By Geri Southern

Unpack once, and your cabin remains with you throughout your trip.  As on land, there are many places to eat on board ship from the main dining room to a pizza parlor, relaxed buffets to ice cream stands.  Most meals are included in your cruise fare, however some ships now have what they call a la carte restaurants which have a surcharge and may require reservations.  On some European ships they charge for room service, but remember how nice it is to have breakfast in your cabin…just let your cabin steward know the night before.

I’ve heard people complain that they may be “bored” on a ship.  Come on, join the early birds for a walk around the deck, jog yourself silly in the gym, swim (weather permitting) ‘tho some ships now have indoor pools, and perhaps you’ll be on the ship that has a “Zen area” with soothing music, a pool, hot tubs and a bar plus a water slide and teen disco.  There are computer rooms to keep you connected, gambling, movies, cabaret and Vegas style shows, lectures on ports of call, seminars on everything from art to investments, dancing at night, show and tell on napkin folding and crafts, even lessons on what wine to serve with what dish.  Yes, you’re allowed to “chill out” and sleep late or relax in the sun.

Sightseeing tours are available at ports of call.  Some can be purchased ahead of time, or on board.  They vary in length and price by the inclusions in the tour.  If you pull right into a port like Cozumel or Nassau, you can go off on your own.  Be sure to return before the ship sails.  Most cruise ships in Europe have an onboard currency based on the Euro.

Pamper yourself with a visit to the spa, and the ladies should make an appointment with the beauty salon for the night of the Captain’s dinner.  There are shopping arcades on board ship, so if you forget something, don’t worry.

In China there are Yangtze River cruises.  The Victoria Line is the only American managed cruise line on the Yangtze.  They have HBO and CNN in all cabins.

To maintain business most cruise lines are now offering special savings. Regent Seven Seas Cruises are offering up to 2-for-1 savings, free air plus free unlimited shore excursions.  Offer expires March 31, 2009.  They sail to Europe, the Baltic, Mediterranean, Africa, Alaska, Antarctica, Asia Pacific, Tahiti and the Tropics.

As someone once said, “I like river cruises because we’re never out of sight of land.”  AMA Waterway (148 passengers) cruises the Danube, and some of their ships carry bicycles for use in port cities.  Avalon Waterways is debuting two ships with all cabins outside.  Peter Deilmann has classical music themed cruises, while Tauck Tours introduces the Swiss Jewel, an intimate 59 cabin vessel with 12-24 day European cruises.

Cruise companies are conscious of “going green”, and the new Celebrity Solstice is the first cruise ship to use solar power, taking advantage of the latest technology to produce environment friendly ships.

The fastest growing trend in travel is “cocooning” – family and friends travelling together.  If you form a large enough group, there can be an extra discount!

There’s a cruise out there for everyone.  Many people are concerned that they may not like cruising, so they take the shortest one available, usually 3 days.  On their return they admit it was over too soon, and book a longer cruise the next time.  Bon Voyage!