Tom Stieghorst
Tom Stieghorst

Here's a look back at what Wave Season was like in 1986, based on the advertising in two newspapers of the era.

It comes from a time capsule of Sunday Travel sections I saved when I first started writing about the airlines and cruise lines, 35 years ago. This may have been before the term Wave Season was even coined. The offers are interesting in part because they're so different.

A Chandris ad in the Miami Herald.
A Chandris ad in the Miami Herald.

Some are for lines that agents new to the business may have never heard of. There's an ad in the Miami Herald touting fares starting at $48 per person on a Chandris Fantasy Cruise to Nassau: "A real weekend paradise," according to the ad copy. Chandris later became Celebrity Cruises.

The ad said the Chandris office at 4700 Biscayne Boulevard in Miami was open on Saturday and Sunday, but it also said "See Your Travel Agent."

Eastern Cruise Line, which combined in 1988 with Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd., advertised a three-day $145 "Supercruise" to Nassau on the Emerald Seas that was predicated on four passengers per cabin ("Staterooms so big that 4 people can share comfortably," according to the ad). The cruise included a stop at Little Stirrup Cay, known today as CocoCay.

Coupons were popular marketing devices in the pre-internet era. You could clip a coupon for a 52-page color brochure from the Greek cruise line Epirotiki ("A World of Cruises. A World of Difference"). Or you could clip and send a "bonus certificate" worth $2,000 off of a 22-day Panama Canal cruise on the Cunard Line's Sagafjord. You had to read closely to learn that the $2,000 was per stateroom, not per person.

Pearl Cruises offered a China Explorers' cruise with $289 roundtrip airfare from San Francisco. A relatively new outfit called Vacations To Go advertised deeply discounted cruises based on a consolidator model and a $29.95 annual membership.

An unusual Grenadines and Orinoco River itinerary was advertised for $895 by Ocean Cruise Lines, which later merged into Paquet Cruises, which was acquired by Costa Cruises.  Or you could pay $695 per person for an outside cabin (upper/lower berth) on the Regent Sea, sailing the Caribbean and partly transiting the Panama Canal. Regent Cruises collapsed in 1995, stranding thousands.

There were fewer cruise ads in the Dallas Morning News travel section in 1986. But Carnival Cruise Line advertised a $325 price on a three-day Nassau itinerary out of Fort Lauderdale on the original Mardi Gras. The ad referred readers to Just Cruises on Preston Road, which could be called by Watts line, a primitive 1-800 service.

Sundance Cruises, which later merged into Royal Caribbean, advertised $300 per couple discount on a $945 per person Alaska cruise, a seven-day roundtrip from Vancouver.

And finally, a half page on the back of the 12-page section advertised Club Kent, in which smokers could get $3 off select vacations for each empty Kent Golden Lights or Kent III cigarette pack they sent in to redeem. Among the travel partners listed in the Lorillard Tobacco ad was Costa Cruises.


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