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Cruise Views

Riding High on Wave of New-Look Liners

January 25, 1987|SHIRLEY SLATER and HARRY BASCH | Slater and Basch are Los Angeles free-lance writers.

For an industry that was considered moribund less than 10 years ago, the world of cruising has bounced back with more hardware than a defense contractor's Christmas list.

In 1986, between 125 and 150 cruise ships, depending on how strictly one defines the term, were operating somewhere in the world. By the end of 1989 a conservative estimate shows another dozen major ships coming on line, plus countless renovations and refurbishings on just about anything that floats.

For 1987 the list of new and refurbished ships due includes the following, which does not take into consideration the usual assortment of floating rumors, new cruise companies without ships and charismatic ghosts bobbing up from the past.

A fairy godmother refurbishment has turned a dowager queen into a glamorous princess. The newly renovated Sea Princess, formerly flying the P&O banner and now turned into a same-company Princess ship, returned just before Christmas with a new image, including six new luxury suites, each with a private spa.

The new Princess is set for a series of Caribbean winter 10-day sailings through April 26 on alternating itineraries between Fort Lauderdale and San Juan, followed by a summer season in Alaska.

Astor on the Amazon

Astor Cruises' new Astor (the original Astor is now East Germany's Arkona) is scheduled for its maiden voyage from Southampton to the Amazon on Feb. 2, followed by a series of one-of-a-kind sailings that will take the ship through the rest of 1987 without repeating a single itinerary. Reports indicate that the new Astor is 90 feet longer and "much more luxurious" than its predecessor.

The inaugural cruise will feature a 69-night sailing through the Caribbean and South America. Then the ship heads back to the Mediterranean, followed by the Holy Lands at Easter, Spain and Portugal, North Africa, Greenland, India, Egypt and the Horn of Africa, and, next Christmas, West Africa.

The ship, registered in Mauritius, carries 600 passengers and an international crew of 250. For details, contact Interworld Tours in Marina del Rey at (800) 221-3882; outside California phone (800) 845-6622.

Celebrating Carnival

Carnival's seventh ship and third big new superliner in as many years, the Celebration, is due to arrive in Miami from Sweden at the end of February, with a traditional naming ceremony scheduled for March 7. The inaugural sailing is scheduled March 14.

The Celebration's interior art is designed by Israeli-born artist Yaacov Agam, who also fashioned the Mondrian-like exterior for the Los Angeles Le Mondrian Hotel. He's creating a moving sculpture for the ship's main lobby, 12 wall pieces for staircase landings and 10 originals for suites, with reproductions of them for the other cabins.

Other innovations devised by Carnival's interior architect Joe Farcus include a captain's-eye video view from the bridge projected on two large TV screens in the Wheelhouse Bar & Grill, and a replica of a turn-of-the-century New Orleans streetcar outside a Bourbon Street jazz club on the enclosed promenade.

Regency's Regent Star (formerly Paquet's Rhapsody) is scheduled to enter year-round Caribbean service on May 3 with seven-day round-trip sailings out of Montego Bay, Jamaica, to Costa Rica, Gatun Lake in the Panama Canal, Cartagena and Aruba.

Return of the QE2

The refurbished Queen Elizabeth 2, with its steam turbines converted to more efficient and economical diesel engines, will return to transatlantic service this spring after a $115-million make-over that includes adding eight luxury penthouse suites with private verandas. The stately ship is scheduled to depart Southampton April 29 and arrive in New York May 4 on the first of 25 transatlantic crossings.

Windstar's Wind Song, second in the projected series of four Computer Age four-masted sailing ships from Windstar Sail Cruises, is due in Tahiti on June 5 to begin inter-island sailings. Ports of call include Bora Bora, Moorea, Huahine, Raiatea and Tahaa, Tupai and Maupiti.

From the deja vu department, the 1952 Monterey (not to be confused with the 1932 Monterey, now sailing as Chandris/Fantasy's Britanis) may have its refitting complete in time for an autumn 1987 sailing from San Francisco to Hawaii, according to Aloha Pacific Cruises in Alexandria, Va. Following the inaugural, the ship is expected to make inter-island cruises in Hawaii.

Blockbuster Year

Looking ahead to the blockbuster year of 1988, the cruise world will be watching the debut of Royal Caribbean's gigantic Sovereign of the Seas, the largest cruise ship ever built in gross registered tonnage (70,000 tons), carrying a maximum of 2,600 passengers.

The huge vessel is due to arrive in Miami on Jan. 3, 1988, with the inaugural cruise scheduled for Jan. 16. The Sovereign's seven-day year-round itinerary will include Labadee, San Juan and St. Thomas.

Subsequent months will see the arrival of Royal's 990-passenger Crown Odyssey in March, 1988; Clipper's Charleston Clipper in April; Norwegian Caribbean Line's 40,000-ton new ship, still unnamed, in May, and the first of two new Sitmar ships in the last quarter of the year.

Holland America announced recently that it will be constructing two 1,600-passenger ships in the style and quality of the Noordam and Nieuw Amsterdam, to be delivered in the last quarters of 1989 and 1990.

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