Travel Weekly's Cruise E-letter: May 4, 2004

THE DISNEY MAGIC will reposition out of the Caribbean for the first time next year and head for a summer homeport in California as part of Disneyland's 50th anniversary celebration. The Magic will offer a series of 12 seven-day cruises from Los Angeles to the Mexican Riviera; the cruises will depart Saturdays between May 28 and Aug. 20, 2005 and call in Puerto Vallarta, Mazatlan and Cabo San Lucas. The line will offer pre- and post-cruise stays at Disneyland Resort hotels. The 2,600-passenger Magic is one of a pair of Disney cruise ships; both have historically sailed from Port Canaveral, Fla.

ANOTHER CRUISE-ONLY home-based program is in the works, this time from Carlson Travel Franchise Group, which already operates three travel retail brands (including Cruise Holidays). The new home-based program will be called SeaMaster Cruises; Roger Block, executive vice president of Carlson's franchise group, projected about 50 participants by year's end and another 100 in 2005. The Carlson announcement comes just one week after American Express began wooing the at-home segment by signing on Cruise Planners of Coral Springs, Fla., as an American Express representative.

ROYAL CARIBBEAN INTERNATIONAL said Kathy Mellor, the National Teacher of the Year for 2004 (a Scholastic, Inc-sponsored program), will be the godmother to the line's newest vessel, the Jewel of the Seas. Mellor will name the ship May 7 in Southampton, England, before the ship's maiden voyage.

MSC CRUISES' presence in the North American market is about to get much bigger: The European-focused line tapped cruise industry veteran Richard Sasso to be its president and CEO of MSC Cruises U.S.A. The line recently was awarded the European Vision, formerly operated by Festival Cruises, and renamed it the Armonia. In March, it placed orders for two 2,550-passenger ships to be delivered in 2006 and 2007. The company will add a Florida base of operations to supplement its current New Jersey office, Sasso said; plans also call for year-round U.S. operations. MSC Cruises is based in Naples, Italy. Its parent company is Mediterranean Shipping Co., a privately owned line based in Geneva, Switzerland, that operates 225 container vessels.

ON THE SEAS: According to figures released by the Cruise Lines International Association, the Caribbean will remain the top cruise market, with a 40.38% market share, in 2004, but that's down nearly a percentage point from 2003, when it represented 41.03% of the overall berth deployment. The Caribbean's total number of bed days (which measures the number of berths available on a per-day basis) will be more than 31 million this summer, a 7.63% year-over-year increase. Bed days in Europe, meanwhile, rose 22.4% to capture 12.55% of the market.

NOT EVERY DESTINATION picked up more capacity: The number of bed days in Bermuda will drop by 10% in 2004 compared with last year, the report said. Cruise capacity to the south Pacific is down 37% (although Hawaii will be up 34.62% this year). Meanwhile, the number of CLIA agent affiliates declined to 16,000 in 2003, a 5.3% drop, CLIA said. It attributed the decline to "general consolidation and attrition" in the agency business.

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