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The cruise ship boom.

The lure of the sea isn't new to Westerners. But in recent years, the lure of cruising has been pulling stronger than ever. More than half of the passengers on cruise ships leaving U.S. ports come from the Western states. And more come from California than from any other state.

You can see a similar pattern in the rapidly expanding service from Western ports. Ten years ago, it amounted to a handful of ships and routes. Today, Alaska alone is reached by 10 different lines and 16 ships; 18 ships will call at Mexican ports this fall. Although the Caribbean is still the single most popular destination for Westerners, the Mexican Riviera, Alaska, and other Pacific destinations combined now account for more total business, a trend we've been watching.

Those are not the only changes:

A new breed of liner. Larger than most ships currently afloat, the new breed averages 700 feet and can carry up to 1,200 passengers. (Most liners are 450 to 600 feet and take 400 to 900 passengers.) They have wider passageways, more suites, and more public rooms.

Since 1982, a handful of large new ships have been introduced on the West Coast: Carnival's Tropicale, Holland America's Nieuw Amsterdam and Noordam, and Sitmar's Fairsky. Early next year, watch for Princess Cruises' Royal Princess.

Also, Holland America, Princess Cruises, Royal Viking, Sitmar, and Western Cruise Lines have spent millions of dollars remodeling vessels already afloat. And Cunard's 800-passenger Princess now runs exclusively on the West Coast.

More cruise options. Three- and 4-day trips to Mexico are more widely available, as are 7-day segments to Mexico and Alaska, replacing costlier 14-day round trips. To cater to younger, more active passengers, the lines are offering health spas, aerobics classes, and children's programs. In port, optional tour packages may include golf, hiking, snorkeling, sailing, even river rafting.

More incentives. To fill the extra berths now available, cruise lines are offering a multitude of rebates and discounts. It can pay to shop for last-minute bargains on unsold staterooms, as well as for fly-cruise programs and advance bookings for 1985. Overall, prices will probably rise just 2 to 4 percent through next year.

Improving our ports. Los Angeles, the leading Western cruise port and second only to Miami, will be the home of a future world cruise center at berts 90 to 96 in San Pedro. Starting in late '85, if all goes well, the $40-million site will be docking up to five cruise ships.

San Diego plans to develop B Street Pier, a 9-acre landfill near the city center and airport, into a modern facility that can handle two to five ships. Seattle expects to omplete its new cruise terminal on Pier 66 by May 1986--the same time Vancouver hopes to open its new terminal.

Over the years, Sunset has reported specific cruise destinations, how to choose voyages, and cost-saving packages. We'll continue these kinds of articles, and also report changing ports of call and the ships that are sure to come in the years ahead. WINDOW ON THE WEST: Alaska bound

Steaming toward the Golden Gate Bridge en route to Alaska last summer, the Nieuw Amsterdam dwarfs a tourist ferry boat in San Francisco Bay. With September's end, the Alaska cruise season closes and liners head for the wet coast of Mexico, where 18 ships will be sailing through the winter. San Francisco, a regular stop for 10 ships, is spending $4 million to upgrade passenger facilities on Pier 35, hoping to claim more of the West Coast business.
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Date:Sep 1, 1984
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