Travel Weekly's Cruise E-Letter: March 12, 2002

TOP CRUISE INDUSTRY executives, port managers, destination representatives, sellers, buyers and press flocked to Miami this week for the annual Seatrade Cruise Shipping Convention. The biggest buzz of the week centers around this morning's State of the Industry debate, featuring the heavy hitters from the largest cruise lines. Participating in this year's panel are Carnival Cruise Lines president Bob Dickinson; Carnival Corp. vice chairman Howard Frank; Crystal Cruises president Gregg Michel; P&O Princess Cruises chief executive Peter Ratcliffe; Norwegian Cruise Line president Colin Veitch; and Royal Caribbean International and Celebrity president and COO Jack Williams.

ROYAL CARIBBEAN CRUISE LINES, meanwhile, came out with some pre-debate news: Royal Caribbean Int'l and sister line Celebrity Cruises, who currently share a sales force, will soon each have their own dedicated sales staff to work with top-producing accounts. President and COO Jack Williams, who outlined the plan at Seatrade, said smaller agencies will continue to be serviced by a staff representing both brands. Williams said Celebrity "is much larger and more established, and now warrants its own independent sales force in the agency community." The announcement also heralded the return of Rod McLeod to Royal Caribbean in the newly created post of senior vice president-travel industry relations. His chief responsibility will be working with travel agents and agencies. McLeod, who returns to Royal Caribbean after six years, most recently was president and chief operating officer of American Classic Voyages. Dietmar Wertanzl, formerly with Crystal Cruises, also was hired to be senior vice president of fleet operations, heading up Celebrity's hotel and marine operations.

TOT ZIENS! That's Dutch for so long, farewell and goodbye -- in any language an appropriate send-off for the venerable Westerdam, which left the HAL fleet for sister line Costa Cruises March 10. The Westerdam began life at sea as the former Home Lines' Homeric in 1986 and entered service with HAL in 1988. The Westerdam's final cruise under the HAL flag was an eight-day eastern Caribbean jaunt -- its 643rd voyage for the line. The 1,494-passenger ship, to be renamed the CostaEuropa after what is being termed by Costa a "modest refurbishment," will debut in its new persona April 27 in Europe on a 12-day Greek Isles cruise.

HAL'S RYNDAM, meanwhile, becomes the only ship from a major cruise line to offer a Mexican Riviera sailing with a partial Panama Canal transit from a West Coast port. The ship will depart San Diego Oct. 26 for a 21-day cruise calling in nine ports. The Ryndam will do a repeat in October 2003.

CRUISE LINE YIELDS will remain negative through the third quarter but should be in the black by fourth-quarter 2002, a cruise analyst predicted March 7. James Winchester, an analyst with Lazard Freres, said the cruise industry was experiencing a solid "wave" period, which he said was based, in part, on lower pricing. He noted that booking trends tended to be higher on the East Coast and in the Midwest than on the West Coast, where bookings are down 10% to 20% compared with last year.

SWAN HELLENIC will lease the former Renaissance Cruises' R8 from Cruiseinvest for seven years and will embark on "discovery and exploration cruises" starting in April 2003. The ship will be renamed the Minerva II and will replace Swan Hellenic's Minerva. The company, which is a subsidiary of P&O Princess, said it would release details on next year's itinerary in June.

CRYSTAL CRUISES Jade Garden restaurant aboard the Crystal Symphony will get a new gourmet influx: Wolfgang Puck. Selections from the celebrity chef's Santa Monica restaurant, Chinois on Main, will be featured at Jade Garden on a new "Chinois at Jade" menu.

CELEBRITY'S new "Celebrity Escape" sailings will be reserved exclusively for adults ages 21 and over, for that distinctly childfree experience. Three Caribbean itineraries and one Hawaii sailing will make up the Celebrity Escape program, which Celebrity said would have the same superior service and entertainment. "The only difference is that there will be no kids onboard," senior vice president Ares Michaelides said.

CARNIVAL CRUISE LINES will hold an on-line contest and award a free two-night cruise on the new Carnival Conquest to 30 travel agents. To enter, agents must go to www.bookccl.com from March 18 and April 30 and answer 30 multiple-choice questions about Carnival's history. A drawing will be held in May. The contest heralds the start of Carnival's "30 Years of Fun" celebration that celebrates, um, Carnival's 30th anniversary. In fact, it was March 11, 1972, when Carnival's first ship, the Mardi Gras, set sail.

ADVENTURE CRUISE? A cabin stewardess who was rescued after 12 hours adrift in the Caribbean March 5 had tumbled from atop the railing of the Norway, Norwegian Cruise Line said March 6. The 24-year-old had climbed on the railing during a break in her shift before ending up in the drink off the Turks and Caicos. NCL said she was recovering in the ship's hospital.

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