Travel Weekly's Cruise E-letter: June 29, 2004

THE CRUISE LINES INT'L ASSN. (CLIA) said 2.4 million passengers sailed on CLIA-member lines during the first quarter of 2004, a 9.13% increase over the same period in 2003. North American passenger counts grew 6.8%, to a little more than 2 million. Cruise line guests from outside North America increased 25%, to 348,124. CLIA, meanwhile, predicted its 2004 agency membership will increase by about 2%, reversing a four-year decline. A study conducted for CLIA said that the trade organization's membership will grow to about 16,300 members by the end of 2004.

PRINCESS CRUISES expanded its cruise-tour program in Europe with three new off-the-ship options in 2005. During the Grand Princess' 12-day Mediterranean itinerary, guests can opt for Under the Tuscan Sun, a four-night tour of Tuscany and a visit to Milan. And there are two new land options -- English Sojourn (U.K. landmarks) and the Ring of Kerry (Irish highlights) -- tied into the Golden Princess' maiden Western Europe season.

PRINCESS CRUISES, meanwhile, made some executive changes due to a change in the fleet operations department in Carnival Corp.'s P&O Princess Cruises Int'l division. Dean Brown, Princess' executive vice president, will head the new North American fleet operations team and be responsible for fleet operations for Princess, Cunard, Seabourn and P&O Australia. Brown also will be responsible for port operations at Princess and Cunard.

CELEBRITY CRUISES detailed some of the onboard plans for its partnership with Cirque du Soleil. Lounges on the Constellation and the Summit -- named Reflections and Revelations, respectively -- will be transformed in December and renamed "the Bar at the Edge of the Earth." Unique Cirque-created characters will inhabit the bars each evening; in addition there will be a masquerade ball during each cruise. Bars at the Edge could follow on other ships if the concept is a success. Execs emphasized that the Bar would be an interactive experience, rather than a typical "show" -- where passengers will be "spec-actors" instead of simply spectators.

BATHROOM PANELS in some passenger cabins on the Queen Mary 2 failed to pass a fire-safety test, the U.K. Maritime and Coastguard Agency said. The agency stressed that the material is in a "low risk wet area" and the ship has a "highly efficient sprinkler system," so "passenger safety is not compromised," but Cunard Line said it took steps to remedy the situation by installing additional smoke detectors and sprinklers.

SOCIETY EXPEDITIONS said the World Discoverer's mortgage holders took possession of the ship. Callers to the company's headquarters were routed to a phone message that said that "the general problematic situation in the travel industry has led to below-budget numbers on this years' summer and fall voyages," which has led to "financial shortages." The adventure-cruise line said it was working to find an "immediate" solution, but it canceled a June 18 cruise from Nome, Alaska.

CRYSTAL CRUISES revised its fares in its 2005 brochure to reflect what the line said was "more realistic" pricing. The pricing in Crystal's 2005 Cruise Atlas is about 7% to 38% below the earlier prices listed in its 2005 Cruise Guide brochure. The line said in a statement that fare reductions are common but that "the messages have been confusing."

HOLLAND AMERICA LINE added a five-day Alaska cruise to its schedule. The 1,258-passenger Ryndam will sail roundtrip from Vancouver Sept. 24. The itinerary includes the Inside Passage, Sitka and Ketchikan. Outside staterooms start at $589 per person, double.

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