Subject: Re: Wanted: A primer on Cruising
Hi Zine cruisers and hope to be cruisers,

>From what I've been reading this is a great time to book a cruise because there are lots of bargains out there.

We've been on four cruises on three different lines - small and larger. Our first was Sunquest Cruises with smaller ships (25-30 thousand tons with about 1200 passengers), Royal Caribbean (about 2000 passengers) and this year, Celebrity Cruises (75-80 thousand tons with 2000 passengers). Each in its own way was fun though I'd say Celebrity had the best service.

When considering what cruise to take, why not start with itinerary? Caribbean cruises are wonderfully relaxing but the islands may not offer the variety you'd want compared to a Florida-to-Mexico or Mediterranean cruise that stops in widely varied locales.

My #1 tip is keep all of your receipts for anything you buy on board to check against your bill. Sometimes the accounting department makes mistakes and it's hard to remember what you bought the day you boarded on the night before you disembark.

My #2 tip is to get the cheapest cabin possible if you're an active traveller. You'll only be there to sleep. We have found that Sears' travel department offers good bargains.

Other tips? Pack whatever you want because your luggage isn't going anywhere and you don't have to carry it around. It's a time to indulge. Check out the facilities and services on board beforehand, through the cruise line websites, then walk around the ship as soon as you board (your luggage won't be in your cabin when you board anyway so you don't have to rush to unpack) to familiarize yourself with everything.

Depending on your comfort level, you may not need to book land excursions through the ship's tour desk. On our first Mediterranean cruise, we didn't book any. Compare an $80 escorted tour from Villefranche to Monte Carlo with taking a local bus for a few dollars to do exactly the same thing on your own schedule.

Any ziners out there who've cruised through Asian waters? Lucy in Toronto