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Cruise Views

Sailing Into the Millennium Sunset

October 18, 1998|SHIRLEY SLATER and HARRY BASCH | Slater and Basch travel as guests of the cruise lines. Cruise Views appears the first and third week of every month

Cruising seems to be a popular option for Americans determined to be anywhere but home when midnight rolls around Dec. 31, 1999. To celebrate turning the calendar to Jan. 1, 2000, many cruise lines have come up with more exotic sailings than the usual holiday fare.

The good news is that most lines are putting together some special itineraries for the millennium. The bad news is that prices are high and some sailings have already sold out or are wait-listed.

The hottest ticket is the South Pacific at the international dateline, which means passengers aboard ships in that area can cross the line and herald the arrival of the momentous date on two nights in a row.

Other celebrations include fireworks or beach parties shared by two or more of a line's ships.

Cancellation penalties are much stiffer than those usually imposed. Holland America, for example, says passengers who cancel millennium cruises less than 60 days before sailing forfeit 100% of the full fare, while those who cancel between 61 and 120 days before sailing lose half the full fare. On a normal sailing, a cancellation 15 or fewer days before sailing forfeits the entire fare, while a cancellation 16 to 45 days before sailing forfeits half the fare.

On Crystal Cruises, both Crystal Harmony and Crystal Symphony were wait-listed at press time. Passengers are required to post a 20% deposit within 10 days of booking and pay an additional 30% before Jan. 2, 1999, with payment in full six months before departure. If cancellations are made after Sept. 1, 1999, you lose 100%.

Here's a status report on cruise ship bookings for the big night:

In the South Pacific, cabins are still available aboard Silversea's Silver Cloud for a 15-day cruise from Papeete, Tahiti, to Auckland, New Zealand (from $30,195 per person, double occupancy) and sister ship Silver Wind, with a 16-day itinerary from Cairns, Australia, to Papeete (from $32,195 per person, double occupancy).

The ships meet up in Fiji for a New Year's Eve beach party, then sail in tandem across the international dateline. Silver Cloud passengers also spend a pre-cruise evening in Los Angeles at a private concert by Tony Bennett, while Silver Wind offers a pre-cruise party in Australia. Book with a 25% deposit before Dec. 31 this year and get 5% off; frequent Silversea cruisers (members of the Venetian Society) get a 15% discount. Fares include air transportation and tips and drinks aboard the ship.

Radisson Seven Seas' Song of Flower still has space on its 20-day Sydney, Australia, to Auckland itinerary, which features two celebrations at the dateline. Fares begin at $13,000 per person, double occupancy, including four nights of hotel accommodations and round-trip air fare.

Princess Cruises' Sky Princess still has space on its 16-day cruise from Sydney to Auckland, also featuring a double celebration at the dateline. Cruise-only fares begin at $6,790 per person, double occupancy, and escalate to $16,800 with air fare included for a suite with private balcony. Love Boat Savers offers substantial early-booking savings, but cancellations made less than 90 days before departure forfeit the entire fare.

Crystal Cruises offers dateline sailings aboard Crystal Symphony on a wait-list basis, with a 17-day Auckland-to-San Francisco itinerary that crosses the dateline for a double celebration. Fares range from $9,445 to $33,950 per person, double occupancy.

Holland America's Nieuw Amsterdam also is wait-listed for its 14-day Australia-New Zealand cruise with two dateline parties. Fares begin at $4,457 per person, double occupancy, with early booking discounts.

Royal Caribbean International's Legend of the Seas is wait-listed for a 21-day Sydney-to-Auckland itinerary with two celebrations at the dateline.

In South America, space is still available aboard NCL's Norwegian Crown on a 14-day Santiago-to-Buenos Aires sailing at fares from $3,899 to $9,999 per person, double occupancy. Princess' Royal Princess has space on a 16-day cruise from Buenos Aires to Santiago as well, while the Crystal Harmony is wait-listed for its 16-day Buenos Aires-to-Barbados sailing, priced from $8,815 to $31,995 per person, double occupancy.

Closer to home, space is available on Caribbean and Mexican Riviera sailings aboard all Carnival ships at markups only slightly higher than the usual holiday sailings.

Also specially for the millennium, Radisson Seven Seas' brand-new, 490-passenger, all-suites Seven Seas Navigator departs Fort Lauderdale Dec. 19, 1999, and arrives in Los Angeles Jan. 5, 2000, touching ports in Belize, Guatemala, Mexico, Costa Rica and Colombia en route. Prices had not been confirmed at press time.

Norwegian Cruise Line celebrates with New Year's Eve fireworks for passengers aboard the Norway and the Norwegian Dream off St. Croix at fares beginning at $1,799 for eight days. Other NCL ships also have space available.

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