AS a major port, Hong Kong should try to develop its cruise industry, according to acting marine director Ian Dale. Speaking at a ceremony on the Crystal Harmony to welcome the luxury liner on its inaugural voyage to Hong Kong, Mr Dale said the cruise industry would be good for Hong Kong's economy as a whole. The ceremony was part of the 25th anniversary celebrations of Japan's Nippon Yusen Kaisha (NYK) Line in Hong Kong. NYK owns the 49,400-tonne liner, which was built by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries of Japan four years ago at a cost of US$200 million. Mr Dale said rival ports in Singapore and Malaysia were developing their cruise industries and Hong Kong should ensure it was not left behind. Industry sources said that although cruise ships did not contribute much to a port's status or earnings, they brought in travellers who boosted tourism earnings. Mr Dale said he hoped the Crystal Harmony would become a regular visitor to Hong Kong. Although a few luxury liners called at Hong Kong every year, Mr Dale said the territory should target middle market travellers whose numbers were growing in the region. The Crystal Harmony, carrying 960 passengers, mostly American, and more than 500 crew, left during the weekend for Shanghai as part of a 14-day trip which will end in Yokohama. Passengers paid between HK$49,000 and $150,000, depending on the type of accommodation chosen. Swire Travel has been appointed general sales agent for Los Angeles-based Crystal Cruises, which operates the Crystal Harmony. The ship, launched by Crystal Cruises after two years of planning and research, has been given a five star-plus rating by the Berlitz Guide to Cruising. Conceived as a resort hotel-at-sea, Crystal Harmony is the most spacious ship afloat in its class. It offers the largest penthouse afloat and the first floating casino of Caesar's Palace of Los Vegas. The focus of the ship is the Crystal Plaza atrium lobby, which features hand-cut glass sculptures and a waterfall. Its 1994 programme includes voyages to the Pacific-Orient, Canada, the Caribbean and Europe. Crystal Cruises, which is also owned by NYK, plans to launch a second luxury ship, Crystal Symphony, in May 1995. Crystal Cruises has been admitted as the 10th member of the International Cruise Council, which is headed by Alan Wong, managing director of Swire Travel. Mr Wong said: ''The International Cruise Council now represents close to half of the world cruise capacity. Crystal Cruises' decision [to call at Hong Kong] signifies the importance that the company places on Hong Kong as a growing cruise market.''