Holiday parties were bound for a Caribbean cruise

In Germany
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The Independent Online

Little was known last night of the identity of the German passengers, except that they came from all corners of the country and most of them were almost certainly very wealthy.

Little was known last night of the identity of the German passengers, except that they came from all corners of the country and most of them were almost certainly very wealthy.

When they died, they were looking forward to pampering themselves, embarking on the first champagne-filled leg of a two-week dream holiday, a stopover in America, and a cruise on a five-star liner through the Caribbean, starting in New York and ending in Manta, Ecuador, after a voyage through the Panama Canal. All the passengers aboard the Air France Concorde had booked their trip with the up-market tour operator Peter Deilmann Reederei, a northern German company specialising in round-the-world cruises. Last night Peter Deilmann, president of the company, in a voice choking with emotion, said he was "deeply shocked" by the tragedy.

"Based on our records, there were 99 passengers booked on the plane," Mr Deilmann told Germany's ZDF television channel. I cannot be 100 per cent certain, but ... nearly all were German."

He said the company had booked a total of 510 passengers on the Caribbean cruise ship on which the victims were due to sail, the luxurious MS Deutschland. Double berths on the Deutschland range from £2,800 to £5,100, which includes flights, as well as all meals and on-board entertainment. Passage in the "grande suite" cost £5,800.

The group was to arrive in New York yesterday evening and had intended spending part of the next day sightseeing at Niagara Falls. Next on the itinerary was Manhattan, then a Broadway musical and a helicopter flight above the skyline. After that, the cruise would begin in earnest. On America's east coast, the group was to call at Norfolk, Virginia, tour the historic Williamsburg sites, and visit the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. In the Caribbean, the Germans were scheduled to berth at Havana long enough for a night dancing to salsa in the "Tropicana" .

A stop in Mexico included a visit to ancient Aztec sites, where they would be accompanied by guides .

After a passage through the Panama Canal, the cruise would end in Manta, from where the holidaymakers would fly back to Europe.

Deep shock gripped Germany last night. The Chancellor, Gerhard Schröder, who was about to leave on summer holiday to Majorca with his wife and daughter, cancelled all engagements and expressed his deepest condolences to the families of the victims.

The Foreign Ministry set up a telephone hot line. The German embassy in Paris also opened a phone line for family members of victims.

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