Travel Weekly's Cruise E-Letter: March 4, 2003

PRINCESS CRUISES introduced two-for-one pricing on all its Mediterranean sailings this summer. The decision means 12-day sailings on the Golden Princess start at $1,300 per person (or about $2,600 per couple). The promotion also includes free cabin upgrades from inside to outside, or from outside to balcony cabin. It also gives guests a coupon book for on-board discounts. Princess Travel Care insurance, which enables passengers to cancel for any reason and receive 75% of the booked fare as a future cruise credit, will be offered without charge on Golden Princess sailings.

MORE CANCELLATION CHANGES
• Seabourn added a cancel-for-any-reason option to its travel insurance package that refunds 90% of the paid fare as a cruise credit. The option is available on cruises sailing between June 1 and Dec. 31; passengers can cancel up to 24 hours before the voyage. SeabournShield Plus insurance costs $295 per person. Clients with booked sailings that qualify for the cancellation option can purchase the insurance by March 7.
• First European Cruises modified its cancellation policy on all 2003 cruises. Passengers can cancel for any reason up to 72 hours prior to departure and receive a cruise credit valid for up to one year. To qualify for the new cancellation policy, which is offered without extra charge, cruises must be booked by April 30.
• ResidenSea introduced new cancellation protection policies on voyages of the World through July 2004. Customers who cancel voyages before Jan. 1, 2004, will receive a cruise credit for the balance of their current penalty period (passengers who cancel and normally forfeit 50% of their paid fare, for example, will instead be given that money as a certificate).

UNIWORLD, one of the first companies to introduce relaxed cancellation policies, said the move has prompted "hundreds" of new bookings for spring Europe cruises. Patrick Clark, Uniworld's vp-sales, said the company attached a promotional code to the policy to track how successful it's been. "We're getting the proof that it has [been effective]," he said.

COSTA is on a push to attract more group bookings: Lower group pricing, guaranteed rates, more on-board goodies (like cocktail parties), additional help from its in-house sales reps. "We said, OK, if you book 120 days before [the sailing] we'll give you a discount for outside bookings," said Joseph Cavarra, senior vp-sales. "We are getting a lot of people booking for 2004, which is fantastic."

ROYAL CARIBBEAN INT'L will roll out its own credit card that allows users to earn points toward RCI cruise discounts, upgrades and on-board amenities. The line partnered with MBNA America Bank on the Royal Caribbean Platinum Plus Visa card. Customers will be able to apply for the card on the RCI site at www.royalcaribbean.com beginning today.

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