Travel Weekly's Cruise E-Letter: February 19, 2002

NOW WHAT? P&O Princess shareholders' decision to adjourn their meeting early Friday morning and delay a vote on merging with Royal Caribbean Cruises appears to have left a "delighted" Carnival Corp. holding the trump card. "We are committed to giving P&O Princess shareholders the opportunity to accept our increased offer, and we will focus all our efforts on securing regulatory clearance," CEO Micky Arison said. Royal Caribbean chief Richard Fain, on the other hand, said the company would consult with its advisor to determine the implication of the adjournment and its impact on the proposed merger with P&O Princess. After a marathon vote-counting session that started Thursday, the tally showed 62.5% of voting shares favored adjournment.

ALTHOUGH FAIN had said there would be "no deals" if the meeting was adjourned and had hinted RCCL would walk away from the table, analysts said that move was unlikely. "If they walk, they trigger this [$62.5 million] breakup fee," said Felicia Kantor, an analyst at Lehman Bros. "The only way to court Princess shareholders is to sweeten the bid, and Royal Caribbean isn't in the financial position to do that." Jim Winchester, an analyst for Lazard Freres, said Royal Caribbean could make itself more attractive by offering P&O Princess shareholders a higher percentage of the combined company. But analysts agreed that obtaining regulatory approval is the next hurdle for both suitors, and Winchester said doing so rests on how regulators view the cruise industry: as part of a larger leisure market or as a self-contained unit. How long before the next mega-merger meeting? "We're researching that now," Winchester said.

TENDERING PROBLEMS in Hawaii prompted Norwegian Cruise Line to change its program for the new Norwegian Star again. The line is dropping Maui as an embarkation point beginning Aug. 16 because the tendering service there is cumbersome. Until then, guests can begin their seven-day cruises Sundays in Honolulu or Fridays in Maui. A spokeswoman said that shore tenders in Hawaii are simply "not adequate," and NCL is building its own tenders for the Star that should be ready in April.

THIS COMES AFTER NCL switched Star's Maui call from Lahaina to Kahului through May 3. NCL president Colin Veitch cited a lack of sufficient shore tendering in Lahaina as the reason for the move. In late January, NCL changed one Star's port call Kona to Hilo through March 31 because of, what else, tendering difficulties in inclement weather.

THE WORLD OF RESIDENSEA will be christened in New York April 19, and the vessel will depart on its maiden voyage from Oslo March 7, not Feb. 24 as originally scheduled. Officials said more time was needed to complete work on the floating condo.

ARUBA ARRIVALS: The island welcomed 298 cruise ships carrying 487,296 passengers last year, according to the Aruba Cruise Tourism Authority. The passenger count was down 0.5% from 2000. Projections for this year envision 308 ship calls.

ALTHOUGH CARNIVAL CORP.'S Wave period prices remain below last year's levels, the company said bookings during the first five weeks of 2002 increased 8% over the same period last year. The company said net yields for the first quarter will be down approximately 8%, revising the company's earlier prediction of a 10% to 15% decrease. Another good sign: Carnival said pricing in recent weeks has been "almost equal" to last year's levels.

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