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October 5, 2003

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South Rim repairs halt Grand Canyon mules

Grand Canyon National Park, Ariz. -- The popular mule train rides from the South Rim of Grand Canyon National Park have been temporarily halted while canyon trails undergo maintenance.

The mule rides, which ended in late September, could resume in about six months, according to Xanterra Parks and Resorts, which operates the rides along with lodges and restaurants at the South Rim.

The National Park Service is fixing the Bright Angel and South Kaibab trails, which are used by hikers and mules treading to Plateau Point and Phantom Ranch at the canyon's bottom.

"Over the years, the wear and tear of the trail combined with heavy monsoon rains causes a lot of erosion and trail damage," said Jon Streit, executive director of operations for Xanterra.

The trails and mule ride destinations remain open to hikers. Mule trains at the North Rim of the Grand Canyon also continue to operate.

Xanterra has canceled six months worth of reservations, which total about 2,600.

New cruises to depart New Orleans port

New Orleans -- The Port of New Orleans has reached a three-year berthing agreement with Norwegian Cruise Line, enabling the 1,748-passenger Norwegian Dream to begin sailing from New Orleans starting Nov. 2.

The Miami-based company's ship will make 21 trips a year to New Orleans on Sundays.

The ship will make four ports of call on its seven-day itinerary, sailing to Cozumel, Mexico; Roatan, Honduras; Belize City, Belize; and Cancun, Mexico.

In a separate announcement, Norwegian Cruise Line announced plans to sail four ships in Hawaii next year as part of an ambitious plan aimed at doubling the islands' share of the worldwide cruise industry market.

The proposal would continue round-trip service to Fanning Island, in the Republic of Kiribati some 1,200 miles southwest of Hawaii, and add interisland cruises out of Honolulu.

While the Norwegian Star is scheduled to leave Hawaii for Alaska next spring, the cruise line plans to bring in three other ships between May and October.

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