Travel Weekly's Cruise E-letter: March 30, 2004

BOTH OF THE FORMER ROYAL OLYMPIA CRUISES vessels were auctioned off last week to Kreditanstalt fur Wiederaufbau (KfW), the German bank that is acting as the agent for a consortium of the ships' mortgagees. The 847-passenger Olympia Voyager was sold for $97.2 million during a court-ordered auction March 26 in Miami; its sister ship, the Olympia Explorer, went for $82.7 million during its auction in Los Angeles March 24. KfW expects to sell or charter both ships within the next two months, Ludolf Rischmuller, KfW's senior vice president and head of its special assets group, told TravelWeekly.com after the Voyager auction. He said it has received interest from different parties, including large North American cruise operators.

CELEBRITY'S upcoming offerings in the Arctic and Antarctic -- part of the cruise line's continued roll-out of exotic vacation options under its Xpeditions umbrella -- will be 12- and 13-day icebreaker voyages. The High Arctic trips jump off from Ottawa, Canada, on Aug. 11 and Sept. 3, and stops include Resolute, Lancaster Sound, Coburg Island, Ellesmere Island, and Beechy Island, Canada; and Cape York and various points in northern Greenland. On the opposite pole, 12-day trips depart roundtrip from Ushuaia, Argentina, on Oct. 25 and Nov. 5 and spend five full days in the Antarctic Sound and Peninsula. Other calls on the Antarctic trip include Elephant Island, the South Shetland Islands, Livingstone Island and Cape Horn. Celebrity will charter the 112-passenger Kapitan Khlebnikov, a polar-class icebreaker, from Quark Expeditions for the cruises. Prices begin at $9,000 for the High Arctic cruises and $8,500 for the Xpeditions-Antarctic voyages; fares include alcoholic beverages, gratuities and shore excursions.

WINDSTAR CRUISES dropped its Tahiti and Baltics programs for 2005, opting instead for cruises to Costa Rica, Belize and Mexico, and increased offerings in the Mediterranean and the Greek Isles. "With three ships, it was more difficult for us to do new things with one ship dedicated to a single destination," Windstar's senior vice president of sales and marketing, Tom Russell, said of the line's year-round Tahiti deployment, which it resumed in 2002 after a four year hiatus. As for the Baltics, he said, "we're going to concentrate on warm water [destinations]."

CRYSTAL CRUISES, meanwhile, will next year return to Antarctica with the Crystal Symphony, add glacier viewing at Tracy Arm to its Alaska cruises, increase its short cruise options to 14 -- short in this case means seven- and eight-day itineraries -- and add a new fall Mexican Riviera season from Los Angeles.

BUSINESS DECISION: Royal Caribbean, Costa Cruises, Delta Queen Steamship Co. and Cunard became allied members of the National Business Travel Association as the association puts greater focus on meetings planning. In October, SeaDream Yacht Club became the first cruise line to join the NBTA.

NEWS BRIEFS:
• Royal Caribbean International will debut a new show called "Tango Buenos Aires" on the Jewel of the Seas, which is scheduled to be delivered to the line on April 23.
• Paul Burrell, Princess Diana's personal butler and the author of "A Royal Duty" will be the focus of a Special Olympics of Florida cruise onboard the Carnival Glory Dec. 4. Daytona Beach, Fla.-based High Performance Travel & Tours is taking reservations for the group.
• The christening of Princess Cruises' Caribbean Princess by "The Love Boat" actress Jill Whelan, as well as her wedding onboard the vessel, will be open to all viewers via the Internet. The Webcast, at www.princess.com, starts at 6 p.m. EST on April 2.

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