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 December 3, 1999

Match cruise line to your interests

A whole new generation that grew up watching “The Love Boat” is discovering that cruising really is an exciting, relaxing and affordable vacation.

Anchors away!

“Cruises are popular out of Denver. We’re land-locked so we love the beach,´ said Sandy Sorensen of Cain Travel in Boulder. “The success rate is really high. Rarely do I hear someone say they hated their cruise.”

“I love cruising because it’s so relaxing,´ said Mary Hedger of Boulder’s Travel-Ease. “Everything is done for you. The only thing you’ll have to do is dress yourself.”

Life jacket: The crucial issue in cruising is to pick the right “line” or cruise company. There’s something for everyone on any boat, but different cruise operators appeal to different demographics. Make sure there’s a good match of ages and activities or you’ll be playing shuffleboard instead of snorkeling.

“I ask people about their interests – sightseeing, short excursions or water sports – and match them to a cruise line that offers those activities,” Hedger said.

Carnival and Sun cruises attract a younger group and may be more family-oriented. Seabourn and Cunnard are the luxury liners. They’re more expensive and attract a lot of retirees. Princess and Royal Holland are in the middle of the two groups.

What to pack is perhaps the hottest issue in this sunny industry. While so-called “traditional” cruises still offer two or more formal dinners that may require a tie, “casual” cruises are becoming more popular, especially with younger passengers.

“More ships are going casual, because people don’t want to wear a tie or tuxedo when they’re on vacation,” Hedger said.

Don’t pick a cruise by price alone. It’s no bargain for two single women to be stuck on a honeymoon cruise.

Port of call: Most ships dock at a different port every day, so travelers see several islands or port cities.

“The hot destinations are still Caribbean cruises, especially Southern ports like Barbados, Martinique,´ said Chris Jacobs of Aloha World Travel in Boulder.

“More ships are starting to call in Belize, Costa Rica – and Roatan is new for some boats.”

“Young people want to go to the Caribbean – that’s the romance, the water sports and the adventures. Southern Caribbean trips are most popular, and the itinerary might hit St. Lucia, San Juan, St. Thomas, Barbados or Antigua,” Hedger said.

A new Western Caribbean tour offered by Sun Cruises/Sun Tours leaves from Cancun, Mexico, instead of Florida and visits ports in Honduras, Grand Cayman, Cozumel and Ocho Rios, Jamaica.

Alaska cruises are popular in the summer, but tend to attract an older crowd. A little searching will turn up specialty cruises such as a jazz cruise, a pro-football cruise or even a floating lecture series. Some ships have “exotic” itineraries including Around the World, Antarctica or South American ports. These are longer and more expensive cruises that mostly attract retirees, because they have the money and the time.

Smaller cruises also are becoming more popular. Wind Star cruises, for example, are on a big yacht, rather than an ocean liner traveling with 1,200 people. Windjammer cruises are very hands-on, where guests can help the crew sail the boat, if they so choose.

“Boulder people like to bring their children along, and Disney cruises have wonderful children’s programs so parents don’t have to entertain their children all the time,” Sorensen said. Sometimes extended families plan reunions on board, and many lines have a “kid’s club” that will entertain young sailors all day.

Now on the Lido deck: Cruises are known for great food and great entertainment. Look for breakfast all around the ship, snacks all day, a buffet lunch, maybe a hamburger bar or a salmon bake around 4 p.m., a formal dinner, and, in case you’re still hungry, the midnight buffet starts at 10:30 or 11 p.m.

“All ships have real gourmet meals, and the food is excellent. There’s always a lighter fare or heart-healthy options, and you can eat fresh fish and veggies and skip the pastries if you don’t want to gain weight,” Sorensen said.

Ships have major Broadway or Las Vegas-style shows every night, comedians or music in the lounges and usually show movies every night.

Sea fares: Travel agents call cruising an “affordable” vacation because the ships offer a lot for the money. One price includes meals and most activities except alcohol, gambling, shopping and spa services.

Save money up-front by getting the best deal. The price of a cruise varies as much as an airline seat or a new car. Everyone at dinner will have paid a different price for the same cruise, and almost no one pays the “brochure” price; it’s common to pay less than half.

Booking early – five or six months in advance – or less than a month before the boat leaves (if it’s not sold out) can save a bundle. Cruise lines offer deep discounts to returning passengers. Different travel agencies all have access to different discounts, so shop around once you’ve picked your ship.

Travelers can get great deals during the off-season, which is August, September and October, although winter seas tend to be more calm.

Prices including airfare might be as low as $800 per person for a one-week Caribbean cruise. A more upscale cruise on the Princess line might be $1,700 per person or as much as $6,000 for a week on luxury liner.

Make sure the price includes airfare and extras like port taxes, which are usually another $100 to $150. Tipping is standard and can add another $75 to $100 to the bill.

Scams are almost unheard of in this industry where most of the lines have good reputations and long histories.

An experienced travel agent can help first-time cruisers pick the right boat, find the deals and steer clear of problem destinations and hidden costs. Don’t assume the best deal is on the Web, but to do some Internet research, check out these sites:

( www.cruise.com has details such as price about hundreds of cruises and great links to other travel sites;

( www.travelocity.com has a Cruise Critic site that offers the best insight into how to pick the right cruise line, what to watch out for and what to expect;

( All the cruise lines have their own Web sites;

( Just for fun, go to www.loveboatonline.com.

Bon Voyage!

A whole new generation that grew up watching “The Love Boat” is discovering that cruising really is an exciting, relaxing and affordable vacation.

Anchors away!

“Cruises are popular out of Denver. We’re land-locked so we love the beach,´ said Sandy Sorensen of Cain Travel in Boulder. “The success rate is really high. Rarely do I hear someone say they hated their cruise.”

“I love cruising because it’s so relaxing,´ said Mary Hedger of Boulder’s Travel-Ease. “Everything is done for you. The only thing you’ll have to do is dress yourself.”

Life jacket: The crucial issue in cruising is to pick the right…

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