Cruise line customers up the creek

Compiled by Jane Engle

Customers were left scrambling last week after Regal Cruises, whose sole ship, the Regal Empress, was seized by federal marshals last month in a dispute with a contractor, suddenly stopped operating.

In its lawsuit, the contractor, Motor-Services Hugo Stamp Inc. of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., claimed the company owed it $730,000 for repairs to the Empress.

In a statement on its Web site,, Regal, a 10-year-old Florida-based company, said it was “ceasing all cruise operations.” It said it had hoped to sell its business after the seizure but could not because of the “worldwide decline in travel” and time pressure.

Regal had posted a $6.5-million bond with the Federal Maritime Commission to cover refunds, according to Sandra L. Kusumoto, director of the commission’s Bureau of Consumer Complaints and


Licensing. The refund procedure was still being worked out at the Travel section’s deadline Tuesday. For updates, call the commission at (202) 523-5807 or visit

Customers who paid by credit card should first seek a refund from their card company or from travel insurance, if they bought it, Kusumoto advised. It can take months or years to process claims through the commission.

More than 1,500 people were booked on two cruises last month that were canceled after the Empress was seized.

Ships, airlines

still working

to stop SARS

Even as global public health officials announced last week that severe acute respiratory syndrome, or SARS, has peaked in some areas, the travel industry has maintained or stepped up measures to prevent the spread of the disease.

As of the Travel section’s deadline Tuesday, SARS had infected more than 5,400 people worldwide and killed 353, according to the World Health Organization. More than 2,400 people worldwide have recovered from it. In the United States, there were 52 probable cases and 220 suspected cases last week, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. There have been no deaths in the United States.


Although the spread of SARS appears to be slowing, cases in China, where the disease originated, continued to increase last week, the WHO reported.

Travel industry officials say their precautionary measures continue and in some cases have intensified. Last week the International Council of Cruise Lines, of which the 15 major lines are members, announced new voluntary guidelines to prevent the spread of SARS. The guidelines include denial of boarding to guests and crew who have transferred or traveled through China, Hong Kong, Vietnam and Singapore. Potential passengers and crew who traveled through Toronto will be screened for symptoms. More information is posted on

On Cathay Pacific airline, masks are distributed to passengers, said spokeswoman Mary Jersin-Shammas, and the cabin crew must wear them. “We also now require our cabin crew to get their temperatures checked before boarding any flight,” she said.

-- Kathleen Doheny


Rocky Mountain

tramway offers

scenic view

A new tramway in Glenwood Springs, Colo., takes visitors 4,300 feet up the side of Iron Mountain for a panoramic view and cavern tours in the Rockies.


About 1,500 people rode the six-person tram cars on opening day last weekend, said Steve and Jeanne Beckley, who own the Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park.

Besides the tramway, the park, formerly known as Glenwood Caverns and Historic Fairy Caves, has added a visitor center with a restaurant, a lounge and a 4,000-square-foot viewing deck. The Beckleys reopened the caves, which had been closed since World War I, in 1999.

Round trips on the tramway cost $10 for adults, $7 for children. A combined ticket that includes the cave tour is $15 for adults, $10 for children. The tram runs 8:30 a.m. to

10 p.m. daily through fall; winter hours have not been announced. (800) 530-1635,


More forest

sites accept

annual passes

An annual pass for visitors to parks, forests and other federal lands is now good at more national forest sites, including four in Southern California.


The $65 Golden Eagle Passport now covers most activity fees, such as visitor centers, parking lots and some boat launches, at about 1,500 sites in national forests, said Teri Cleeland, who runs the fee program for the U.S. Forest Service. Campgrounds and private concessionaires are excluded. The forest service was expecting to post a list of covered sites soon on its Web site,

One change is that the pass can be used to enter California’s Angeles, San Bernardino, Cleveland and Los Padres national forests, the only national forests that charge a daily entrance fee ($5 per car). An annual $30 Adventure Pass that covers only this fee continues to be sold by forest offices and private vendors; for information, visit

The Golden Eagle Passport can be bought at forest offices or by calling (877) 465-2727.



San Francisco

for $65 per night

A historic hotel in San Francisco’s Pacific Heights area is offering rates starting at $65 per room per night, including continental breakfast, for bookings made by July 1. Regular published rates start at $200 per night. The 58-room Hotel Majestic, built in 1902, was spared by fires after the 1906 earthquake and was renovated in the 1990s. Under the deal, which is subject to availability, standard rooms are $65 to $85, junior suites (one room with a large sitting area) are $75 to $95 and two-room suites are $125 to $150. 1500 Sutter St.; (800) 869-8966,



Road tours in

N. California

A useful compilation of 17 scenic Northern California car trips from 33 to 160 miles is available from the Shasta Cascade Wonderland Assn. Order the 48-page “Gateway to a Getaway: A Guide to Scenic Highways & Byways” by calling (800) 474-2782,

-- Compiled by


Jane Engle