The news in the cruise industry this year: The addition of many beautiful new vessels, plus a slowing in the meteoric growth rate of the '70s, equals bargains for the cruising consumer. Many ship lines are offering monetary incentives right through the high winter season. Round-trip air fare between your home and ship is now often included in the published rates, plus such extras as free transfers from airport to pier, complimentary baggage handling, and overnight accommodations if necessary.
Among the sparkling new vessels on the cruise scene is Home Lines' 1,000 -passenger Atlantic, just completing a maiden season from New York to Bermuda. In November, the vessel heads for Port Everglades for a series of one- to two-week cruises in the Caribbean. Noteworthy are two 17-day trans-Panama Canal voyages between Florida and Los Angeles in February and March, with rates from $ 2,940 to $5,795 per person (double occupancy), including air fare.
Strictly in the Caribbean is the 1,400-passenger Song of America, which debuts on Dec. 5, with Saturday departures from Miami to San Juan and St. Thomas. Until spring, Royal Caribbean Cruise Line's $140 million vessel will be the most modern afloat, and readily recognizable by a 360-degree Viking Crown Lounge cantilevered from the funnel some 12 decks above sea level! On a clear day, passengers can enjoy a vista of 20 miles or so, and pay $995 to $1,965 per person (double occupancy and inclusive of air fare, transfers, baggage handling, and port taxes) for the privilege.
Cunard Line is offering a ''new'' Queen Elizabeth 2, with pearly-gray and white exterior and $10 million refurbishing that features a new Golden Door Spa at Sea, plus a three-month tour of the Pacific and the Orient before returning to transatlantic service next spring. The Cunard Princess has two itineraries scheduled for 1983: a Seven Plus from San Juan this winter offers more ports in the lower Caribbean than any other vessel (St. Martin, Iles des Saintes/Guadeloupe, St. Lucia, St. Kitts, St. Thomas and Tortola/Virgin Gorda), with rates from $1,065 per person (double, with free air from 40 cities); from June through September, the Princess will sail between Vancouver and Anchorage, offering passengers one-way programs each week and optional extended land tours. Rates for the week begin at $1,090.
That intrepid traveler Lars-Eric Lindblad and his new company, Salen Lindblad Cruising, launched two additional vessels this year. The unpretentious 79 -passenger Lindblad Polaris offers Red Sea cruises all winter and Baltic sailings in the summer which combine European capitals with bird islands. The 176-passenger Yao Hua (Brilliance) cruises from Hong Kong along the Chinese coastline and into the Yangtze River, the only Far East-based vessel with such variety. Two-week packages are available through Pan Am which allow plenty of time for sightseeing and shopping in both the Crown Colony and Peking.
Holland America is heralding the new year with a Silver Anniversary World Cruise aboard the Rotterdam. The ship line is also awaiting the 1,200-passenger Nieuw Amsterdam, debuting in late March in San Francisco, home port except for the summer in Alaska, where the vessel will sail on Sundays from Vancouver into domestic fjordland (with rates from $1,305 per person, double occupancy). Carnival Cruise Line's new 1,200-passenger Tropicale will also be sailing from Vancouver during the summer of '83, in between weekly cruises from Los Angeles to the Mexican ''riviera.''
The Pacific and Far East are busy this year. The 473-passenger Pearl of Scandinavia (former Finnstar) began two-week cruises in June between Hong Kong and Kobe, and plans to sail from Singapore all winter. Royal Viking's Star is scheduled for five sailings on the Hong Kong-Kobe route next spring, in addition to the line's longer Orient and South Pacific cruises. Princess Cruises has revived its annual long voyage between Los Angeles and Australia aboard the Pacific Princess next March, with an inaugural call at Shanghai. P & O's beautiful Sea Princess (the former Kungsholm) will also be in the Far East this winter during a maiden world voyage. Norwegian American Cruises' news is that passengers aboard the world cruise of the Sagafjord will disembark in Hong Kong for four days at the elegant Regent Hotel.
Another NAC innovation is the 60-night Christmas East/West Africa cruise aboard the Vistafjord from Genoa on Dec. 18. This exciting itinerary rounds Africa clockwise, and ends in Southampton Feb. 16. Marlin Perkins of TV's ''Wild Kingdom'' series will be guest lecturer on the Mombasa-to-Dakar segment, and all-inclusive rates begin at $10,290 per person, double occupancy.
Back in the Caribbean, there are four more new arrivals this season and passengers can look for some competitive pricing. The all-Greek 400-passenger Constellation sails from St. Petersburg every Saturday from mid-February through April as well as offering two trans-Panama Canal cruises between Florida and Los Angeles. The 800-plus passenger Rhapsody (former Statendam) inaugurates a maiden season from Miami on Nov. 2, and another from Vancouver on May 31. Two-week ''repositioning'' cruises through the Panama Canal are also available.
The 800-passenger Royal Odyssey (former Doric) makes her debut Dec. 23 from Acapulco to Miami. The 12-day air-sea programs, so popular with Californians, continue through February and begin at $2,198 per person, double occupancy, from Los Angeles. Beginning Oct. 30 from Port Everglades, the German-flag Astor is scheduled for a number of Caribbean cruises before three longer South America sailings. The 700-passenger vessel was launched this past spring in Europe, with Hamburg as home port.
If you are interested in the United States' own scenic shoreline, try the 83 -passenger America, launched in April by American Cruise Lines of Haddam, Conn. This charming coastal vessel spends the winter months sailing from Baltimore, Savannah, and Fort Myers (Fla.) and summers in New England. Seventeen or so fresh-faced students complete the crew, and they care for people who love cruises and are interested in the local sites.
And finally, introducing a European concept to the East Coast is Scandinavian World Cruises, whose brand new 1,000-passenger Scandinavia just inaugurated New York-to-Bahama Islands cruises - with your car. The vessel departs New York every five days, and passengers may connect in Freeport, Grand Bahama for Miami, and Port Canaveral. Or you may just prefer to stay aboard this $100 million vessel loaded with nonstop activities!