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Cruise Views

Ships Are Charting New Courses for Summer

March 23, 1986|SHIRLEY SLATER and HARRY BASCH | Slater and Basch are Los Angeles free-lance writers.

An unprecedented number of itinerary changes and ship repositionings in Europe and the Mediterranean for summer continues to make waves in the cruise industry.

For the cruise vacationer, it could mean anything from boarding a favorite ship in a totally different part of the world to picking up tremendous discounts and bonuses involving Southern Europe.

The most sweeping schedule reshufflings continue to arrive from those companies that rely heavily on North American bookings, such as Royal Cruise Line, Princess Cruises, Royal Viking and Sea Goddess.

On the other hand, cruise lines that traditionally rely on North America for 50% or less of their summer passenger lists--Cunard/NAC's Vistafjord, Sun Line, Hellenic Mediterranean, Epirotiki are some--have made few changes so far.

Canada and Alaska

Cruise areas that will see much more passenger traffic than usual for the rest of this year include the British Isles, Scandinavia and Russia, the South Pacific and Asia and, of course, Canada and Alaska, where about 20 vessels will cruise among the glaciers and call at Vancouver's Expo 86.

San Francisco-based Royal Cruise Line, whose Golden Odyssey will remain in the Pacific making China, Japan and Alaska cruises into late fall, has also decided to position its 816-passenger Royal Odyssey in North America and Australia this fall and winter after a summer scheduled in Scandinavia, Russia and the fiords.

The company won't abandon the Mediterranean entirely, though. Besides three already-scheduled spring sailings on the Royal Odyssey, Royal Cruise Line will offer several Mediterranean cruises again in the spring of 1987.

'High Society' Cruise

Meanwhile, the Royal Odyssey will make an Aug. 30 "High Society" transatlantic cruise from London's port of Tilbury to New York, followed by a series of New England and Canada sailings in September. On Oct. 24 the ship will sail from Los Angeles to Auckland, New Zealand, with calls in Hawaii, Samoa, Tonga and Fiji, before starting new 20-day air/sea programs between Auckland and Sydney.

Los Angeles-based Princess Cruises announced earlier that the Pacific Princess' summer schedule in the Mediterranean is canceled. Instead, the ship will join the line's three other vessels--Royal Princess, Island Princess and Sun Princess--in Canada and Alaska this summer.

For the two small and elegant ships of Sea Goddess Cruises, still more changes have been announced. While one ship will remain in the Mediterranean, sailing on round-trip cruises out of Monaco to the Italian, Spanish and French rivieras, the other will be based in London for 10- and 11-day round-trip sailings to the Channel Islands and the fashionable seaside resorts of France, Belgium and Holland.

Contrary to previously announced schedules, Sea Goddess will not call at either Rome or Athens this year. As a bonus for the Mediterranean sailings this summer, Sea Goddess is giving a 30-day, first-class Eurailpass with each booking.

Russian Bookings Up

Scandinavia, the North Cape and Russia are extremely popular with Europe-bound cruise passengers. Joseph A. Watters, president of Royal Viking Line, says Russia/Europe sales are up 45% from last year, while the North Cape is 30% ahead. Royal Viking repositioned its Sky from the Eastern Mediterranean this spring and fall, adding more Russian, North Cape and Canada/New England sailings to the schedule.

Ocean Cruise Lines, also responding to the big demand for Russia and Scandinavia, has reversed its ships from earlier schedules, moving the 460-passenger Ocean Princess north to the fiords and positioning its 250-passenger Ocean Islander on weekly seven-day sailings between Nice and Venice.

The 30-passenger luxury yacht Maxim's des Mers has moved its debut to May 25 in Monte Carlo, eliminating announced calls in Piraeus, Naples and Venice to concentrate on round-trip cruises out of Monaco.

Cunard expects a good year with its Europe schedule, with a 23% increase in bookings over last year on the Vistafjord. The ship is popular with Swiss, German, Austrian and British passengers as well as Americans, and has made no schedule changes for this season.

Concorde Incentive

Because bookings for the Mediterranean sailings are down slightly (about 6%), Cunard is promoting an additional incentive of a $549 add-on for a Concorde flight and overnight in London en route to joining the Vistafjord. Prices for an eight-day air/sea package begin at $1,430 per person double occupancy.

Sun Line is optimistic about the future of cruising in the Mediterranean. The company's three ships, Stella Solaris, Stella Oceanis and Stella Maris, will stay with their announced Mediterranean and Aegean schedules this summer, changing only Tunis as a port of call and substituting the city of Messina in Sicily.

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