Travel Weekly's Cruise E-Letter: December 17, 2002

THE CENTERS FOR DISEASE CONTROL and Prevention received reports of 21 outbreaks of "acute gastroenteritis" on 17 cruise ships between January and Dec. 2. In 2001, the CDC received reports of seven outbreaks. The agency classifies an outbreak as more than 3% of passengers or 3% of crew displaying symptoms. "It looks as though there has been a change between 2001 and 2002, but two points do not make a trend," said Elaine Cramer, a medical epidemiologist with CDC's Vessel Sanitation Program. According to CDC's research, she said, between 1990 and 2000 the agency found a decline in outbreak-related diarrheal illnesses.

THOSE 2002 FIGURES do not include a recent outbreak on the Carnival Conquest, which sails seven-day round-trip cruises from New Orleans. About 229 out of 3,160 guests reported symptoms of gastroenteritis on board the Conquest, Carnival's newest cruise ship, which returned to port Dec. 15--and departed again, after "aggressive sanitizing."

MEANWHILE, P&O Cruises' Oceana skipped a visit to St. Maarten on Dec. 10 after St. Maarten government officials ruled that all passengers with Norwalk-like virus symptoms could not debark, and healthy passengers wouldn't have had enough time to visit the island, said P&O. According to an official from the CDC, 269 of 1,862 passengers and 24 of 871 crew members aboard the Oceana reported suffering from gastrointestinal illness. The ship left Fort Lauderdale Nov. 29 and returned Dec. 12.

NO CANCELLATION OUTBREAK... AAA surveyed its 32 AAA Clubs throughout the U.S. and Canada and found 93% reported no increase in cruise cancellations following the much-publicized stomach virus outbreaks on cruise ships.

CHICAGO'S PRITZKER family is planning to split up its $15 billion empire, which includes a 25% stake in Royal Caribbean Cruises, according to the Wall Street Journal. Sources told the paper no final decisions have been made. The report indicated a breakup could take several years to unwind, and Robin Farley, an analyst with UBS Warburg, said there is "not likely to be any immediate impact."

SILVERSEA CRUISES expanded its Personalized Voyages program to its entire four-ship fleet beginning with January sailings. The program, originally slated to roll out next year aboard the Silver Cloud, was expanded because of the favorable response, according to CEO Albert Peter. Personalized Voyages enables guests to custom-design their cruise vacation by choosing the cruise length (minimum of five nights in a row) and their embarkation and debarkation ports from a list of approved ports. Rates are calculated on a per diem basis.

CRYSTAL CRUISES' yet-to-be-debuted Crystal Serenity will handle the line's 2004 world cruise, which for the first time will finish in New York. Crystal, meanwhile, completed a multimillion-dollar refurbishment of the Crystal Harmony, which included new spa facilities, the addition of a Connoisseur Club and remodeled public rooms.

PORT EVERGLADES said a record 3.5 million passengers sailed from the Fort Lauderdale-area port, a 13.5% increase this fiscal year, which ended Sept. 30, over the same period last year. Cruise revenue increased by 26%, to $25.6 million in fiscal year 2002.

IT'S A GIRL! Holland America Line's Zuiderdam, which was christened by Joan Lunden Saturday, set sail on its maiden voyage from Fort Lauderdale, and the Navigator of the Seas, Royal Caribbean Int'l's newest baby, also departed Saturday on its maiden voyage, from Miami. The Norwegian Dawn, meanwhile, was christened Monday in New York by "Sex and the City" star Kim Cattrall. The one missing from the lineup is the Coral Princess: Delivery from the yard was delayed for a second time, forcing the line to postpone its inaugural Panama Canal sailing from Dec. 24 to Jan 3.

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