Travel Weekly's Cruise E-Letter: May 27, 2003

THE REGAL EMPRESS will likely have a new home with short-cruise operator Imperial Majesty Cruise Line. Celebration World Cruises Inc., the holding company that owns the Imperial Majesty ship, the OceanBreeze, submitted the highest bid of $1.75 million at an auction in Tampa May 23. Arthur Pollack, the president of both Celebration World Cruises and Imperial Majesty, said the plan is to bring the 900-passenger Regal Empress to Fort Lauderdale, Fla., and sail the ship on the OceanBreeze's current itinerary: three-day cruises to Nassau, Bahamas. The future of the 936-passenger OceanBreeze, which formerly sailed with Premier Cruises, has not been decided, Pollack said. The bid is subject to its acceptance by Florida's Middle District Court; Pollack said that would likely happen this week.

GLACIER BAY CRUISELINE'S owner is close to finalizing a sale of the small-ship fleet. Gary Droubay, the president of Goldbelt, an Alaska native corporation that purchased the line in 1997, said the new owners, which he declined to name pending a resolution of the deal, will "bring more financial strength" to the operation. In the meantime, the ships continue to sail, and Droubay said there should be no interruption in service when the company changes hands. Goldbelt took a $10 million write-down on its investment in the cruise line, Droubay said.

VICTORIA CRUISES canceled its Yangtze River cruises through June because of SARS. "Right now there's nothing; there's no business," said Joseph Fields, Victoria Cruises' marketing manager. The company plans soon to reassess the situation beyond June. "Hopefully, by the end of June, this whole SARS thing will be over and we can begin to sail by the middle of July. But we can't say now. No one knows."

SILVERSEA CRUISES said booking activity in "recent weeks" jumped 35% over the same period last year. The line said it recorded "robust demand" for bookings for its 2004 season.

STAR CRUISES recorded a net loss of $2.2 million in first-quarter 2003, down from a net income of $6.3 million during first-quarter 2002. Revenue increased 11.9% to $412 million, due mainly to a 9.5% capacity increase, Star said. Fuel costs were up by about 60%, a "sizeable increase," the company said. For the NCL Group, which includes Norwegian Cruise Line and Orient Lines, first-quarter net yield was up 3.6%, with the NCL brand pulling in slightly higher yields than Orient Lines. Bookings picked up in late April and the first two weeks of May; pricing "remains a challenge." Star also warned that the SARS crisis will negatively impact the profitability of the Asia-based company in the second quarter.

IT'S BEEN MORE THAN THREE MONTHS or so since the last report of substantial numbers of passengers becoming ill with Norwalk-like virus symptoms on board a cruise ship, but Norwegian Cruise Line said about 50 passengers -- or 2.5% of the ship's guests -- on board the Norwegian Sky reported to the ship's medical center with stomach flu-like symptoms during its May 11 cruise from Vancouver to Seattle. NCL said it was in contact with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which hasn't confirmed if the incident involves Norwalk-like virus.

SEADREAM YACHT CLUB added San Juan as a homeport for its 2004 Caribbean season, which runs from November 2003 to mid-April. The SeaDream II will move from St. Thomas, a tried-and-true SeaDream homeport, to San Juan in late January. The identical SeaDream I will sail from San Juan in early March. Both ships will again be in Europe between late April and October; their homeports will be Monaco; Nice; Civitavecchia, Italy; and Istanbul. SeaDream said its 2004 itineraries will include a series of shorter sailings that are "ideal" for the incentive market.


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