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Cruise Views

Renovated Ships Add Services

May 31, 1987|SHIRLEY SLATER and HARRY BASCH | Slater and Basch are Los Angeles free-lance writers

One positive result from the flurry of negative publicity about the ill-prepared debut of the refurbished Queen Elizabeth 2 is apparent in the schedules of two other renovated ships due to enter the market in the next six or eight months.

Dolphin Cruises' Aegean Dolphin, rebuilt from the hull up from the former Narcis/Alkyon and originally scheduled to begin Mediterranean cruises in late June, has postponed the starting date to mid-August to allow more shakedown time.

The seven-day sailings will depart from Venice and include stops at Corinth and Itea (for Delphi); average per diem for an outside standard cabin with two lower beds is $160. For more information, call (800) 367-1789 (in California) or (213) 544-1451.

From New York, Dimitri Anninos, formerly chief executive officer of Epirotiki and now president and chief executive of the new American Star Lines, says his company's flagship, the newly refitted Betsy Ross, formerly the Leda/Albatross, will leave Piraeus on Jan. 1 as planned, but will spend a month training and rehearsing the staff before the first passengers board in Fort Lauderdale on Feb. 4 to cruise the Caribbean and Amazon.

The 10,026-ton Greek-registry ship will limit its passenger list to 380 and introduce some fresh ideas to appeal to an American audience, everything from a midnight snack placed in the cabin--"Perhaps cheese and crackers, sandwiches or milk and cookies," Anninos says--to a variety of after-dinner entertainment that will range from a concert or ballet to an elegant cabaret show or star lecturer. Performers such as ragtime pianist Max Morath, actress Brenda Vaccaro and the American Chamber Trio are booked for upcoming sailings.

Some other innovations: All passengers on each sailing will earn a generous lump-sum credit toward any future cruise on the Betsy Ross; emergency cancellations up to 24 hours before sailing will not mean forfeiting the deposit when applied to a later sailing; American regional cuisine, as well as low-calorie, low-salt and low-cholesterol menus, will be prepared by young sous -chefs from U.S. culinary schools and served by professional Greek waiters assisted by American college students.

From the Amazon, the ship will head for Southampton in spring, then the Norwegian fiords, Scandinavia and Russia, Spain and the French wine country, to Greece in the fall and back to the Caribbean and South America for winter. Prices will range from a minimum of $1,180 for eight days to a maximum of $5,280 for 20 days, including air transportation.

And why the name Betsy Ross for a Greek ship? "I wanted something American from history, a female name that would sound good, be attractive but not commercial," says the Greek-born Anninos.

For a brochure, call toll-free at (800) 356-7677 or (212) 644-7900, or write American Star Lines, 660 Madison Avenue, New York, N.Y. 10021.

Loyal Sitmar passengers who have already cruised the Caribbean, Panama Canal, Mexican Riviera and Alaska will have some fresh ports of call to look forward to in 1988, when the Fairsea is slated to spend October through December in the South Pacific, New Zealand and Australia. The Fairwind will head for Brazil and the Amazon in February, then in September and October, 1988, will offer nine-day, six-port New England and Canada cruises.

The new itineraries are intended to introduce the global destinations Sitmar will be able to provide year-round when the Los Angeles-based company adds three new cruise ships to the roster, beginning in early 1989.

A unique series of four Golden Odyssey sailings around India in January and February, to include calls at Madras, Goa and Bombay and an overland extension to the Taj Mahal, highlights the new 1988 itineraries recently unveiled by theSan Francisco-based Royal Cruise Line. The Royal Odyssey will return to the Mediterranean in April, 1988, after a two-year absence.

Latest word from Aloha Pacific Cruises in Alexandria, Va., is that all the funding necessary for refurbishing the 1952 Monterey, some $16.8 million from 172 investors, is finally in place and that the U.S. flag ship is expected to return to service for Hawaii inter-island cruises in mid-1988, instead of this fall, as had been anticipated. The Monterey cruised in Hawaii for Matson Lines during the 1950s and 1960s.

Former First Lady Rosalynn Carter is scheduled to christen Royal Caribbean's gigantic new Sovereign of the Seas at its naming ceremony Jan. 15 in its home port of Miami. The 70,000-ton, 874-foot vessel, largest cruise ship ever built, will carry 2,276 passengers on a double-occupancy basis. The maiden voyage is set for Jan. 16, and the ship will sail from Miami every Saturday to the eastern Caribbean with calls at San Juan, St. Thomas and Labadee, Haiti.

Finally, from a reader, Walter J. DeFranco of Lakewood, Calif., comes a letter suggesting that a line introduce tourist-class cruising, especially to Alaska, for "retired people on limited income and working people in the $25,000-a-year class."

"Who needs five or six meals (a day), top entertainment, fine wines, swimming pools, etc.?" DeFranco asks. "I would take a cruise for the scenery, not for all the extras that the wealthy are used to and expect."

He proposes movies for evening entertainment, all-buffet meals, less steward service in cabins but with a telephone to call for assistance if necessary, and suggests an across-the-board price of $100 a day with tipping optional.

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