Crystal Cruises, Caesars Palace Casinos Part Ways

*African Safaris by Rail
*ASTA Relaunches Online Tech Center

Crystal Cruises and Caesars Palace are ending a partnership that put Caesars Palace-branded casinos on Crystal’s ships. According to a Crystal spokeswoman, since gaming company Harrah’s Entertainment completed its merger with Caesars earlier this summer, Harrah’s decided to use their “resources on other opportunities.”

She added that the breakup is a friendly one, and though the two companies “mutually agreed to discontinue the relationship” once Caesars Palace’s management contract expires at the end of 2005, Caesars has agreed to be “flexible” about when they pull the Caesars Palace at Sea casinos off Crystal ships. The line said it expects to have another gaming operation in place by the first half of 2006.

Crystal has been the only cruise line to partner with a brand-name gaming establishment like Caesars.

Crystal said it is looking at alternative partnerships with other land-based casinos and would continue to abide by Nevada gaming laws and serve complimentary drinks in the casinos.

African Safaris by Rail

Micato Safaris added a rare element to its selection of safari components with a two-day Steam Train Safari on the century-old Kenya-Uganda Railway.

The trip begins in Nairobi; followed by a train ride through tea and coffee plantations in Kenya’s Uplands region; through Limuru, near the dormant volcano at Longonot; the archaeological site at Hell’s Gate National Park; and finally to Hippo Point Tower at Nderit Estate, a private 500-acre sanctuary. Clients then spend the night in the estate’s private villas.

The four-hour trip includes some meals and a guide. The package costs $1,499 per person, double occupancy, and is being sold as a pre-safari extension. Agents earn 10 percent commission.

ASTA Relaunches Online Tech Center

This month, the American Society of Travel Agents (ASTA) relaunched its online tech center, which features technology information and product solutions for travel agencies and agents. Sponsored by Sabre Travel Network, the center offers articles on agent topics, including “Designing Effective Travel Agency Web Sites.” The center also offers product demonstrations, white papers, agency profiles and basic productivity tips. ASTA members also can sign up for a technology interest listserv and chat with other agents about tech concerns.

Shanghai Disney to Come

The Walt Disney Co. is planning to open a theme park in Shanghai in 2012, reports said. Disney would start designing the park next year, and construction would start in 2008. This fall, Disney plans to open a $3.5 billion theme park in Hong Kong.

Back to School

Agents can expand their travel knowledge at West Los Angeles College’s Travel School. Courses start Sept. 6., and topics include geography, online travel research and travel sales and business. Web-based classes are also available. Faculty members include TravelAge West’s Marc Mancini, who does the Geography Bowl Challenge.