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Cruise Views

Champagne and Keelhauls for Another Year on the High Seas

January 02, 1994|SHIRLEY SLATER and HARRY BASCH

Once again, it's time to salute the highlights and low-lights of cruising and the cruise industry during 1993, a year marked by a glut of new ships, discounts and deals, mergers and acquisitions and, last April, the $500,000 fine to Princess Cruises for a 1991 pollution incident in which 20 bags of garbage tossed over the side of the Regal Princess was recorded by a passenger with a video camera.

It was a year in which the states of California and Alaska banned cruise ship gambling between ports-of-call in state waters. Also one in which federal lawmakers introduced a flurry of bills (most still pending) aimed at taxing foreign-flag cruise ships that sail from U.S. ports in order to raise revenues to help revive the American shipbuilding industry.

* For starters, a champagne toast to the city of Key West, Fla., which has proven that an American port of call can offer an outstanding experience to cruise passengers. From the friendly volunteers who greet each disembarking passenger to the colorful open-air Conch Train that wends its way around the charming town, this easily accessible port of call is a real winner.

* A keelhaul to Epirotiki Caribazon Cruises for the most misleading cruise ad of the year, which appeared in travel-trade publications in October. The ad advised travel agents that their clients who book Amazon River sailings this winter between Belem and Manaus, Brazil, can see a jaguar "from the comfort of their deck chairs." It also promised sightings of pink dolphins and other exotic flora and fauna. As veterans of Amazon cruises know, passengers can't always see the banks of this extremely wide river from a cruise ship, let alone glimpse a nocturnal endangered species . . . lurking in the rain forest.

For the Record
Los Angeles Times Sunday January 9, 1994 Home Edition Travel Part L Page 6 Column 5 Travel Desk 1 inches; 31 words Type of Material: Correction
Cruise update--Due to an editing error, an item in last week's Cruise Views column misidentified one of the cruise lines for sale by Kloster Cruise Limited as Carnival Cruise Line. It should have been Royal Cruise Line.

* A split of champagne to the U.S. Public Health Service's vessel sanitation program for making education, not punishment, the main focus of its shipboard sanitation inspections. When infractions are found, galley employees and other workers are told how to correct the situation and given a reinspection as soon as possible. Case in point: The new Spanish-language cruise ship FiestaMarina scored 75 (the passing grade is 86) on its first inspection Nov. 5, but corrected the problems cited and requested a reinspection. On Dec. 17, the ship was reinspected and received a score of 94.

* A keelhaul to Kloster Cruise Limited, whose executives spent the entire year denying that the corporation's Carnival Cruise Line and Royal Viking Line were up for sale, all the while shopping them around. Published rumors ranged from last January's hint of a Carnival buyout to an early December rumor of a takeover by the Carlson Companies, who also run the Radisson Diamond. Kloster finally announced in mid-December that the firm had signed a letter of intent to sell the two lines to a New York investment firm, AEA Investors, for $565 million.

* A champagne toast to S. Cody Engle for his long-range plans for the two U.S.-flag ships of American Hawaii Cruises, the Constitution and Independence. Engle, who acquired American Hawaii Cruises last summer, is also chairman and CEO of the Delta Queen Steamboat Co. Plans for the Constitution and Independence call for more on-board emphasis on Hawaiian culture and heritage, as well as renovations to bring the pair of 1951 American-built vessels back to their original splendor. The Constitution was the ship Grace Kelly and her wedding party sailed aboard to Monaco in 1956.

* A keelhaul to those Caribbean islands--Jamaica, Barbados and St. Lucia are among them--whose political leaders think that the way to fill their coffers is by raising the head tax to as much as double the present rate for cruise-ship passengers on day visits. The money would come directly from passenger pockets in the form of an increased port tax supplement.

* A champagne toast to the island of Curacao, one of the few Caribbean islands aggressively taking a positive tack with its cruise passengers. A recently-introduced program allows cruise stopover passengers to receive $500 worth of discount coupons from their travel agents, good for meals, gifts, entertainment or tours while on the island.

* A keelhaul to California Atty. Gen. Dan Lungren, whose staunch crusade against shipboard gambling may end up costing California taxpayers money. A Lungren-backed state bill, which went into effect this year, bans gambling on ships operating between California ports, even beyond the state's three-mile jurisdiction. Lungren contended the law was necessary to discourage organized crime and prevent a proliferation of floating off-shore casinos on so-called "voyages to nowhere." But the port of San Diego says it has lost an estimated $6.5 million this year because Royal Caribbean Cruise Line's Viking Serenade eliminated the weekly San Diego call on its four-day sailing between Los Angeles and Ensenada, Mexico, in order to allow passengers access to the ship's casino while at sea.

* Finally, a farewell champagne toast to Royal Cruise Line's 450-passenger Golden Odyssey, the line's first ship and for 20 years the favorite of passengers who prefer smaller vessels. The Golden Odyssey retires May 5, to be replaced by the Star Odyssey, a renovation of the former Royal Viking Star.

Slater and Basch travel as guests of the cruise lines. Cruise Views appears the first and third week of every month.

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