Cruising: Is it a bore or a media event?

In the coming spring and summer, it'll be both: A bore to those very few who think a cruise is just getting on a ship to go from one place to another, a media event when the former SS France arrives in the U.S. as the SS Norway to make its debut as the world's premier cruise ship.

For most of us who will take a cruise this year, of course, it will be neither. Cruising, for us, is simply a nice way to relax in congenial company while visiting some exotic places. Never a bore, and almost never a media thing, unless you happen to be aboard the Love Boat.

And the good news is that this year it's going to be easier to embark on the cruise of your choice. Not only easier, but you'll find more ships and more itineraries to choose from than ever before. The bad news? Cruising will cost you more this year than last. But, then, what doesn't cost more?

So anchors aweigh! There's nothing quite as full of excitement and promise as the mighty blast of a ship's horn as she edges away from her dock and you begin your sea adventure.

Cruising is a lot more than a way to get from one place to another. In fact, the success of the "cruises to nowhere" proves that a cruise doesn't have to call at any ports.

Most ships provide plenty of shipboard activities to keep passengers occupied -- things like skeet shooting, shuffleboard, swimming, ping pong, card games and exercise sessions in the daytime; discos, music and live entertainment in the evenings; and dinning from dawn to midnight. And if your druthers tend toward taking it easy, there's alot of deck to stretch out on and absolutely no regimentation.

For those who last year found it difficult to book just the cruise they wanted, 1980 brings good cheer. More space is available on cruise liners near to departure dates. It's better if you can book your cabin several months in advance, of course, but today you've got a chance of obtaining good accomodations even just a month or so before the sailing date.

There are reasons for that, of course. One is that there are more ships sailing out of Miami this year and therefore more berths to fill. More significantly, the uncertain economy has produced an upswing in late cancellations.

But even price increases that have put 1980 fares around 15 to 20 percent above last year's haven't seriously dampened the ardor of cruise seekers. The cruise business is so good that several more ships are on their way to make Miami their home base and the port here is about to start dredging a new channel and building three more passenger terminals.

There is other good news, too. Ship sanitation, that old bugaboo, is showing steady improvement, according to the man in charge of the inspections. While several ships still have so-so inspection records, the improvement since the checks were started in 1975 has been dramatic.

"Between July of 1975, when we started the new inspection program, and October of 1975, not a single ship passed," said John C. Yashuk of the U.S. Public Health Service in Miami. "Now 80 percent of all cruise ships that sail regularly from U.S. ports meet the standards."

Some ships, however, still lag behind. A number of ships that cruise regularly out of U.S. ports or call at U.S. ports have never passed an inspection, Yashuk said. They are the Aquarius, Britannis, Canberra, Daphne, Dolphin, Mermoz, Orianna, Belorussiya, Kazakhstan, Mikhail Lermontov, Marconi (out of service), World Renaissance, Golden Odyssey and Calypso. The latter, however, has just begun making cruises out of Miami and has undergone only one inspection.

On the other hand, the improvement overall has been steady and rewarding, Yashuk said.

The Festivale, for instance, which had sanitation problems early last year, cleaned up its act and has passed its last two inspections with flying colors. "They (Carnival Cruise Line) put a lot of emphasis on that ship and spent a lot of money, and it shows," Said Yashuk.

Every month, Yashuk mails out a report listing the results of the latest inspections on every ship that calls at U.S. ports. Some 3,000 people, most of them travel agents, are on the mailing list. Individuals can obtain a copy free of charge by writing to U.S. Public Health Service, Room 107, 1015 N. American Way, Miami, Fla. 33132, or by phoning (305) 350-4307. CAPTION: Illustration, no caption, By Gaetan Jeannin, from the book "Art Deco Internationale,"; copyright (c) 1977, Quick Fox.