Travel Weekly's Cruise E-letter: Jan. 13, 2004

THE QUEEN MARY 2 was christened Thursday by Queen Elizabeth II in an hour-long pierside ceremony in Southampton, England, filled with pomp and circumstance, and about 2,000 invited guests. The event, which included confetti, fireworks, speeches, a short film and performances, emphasized the British lineage of the company, which is now owned by Miami-based Carnival Corp. Cunard president Pamela Conover spoke on behalf of the line, giving a history of the British Cunarders and adding a special thanks to Cunard's travel industry partners for their "continued support." A blessing by the Rev. Michael Scott-Joynt, the Lord Bishop of Winchester, included, in French, a prayer for the people killed in a gangway accident during a weekend tour of the QM2 while it was still under construction at the Saint-Nazaire, France, shipyard. And then there was, of course, the christening of the Queen by the Queen, who also took a tour of the 151,000-ton QM2.

THE QM2 DEPARTED Southampton Monday, with a full load of passengers, on its first inaugural crossing, to Fort Lauderdale, Fla. Conover declined to talk about specific security features of the ship, but she said safety was "paramount," and that the line was well aware of the ship's high profile. More ceremony awaits the QM2 when it reaches the U.S. Jan. 26, and Cunard said several thousand agents will inspect the ship or sail on a quick cruise-to-nowhere before it begins its Caribbean cruise service Jan. 31. The QM2 will sail to New York in April to begin its transatlantic season.

ROYAL OLYMPIA CRUISES' two U.S.-based ships, the Olympia Voyager and the Olympia Explorer, continue to sit idle. The next sailings of both ships, each beginning Jan. 19, have been cancelled, one of the line's sales agents told a caller.

CRUISE BRIEFS
• Princess Cruises rolled out e-mail confirmations for several types of booking activities, such as cruise bookings and deposits, airline reservations and visa proceedings. The line said agents have a choice of receiving electronic communications or "traditional faxed materials."
• Norwegian Cruise Line is handing out prizes to agents who book with the line during its "Sale of all Sails" Wave promotion. NCL said it will award daily prizes based on the cruise markets sold; goodies range from a cabin onboard the Pride of America's July 4 cruise to bottles of champagne to beach towels.
• Viking River Cruises added two more sail dates to its Eastern European Odyssey, a 14-day cruise along the Danube River from Budapest, Hungary, to the Black Sea and returning to Vienna. The new Aug. 21 sailing will operate from Vienna to Budapest, while the Sept. 4 sailing will sail the reverse cruise, from Budapest to Vienna.

MARILYN RICHARDSON-CONROY will join Silversea next month as vice president of field sales, overseeing Silversea's regional sales directors and sales programs in North America. Richardson-Conroy, who was most recently vice president of national accounts and retail sales for Crystal Cruises, follows a recent move by sales colleague David Morris from Crystal to Silversea. Silversea's Jim McHugh, meanwhile, will assume the newly created position of vice president of national accounts and sales development.

CORRECTION: Jeff Dash is president of Viking River Cruises. An incorrect name for the company appeared in the Jan. 5 Cruise E-letter.

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