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Budget Cruise Sector Gone

Regal Cruises has gone the way of bankrupt predecessors Premier Cruise Lines and Commodore Cruise Lines, ceasing operations on April 28. With the exception of cruise operators tying their vessels into time-share sales, the departure of Regal essentially marks the end of the "budget" cruise sector, which ultimately could not compete with contemporary operators selling cruises for the same prices on brand new ships.

The budget category had accounted for as much as 15 percent of North American capacity a decade ago with companies such as Regency Cruises and Dolphin Cruise Line, but dropped to nine percent by 1998, then just one percent by 2001.

Regal's vessel, the Regal Empress, had been arrested on April 18 as the result of an unpaid bill for $750,000 to supplier Motor-Services Hugo Stamp. In addition, Regal owed Port Manatee more than $300,000, although Manatee had taken no legal action.

According to a company statement released after operations were ceased, "The company had hoped to negotiate a resolution of this unfortunate action through a sale of its business, which the company has been pursuing for some time. In light of the worldwide decline in travel and tourism and the short timeframe within which the company could conclude its ongoing sale negotiations necessitated by the arrest, it was unsuccessful."

According to Cruise Industry News estimates, Regal had capacity to carry 43,680 passengers in the Caribbean during 2003, sailing out of Manatee, and 19,110 passengers in the New England/Canada sector this summer sailing out of New York.

Regal's closure will decrease the overall New England/Canada market capacity by 12 percent, down to 136,944 passengers, and will decrease the overall Caribbean capacity (marketed to North Americans) by one percent, down to 5,784,564 passengers.

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