ST. LOUIS -- Only one cruise line can lay official claim to "close-to-home cruising": Clipper Cruise Line, which trademarked the phrase a few weeks ago.

The small-ship line said it began using the phrase after 9/11 to reinforce awareness that half of its four-ship fleet "sails basically in our backyard," according to Scott Kluesner, Clipper's vice president of sales.

The two U.S.-flagged ships, the 100-passenger Nantucket Clipper and the 138-passenger Yorktown Clipper, are among the few cruise vessels that can offer domestic itineraries without calling at a foreign port. This means that in addition to visiting smaller ports that are inaccessible to larger ships, the pair can offer coastal itineraries and Civil War heritage routes.

Kluesner said it still makes sense to advertise "Close to Home Cruising."

"It's not just from a safety and security standpoint, [although] obviously that was big after 9/11, and we really did play that up," he said. "Some of our guests have traveled overseas extensively, and now they're interested in staying closer to home ... sort of rediscovering North America in comfort."

Kluesner said interest has been building for the line's new Wine and Cuisine cruises from Redwood City, Calif., near San Francisco, on the Yorktown Clipper. The cruises operate in April, May and October.

Clipper brought on culinary adviser Dede Wilson to craft the program and to lure well-known Bay area chefs to the ship, including Joanne Weir and Laurent Gras.

Highlights include dinner at the Culinary Institute of America at Greystone, a trip on the Napa Valley Wine Train and visits to several Napa wineries.

Kluesner said on one evening, Clipper passengers will receive dine-around cash for use in one of about 10 San Francisco restaurants.

"We'll take them by limo to the restaurants," he said. "It's really cool, and it's something new for us."

On July 1 and 17, meanwhile, the Nantucket Clipper offers a 10-day cruise through Lake Erie and Lake Huron, an itinerary that is limited to small ships like Clipper's. Ports of call include Windsor and Goderich, Ontario, and Mackinaw City and Port Huron, Mich.

The Nantucket Clipper also will offer two eight-day Route of the Traders and Explorers voyages on Aug. 11 and 18; these cruises sail from Buffalo, N.Y., to Sault Sainte Marie, Mich.

While those two ships ply the waters of North America, the 122-passenger Clipper Adventurer and 128-passenger Clipper Odyssey venture abroad on more exotic itineraries.

For example, the Clipper Adventurer this summer will offer Liberating Europe, a 12-day cruise that includes the American cemetery at Omaha Beach and the Musee de Debarquement in Arromanches-les-Bains, France, and a tour of the Cabinet War Rooms and Imperial War Museum in London. Voyages depart May 23 and 30 and June 6.

To contact reporter Rebecca Tobin, send e-mail to [email protected].

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