Travel Weekly's Cruise E-Letter: February 18, 2003

PRINCESS CRUISES this summer will move the Grand Princess out of Europe, due to what the line said was lower-than-expected demand for Mediterranean vacations. Instead of 12-day Mediterranean itineraries, the 2,600-passenger ship will stay in the Caribbean this summer and offer seven-day eastern and western Caribbean sailings. Sister ship the Golden Princess will continue to sail in the Mediterranean as planned. The Golden Princess, however, will show up in the Caribbean in summer 2004, along with a yet-to-be-completed ship, which has been renamed the Caribbean Princess from the Crown Princess. As its name suggests, the Caribbean Princess will sail in the destination year-round beginning with its maiden cruise May 17, 2004. This will be the first time Princess has two ships sailing summer Caribbean routes.

NORWEGIAN CRUISE LINE is close to becoming the only cruise line that can sail interisland Hawaii cruises: Congress approved a bill that includes a provision allowing the owner of American Classic Voyages' former "Project America" vessels -- i.e. NCL-- to re-register up to three cruise ships, including the partially U.S.-built Project America ships, under the U.S. flag and operate them in Hawaii without having to call in a foreign port. The provision was altered slightly during Congressional conference sessions, stipulating that the Hawaii-operated ships could not be repositioned for revenue service in Alaska or the Gulf of Mexico.

• Crystal Cruises revived its travel insurance program for last-minute cancellations. With the program, travelers on voyages between May 15 and Dec. 31 can cancel their cruise for any reason up to three days before departure and receive 90% of the fare as a future cruise credit. The program costs $200 per person for cruises costing under $8,000 or 3% of the cruise fare for voyages more than $8,000.
• Newly named Royal Olympia Cruises introduced its own cancel-without-penalty policy for bookings made on the line's 2003 cruises between March and November. Passengers can cancel their reservation up to 24 hours prior to sailing and receive a full credit toward another ROC cruise taken within one year. Travel agent commissions are protected on all final payments, the line said.

• Linda Ehlenberger resigned as vp-sales at Holland America Line after 10 years with the company. A statement from HAL said an "internal and external" search was being conducted for her replacement, but that Ehlenberger will work with HAL as a consultant for the time being.
• Mike Applebaum, meanwhile, resigned as vp-sales at Royal Caribbean Int'l. The line is not looking to replace that position, a spokeswoman said.

CELEBRITY CRUISES is rolling out some of the onboard improvements it talked about last year as part of its "brand transformation" program: expanded hours and added options in the spas; additional cuisine choices; frosty towels and sorbet service at poolside; and increased opportunities for guests to interact with the ship's officers (with or without sorbet in hand). The line brought in Antony Papageorgiou, Celebrity's new director of brand essence, and promoted George Traganis to manager of onboard brand transformation.

CARNIVAL CORP. again received approval from European Commission antitrust regulators for its merger with P&O Princess. This latest nod relates to what a Carnival spokesman called "a technical re-filing": Carnival's original takeover proposal of P&O Princess was approved by the EC last summer, but when Carnival agreed to offer P&O Princess shareholders a dual-listed company deal, the revised plan had to be re-examined by the EC. The merger offer will be presented to P&O Princess' shareholders at its next extraordinary general meeting, which will probably take place next month.

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