One year after relocating its one-day cruises from San Diego to West Palm Beach, Crown Cruise Line is close to ordering a second ship for expansion into the two- and five-day market, according to Oddmund Grunstad, president of the line.

Grundstad reported that the line carried about 110,000 passengers on one-day cruises aboard the Viking Princess in 1986. That number is expected to be close to 150,000 in 1987, he said.

Grundstad attributes much of the success to the lucrative Palm Beach market.

"Palm Beach County is the fastest growing county in the United States," he said. "It has 700,000 inhabitants and close to three million tourists." The port's close proximity to the interstate and airport makes it easily accessible for drive and fly passengers, and its half-hour cruising distance to international waters and legal gambling makes it ideal for one-day sailings, Grundstad added.

Crown Cruise Line has secured the exclusive right to operate a passenger vessel from the Port of West Palm Beach for the next 16 years. The line also has arranged to pay the same port fees for three vessels as it pays for one.

In turn, the line generated $385,000 for the port in fiscal 1986, making it the port's second largest revenue-earning entity, Grundstad said.

Crown currently offers one-day cruises to the Grand Bahamas Monday and Thursday ($79); one-day cruises to nowhere Tuesday, Wednesday and Saturday ($79); Friday "Moonlight" cruises ($59); and new "Sunday Brunch" cruises ($59). The Moonlight cruises are the most popular, Grundstad said.

To market the cruises, Crown works closely with the Palm Beach Tourist Bureau, and has developed a variety of joint packages. According to Grundstad, these packages are becoming increasingly effective in filling up the ship. Among the more unusual, are one-day trips from the Midwest, where passengers do not even stay overnight.

"They fly in just for the cruise and fly back to Ohio the same night," Grundstad said.

Plans to develop packages in the Bahamas in conjunction with the Monday and Thursday sailings are currently being developed, Grundstad said.

Crown also advertises its cruises daily in the local newspapers and radio. The line recently cut back on its television advertising.

Close to Signing For New Ship

Crown is close to signing an order for a new 400- to 500-passenger vessel, with an option for a second, Grundstad said. It will operate two-day cruises to the Bahamas and five-day cruises that are still being developed.

According to Grundstad, the new ship will cater to travellers in the higher income bracket and personalized service will be a main ingredient.

The new ship will not be marketed nationwide. Instead, Central and Northern Florida, South and North Carolina, Alabama and Tennessee will be the primary markets. "There are 40 million people in these areas alone," Grundstad said. "The Viking Princess, he added, will be marketed exclusively in Florida.

In addition, the Palm Beach Tourist offices in Canada, London and Frankfurt will market the new ship in their cities.

Port Improvements Underway

The Port of Palm Beach has allocated $7 million to improve the current facilities and expand the parking structure to two floors. It also said that it will fund new facilities when the line brings on new ships, Grundstad reported.

Crown Cruise Line is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Grundstad Maritime, Inc., the owner of the Viking Princess, and tankers worldwide. According to Grundstad, without its backing, "there is no way we could operate just one ship without losses."