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Cruise Views

Sailing to New Ports Where Customers Are

June 15, 1986|SHIRLEY SLATER and HARRY BASCH | Slater and Basch are Los Angeles free-lance writers.

One advantage that cruise ships have over resort hotels is that they can weigh anchor and move somewhere else if business drops off where they are.

This troubled travel year has certainly been witness to that, as unprecedented numbers of ships position, reposition and reposition again, always following the lead of their passengers, who cancel or refuse to buy ports they're concerned about.

The world's most popular ports of call this summer are Alaska and Western Canada, with 27 major cruise ships either visiting there or, as in the case of Epirotiki's Pegasus, staying tied up for the summer to serve as a hotel.

The most recent ship to sail to Alaska for the summer is the very fashionable and expensive Sea Goddess I, which is making 8- and 10-day sailings between Vancouver and Anchorage until early September.

The Caribbean and Bermuda, both unusually popular in this summer of discontent, come in second in the popularity sweepstakes with 24 ships, and New England and Eastern Canada, normally a sedate but steady market, is facing its biggest season in years.

Large Addition

One of the largest recent additions to the East Coast is Sun Line's 650-passenger Stella Solaris, offering round-trip sailings out of New York to Bermuda and the Bahamas, interspersed with Caribbean cruises and followed by autumn itineraries in New England and Canada.

Ocean Cruise Lines has put its 500-passenger Ocean Princess in Philadelphia for seven-day sailings to and from Montreal via New England and Eastern Canada, alternating with seven-day round-trip cruises out of Philadelphia to the Bahamas and the southeastern U.S. (The line's smaller Ocean Islander has been transferred to Scandinavia to carry out the schedule previously planned for the Ocean Princess.)

On the other hand, the Mexican Riviera has not picked up any major new cruise business after the problems in Europe. Instead, it has lost some, not because of security worries but rather public and industry ennui with the same five or six ports of call.

Mexico's Yucatan and Cozumel, with the varied islands of the Caribbean nearby, continue to attract some ships.

This summer, as always, the Mexican Riviera stalwarts, Carnival's Tropicale and Western's Azure Seas, will be plying back and forth from Los Angeles, and come September, the Sea Goddess I will cruise from Vancouver, San Francisco and Los Angeles to Acapulco and back to Los Angeles. But some of the old familiar ships will simply toot a salute as they pass by from Alaska heading for the more profitable Caribbean.

Sitmar Repositioning

Sitmar, for instance, has repositioned its big new Fairsky to the Caribbean beginning in October, while the Fairwind will transit the Panama Canal and only the Fairsea will stay in Los Angeles to cruise the Mexican Riviera.

Next fall Holland America will put all three of its ships in the Caribbean, with the Rotterdam and Noordam sailing from Fort Lauderdale and the Nieuw Amsterdam from Tampa.

And on Jan. 8, 1987, when the elegant Rotterdam sets out for its 26th world cruise, it will head south first, around the tip of South America, then across the Pacific to Singapore, where it will sail through the Orient and Pacific on its way back to the United States, instead of going through the Suez to Europe and the Mediterranean as it had planned earlier.

You'll be hearing a lot more about the Orient and Pacific during the next 12 months. Los Angeles-based Princess Cruises is sending its flagship, the big and beautiful Royal Princess, to Australia, New Zealand, Southeast Asia and the Orient, with the first sailing from Los Angeles to Sydney next Feb. 14.

South Pacific Sailings

Its smaller sister ship, Island Princess, will be based in Sydney next fall and winter, with a series of 9- to 15-day South Pacific sailings; the positioning cruise is scheduled to leave San Francisco on Oct. 2.

In place of the Island Princess, the company will welcome P&O's Sea Princess to the fold in December in Fort Lauderdale after a $6-million refurbishment.

Cunard/NAC's Sagafjord and Vistafjord will offer passengers a chance to visit the America's Cup races in Perth, Australia, during the first week of February. Those aboard Vistafjord will be docked in Perth with views from the deck; Sagafjord's passengers will have a fly-in package from New Caledonia, rejoining the ship in Darwin, Australia.

And if you've postponed getting your Expo 86 tickets and hotel reservations, you can still get there aboard Epirotiki's World Renaissance, which is making seven-day cruises between Los Angeles and Vancouver through Oct. 10, with two days in Vancouver, entrance tickets included, using the ship as your hotel. The fares, from $795 per person double occupancy, include the one-way air fare.

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