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Cruise Views

Services Expanding to Keep Lines Afloat

September 15, 1996|SHIRLEY SLATER and HARRY BASCH

Everybody who follows cruising at all knows about the parade of new mega-ships--each one bigger and more glittery than the last. (The ultimate will be Carnival's 3,350-passenger Destiny due Nov. 10).

Traditional cruise passengers have always known what they want from a ship: sedate surroundings and a sheltering cocoon.

But the new cruisers are looking for something more--excitement, visual stimulation, even not-so-cheap thrills. And they like big, glitzy new ships.

The cruise lines are working hard to make them happy.

"We have to be more flexible and offer different food outlets as the baby boomers come in," says Dietmar Wertanzl, vice president of hotel operations for Crystal Cruises. Crystal already offers two alternative restaurants for passengers who want to dine somewhere besides the dining room.

Carnival's clutch of 70,367-ton, 2,040-passenger mega-liners has introduced 24-hour service from a pizzeria that also serves Caesar salads and grilled chicken breast.

And Princess Cruises' new Sun Princess has all-day buffets and a casual dinner restaurant with table service until 4 a.m.

Room service demands on ships are increasing, especially on those with private verandas, such as the Sun Princess, where everybody wants breakfast on their balcony.

Cruise lines have noticed the new passengers don't want to lounge around on a deck chair and read. They want a jogging track, sauna, basketball court, weights, spas, saunas, steam rooms, massage and beauty services.

And whether or not they wanted an 18-hole miniature golf course on deck, they're getting one from Royal Caribbean's Project Vision series of new ships, which began with Legend of the Seas. The golf course, along with a spa and swimming pool can also be found on the new Splendour of the Seas.

The line's coming Grandeur of the Seas replaces the miniature golf course with a deck devoted to a jogging track, shipshape center with weights and aerobics, and a large game area.

The new features bring on-board revenue. Aboard Celebrity Cruises' Century-class ships--the first, Century, was introduced in December, --in-cabin interactive television lets passengers watch pay-per-view movies (some of them X-rated) in their cabins, and play video poker and other games on the cabin TV set. The array of tech toys aboard is enough to delight any cyberspace fan.

Shows are a major attraction for the new cruisers, who applaud the slick, productions aboard Carnival and the shows on Princess and Crystal, as well as the mini-versions of Broadway musicals on Norwegian Cruise Line for years.

Even with all the attention and hardware aimed at the new cruisers, it doesn't mean traditional cruise passengers have been forgotten. Holland America will retire its Rotterdam in September 1997 and replace it with the new Rotterdam VI--bigger, faster, fancier. But new Rotterdam will still make round-the-world sailings and long cruises, itineraries dominated by more experienced passengers.

Crystal Cruises, too, is not forgetting its repeat passengers, who make up 20% to 30% of the roster on any sailing. "They are buying into the classic cruise experience, (so) we want to focus on attention to detail," Wertanzl says.

* 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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