Travel Weekly's Cruise E-Letter: August 5, 2003

CELEBRITY CRUISES is the latest cruise line to announce plans for a Galveston, Texas, homeport. The line's Galaxy will sail 10- and 11-day Panama Canal cruises from the city beginning in November 2004. Galveston has become a busy cruise port since Carnival Cruise Lines began sailing there in 2000: Celebrity will join sister brand Royal Caribbean International as well as Carnival and Princess Cruises in town next fall. Norwegian Cruise Line, meanwhile, will base a ship right up the channel in Houston.

PRINCESS CRUISES' twin 2,670-passenger ships the Diamond Princess and the Sapphire Princess will sail Mexican Riviera itineraries in fall 2004. The Sapphire Princess next year will offer a new itinerary for Princess: 10-day cruises from San Francisco. The Diamond Princess, meanwhile, will offer seven-day roundtrip cruises from Long Beach, Calif., a new homeport for the line. The ships, both of which are still under construction in Japan, will debut next spring and sail in Alaska before repositioning down the coast in September 2004.

AS PROMISED, ASTA FILED suit on behalf of seven agent members against the Renaissance Cruises estate, which is seeking to recall millions of dollars in agency commissions for sailings that were canceled when the line ceased operations in September 2001. The plaintiffs, who are seeking class-action status for the suit, requested an emergency hearing in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in the Southern District of Florida in Fort Lauderdale to thwart Renaissance's efforts to recall the commissions.

ROYAL CARIBBEAN CRUISES' second-quarter revenue rose 10.2% to $905.8 million, compared with $821.8 million in the comparable quarter in 2002, the line said Monday. Net income, however, fell $11 million to $55.7 million, compared with $66.7 million in second-quarter 2002. Chairman and CEO Richard Fain said profits were better-than-anticipated because of "a dramatic pick-up in business" following the Iraq war. Wave-season booking had been down 30%.

PRINCESS CRUISES cut its booking-option period to 24 hours for all cruises booked within four months of departure. The change, effective Aug. 4, requires customers to make their initial deposits within 24 hours of the booking confirmation, rather than seven days, as is currently allowed. Princess said the new policy is designed to help agents close sales.

PRINCESS MARGRIET of the Netherlands christened the Oosterdam during a pier-side ceremony in Rotterdam Tuesday. The Oosterdam was docked bow-to-bow with Holland America Line's flagship the Rotterdam, which had arrived in town just for the festivities. The Oosterdam's champagne bottle was rigged next to the Rotterdam's bridge, and, as the princess named the ship, the champagne bottle slid down a wire and broke cleanly on the Oosterdam's hull. The 1,848-passenger Oosterdam is the second in HAL's 85,000-ton Vista series.

MEANWHILE, KIRK LANTERMAN, CEO of Holland America Line, was named an Officer of the Order of Orange Nassau, an honor bestowed by Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands. Ivo Opstelton, lord mayor of Rotterdam, presented the decoration to Lanterman on board the Oosterdam during the inaugural festivities in Rotterdam.

• Norwegian Cruise Line's newly renamed Norwegian Crown will resume fall foliage cruises next year and return to South America in 2004 and 2005. The 1,104-passenger Crown will sail 11- and 12-day fall foliage cruises between Sept. 13 and Oct. 17, 2004, from Baltimore. The ship also will offer a series of 14-day sailings between Buenos Aires and Valparaiso, Chile.
• Oceania Cruises signed a preferred sales and marketing agreement with National Leisure Group July 29.
• Star Cruises' SuperStar Leo and SuperStar Virgo are both back in their respective homeports of Hong Kong and Singapore. The two ships had temporarily been deployed to Australia after SARS broke out in parts of Asia.
• Radisson Seven Seas Cruises' Seven Seas Navigator will conclude its first Bermuda season with four voyages -- on Aug. 27, Sept. 3, Sept. 10 and Sept. 17 -- featuring top New York chefs from the restaurants Zoe, the Four Seasons, and Tsar Nicoulai Caviar and Wallse.

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