Travel Weekly's Cruise E-Letter: December 10, 2002

MORE THAN 60% of travel agents said they've heard "some or a few" concerns from their clients about the recent spate of Norwalk virus outbreaks on cruise ships, according to a Travel Weekly poll of 926 cruise agents. But the concerns are not translating into cancellations. Fifty-four percent of respondents said the virus is having no effect on their bookings. Just 8% said concerns about the virus were having a "dramatic" effect on bookings. The poll also found that a majority of agents, 56%, would have no reservations about personally vacationing on a ship that had reported cases of the virus. But 52% said they would have reservations about recommending to clients a ship that recently had reported the presence of the virus.

BOTH SHIPS that were pulled from service after repeated Norwalk outbreaks are again sailing and, so far, without major incident. The Disney Magic sailed Saturday; the Amsterdam is winding down a 10-day cruise. Meanwhile, P&O Cruises became the fourth cruise line in as many weeks to report an outbreak of a gastrointestinal illness among passengers and crew during sailings from Florida ports. During its current cruise, which departed Fort Lauderdale Nov. 29, more than 100 passengers and four crewmembers aboard the 1,950-passenger Oceana reported symptoms, a spokeswoman for the line said. Also, six crew on Radisson Seven Seas Cruises' Seven Seas Mariner tested positive for salmonella.

WINDSTAR CRUISES' Wind Song appears to be a total loss, parent company Carnival Corp. said in a Securities and Exchange Commission filing. The ship caught fire while sailing about 10 miles off the coast of Tahaa, French Polynesia. The vessel is fully insured, and Carnival believes there will be no material impact on its fiscal 2003 earnings. As reported, sister ship Wind Star will begin operating Wing Song's Tahiti itinerary on Jan. 24. Windstar will likely make changes to its 2003 Europe itinerary to cover for the removal of the Wind Star in the region, but the company has not made any announcements yet.

TWO MILLION North Americans cruised between July and September, a 17% increase compared with the period last year, the Cruise Lines Int'l Assn. reported. The comparison includes post-Sept. 11 travel last year. For the first three quarters of this year, cruise passenger figures are up 9.5% compared with the year-ago period. CLIA chairman Mark Conroy said the industry is on course to carry 7.4 million passengers in 2002, surpassing last year's 6.9 million.

WORLD EXPLORER CRUISES suspended its 2003 operations and canceled an agreement with Finnish firm Silja Line to operate Silja's Enchanted Isle year-round under the World Explorer brand. The firm cited "uncertainties in the world travel market" and not enough marketing time. The line said it would operate its Central America itineraries in December and January. After that it will reorganize and seek alternative opportunities for a 2004 program.

WHAT DOES "SEX and the City" have in common with "The Sound of Music?" Not a whole lot, really. But, as it happens, Norwegian Cruise Line tapped Kim Cattrall, who plays femme fatale Samantha Jones on the HBO show, to christen the Norwegian Dawn in New York on Dec. 16. And Julie Andrews will be godmother of Crystal Cruises' Crystal Serenity when its christening ceremony is held in Southampton, England, on July 3.

MEANWHILE, in the South Pacific, Tonita Flosse, wife of French Polynesia president Gaston Flosse, will serve as godmother to Princess Cruises' Tahitian Princess during a christening ceremony in Papeete, Tahiti, on Dec. 20.

MISSISSIPPI BLUES, PART II: Entergy Corp., the New Orleans utility company, agreed to bury six power lines that currently hang over the Mississippi River, a move that would enable mega-ships like Carnival Cruise Line's 110,000-ton Carnival Conquest to sail unobstructed to its New Orleans berth. The process to move the power lines under the river is expected to take about 18 months. Meanwhile, Carnival said it's continuing to evaluate whether it's safe for the ship to maneuver underneath the wires. The line earlier said it might relocate the ship to Gulfport, Miss.

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