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Cruise News: Lawsuits and Bibs on the High Seas

Matt Hannafin reports on Celebrity's suit over cancellations caused by problems with some ships' propulsion systems and two new dining programs for children.

August 15, 2003 -- We love to give you the 411 on deals, but it's important to be informed about the cruise industry as well.

Celebrity Sues Rolls-Royce and Alstom, Citing Faulty Engines

Celebrity Cruises announced last week it had filed suit against Rolls-Royce and Alstom Power Conversion, citing alleged faults in propulsion systems aboard Millennium, Summit, Infinity, and Constellation. All four ships have experienced mechanical or electrical problems that have required cancellation of cruises and cost the line millions in revenue.

Rolls and Alstom are co-producers of the Mermaid system, a type of propulsion unit mounted as swiveling pods below the ship's hull, allowing improved maneuverability. At issue are matters of performance and premature wear, not safety. All four ships have been given clearance to sail by the U.S. Coast Guard and the ships' classification society.

"Unfortunately, the Mermaid pods have not lived up to the manufacturers' promise," said Jack Williams, Celebrity's president and COO. "This has created intolerable consequences for our guests, and imposed unacceptable conditions on our company." Williams noted that if any further cruises are cancelled as a result of pod problems, the line will offer passengers a full refund and free cruise.

The suit has caused ripples elsewhere in the industry. Cunard Line, which is using Mermaid pods for its new megaliner Queen Mary 2, issued a statement saying, "We are examining the Celebrity claim to see if it discloses anything new from a technical perspective; however, we believe that much of it is in effect historical...[since Celebrity] was the first cruise line to utilize what was at the time a prototype product."

Cunard is working with the manufacturer to verify that technical problems with the Celebrity pods have been rectified in those supplied for QM2. The ship is currently in the final stages of construction in France.

A Loaf of Bread, a Jug of...Milk: Carnival Introduces Kids-Only Dinners

Carnival Cruise Lines has introduced a new supervised dining program that allows kids to eat together almost every night at casual poolside restaurants, while their parents enjoy their nights out.

The new program is available fleetwide in the ships' Lido restaurants, and are served from 6 to 7pm on all but the first night on three- and four-night itineraries and on all but the first and last nights on cruises of five nights or longer. A different menu is served every night, and includes kid staples like hamburgers and fries, hot dogs, spaghetti with meatballs, pizza, fish sticks, chicken nuggets, and, weirdly enough, grilled salmon steak and a 35-item salad bar.

After dinner, kids can participate in regularly scheduled "Camp Carnival" activities until 10pm. Activities are geared toward kids aged 2-15.

The new program is one of the most extensive in the industry, approximately matching that offered by Disney, the kid-king of the seas. Royal Caribbean's Adventure Ocean dinner program offers "parents' nights out" three nights per weeklong cruise, while Celebrity, Costa, and Princess offer them twice per cruise. NCL offers one "Mom and Dad's Night Out" per week.