Travel Weekly's Cruise E-letter: Feb. 3, 2004

CRUISE ANALYSTS were upbeat about Royal Caribbean Cruises, as the #2 cruise line predicted last week that first-quarter 2004 net yields will run 5% to 7% above last year's Q1. Bear Stearns analyst R. Glen Reid -- who had predicted yield increases around 3% -- said in a research note that the cruise company's guidance was "significantly better than expected ... Despite the fact that our travel agent contacts continued to indicate very strong RCCL trends, the magnitude of the upside is notable." And Robin Farley, with UBS Investment Research, said RCCL's yield recovery was "certainly above our expectations." The line lost $20 million during its fourth quarter on a 12.4% increase in revenue; for 2003, RCCL said net income was $280.7 million, compared with $351.3 million in 2002.

WAVE ISN'T JUST GOING WELL for RCCL; the Cruise Lines International Association said Monday it was hearing good news from several of its cruise line members, such as Radisson Seven Seas Cruises, Crystal Cruises, Costa Cruises, Swan Hellenic and Norwegian Coastal Voyages. "CLIA member lines are telling us that 2004 is looking to be a very strong year for the cruise industry," said Terry Dale, CLIA's president.

THE EMPRESS OF THE SEAS will be the new name bestowed on the Nordic Empress, the oldest ship in Royal Caribbean International's fleet. The ship will get a new name to go along with its makeover -- the vessel was the only Royal Caribbean ship without an "... of the Seas" suffix -- before arriving in Bayonne, N.J., for its series of Bermuda cruises from the new Cape Liberty Cruise Port, which is RCCL's newly named berth there.

THE ROYAL OLYMPIA CRUISES subsidiaries that own the vessels in the line's Tradition fleet requested protection from creditors by seeking a reorganization proceeding in a Greek court similar to a Chapter 11 reorganization in the U.S. The line said it was seeking permission from creditors to apply for the reorganization, but added it may be forced to cease operations if the parties don't find a solution. Tradition fleet vessels include the Triton, the World Renaissance and the Odysseus. Other Royal Olympia subsidiaries that owned the newer Olympia Explorer and the Olympia Voyager filed for reorganization in a Honolulu bankruptcy court in December. Those ships were arrested last month, and will be sold at U.S. Marshals' auctions; dates have not yet been set.

CARNIVAL CRUISE LINES will begin using Whittier, Alaska, as a homeport for the Carnival Spirit during its seven-day one-way cruises in Alaska. Previously, Carnival ships departed from Seward, Alaska. Carnival's sister brand, Princess Cruises, earlier said it would swap Seward for Whittier for its 2004 season.

• Silversea rolled out its 2005 itineraries, based on what the line said was "strong early demand" by travelers to finalize next year's travel plans. Silversea said it started accepting reservations for next year's voyages. The line's four ships will all offer Mediterranean itineraries in 2005.
• Holland America Line began sending its promotional messages to travel agents via e-mail only. That leaves a lot of fax machines silent, except for booking-related notices that will continue to be transmitted via fax or e-mail, HAL said.
• HAL said its Maasdam is the latest vessel in its fleet to feature a Pinnacle Grill restaurant, as well as the concierge-level Neptune Lounge. The Maasdam additions -- as well as the switch to e-mail promotions -- are part of HAL's fleet-wide Signature of Excellence program.

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