PORTLAND (AP) – A major cruise line that was scheduled to make 11 summer visits to the state’s largest city has shut down, punctuating growing concerns about the industry’s health.

Regal Cruise Lines suspended operations Monday and canceled future voyages after U.S. marshals seized its only ship, citing the company’s failure to pay $730,000 in outstanding bills.

The announcement came at a time when the industry is still coping with doubts about the economy, the SARS scare and the effects of war.

“There’s no question the local economy will be hurt,” said Jeffrey Monroe, the city’s director of transportation.

Portland, which hosted 51 cruise ships two years ago, is expecting just 21 ships to visit this summer, a decline that represents millions of dollars in lost revenue for retailers and maritime businesses that supply cruise ships.

The elimination of the Regal Empress’ 11 visits alone could mean $1.5 million in lost revenue locally, officials said.

Regal Cruise Lines does not owe the city money in part because he demanded payment of docking fees last summer after seeing signs of financial trouble, Monroe said.

Several businesses on the Portland waterfront have said they are owed money by the company.

Also Monday, the newly renovated Scotia Prince, which travels between Portland and Yarmouth, Nova Scotia, returned to its summer port at the city’s International Marine Terminal.

The ship’s operators are hopeful they can improve on last year, when 161,000 passengers took the 11-hour trip, but they’re also concerned about the economy.

The company spent more than $2 million on upgrades and amenities to make the ship more appealing and comfortable, said Mark Hudson, spokesman for Scotia Prince Cruises. Improvements include a new sky deck with tiki bar and grill, hot tubs, disco and sun deck.

“We’re excited about the season, but I’d hesitate to make any projections about the upcoming season,” Hudson said. “Tourism is in a state of shock right now, with the economy and SARS.”

The Scotia Prince announced it will be using a special, hospital-grade disinfectant to help stop the spread of SARS.

AP-ES-04-29-03 1134EDT



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