RADISSON SEVEN SEAS CRUISES
cut the Radisson
Diamond's Mediterranean season by 13 weeks and extended the ship's
Caribbean offerings. The line also will be test-driving an open-bar
policy on the Diamond's new Caribbean cruises, to get a feel for
the guests' reaction and the impact on on-board revenue, as well as
a "country-club casual" evening dress code, CEO Mark Conroy said.
"This is 'The Other Caribbean: upscale but not uptight'," he told
Travel Weekly. Instead of crossing the Atlantic in April en route
to its traditional Med season, the Diamond will offer roundtrip
voyages from Fort Lauderdale and one-way cruises between Fort
Lauderdale and San Juan. It repositions to Madeira, Spain, Aug. 2.
RSSC also delayed the re-entry of the Song of
Flower into the cruise market until May 26. The 180-passenger ship,
which was to return to service April 21 with a series of
Mediterranean cruises will now spend the summer in the Baltic
region. The ship has been out of service since November, when its
South America season was cancelled due to soft bookings.
CRYSTAL CRUISES was officially bounced from the
Monterey, Calif., port last week; the city council there voted to
ban the line from using Monterey facilities for 15 years--and the
Crystal Harmony forever--following a November incident when that
ship discharged treated sewage into the Bay of Monterey Marine
Sanctuary. Crystal had not planned on calling in Monterey this year
but said it was "disappointed," and added the discharge was
contrary to its corporate policies.
SECURITY AT CRUISE PORTS was ratcheted up last
week following the start of the war in Iraq with the introduction
of the Dept. of Homeland Security's "Liberty Shield," a nationwide
security initiative that includes increased water patrols and
cruise ship escorts, and armed Coast Guard sea marshals on some
"high interest" vessels. The ports and cruise industry have
operated at a Level III security alert, its highest, since 9/11; a
spokeswoman for the International Council of Cruise Lines described
the security additions as "Level III-plus." Additional security
measures that were visible to the public included increased
inspections of luggage and carry-on articles, additional security
personnel and controls, and canine inspections.
ROYAL CARIBBEAN CRUISES LTD. is in the midst of
a major facelift in its group bookings department for both its
Royal Caribbean and Celebrity brands. It changed its group bookings
policies--for example, giving agents more time to arrange final
deposits and slashing initial deposit requirements by 50%--but it's
also been quietly rearranging its department management and putting
new internal checks and balances in place. New technology gives
group reps a checklist of agents to call and finalize reservations;
an "ambassador" staff calls agents with groups to make sure all's
well; a devoted accounting staff is on call to help RCCL reps
answer questions. Eleven months ago, "We did not have a quality
assurance program in place ... employee morale was not particularly
high," said reservations vice president Brad Miller. Now, he said,
"we think we're well on our way."
THE ROCK-CLIMBING WALLS affixed to the
smokestacks of Royal Caribbean International's newest ships will be
installed on the rest of the Royal Caribbean fleet by the end of
this year, the company said last week. The walls were an industry
first when introduced on the line's first Voyager-class vessel in
1999. The retrofit will start with the Monarch of the Seas in late
May and is scheduled to be completed by November with the Legend of
the Seas. Dan Hanrahan, Royal's senior vp-marketing and sales, said
the rock-climbing walls, which are featured in the line's ad
campaign, have become a brand icon. "Increasingly," he said, "the
rock-climbing walls have become the symbol of the active ... spirit
we are known for."
CARNIVAL CORP. was buoyed by a 14.7% capacity
increase in the first quarter, but the company said earnings dipped
because of the uncertainty of war and higher operating costs.
Revenue rose 13.7% to $1.03 billion, but net income fell 2.1% to
$126.9 million for the quarter ended Feb. 28. Net revenue yields
were equal to 2002 levels after deducting travel agent commissions
and air transportation costs; higher fuel costs accounted for a 60%
increase in cost per available berth day, Carnival said.
CEO Micky Arison said war, the economy and high
fuel costs created an "extremely challenging environment for
leisure travel businesses. Carnival said booking volumes for the
second half of 2003, although ahead of last year's levels,
currently are not keeping pace with expected capacity increases,
and pricing remains slightly below 2002 levels." But Carnival
vice-chairman Howard Frank was upbeat about the rest of the year,
saying there is "ample time to recover" by the third quarter.
CELEBRITY CRUISES will send its 1,374-passenger
Zenith to Jacksonville, Fla., this fall, making it the first cruise
line to sail from the north Florida city. The Zenith will spend 13
weeks in Jacksonville and offer 11- to 14-day itineraries to the
southern and western Caribbean from Oct. 26 through April 22. The
Zenith originally was scheduled for a South America series this
winter. The Infinity, one of Celebrity's newer Millennium-class
ships, will instead handle that route. A replacement ship for the
Infinity's originally scheduled Hawaii cruises has not yet been
named, a spokeswoman said.
THE CARNIVAL SPIRIT added two roundtrip
departures from San Diego: A six-day Baja Mexico voyage on Oct. 18
and an eight-day Mexico Riviera cruise on Oct. 24. The two new
cruises replace a 14-day roundtrip cruise to Hawaii.