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Former Soviet liner to arrive

It's been more than 10 years since a cruise ship from what used to be known as the Soviet Union has anchored on U.S. shores.

In April, the Ukraine-owned Columbus Caravelle will launch a series of two- and five-day cruises from Tampa. That will make it the first cruise ship from the former U.S.S.R. to call at an American port since the Reagan administration restricted access by Soviet ships.

For five weeks, the new, 330-passenger ship will sail around the Gulf of Mexico on two-day party cruises each weekend.

The five-day trips will cruise the Gulf from Monday through Friday, calling at the Mexican ports of Cancun and Cozumel as well as Key West.

Prices begin at $165 per person for two-day cruises and $595 per person for the five-day cruises.

The cruise ship's operator, Odessa America Cruise Co., will be using the five-week season to test the waters of the Tampa Bay cruise market, according to Ron Ardis, cruise marketing director for the Tampa Port Authority.

Odessa's original intent was to return to Tampa in September and resume offering cruises through April.

However, another cruise line _ Starlight Cruises _ will run two-day and five-day cruises out of Tampa year-round starting in July, and Odessa is debating whether it wants to run a competing operation, Ardis said.

Current plans call for the Columbus Caravelle to return to the United States in September for a 13-day voyage along the East Coast from Boston to Miami before heading for the Carribean and South America.

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