, which would subject the ship to U.S. cabotage laws. NCL also purchased the materials from Northop Grumman for the second Project America ship but has not decided if it will build that ship.

THE MARITIME ADMINISTRATION will recover a minimum of $2 million of the $187 million in loan guarantees it paid Ingalls shipyard for work completed on the first ship. In 1999, Marad agreed to provide $1.1 billion in loan guarantees to Ingalls to finance construction of the two ships. Work was stopped on the ship last October after AMCV filed for bankruptcy.

WHILE LAUNCHING THE LEGEND, Carnival Cruise Line's first ship in Europe, Carnival executives were on hand to talk about the company, and the cruise industry:
• Carnival Corp. chairman Micky Arison said he believes the chances of Federal Trade Commission approval for Carnival's hostile bid for P&O Princess are now "less than 50-50." Competitor Royal Caribbean's narrow view of the cruise market could affect both competing companies' plans for Princess, a spokesman said.
• Carnival Cruise Lines could make as many as 11 calls in Bermuda next year. Details are still being worked out, and it's too early to tell if those calls would be made with one ship or several.
• There is not enough dock space in St. Thomas for the number of ships that visit the most popular Caribbean destination, and Carnival is urging the USVI to develop the Crown Bay docking area on St. Thomas to accommodate larger ships. "USVI is losing share, at this point, to other destinations," the spokesman said. "There are too many ships anchored."

CRUISE FRANCHISOR Cruise Planners will guarantee its buy-in franchise fee. Agents who sign the standard Cruise Planner three-year contract before Dec. 31 can back out of the deal and get a full refund of their initial fee.

CRYSTAL CRUISES launched an early-booking incentive program with $400 to $1,000 discounts per double-occupancy stateroom for new bookings made before Dec. 31. A Crystal spokeswoman said the promotion, called "Best of Everything," was the first early-booking program the line has launched in "a long time." She added, "There are some cruises moving slower than we'd like. We wanted to do something dramatic." The promotion includes discounts on more than one-third of the company's voyages for 2003, including some on the Crystal Serenity, which will debut in July 2003.

WINDSTAR, meanwhile, is offering early booking discounts of $250 to $500 on all 2003 cruises booked by Oct. 15, which represents 30% to 60% savings off the brochure rates, a spokeswoman said.

SHIRLEY SLATER, 67, a Travel Weekly and Travel Age contributor, died Friday of complications following chemotherapy. With her husband, Harry Basch, Slater also wrote the biweekly "Cruise Views" column for the Los Angeles Times travel section and wrote several books and articles on RV vacations. Slater and Basch were presented with ASTA's Melva C. Pederson award during the 1990 World Congress in Hamburg, Germany.

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