Travel Weekly's Cruise E-Letter: Oct. 14, 2003

NATIONAL LEISURE GROUP, the Woburn, Mass.-headquartered firm announced it will acquire MyTravel Group's U.S.-based cruise division -- and other assets -- for $110 million. The cruise division includes retailers CruisesOnly and 1-800-CRUISES, CruiseOne and Cruises Inc., from MyTravel Group. According to U.K.-based MyTravel, its cruise businesses represent about 10% of worldwide cruise sales. The agreement with NLG, finalized early Monday morning, also includes the sale of shore excursion provider Ship 'n' Shore, and meetings company Landry & Kling. The deal is expected to close in mid-November, and is subject to shareholder approval, financing arrangements and U.S. antitrust clearance. Separately, MyTravel agreed to sell two U.S.-based tour operators, SunTrips and Vacation Express, to FS Tours, Inc., a subsidiary of eResource Capital Group, for $16.5 million.

MYTRAVEL said the net proceeds of the sales -- which it said was part of a move to dispose of "non-core businesses" -- will be used for working capital. "In the medium-term, the Group's earnings and cash flows will remain subject to significant risk through its high fixed cost structure and high levels of indebtedness," MyTravel said Monday. Its U.S. cruise business made an operating profit of $11.8 million during the year ending in September 2002; that same year, the company as a whole recorded about a $95 million loss.

THE INVESTIGATION is just getting underway into a fire on the Westerdam, which is under construction at Fincantieri's shipyard in Marghera, Italy, but financial analysts said the blaze will likely not impact the ship's April delivery. The ship is ahead of construction schedule, and, if necessary, the yard will compensate parent company Carnival Corp. each day ship delivery is delayed. The Westerdam is promised to the Holland America Line brand.

DISNEY CRUISE LINE named Karl Holz president. He most recently served as senior vice president of Walt Disney World Operations. Holz replaces Matt Ouimet, who was promoted to president of the Disneyland resort in Anaheim, Calif.

LONG LIVE THE QUEENS: Queen Elizabeth II will serve as the godmother to Cunard Line's Queen Mary 2 and will christen the ship during festivities in Southampton, England, Jan. 8.

ABOUT 5% OF PASSENGERS aboard Carnival Cruise Lines' Holiday reported gastrointestinal symptoms consistent with the Norwalk virus. The ship returned to New Orleans Oct. 16 after 97 guests and 53 crew came down with the symptoms (diarrhea, vomiting and fever); following an intense disinfecting scrubdown, the vessel departed the same evening on schedule.

STARTING NOV. 1, Royal Caribbean International and Celebrity Cruises guests who book within 21 days of sailing will pay a $35 "rush fee" if they want their tickets delivered in the traditional paper format. EDocs, i.e. documents delivered via e-mail, are now the norm for passengers reserving a cruise within three weeks of the sail date, Royal Caribbean said. Passengers booking outside of 21 days can request their documents in an eDocs format and have info e-mailed to them. Luggage tags, meanwhile, are picked up pierside. A Royal Caribbean spokeswoman said eDocs "simply save time, manpower and money."

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