Travel Weekly's Cruise E-letter: April 20, 2004

NEW YORK CITY officials unveiled a 13-year deal with Carnival Corp. and Norwegian Cruise Line that guarantees the city at least $200 million in port charges to upgrade the aging cruise ship pier. The two cruise companies agreed to bring at least 13 million passengers to New York through 2017 and together pay at least $200 million in fees during that period. In return, the city will give each line preferential berths at specific piers. A master plan, created by the city's Economic Development Corp., calls for the creation of four cruise berths in Manhattan and nearby Brooklyn over the next four years; the EDC still is mulling the Brooklyn location. The Passenger Ship Terminal, which will now be renamed the New York Cruise Terminal, was last renovated in the 1970s.

NORWEGIAN CRUISE LINE will bring the Norwegian Dream to Alaska in 2005, for a total of four ships in the region, and will offer longer cruises from Seattle with 10- and 11-day Alaska sailings. The Dream will reposition to Houston after the 2005 summer Alaska season to replace the outgoing Norwegian Sea; the Norwegian Sun will move into the Dream's winter slot in New Orleans. The line said it will not position a ship in northern Europe next year, citing "rapid expansion in North American ports and key destinations" -- but added that may change "as the company expands its fleet." Meanwhile, Hawaii deployment will be upped to three vessels. NCL expects the Pride of America to be completed at the Lloyd Werft yard in Germany in time for a 2005 debut. And itinerary details on a new, as-yet unnamed vessel under construction at Meyer Werft in Germany and slated for a fall 2005 debut, will be announced soon, a spokeswoman said.

ROYAL CARIBBEAN CRUISES will split several divisions by brand, including its call centers, groups department and revenue management teams, dedicating some staff to Royal Caribbean International and the other to Celebrity Cruises. "One of our goals this year was to split the brand effectively," said Bill Martin, who was promoted to a new position, vice president of trade support and services and who will oversee some of the brand-specific changes -- as well as the company's relations with the retail community. Martin said that within the next few weeks he expected about 90% of calls to be answered by a "brand expert" res agent; a crossover team will be versed in both Royal Caribbean and Celebrity matters and can fill in on high-volume periods.

A BARBADOS JUDGE FRIDAY DISMISSED a Festival Cruises appeal to stay the execution of a lower court judge's award of the European Vision, one of the line's newer vessels, to a company affiliated with MSC Cruises. The three-year-old, 1,500-passenger Vision was halted in Barbados in January after a Festival creditor said the company failed to meet its financial obligations. Late last week, a Barbados court auctioned the ship through a sealed-bid process, the ship's broker told TravelWeekly.com. The next step, said broker Peter Bartleet of Galbraith's Ltd., is "we will be conducting all the formalities for the finalization of the sale."

TELEPHONES WENT UNANSWERED last week at Festival's U.S. headquarters, where cruises are marketed under the First European brand; callers to the New York sales office were directed to leave a message after a recorded answering machine says the office was closed. First European's president, Jim Applebaum, said in an e-mail to TravelWeekly.com last week that "we are still waiting to hear something from [company's headquarters in] Italy." Meanwhile, ARTA sent a complaint letter to the office of New York State Attorney General Eliot Spitzer; it also advised members that it was unable to contact anyone at First European.

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