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Former Lines and Old Ships Are Rising Again

CRUISE VIEWS

September 19, 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

With nearly three dozen ships on the order books for the next five years, you'd think the last thing in the world the cruise industry would need is more revitalized older ships or more cruise lines.

But in fact, the upcoming cruise season looks like deja vu all over again, with names like Crown Cruise Line and American Cruise Lines returning to the roster of cruise companies and retired ship names like Crown Odyssey, Crown Dynasty, Oceanic Grace and even (for readers with long memories) Caronia and Lurline reappearing.

Commodore Cruise Line is bringing back Crown Cruise Line, which operated out of Palm Beach, Fla., from 1991 to 1993, as its new premium label. The 800-passenger Crown Dynasty, built for the previous incarnation of Crown Cruise Line in 1993, currently operates as the Norwegian Dynasty for Norwegian Cruise Line. Before that, it sailed as the Cunard Dynasty under lease to Cunard Line.

As the Crown Dynasty, it will begin Bermuda sailings from Philadelphia in May. Highly prized Bermuda government permits traditionally have been issued to only five vessels each season and only for weekday visits. The new Crown permit will represent the sixth ship licensed, and will allow the ship to visit on weekends. Perhaps it's not a coincidence that Commodore Holdings, parent company for both lines, is based in Bermuda.

Commodore Holdings has also announced the planned purchase and renovation of the Sophia, built in 1974, to be renamed Enchanted Sun, for day cruises out of San Diego to the new pier under construction in Rosarito in Baja California, Mexico. Service is planned to begin in early 2000 for the 1,050-passenger vessel.

Remembering American Cruise Lines requires a search back to 1989, when the 15-year-old Haddam, Conn.-based company declared bankruptcy. The line's U.S.-flag vessels then included the Savannah (now sailing in Patagonia as the Terra Australis), the Charleston, the New Orleans, the Independence (sailing now as Alaska Sightseeing/Cruise West's Spirit of Discovery), the America and the Pilgrim Belle (now sailing as Alaska Sightseeing/Cruise West's Spirit of '98).

The new company, set up by Charles Robertson, the original founder, has no legal or financial connection with the previous American Cruise Lines. A new 49-passenger vessel called American Eagle will debut April 22, with all-outside cabins and suites, offering 13-night cruises from Baltimore to Savannah, Ga. Prices per day will range from $340 to $695 per person, double occupancy.

The Crown Odyssey, built in 1988 as the flagship of the Royal Cruise Line fleet, returns under its original name after having sailed as the Norwegian Crown for Norwegian Cruise Line for the past several years. In May, the renamed ship will join Orient Lines, which is also owned by Norwegian Cruise Line, to become the line's second ship with global itineraries.

Cunard Line, acquired by Carnival last year, was split into two fleets, with the smaller Sea Goddess ships and the Royal Viking Sun (to be renamed Seabourn Sun in November) joining the trio of Seabourn ships under the Seabourn label.

The traditional Cunard fleet will then consist of two ships, the Queen Elizabeth 2 and the newly named Caronia, the former Vistafjord. A $22-million refurbishment for two ocean liners is readying them for sailings in December.

Fans of small luxury ships may remember the elegant little Oceanic Grace, built in 1989 as a Sea Goddess clone for the Japanese market. After several seasons, the ship was acquired by Indonesia's Spice Islands Cruises and renamed the Oceanic Odyssey. On Nov. 7 the 120-passenger ship debuts as the Clipper Odyssey for St. Louis-based Clipper Cruise Line, sailing from Singapore to Bali and cruising the Spice Islands as part of a 22-day tour that includes a ride on the luxurious Eastern & Oriental train and a two-night holiday in Hong Kong. The package is priced from $8,740 per person, double occupancy, including air fare from the West Coast.

The Clipper Odyssey will be based in the Pacific year-round, cruising New Zealand's Bay of Islands, Australia's Great Barrier Reef, the Kamchatka Peninsula and the Kuril Islands in the Russian Far East, Vietnam, New Guinea, China and Japan.

Also headed for a new Pacific home port is Princess Cruises' Sky Princess, originally built for now-defunct Sitmar Cruises in 1984 as the Fairsky. The ship will be renamed the Pacific Sky and moved over to Princess' parent company, P & O, for Australian and South Pacific cruises from Sydney beginning in November 2000.

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