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All-suite cruise ship may be the wave of the future

The universal complaint of cruise passengers is that their cabin is too small. The new decade should see improvement, at least as far as one line is concerned. Renaissance Cruises, a new line based in Fort Lauderdale, phone (305) 463-0982, introduced in January an all-suite cruise ship, the Renaissance I. The 50-cabin luxury liner is the first of eight new ships expected to be in operation by late 1991. On all eight, each cabin will feature separate bedroom, bathroom and sitting room.

Meanwhile, Carnival Cruise Lines sees a growing market for large liners offering sailings at moderate prices. In the next couple of years, it will introduce three new vessels to its already substantial fleet, each designed to carry about 2,600 passengers. They are the Fantasy, which sets sail in March, followed a year later by the Ecstasy and then the Sensation.

The Carnival liners are floating resorts offering enough on-board activities to keep passengers entertained from morning to night.

On such a ship, exotic ports may be superfluous. The big ships are expected to appeal to younger travelers interested more in good times than cultural exploration. Fantasy will sail in the Bahamas.

In contrast, ports are of primary importance to another small-ship line, Salen Lindblad Cruising, which will introduce its new expedition cruise ship, the Frontier Spirit, in late 1990. The 164-passenger ship will sail less-visited regions, such as the Arctic Circle, Antarctica and remote islands of the South Pacific. Naturalists and lecturers will lead on-board discussions and on-shore excursions. (Salen Lindblad Cruising is not associated with Lindblad Travel of Westport, Conn., which has gone out of business.)

The Spirit's developers have designed it as an "environment-friendly" vessel so that its arrival in pristine waters will not upset a fragile ecology. The ship will have compactors for handling waste, refrigerated storage of garbage to be carried back to home port, an on-board sewage treatment plant and an oil separator in the bilge to prevent accidental discharge of oil.

Also scheduled was Club Med's entry into the cruise business with its Club Med 1, a five-masted motorized sailing vessel that will sail to the less-visited islands and beaches of the Caribbean. The ship will carry 442 passengers.

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