Travel Weekly's Cruise E-Letter: September 4, 2001

ON THE VERY DAY travel agents from coast to coast demonstrated against the airlines' latest commission caps, Carnival Cruise Lines Aug. 30 slashed the commission it pays on air from 10% to 5%. The cut is effective with bookings made Sept. 10. The commission on the cruise portion of bookings will remain 10%, and neither rate is capped. Carnival president Bob Dickinson said the move will enable the company to bring its prices in line with airline ticket prices. "We want our air-sea bookings up to help us provide good service," Dickinson said. "If we book the air portion, we can track the customer, we know when he is coming in, we can take care of him." He said air now is included on only 25% of Carnival's bookings. A spokesman for Royal Caribbean said the company is reviewing Carnival's move. No one was available for comment at Princess Cruises or Norwegian Cruise Lines.

CONVERSELY, river-cruise specialist Viking River Cruises said it will maintain its 12% agent commission, including air, for its European river cruise packages through the 2002 season. The 12% commission is valid for all FIT and group bookings. Viking River Cruises, the largest river-cruise operator, recently christened its 28th ship, the Viking Neptune, in Mainz, Germany.

RENAISSANCE CRUISES will inaugurate seven-day Caribbean sailings this fall departing roundtrip from Casa de Campo, the exclusive land-based resort in the Dominican Republic. From Oct. 27 through March, Renaissance's R8 will depart Saturdays for St. Lucia, St. Barth's, Tortola and Antigua. Renaissance passengers booked on cruises departing from Casa de Campo will have access to the 7,000-acre resort's facilities.

U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS authorities approved a $30.5 million joint plan by Carnival Corp. and Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. to enlarge St. Thomas' Crown Bay facility to accommodate contemporary megaships, said Giora Israel, vp-strategic planning at Carnival Corp. The project calls for the enlargement of an existing two-ship pier and the improvement of 7.5 acres of adjacent land into a staging area for taxis and tour departures. The pier enlargement is scheduled for completion in October 2002; the land development will follow in April 2003. The Virgin Islands Port Authority will own and manage the pier, which will be open to all cruise lines at standardized rates. Carnival and Royal Caribbean, however, will receive priority berthing for 30 years and retain a portion of their head taxes as a means of recouping their investment.

IN ANOTHER port development pact, Carnival Corp. will spend $8.5 million to enlarge San Juan's Pier 4 to handle 100,000-ton megaships, Israel said. Carnival's 20-year agreement with the Puerto Rico Ports Authority guarantees a minimum revenue stream for Puerto Rico; Carnival in turn will receive priority berth rights at the pier. Carnival also will retain a portion of its user fees as a means of recouping its investment. Preliminary construction is slated to start in November.

SINGAPORE-BASED Star Cruises, parent company of Norwegian Cruise Line, reported net income of $4.8 million on revenues of $327.2 million for the second quarter of 2001 compared with net income of $2.5 million on revenues of $361.8 million for the same period in 2000. Star officials said the results for the first half of 2001 "are not comparable to last year as the acquisition of the majority interest in NCL occurred only in February 2000." Star attributed its 9.6% decrease in second-quarter revenues to a 5.3% decrease in capacity days (i.e. available berths per passenger per day) and a 4.5% decrease in yield. Revenue for the NCL brand fell 10.7% for the quarter due to a 4.9% decrease in capacity days and a 9.9% decrease in yield, according to Star. NCL's capacity decrease was "mainly due to a more extensive dry dock schedule," the cancellation of one seven-day cruise aboard the Norway and the transfer of Norwegian Star (a new NCL ship of the same name debuts this month) to the Star Cruises fleet.

FOLLOWING TESTING aboard the 2,040-passenger Paradise earlier this year, Carnival Cruise Lines is offering shore excursions to San Juan's Museum of Art on all of the company's ships calling regularly at San Juan, said Giora Israel, Carnival's senior vp-strategic planning. Israel said Carnival is the only cruise line offering shore excursions to what he called the Caribbean's only major art museum.

AMERICAN EXPRESS and Carnival Corp. teamed up to offer American Express cardholders cruise discounts and stateroom upgrades on Carnival's six brands between Sept. 1 and Dec. 31. Consumers who use their cards to book voyages on Carnival Cruise Lines, Cunard Line, Holland America Line, Seabourn Cruise line and/or Windstar Cruises can earn discounts ranging from $50 to $100, on-board credits of up to $200 or two-category upgrades, depending on the line booked.

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