Travel Weekly's Cruise E-Letter: June 25, 2002

THE DECISION by U.K. competition authorities to give the go-ahead to the Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. and P&O Princess Cruises merger managed to satisfy all players involved. According to the Competition Commission, the existence of a wider vacation market and the availability of other cruise options "both constrained these companies' actions and limited commercial freedom." P&O Princess and Royal Caribbean welcomed the news -- and so did not-so-welcome suitor, Carnival Corp. Chairman and CEO Micky Arison said the U.K. clearance bodes well for Carnival, which is awaiting the nod from European regulators on its hostile takeover bid for Princess.

AT LEAST ONE ANALYST said the U.K. ruling likely will enhance Carnival's chances for approval with the European Commission. Tim Conder with A.G. Edwards said the EC may look at the cruise market as one subset of a larger vacation industry. But, he added, the EC could still take a "protectionist" view, and rule the combination as too dominant a player. Both the EC ruling and a ruling by the FTC are expected later this summer.

PROPULSION PROBLEMS on Carnival Cruise Lines' Celebration caused the ship to arrive in Cozumel more than six hours late Monday and cancel its Playa del Carmen call on Tuesday. A spokeswoman said the line was "still examining" the problem. The ship is scheduled to return to its home port of Galveston on time, but it's too early to tell if the following voyage, which departs June 27, will be affected. Guests on the current sailing received a $100 onboard credit, the spokeswoman said.

FIRE AND ICE: Princess Cruises' Royal Princess will sail to Antarctica in December 2003, a first for the line. The 24-day cruise departs Dec. 19 from Cape Town, South Africa, and ends in Santiago, Chile; the itinerary includes sailings around Antarctica and the Falkland Islands. Meanwhile, Princess' 2003-2004 season also will mark another first for the line -- regular roundtrip cruises to Hawaii, with 15-day voyages from Los Angeles. Seven sailings will be offered on the Regal Princess between Nov. 22, 2003, and March 21, 2004, including a holiday cruise on Dec. 22.

SPEAKING OF HAWAII... Holland America Line, beefed up its Hawaii offerings for 2003 with three new 16-day Circle Hawaii cruises, which stop in the lesser-visited island of Molokai. The line will offer a total of seven Hawaii cruises next year, sailing roundtrip from San Diego on the Statendam.

ISLAND CRUISES, a joint venture between Royal Caribbean Cruises and U.K. tour operator First Choice Holidays, scrapped its plan to market cruises in the U.S. The cruise line's only ship, the Island Escape, was slated for roundtrip Baja cruises from Los Angeles this winter; now it will shift the ship to South America, and its marketing focus to Brazil. The ship will return to the Mediterranean in the spring and summer of 2003.

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