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Regal Sailing on New Sea Princess

May 02, 1999|SHIRLEY SLATER and HARRY BASCH | Shirley Slater and Harry Basch travel as guests of the cruise lines. Cruise Views appears the first and third week of every month

Princess Cruises' new Sea Princess, 77,000-ton sister ship to the Sun Princess and Dawn Princess, saluted famous trios such as the Pointer Sisters, the Shirelles and the now-grown-up TV stars of "My Three Sons" and "Leave It to Beaver" during christening ceremonies in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., before setting out on its inaugural cruise into the western Caribbean in mid-December.

The 1,950-passenger ship is quite similar to its two sisters and should prove equally popular with passengers. About 70% of all outside cabins, numbering 410, have private verandas. This is a boon even to those who can't afford private verandas because they will have increased deck space, thanks to passengers who breakfast, lounge and sunbathe on their own balconies.

In fact, these ships overall, while among the biggest in the industry, have been designed with an eye to keeping them intimate in scale, with two dining rooms broken into different levels and various cozy corners. Show lounges vary from the Princess Theater, with its raked, theater-style row seating, to the Vista Lounge, with casual banquettes and tables.

Want a pizza between meals or a grilled steak dinner at 3 a.m.? Princess has scored a roaring success with its Horizon Court, which offers 24 hours of food service. The always-casual-dress restaurant has self-service food for breakfast, lunch and teatime, and dinner menu table service from 7 p.m. to 4 a.m., accompanied by a live dance band.

The elegant Lago's Pizzeria looks more like a formal winter garden, with its verdigris-green garden chairs, tables framed with tile murals and a glass-walled kitchen. And for a European-style cappuccino with fresh-baked pastry, take a counter stool or table in the marble-floored Patisserie, which overlooks the ship's Grand Plaza four-deck atrium.

Naturally, the Seaview Spa, operated by Steiner of London, is set for pampering with high-tech gym, aerobics area, saunas, indoor/outdoor pool and spas and 11 treatment rooms offering everything from massages to aromatherapy.

And you can bring the kids along, since they'll probably ditch you as soon as possible in favor of the lollipop-bright indoor and outdoor Fun Zone for ages 2 to 12, as well as the exclusive-for-teens Wired, with its video games, disco and soft-drink bar.

A mesh-enclosed games court tucked away beneath the stacks can handle paddle tennis, volleyball, basketball and badminton. More sedentary travelers can hide away in the comfortable wood-paneled library with its beige leather "listening chairs" for music or books on tape.

With 28 different cabin categories available, brochure prices range from $1,538 to $3,889 per person, double occupancy, in the Caribbean for seven days. Published Love Boat Savers, a plan that discounts for early bookings, begin at $949 per person, double occupancy.

We had a comfortable, spacious outside double cabin (178 square feet) with two lower beds and a small private veranda. Like all the other accommodations aboard, it provided twin beds that can convert to a queen-size bed, mini-refrigerator, TV set, in-room safe, hair dryer, terry-cloth robes to use during the cruise and tile bathroom with shower.

Passengers who want a bathtub should book a suite or mini-suite, which ranges from 374 to 754 square feet. Budget travelers booking the cheapest inside accommodations will still have a minimum space of 135 square feet.

There are 19 larger cabins (seven outsides and 12 insides measuring from 213 to 305 square feet) that are designated wheelchair accessible and provide wide doorways, no-sill bathrooms and plenty of roll-around space inside.

Families will find 300 additional upper berths for children in a variety of price categories that range from $199 to $499 per cruise for third and fourth passengers sharing the same cabin with two full-fare travelers.

The Sea Princess cruises the western Caribbean this winter, sailing every Saturday from Fort Lauderdale and calling at Princess Cays, the line's private beach in the Bahamas; Ocho Rios, Jamaica; Grand Cayman and Cozumel.

On May 12 the new ship will make its maiden call in Los Angeles, ending a five-day cruise from Acapulco en route to a summer season cruising the Gulf of Alaska on seven-day sailings between Vancouver and Seward. The Alaska itinerary includes cruising through the Inside Passage, Glacier Bay and College Fiords, with calls at Ketchikan, Juneau and Skagway. Cruises begin May 15 and continue through the sailing of Sept. 4.

For a free color brochure, see a travel agent or call Princess Cruises at (800) PRINCESS.

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