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The Savvy Traveler

Lower Fares Cloud the Waters for Cruise Lines

September 11, 1988|PETER S. GREENBERG | Greenberg is a Los Angeles free-lance writer

"How about the captain's welcome cocktail party? After all, how many people can he shake hands with? The problem is that we're all building more ships, developing more islands. But where is the infrastructure to support it, and how do we then meet the expectations of the passenger?"

Ports Don't Have Space

The Port of Miami is growing so fast that some companies, including NCL, are looking at Ft. Lauderdale as an alternative embarking port. Miami, the world's largest cruise ship port, has added its 25th permanently based ship.

Los Angeles, once considered a small cruise ship port, is booming, with cruise lines heading for the Mexican Riviera as well as shorter three- and four-day cruises to Mexico, with stops at San Diego and Catalina Island.

What does all this mean? If parallels can be drawn between the cruise ship business and the airline business, the time to take advantage of all these great deals is in the next two years. Because once the cruise industry shakes itself down, it's likely that there will be fewer cruise lines, with those remaining operated by mega-companies.

"At that point," one travel agent said, "you can almost bet on higher fares."

Still, that thinking is not stopping the development and building of cruise ships.

At the top of the market there's the Seabourn Pride, a new all-suite cruise ship that debuts later this year. Cruise tariffs for the spacious ship (which will accommodate only 212 passengers) are expected to be about $600 per person a day.

Twin Towers

And then there's something on the drawing boards that looks more like a floating housing development than a cruise ship. It's called the Phoenix, and passenger capacity estimates range as high as 5,000, with twin high-rise towers.

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