Travel Weekly's Cruise E-letter: April 27, 2004

THE QUEEN MARY 2 continues to be a hit for Carnival Corp.: After attracting scores of onlookers during its early-morning maiden appearance in New York April 22, the liner attracted more well-wishers for its historic exit with the Queen Elizabeth 2 on Sunday. While New Yorkers crowded around the tip of Manhattan to watch the two Queens sail past the Statue of Liberty and the accompanying fireworks, Cunard Line and Carnival executives and VIPs took in the show from a Ritz-Carlton bar perched above the harbor. A star-studded benefit party was given on the ship on April 24 and included appearances by singer Beyonce and Donald Trump, who himself did a rendition of "I'll Take Manhattan."

LAST WEEK WAS A BUSY ONE for Carnival Corp. in New York: Top execs -- including QM2 captain Paul Wright, who did the honors -- participated in the closing bell ceremony April 22 at the New York Stock Exchange. The afternoon at the exchange followed the company's annual meeting in midtown Manhattan, literally down the block from where the QM2 was berthed. It was a good day on the market for Carnival Corp.: The stock price that day rose $0.40.

TRAVEL GUARD last week reinstated its financial-default coverage for Oceania Cruises and removed the line from the insurer's alert list. Travel Guard had placed the line April 16 on its alert list because Oceania hadn't responded to requests for information, a Travel Guard spokesman said. But Oceania provided the required particulars and was "back in good standing" Thursday, the spokesman said. Oceania CEO Frank del Rio earlier in the week told that the dropped coverage was "unjustified."

ROYAL CARIBBEAN CRUISES LTD.'S first-quarter net income was $95.8 million, an 80% increase over the company's first-quarter 2003 profit of $53.2 million. Revenue increased 20.6%, to $1.1 billion, and the company attributed it to rising cruise ticket prices and a 13.4% jump in capacity. Net yields, meanwhile, increased 5.3% quarter-over-quarter. During a conference call with analysts, Celebrity and Royal Caribbean International President Jack Williams said gross bookings rose 23% and, as far as pricing goes: "We are witnessing the same strength we've been seeing with the bookings."

• The Westerdam, Holland America Line's latest Vista-class ship, was christened in Venice, Italy, by Dutch actress Renee Soutendijk. The ship embarked on its maiden voyage in the Mediterranean later that day. The Westerdam will sail in the Mediterranean this summer and will reposition to Fort Lauderdale, Fla., in November for Caribbean sailings.
• Royal Caribbean International took delivery of the Jewel of the Seas in Eemshaven, the Netherlands. The ship will sail a series of preview cruises before arriving in Harwich, England, to begin its inaugural cruising season in Northern Europe.
• The Norwegian Star will emerge from a multimillion dollar refurbishment next month with a new steakhouse in place of the Las Ramblas restaurant, a Tex-Mex restaurant in lieu of the Endless Summer eatery, a 10,000-square-foot casino and dramatic hull artwork -- which Norwegian Cruise Line called a "signature trademark."
• It is understood that the European Stars will be auctioned in Marseille, France, on May 13, although a spokeswoman for Festival Cruises said she had not seen official confirmation.

• Carnival Cruise Lines is the latest company to heed the low-carb call: It's adding low-carb dining selections on dinner menus fleetwide over the next month.
• Norwegian Cruise Line created a Hawaii golf program for its Pride of Aloha sailings, which begin July 4. The ship will offer golf outings to links on all four main islands visited by the Pride of Aloha and will set up an onboard pro shop.

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