Travel Weekly's Cruise E-Letter: Oct. 28, 2003

THE CRUISE LINES INTERNATIONAL ASSOCIATION finalized plans for agent-training certifications that goes beyond the organization's current top designation, the Master Cruise Counselor (MCC). One new program, which will give agents an Elite Cruise Counselor (ECC) designation, is available to current MCCs and requires agents to take a seven-day cruise, complete five in-port ship inspections within two years, and sell at least 50 cruises within a 12-month period. ECCs also must have taken at least 10 CLIA training programs. Above the ECC, an Elite Cruise Counselor Scholar (ECCS) designation will be for ECCs who complete all of CLIA's training programs. CLIA offers a new class each year; next year it will offer 15 classes.

SOCIETY EXPEDITIONS' major creditor forced the expedition-style cruise line into Chapter 7 bankruptcy after the creditor said the one-ship operation failed to maintain "sufficient" sales levels and meet payments on its vessel, the World Discoverer. According to Adventure Expeditions and Travel, a U.S. company that owns the creditor, Patrician Cruises, as well as a stake in Society Expeditions, the line's management failed to generate enough bookings to break even, and it neglected to make charter and commission payments. Bruce Fischer, the managing director of Adventure Expeditions, said his company plans to purchase the assets out of bankruptcy and return Society Expeditions to "the cream of the crop." The World Discoverer is continuing to operate on a soft charter to Society Expeditions from its current owner, the Sembawang Shipyard in Singapore, Fischer said; he would not comment on whether it would continue to sail through the end of its charter in April.

ROYAL CARIBBEAN CRUISES LTD. reported a third quarter net income of $191.9 million, down from $193.5 million in third-quarter 2002. Third quarter revenue, on the other hand, increased 8.6% to $1.1 billion, from $1 billion in third-quarter 2002. Royal Caribbean's management said revenue was driven up by an increase in capacity, but lower prices and occupancy levels pushed net income back down. Net yields were down 2.1% from third-quarter 2002. Although bookings rebounded in April following the Iraq war downturn, the company still had a "big hole" to fill, according to chief financial officer Luis Leon. The resurgence has continued, he said, but fourth quarter bookings look softer than expected. RCCL also reported that preliminary indicators for 2004 are encouraging despite a continuing trend towards close-in bookings, which now represent 47% of the total bookings made, a percentage that has increased every year since 2000, when the percentage was 31%.

CARNIVAL CORP. confirmed it lent the National Leisure Group about $30 million to buy MyTravel Group's North American cruise businesses. That's nearly a third of the dough NLG will need for the $110 million purchase of the cruise holdings, including CruisesOnly and CruiseOne. A Carnival spokeswoman told TMD the company does not have, nor is it interested in, an equity position in NLG. Carnival, she said, has an "excellent" relationship with NLG. "They asked us for assistance," she said. "NLG and MyTravel are huge sellers of Carnival Corp. [brands]."

IN OTHER CARNIVAL NEWS:
• Carnival Corp. said it is confident that the Oct. 17 fire on the under-construction Westerdam will not alter its April 15 scheduled delivery. Carnival made that conclusion after assessing the damage with officials at the Fincantieri shipyard in Marghera, Italy. The Westerdam will be part of the Holland America Line fleet.
• Carnival Corp. signed a sponsorship agreement with the Society for Accessible Travel & Hospitality (SATH). Carnival will participate in SATH's World Congress and provide other support for travelers with disabilities. The pact includes cross-promotional activities.

THE CENTERS FOR DISEASE CONTROL & PREVENTION (CDC) posted a draft plan on its Web site that calls for a range of actions if SARS makes a return trip this winter. For example, consider these scenarios: there's no known SARS outbreak worldwide, or there is, but it is confined to imported cases. Under these conditions as they relate to in-bound travelers, if SARS transmission were extensive and control measures were ineffective, the CDC calls for a prohibition of non-essential arrivals and a "mandatory 10-day quarantine for all asymptomatic arrivals." And, for outbound travelers, if there is extensive SARS transmission in the U.S. with ineffective controls, the CDC would seek to prohibit non-essential outbound travel, require health certificates for people with "essential" travel plans, and conduct "medical screening at all exit points." The CDC -- which is seeking public comments on its proposals -- takes in multiple SARS' scenarios in its proposed actions.

CRUISING AROUND
• Oceania Cruises will take travel agent bookings on its Web site [www.oceaniacruises.com] through a private-label version of Revelex's cruise booking engine.
• Princess Cruises will offer an Antarctica shore excursion on its first Antarctic Peninsula cruise that flies passengers to one of the Antarctic's premier research stations. The excursion is available on the line's Dec. 19 Antarctica cruise and on its Cape Horn and Strait of Magellan cruises in January and February.

NEW HIRES
• Carnival Corp. named Tom Dow vice president of public affairs. Among his duties in the newly created post, Dow will be Carnival's liaison to municipalities, states and the federal government, as well as to industry organizations. Most previously, Dow was vice president of public affairs for Princess Cruises and Tours.
• Signe Bjorndal joined Silversea Cruises as its director, worldwide Venetian Society, to "enhance and update" Silversea's past-passenger program. She most recently was vice president of marketing and communications for ResidenSea.

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