Travel Weekly's Cruise E-Letter: January 29, 2002

CARNIVAL CRUISE LINES said it will pay Carlson Wagonlit agents its industrywide preferred rate, even though the agency group dropped the cruise line as a preferred supplier. Under its defunct agreement with CWT, Carnival was paying Carlson agents at a higher commission structure than its other preferred groups. "They had, in a sense, a little sweeter of a deal, and we really wanted to get everybody on an even playing field for national accounts," Vicki Freed, Carnival's VP-sales and marketing, said.

IN OTHER CARNIVAL NEWS, the cruise line revised the way it charges vacationers who want to opt out of a cruise. The change applies to cruises of three to eight days in duration and canceled between eight and 29 days before departure. Instead of charging vacationers a flat fee for the cancellation, the line now will impose a fee equal to half the cost of the booking. For example, canceling a five-, six- or seven-day cruise eight to 29 days before embarkation used to carry a $350 penalty, regardless of the cost of a cabin; now it will set back a consumer 50% of the total booking. A Carnival spokeswoman called it a "more equitable" way to handle cancellations.

NORWEGIAN CRUISE LINE'S newest ship, the Norwegian Star, will call at Hilo, Hawaii, instead of Kona through March 31. A spokeswoman said the tendering operation in Kona was taking too long during inclement winter weather. "Hilo has a dock and people can get right on the ship," she said. NCL has not decided if the Star will return to Kona for the summer.

WINDSTAR CRUISES' Wind Song will return to Tahiti after a four-year absence. Windstar received approval from the French Polynesian government to operate the 148-passenger yacht in Tahitian waters. Wind Song will reposition from New Zealand to Papeete, Tahiti, and will begin a series of 34 cruises May 14.

SPA OPERATOR Canyon Ranch is moving ahead on its long-standing plan to build two cruise ships devoted to fitness afloat. The Tuscon, Ariz.-based company agreed to a memo of understanding with the Kvaerner Masa-Yards in Finland for the construction of two 37,000-ton vessels. Deliveries tentatively are scheduled for 2004 and 2005.

ROYAL CARIBBEAN said a lawsuit filed against the company by a shareholder is "totally without merit." The suit, filed in the llth Circuit Court of Florida in Miami, alleges that the proposed merger between Royal Caribbean and P&O Princess would subject the companies to U.S. tax liabilities. The lawsuit seeks to stop a shareholder vote on the merger scheduled for Feb. 14.

A MEMORIAL SERVICE will be conducted Feb. 6 in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., for Gary Brown, who died Wednesday of a heart attack. Brown was CEO of the new Cruise and Vacation Specialists consortium and former president of Cruise and Vacation Shoppes of America. Brown sold the Cruise and Vacation Shoppes network to Travelbyus two years ago, for which he worked until October.

SEAESCAPE ENTERTAINMENT, which operates day cruises from Port Everglades, Fla., extended its charter of the Island Adventure through March 31, pending a final agreement to acquire the vessel. The charter of the 1,150-passenger ship was to have expired Jan. 21. The Island Adventure recently underwent a $250,000 renovation.

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