Travel Weekly's Cruise E-Letter May 13, 2003

NORWEGIAN CRUISE LINE will launch its interisland Hawaii cruises in summer 2004 with two U.S.-flagged ships under a new brand: NCL America. In addition to NCL's first U.S.-flagged, U.S.-crewed vessel--currently known as its Project America ship--the line will reflag the Norwegian Sky under a U.S. registry, rename it and sail it in Hawaii under the NCL America brand.

THE RENAMED NORWEGIAN SKY will begin NCL's first series of short cruises in Hawaii in October 2004. Andy Stuart, senior vp-sales and marketing, said the line would get "more creative" about selling the Sky's three- and four-day Hawaii cruises and will turn to tour operators to package the cruises with longer Hawaii vacations. The unnamed Project America ship, meanwhile, will begin cruising in Hawaii in July 2004. NCL will round out its 2004 Hawaii deployment with two foreign-flagged ships, the Norwegian Wind and the Norwegian Star; they will include stops at Fanning Island as part of their itineraries. The new deployment will increase NCL's projected passenger numbers in Hawaii by 40%, to almost 200,000 passengers in 2004, the line said.

CRUISEPATH NETWORK, which provides a Web-based cruise-booking tool for travel agents, will cease operations in early June after filing for liquidation under Chapter 7. CruisePath, which had been operating under Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection since November, had sought to discontinue operations May 5, but the bankruptcy court postponed the move for 30 days at the request of travel agent Dan Bohan, chief operating officer of Omega World Travel in Fairfax, Va. Bohan argued that it was in travel agencies' best interest to keep CruisePath in business temporarily, buying time for agencies to find another cruise-booking solution.

• Jacksonville is drawing attention from cruise execs, as Carnival Cruise Lines became the second major line to line up departures from the northern Florida port. Carnival will inaugurate service from Jacksonville in March 2004 with the debut of the 2,124- passenger Carnival Miracle. The line will begin year-round Jacksonville cruising in October 2004 when the Holiday will relocate from New Orleans. Carnival said a "larger vessel" will replace the 1,452- passenger Holiday in New Orleans, and it has not announced where the Miracle will sail following its inaugural Jacksonville cruises.
• Princess Cruises cancelled its fall 2003 Asia itineraries on the Star Princess because of lack of demand related to SARS. The vessel was reassigned to roundtrip Mexican Riviera itineraries departing from Los Angeles. But Princess is slated to return to Asia in 2004; the line released its catalog of "exotics" cruises last week.
• Holland America Line added 19 visits to Glacier Bay National Park to its 2003 Alaska cruise schedule. The line said nearly 80% of its Alaska-bound cruises will visit Glacier Bay.

A U.S. COAST GUARD search continued May 12 for a man who fell overboard the Carnival Conquest. The passenger was reported overboard at 12:30 a.m. on May 11, as the ship returned to its temporary home in Gulfport, Miss.

AMERICAN SAFARI CRUISES' 12-passenger Safari Spirit partially sank last week after the vessel hit a rock May 8 and began taking on water. The Spirit was midway through its 14-day repositioning cruise from Seattle to Juneau for the vessel's Alaska season when the collision occurred near Bella Bella, British Columbia, said Tim Jacox, American Safari's vp-sales and marketing. Passengers and crew were safely evacuated, Jacox said; passengers were refunded the portion of the cruise not taken. Jacox said last week that the majority of passengers booked on future Spirit sailings can be accommodated on American Safari's other 12-passenger yacht, the Safari Escape, which is sailing the same Alaska itinerary as the Safari Spirit.

EUROPE CRUISE operator Festival Cruises filed an objection with the European Union's Court of Justice regarding the Carnival Corp. merger with P&O Princess. A Carnival spokesman said the deal, which was concluded last month, was reviewed and cleared twice by the European Union.

OCEANIA CRUISES added and Liberty Travel to the new cruise line's roundup of preferred contracts. In a blast fax to its member agencies, said members who book Oceania during its inaugural year will receive 16% commission on cruise- only sales and 5% on pre-purchased shore excursions, pre- and post-cruise hotel stays, and air.

CRYSTAL CRUISES' guests arriving from Toronto, Singapore and Vietnam will be allowed to sail with the line again, effective with cruises departing in June. The line had barred passengers from those regions due to fears about the spread of SARS. Guests who have transited through China, Hong Kong and Taiwan within 10 days of the sailing will not be permitted to board.

NORWEGIAN CRUISE LINE said the Norwegian Sun inadvertently discharged blackwater into the Juan de Fuca Strait while en route to Victoria, British Columbia. According to a Coast Guard official, the ship discharged about 16,000 gallons of untreated sewage into the passage, which links the Pacific Ocean with Puget Sound and the ports of Vancouver and Victoria. NCL said the discharge was against company policy and added it was "extremely disappointed." The Coast Guard and the Washington State Department of Ecology are investigating.

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