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Cruise Views

Ships Stage the Battle of the Bulge

June 16, 1996|SHIRLEY SLATER and HARRY BASCH

A late April visit to Italy's Fincantieri shipyard in Monfalcone unveiled the cruise equivalent of Hollywood's "A Star Is Born," where established stars are upstaged by ambitious newcomers.

This Trieste-area yard specializes in giant ships. It built the Sun Princess for Princess Cruises, at 77,000 tons the largest cruise ship in the world at present. But Sun Princess will relinquish that title Nov. 10, when the Carnival Destiny, also built at Fincantieri, makes its debut at 101,000 tons.

Even before we toured the Carnival Destiny, however, we could see in another part of the shipyard several large sections of Princess' Grand Princess under construction. Due in spring 1998, the 104,000-ton Grand Princess is eclipsing the Carnival Destiny in size even before the latter debuts.

But Carnival, not to be outdone, will follow up in 1999 with its gigantic Carnival Triumph, expected to be at least 101,000 tons.

For its future ship orders, Princess has pulled back to the relatively modest 77,000-ton size for both the Dawn Princess (due in May 1997) and the Sea Princess (due in early 1999).

At the same time, in a second Fincantieri yard near Venice, Holland America Line's new Veendam was delivered to its owners to start cruising from Fort Lauderdale on May 25 and construction was beginning on the line's Rotterdam VI. The Rotterdam VI will replace the 37-year-old Rotterdam V on Sept. 30, 1997, when the older vessel will be retired from service.

Altogether, Fincantieri is under contract to complete eight major cruise vessels before the end of 1999, including two 80,000-ton vessels for Disney Cruise Lines.

The Carnival Destiny will carry 2,642 passengers, based on two to a cabin, but expand to a whopping 3,400 passengers with all berths filled, plus a crew of 1,050. More than 450 cabins will have private balconies.

When a European reporter asked if the $400-million ship would be able to go through the Panama Canal, Carnival President Bob Dickinson quipped, "We could do it only once." The vessel is 125 feet wide; the canal only 110 feet wide. Both Carnival Destiny and Carnival Triumph will be based year-round in the Caribbean.

Carnival Chairman Micky Arison says the Destiny will take 125,000 passengers a year to fill the new ship.

Prices will be the same as those on Carnival's other seven-day itineraries, ranging from $1,399 to $2,539 per person, double occupancy, including round-trip air fare to Miami. The ship will sail on alternating eastern and western Caribbean cruises, calling at San Juan, Puerto Rico; St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands, and St. Maarten on the eastern route; Playa del Carmen and Cozumel in Mexico, Grand Cayman and Ocho Rios in Jamaica on the western schedule.

Carnival's Miami terminal has been renovated to allow two vessels of this giant size to dock at the same time.

Designer Joe Farcus, who took members of the international media through the vessel, pointed out the six high-speed elevators and four glass elevators, as well as the soaring nine-deck atrium topped with a clear glass skylight.

Adding to the look of spaciousness is a sliding glass sky dome over a large aft swimming pool, plus several domes in public rooms covered in gold leaf with projections of cloud-filled or starlit skies.

Cabins will be upgraded as well, says Farcus, with remote-control TV, three-way switching for the lights, hair dryers, more storage and hanging space, and a unique closet that can be converted from shelf space to hanging space.

Already installed in the main atrium was a stone-and-marble mural nine decks high in a cityscape design with fiber optics that look like skyrockets exploding.

In addition, there are four swimming pools, the largest casino and largest disco at sea, and a piano bar with a microphone on every cocktail table when a sing-along urge strikes.

To get a free color brochure with the Carnival Destiny's schedule and rates, see a travel agent or call (800) 327-9501.

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