The reborn Crown Cruise Line has been awarded a contract for weekly high-season travel to Bermuda in 2000 and 2001, beating out its competitor for the newly created slot, Carnival Cruise Lines.

To date, only five seasonal contracts were offered by Bermuda, which strictly limits its cruise business. But the new government pushed for a sixth contract, to be given to a company that leaves the East Coast mid­ week and arrives in Bermuda on the weekends (when the other five ships are off-island), and docks its ship at Bermuda's Royal Naval Dockyard on Ireland Island.

Crown Cruise Line is the new premium brand being launched by Commodore Holdings through the long-term charter of the 20,000-ton, 800-passenger Crown Dynasty (ex-Norwegian Dynasty) from owner Neptune Maritime OY beginning in November 1999 - with additional tonnage expected. Crown will homeport the Crown Dynasty in Philadelphia.

The new line will enter a joint-venture partnership with Philadelphia-based Apple Vacations to fill the ship on its Bermuda runs, with Apple reportedly committed to selling around 87 percent of the capacity.

Carnival had reportedly sought to begin its own mid-week-departure trips to Bermuda with the Tropicale from an undetermined East Coast site (one report had Carnival eyeing Baltimore, another had the line also considering Philadelphia), but such plans have been precluded by Crown's contract.

Calls to Bermuda by Crown Cruise Line will begin in spring of 2000. For the upcoming winter season, it is believed that Commodore will position the ship in the Caribbean, possibly with a homeport in Aruba.

Apple To Expand Market

Doug Brown, Apple Vacation's director of cruises, was interviewed prior to the final announcement by the Bermuda government on the contract, however, he confirmed that his company was in negotiations with Crown, and that Apple would be the principal supplier of passengers for the Bermuda runs.

Brown also confirmed that Apple was in discussions with Crown on involvement in the Caribbean-based product for the winters. "Apple does have chartered and scheduled air service into a number of locations in the Caribbean and Mexico," he said.

While he could not confmn the report that Crown was considering Aruba as a homeport, Brown did state generically that "Apple does have weekly charters from 11 cities into Aruba, and in the past we have had partial involvement with an Airtours' ship (the Carousel) based out of Aruba."

Despite such partial-involvement deals, Brown asserted, "Our philosophy is we like to take 100-percent risk - the whole ship."

In 1999, Apple is chartering eight sailings of Celebrity Cruises' Horizon to be homeported in Philadelphia and Baltimore; three sailings of Premier Cruises' Seabreeze out of Baltimore; and three sailings of Regal Cruises' Regal Empress out of Baltimore - accounting for an estimated capacity of 15,962 passengers in 1999.

The Crown deal will provide a huge increase to that figure in 2000 - bumping Apple's capacity up to around 34,000 passengers. According to Cruise Industry News estimates, Apple posted a capacity of 31,150 beds during the 1997-98 winter season, when it chartered the 500-passenger Ocean Majesty for 16 sailings on the Mexican West Coast, in addition to its ongoing deals with Airtours, Celebrity, Premier and Regal Cruises.