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— Struggling liberal radio network Air America, thrown off KLSD-AM here last month, is making a San Diego comeback of sorts. Come February 23, the first Air America Radio Cruise is set to depart from downtown's cruise ship terminal aboard the Holland America Line's MS Oosterdam on a weeklong voyage down the Mexican coast, with stops at Cabo San Lucas, Mazatlán, and Puerto Vallarta. Besides network regulars like Randi Rhodes and onetime New York Democratic mayoral candidate Mark Green, voyagers can rub shoulders with Bush-bashing New York Times columnist Paul Krugman. Highlights, according to the cruise's website, include "Access to, and dining with guest speakers" and "Traveling with like-minded individuals." Just because it's for liberals, though, doesn't mean the cruise caters to the welfare set; accommodations range from $1380 to $6305 a person.

San Diego has become a popular departure point for themed cruises featuring big-name celebrities. William F. Buckley Jr.'s conservative National Review sponsored a summer voyage featuring cocktails with editor Rich Lowery, rejected Supreme Court nominee Robert Bork, and neocon icon Dinesh D'Souza. And San Francisco's Olivia Companies, which bills itself as the "premier travel and entertainment company for lesbians," hosted comedian Lily Tomlin on a women-only October trip to Mexico. Next year, Billie Jean King is set to be "guest of honor" aboard an Olivia cruise "celebrating Title IX," the federal law barring sex discrimination in school sports.

Air America's tenure on KLSD was inaugurated in August 2004 by station owner Clear Channel Communications, the Texas-based chain that also owns KOGO, home of right-wing talker and fallen mayor Roger Hedgecock. Program director Cliff Albert, a big Hedgecock defender not known for his First Amendment proclivities, proclaimed he was putting the progressive network on the air because "it makes sense financially." After it was yanked, the left-leaning gabfest was replaced with an all-jock format featuring, among others, a crew of macho sports writers from the Union-Tribune. ... Speaking of high seas, with the U-T in the midst of a pre-Christmas layoff spree, publisher David Copley's $30 million yacht Happy Days appears to be heading back from summer along the Riviera to its winter partying grounds in the Caribbean, according to amateur sightings reported on yachtspotter.com. On November 20, the 164-foot vessel traveled through the Strait of Gibraltar; eight days later, it was seen tying up at the docks of the posh Marina Rubicon in the port of Lanzarote, Canary Islands.

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