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He wants to take you on a sea cruise

Dante Heredia knows how to have a good time. It's his business. Now in his third month as general manager of the SeaKruz at The Pier, he is delighted to see that even during these quieter summer months, business held up. So, a good time must be what folks are after.

Heredia is a certified hotel administrator with a track record of 17 years in the entertainment business, a degree in business management and management training from Cornell University. He was most recently vice president and director of operations at the Palace Station and Casino in Las Vegas, where he was responsible for 2,000 employees and a 1,000-room hotel and casino.

"But this is a much more genuine environment," said Heredia, who is a family man. "And here, I actually get to deal with people."

The SeaKruz is cruising right along with fun and games, food by the Columbia Restaurant, theme nights, discounts for seniors on Monday nights, free cruises for birthday celebrants and special deals for groups. It has become particularly popular for office parties.

The ship will be totally redecorated in an art deco style, with a festive game room for the gamblers, an elegant dining room, carved glass and murals on the stairwells.

"My job in life is to fine-tune a product, create an experience for a person," Heredia said. "But all this carpeting and decorating does not create success. People do."

To this end, he does his best to keep his employees happy. David Blake, head bartender, said he thinks this is "the best job I've had in 10 years of bartending. We get to clown around with the customers without people hanging over us. It's just fun and a nice class of people in a party mood."

Regina Vrabel does hostessing and inventory control, sings, dances with passengers and serves as cocktail waitress. "Wherever they need me, I go. And it's so much fun it's not like working," she said.

Lester Bullock is a casino host and "I like meeting people. We've had excellent crowds on weekends, good during the week, and I'm looking forward to a good season."

Cruises go out daily from The Pier except Wednesday and there are afternoon cruises on weekends. Prices are $39.95 Tuesdays and Thursdays, $49.95 other days, plus a $12 port tax. Call 393-5110 for information about Sea-Kruz or FunKruz, which docks at John's Pass.

Oh, folks! What a week! Read on:

The 12th annual Hunger Banquet takes place at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, St. Jude's Cathedral, 5815 Fifth Ave. N. Please bring a bowl and spoon. The cost is $5, the soup is donated by the Pinellas County Restaurant Association, and Sister Margaret Freeman is the speaker. The event benefits the food bank of the St. Petersburg Free Clinic.

Also Thursday, Mailande Holland Barton will be honored at a Mental Health Association dinner at the St. Petersburg Yacht Club. Mrs. Barton was co-founder of the St. Petersburg Junior League and the Juvenile Welfare Board. For 65 years, her interest in community work has never waned. "Work with children _ that's always been my emphasis," she said in a long-ago interview. The evening begins with a 6:30 p.m. social hour and dinner at 7:30.

More on Thursday: The 46th annual Awards Night of the St. Petersburg Beach Area Chamber of Commerce is at the TradeWinds, 5500 Gulf Blvd. There will be a 6 p.m cocktail reception with dinner at 7:15 p.m. Officials past and present will be honored and the Citizen of the Year and Employee of the Year will be named.

Friday brings the annual Center Arts Show Preview Party, a 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. buffet at University of South Florida's Davis Hall, 140 Seventh Ave S. Hosts are Nancy and Al Karnavicius and Fay and Larry Baynard. The cost is $30. For reservations, call Mrs. Baynard at 823-3035.

The Center Arts Show will be from 10 a.m to 5 p.m. Saturday and from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday, also at Davis Hall. This is a wonderful collection of art, crafts, demonstrations and a great boutique.

Salvador Dali Museum staffers have their annual Volunteer Reception from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Friday at the museum with awards, refreshments, door prizes, and entertainment by the Daring Dali Players. Call 823-3767.

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