Travel Weekly's Cruise E-letter: Dec. 16, 2003

SMOKE 'EM IF YOU GOT 'EM: The Paradise, Carnival Cruise Lines' vessel with a no-smoking policy -- and the only one of its kind -- will drop the no-smoking designation when it repositions to California next fall. Carnival, which says in its promotional material that even bringing "smoking materials" onboard is a ticket to a premature exit from the ship, said it "could not afford to limit it to non-smokers" on its new itineraries. The Paradise will handle Carnival's only three- and four-day cruises to Baja, Mexico, from Long Beach, Calif. The Paradise moves to California in September from its Miami home, where it does seven-day alternating eastern and western Caribbean sailings.

THE ECSTASY, which currently offers the short-cruise program from Long Beach, will replace the Celebration in Galveston, thereby boosting Carnival's capacity in Texas by nearly 40%. The Celebration, with more than 500 fewer berths than the Ecstasy, will go elsewhere -- but Carnival has not revealed where. The Ecstasy will join Carnival's Elation in Galveston in October.

HOLLAND AMERICA will promote its fleet-wide upgrade program in its upcoming advertising campaign, which executives have said was the line's biggest ad buy yet. The ads are timed for a Wave season debut; HAL also unveiled a redesigned Web site [] Monday. The ads, which were shown to HAL's top-producing agents during its annual Centurions cruise on the Oosterdam, play up upscale touches and attention to detail, like HAL's use of Frette linens and Bulgari china in its alternative restaurants. Each ad will reference one of HAL's five talking points of its Signature of Excellence upgrade program: dining, accommodations, service, activities and destinations.

PRINCESS will carve another notch for itself in the dining department by offering cuisine-themed main restaurants. On the upcoming Sapphire Princess and Diamond Princess, one main restaurant will offer "traditional" fixed-seating. Four other main restaurants will offer open-style seating, each with its own theme: Italian, steak, southwestern and Asian (Princess will also keep its specialty Italian restaurant onboard, with a $20 cover charge). The line also will debut a computerized restaurant reservations system, called Princess Concierge Service, on the Diamond Princess.

• Radisson Seven Seas Cruises expanded its partnership with spa operator Carita of Paris from the Paul Gauguin to its entire fleet, ending a contract this month with Judith Jackson Spas on its newer builds, and a contract with Steiner on the Radisson Diamond in March.
• Silversea Cruises unveiled nine voyages that will celebrate the line's 10th anniversary next year. The cruises, with names like Across the Bering Sea [May 23], La Dolce Vita [June 14] and Scandinavian Summer [July 8], are the "centerpiece" of its 10th anniversary celebrations, which include gala events and other special promotions.
• Celebrity Cruises and Royal Caribbean International guests will compete against each other during a new Grand Cayman-based excursion: Races from the cruise pier to the Cayman's Seven Mile Beach on "extreme" racing yachts. The former "Lodka Sport," an 80-foot racing yacht now named "Celebrity Cruises," will race against a nearly identical yacht filled with Royal Caribbean passengers. The excursion is limited to about 20 guests per yacht for each 3.5-hour race, at a cost of $105 per person.

• First European Cruises, the U.S. branch of European cruise line Festival Cruises, named James Applebaum president. Applebaum, formerly with the Travelsavers consortium, replaces Makis Xenatos, who moved to Liberty Travel.
• Gerry Cahill was promoted up a notch at Carnival Corp., to executive vice president and chief financial officer. He had been senior vice president and CFO of the cruise conglomerate since 1998.

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