Travel Weekly's Cruise E-Letter: January 7, 2003

P&O PRINCESS last week officially terminated its plans for a joint venture with Royal Caribbean Cruises to create a southern Europe-based cruise line. The dashed plans bring P&O Princess one step closer to a merger with cruise giant Carnival Corp. That merger would join the two companies in a complex dual-listed company structure. The P&O Princess Cruises board of directors has until Jan. 10 to officially recommend the Carnival deal to shareholders.

THE FEDERAL MARITIME COMMISSION extended its deadline for comments on a proposal to eliminate the $15 million ceiling on cruise line performance coverage. The new deadline is April 8. The FMC is concerned that the $15 million bond limit may not be adequate in light of the number and size of today's mega ships. The bond requirement is designed to protect passenger deposits in the event of nonperformance. Several cruise lines and ports, the Travel Industry Association of America and U.S. Reps. Don Young (R-Alaska) and James Oberstar (D-Minn.) sought the extension, allowing the industry time to "adequately evaluate" the proposed rule, according to a statement from the FMC.

SEADREAM YACHT CLUB altered its 2003 itineraries and added more sailings to the end of its summer Mediterranean program. The SeaDream II will extend its Mediterranean season with a series of roundtrip Monte Carlo sailings and a Malaga, Spain, roundtrip before the ship heads to St. Thomas, now on Dec. 18. "Yields in the Caribbean are decidedly poorer than in Europe," said CEO Larry Pimentel. The SeaDream I, meanwhile, will leave Palm Beach for St. Thomas as scheduled, but will reposition to Bridgetown, Barbados, March 23 for a series of sailings in the West Indies. Bookings will open up for both ships' transatlantic crossings to Europe in April; they originally were slated to make the crossing without passengers.

GREAT EXPECTATIONS: The Cruise Lines International Association predicted that 2003 will be a record year in the numbers of new ships introduced and in passenger sailings. CLIA expects about 14 new ships will launch this year. Meanwhile, the association expects 8 million passengers will cruise in 2003, which will top the estimated 7.4 million in 2002. New ships are expected to take to the waterways with Bora Bora Cruises, Carnival Cruise Lines, Costa Cruises, Crystal Cruises, Cunard, Holland America Line, MSC Italian Cruises, Norwegian Coastal Voyage, Princess Cruises, Radisson Seven Seas, Royal Caribbean and Swan Hellenic.

NORWEGIAN CRUISE LINE said a little less than 5% of the 2,200 passengers aboard the Norway reported to the ship's infirmary with symptoms of gastroenteritis on the cruise ending Jan. 5. NCL said it notified the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention regarding the illnesses. The line then offered passengers embarking on the next cruise a future cruise credit if they wished to cancel; a spokeswoman said none of the scheduled passengers took that option.

JOIN THE CLUB: A new cruise line, Ocean Club Cruises, is scheduled to begin two- and three-day Bahamas sailings from Port Canaveral, Fla., in late March. Ocean Club will use a mid-size ship for voyages to Grand Bahama Island and Key West, Fla. The ship, formerly known as the Magic 1, is being refurbished in Greece before sailing to Florida. A new name has yet to be finalized.

KOSHER TO US: Crystal Cruises will offer kosher meals for passengers throughout 2003. The kosher menu will offer several dozen choices, including salmon, beef Wellington and roasted turkey, all prepared with properly sanitized and stored utensils. During several Jewish holidays, rabbis on the ship will supervise the food preparation and bless the food.

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