For those worried about outbreaks of infectious disease on cruise ships, there is good news from the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta. A cruise ship inspection program, begun in 1975, has yielded dramatic improvement in sanitation and a sharp decline in health problems over the last three years, according to a recent announcement by the centers.

As of the end of October, there have been no outbreaks of infectious disease on board any cruise ship operating out of the United States this year.Six full-time inspectors have been making routine semiannual inspections of all cruise ships leaving United States ports for foreign waters, and giving each ship a grade of 0 to 100, with 86 the passing grade. The main focus is on kitchens, bathrooms and water supplies.

Of 84 ships inspected this year, 72 received passing marks. One ship, the Wind Spirit of Windstar Cruises, came through with a perfect 100, while the lowest-scoring vessel was the Pride of Mississippi, operated by Pride Cruise Lines, which scored 57. Between March 1, 1987, and Aug. 31, 1988, 58 of 87 ships that were inspected failed, with many of them receiving scores below 50. During that period there were also several minor outbreaks of sickness on board.

Still, despite the improvement in sanitation, there are limits to how much protection the inspections can provide. Thomas Hunt, chief of the centers' program, said the purpose of the inspections is to ward off outbreaks of serious infections, but nothing can prevent an occasional case of nausea or faulty sea legs. "For most people, it's still a good idea to take along some Dramamine," he added.


Skiers in the San Francisco Bay area will have a new way to reach the slopes of the North Lake Tahoe region starting Dec. 7. The Sierra 49er Express train is set to start twice-a-week service from San Jose, Oakland, Richmond and Martinez to Truckee, Calif. The trip from Oakland takes six and a half hours.

Passengers who buy ski packages will get connections by van to hotels and ski resorts, including Northstar, Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows, at the north end of the lake. The 49er will leave the Bay area on Friday and Monday and return Sunday and Wednesday.

Through the winter, Transcisco Tours of San Francisco (800-765-4937), which owns and operates the train, is packaging ski trips that include round-trip rail transportation, a meal aboard the train in each direction, two nights lodging, transfers to and from hotels and a coupon book containing discounts for lift tickets. The basic packages are for two nights and three days at prices ranging from $289 to $449 a person in double occupancy, depending on accommodations and season. A five-night trip costs $549; a six-night stay with accommodations at the new Resort at Squaw Creek in Squaw Valley is $849. These two packages include a rental car.