Travel Weekly's Cruise E-Letter: June 18, 2002

THE QUEEN MARY 2, Cunard's new flagship, will open for general booking Aug 1. But a privileged few can begin reserving cabins on the mega-liner next month. Cunard's preview period begins July 1, providing an early 30-day booking window for Cunard's top 100 agencies and any passengers who sailed with the line in 2001. Cunard vp-worldwide sales and marketing Deborah Natansohn said the unusually long lead time -- the ship sails its maiden voyage in January 2004 -- is due to interest in and demand for the product.

A SECOND celebrity chef will cook for Cunard. Natansohn said restaurateur Todd English will open an alternative restaurant on the QM2. (Chef Daniel Boulud has already been tapped to create a special menu for Cunard guests in the main dining rooms.) The restaurant, which will feature "rustic Mediterranean" fare, will be called, creatively enough, Todd English.

ANY DAY NOW: A ruling from U.K. regulators on the P&O Princess/Royal Caribbean Cruises merger is expected soon, but A.G. Edwards' analyst Tim Conder said the August decision from European regulators on the proposed takeover of P&O Princess by Carnival Corp. is the critical ruling. Although cruises represent just 1% of the European vacation market, he said, "We believe the European Commission could take a protectionist view toward a combined Carnival Corp./P&O as too much of a dominant player." But if the takeover is approved by the EC, Conder said, it's likely Carnival will win Princess' hand.

HOLLAND AMERICA LINE is adding Mobile, Ala., to its embarkation ports this winter. The 1,214-passenger Noordam will make a roundtrip Caribbean voyage from Fort Lauderdale Dec. 22, but will add two extra days to the itinerary and finish in Mobile. The ship will undergo a short drydock before sailing Jan. 17 to Tampa, Fla., and on to nine Caribbean ports on a 14-day itinerary.

ORIENT LINES will return to Turkey in 2003 after a yearlong hiatus, calling in Kusadasi and Istanbul. The Marco Polo will call primarily in the Baltic Sea, visiting Denmark, Estonia, Norway and Russia. The Crown Odyssey, meanwhile, will spend the summer in the Aegean and Mediterranean seas.

CRYSTAL CRUISES appointed Thomas Mazloum vp-hotel operations. Mazloum, who was Crystal's youngest-ever hotel director, returns to the line following a three-year stint at Disney.

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