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Cruise Views

A Date With Destiny--Big Time

December 15, 1996|SHIRLEY SLATER and HARRY BASCH

When the new Carnival Destiny--at 101,000 gross registered tons the largest cruise ship ever built--made its TV debut last month, an enthusiastic but misinformed Los Angeles newscaster said the ship was "taller than the Empire State Building." He meant the Statue of Liberty.

But that's all relative. The bottom line is that this ship is huge, too wide to go through the Panama Canal and as long as three football fields. It carries as many as 3,400 passengers when all the berths are filled and 1,086 crew members, a total of 4,486 people--more than the population of some small Caribbean islands.

It must be a sobering prospect to be responsible for the interior of the world's biggest ship. Carnival designer Joe Farcus has toned down his usual glitz and glitter into a subtler twinkle and shine, as if the extra voltage would be overkill.

The $400-million ship was built in Italy's Monfalcone shipyard, the same yard that built Princess Cruises' Sun Princess--at 77,000 tons, previously the world's largest cruise ship. Celebrity Cruises' brand-new 77,713-ton Galaxy, debuting in the Caribbean in January, is now second-largest to the Carnival Destiny.

Princess looks to regain the title of biggest in 1998, when the 104,000-ton Grand Princess is due to arrive, but even that behemoth will pale beside the new ship Royal Caribbean Cruise Line has just ordered for 1999 delivery--a 130,000-ton ship carrying 3,100 passengers at two to a cabin.

While there are many more superlatives aboard the Carnival Destiny--the largest water slide ever built on a cruise ship (214 feet); a disco lined with 567 video monitors on which the dancers can view themselves; a 15,000-square-foot fitness facility, the biggest afloat; and a 9,000-square-foot casino, the real news is that the ship is likely to appeal to a wider range of passengers than previous Carnival vessels.

Carnival President Bob Dickinson is fond of saying that Carnival competes with land resorts rather than other cruise lines. And with 1,321 guest rooms, two outdoor pools (one with swim-up bar), an indoor pool, a children's pool and seven Jacuzzis, his line's new vessel is the closest thing afloat to a gigantic land resort.

Experienced cruisers may fear that the bigger size of the Carnival Destiny will mean longer lines and slower check-ins and disembarkations, but such was not the case on the sold-out pre-inaugural cruise we took from Miami with other travel media and travel agents in late November. In a terminal facility specially adapted to handle the vessel, both boarding and disembarking were quick and smooth.

With a large number of different mealtime venues, lunch-hour queues were never long even though the ship was full. The casual, self-service Sun and Sea restaurant provides indoor and outdoor buffet areas with separate trattorias for pasta, a 24-hour pizzeria and a deck grill for hot dogs and hamburgers.

The handsome pair of dining rooms aboard have plenty of tables for two and four, in contrast to the preponderance of tables for six and eight aboard previous ships.

The three-deck show lounge, with excellent sight lines from both main level and balconies, introduced two dazzling new shows, "Formidable" and "Nightclub Express."

Carnival's stronger emphasis on families is underlined with a bright and fanciful Children's Club with interactive video and space maze, plus a children's outdoor pool and climbing area on the deck above.

Of the outside cabins and suites on board, 480 have private verandas, but the additional 310 cabins without verandas seem even bigger because the area normally taken up by the veranda is enclosed as part of the cabin. Cabins with verandas have love seats; outside cabins without verandas offer full-size sofas. Sixteen cabins have ocean views afforded by glass walls.

The new cabin design offers twin beds that can be put together into a queen-size bed, a TV, cabinet with safe, and a dresser with drawers and large mirror. On the verandas are two chairs and a small table. The bath has a large shower and mirrored medicine cabinet.

The 515 inside cabins are somewhat smaller with twin beds in an L-shaped configuration, a desk/dresser with drawers and a chair. Top-of-the-line accommodations are the eight lavish penthouse suites and 40 balcony suites.

Fares for the seven-day cruises, which alternate between eastern and western Caribbean itineraries, range from $1,399 to $2,709 per person, double occupancy, including round-trip air fare from L.A.

Ports of call in the eastern Caribbean include San Juan, Puerto Rico; St. Croix and St. Thomas, while the western Caribbean ports include Cozumel, Mexico; and Grand Cayman and Ocho Rios, Jamaica.

To get a free brochure about the new ship, contact a travel agent or call (800) 327-9501.

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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