I've always wanted to go on a learning cruise. Can you recommend a few new trips?
—S.E., MADISON, WIS.
Educational cruise offerings are as wide-ranging as the courses in a university catalogue. Harvard classics professor Richard Thomas will discuss the literary and historical importance of Sicily and southern Italy on Travel Dynamics International's 11-day Voyage Around Italy (800/257-5767; www.traveldynamicsinternational.com; trips from $6,595, double). The 92-passenger Corinthian cruises the Mediterranean coast and the Adriatic Sea, stopping off in Naples, Palermo, and Venice. Islamic architecture and civilization are the subjects of a 14-day trip with Smithsonian Journeys (877/338-8687; www.smithsonianjourneys.org; from $6,950, double). The 64-passenger Seacloud docks in Gibraltar, Casablanca, and Tenerife, in the Canary Islands; lectures cover Moorish design and North African history. At Australia's Great Barrier Reef, ichthyologist George Barlow will explain the behavior of butterfly fish, giant clams, and starfish during a trip sponsored by the American Museum of Natural History (800/462-8687; www.discoverytours.org; 10-day trips from $4,990, double). Snorkelers can examine these sea creatures up close when the 44-passenger Coral Princess II drops anchor at Queensland's outer Ribbon Reefs and Lizard Island.
Is airline tap water safe to drink?I've heard conflicting reports.
—B.T., SAN FRANCISCO, CALIF.
Unfortunately, it doesn't appear to be. Results from a recent Wall Street Journal survey—which sampled water from the galley and lavatory taps on 14 different flights around the world—are enough to turn your stomach. Testers found bacteria and microscopic organisms, including salmonella and insect eggs, hundreds of times over the federal limit allowable for drinking water. Although several airlines have questioned the methodology of the WSJ study, suggesting that the tests were not performed under sterile conditions, the newspaper says it followed guidelines recommended by the Environmental Protection Agency, which requires airlines to clean their water tanks every three months. Other recent studies, performed in places as diverse as Japan and Canada and including the science project of a curious 13-year-old California boy, have produced similar results. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the agency responsible for inspecting aircraft water containers, is in discussions with the EPA about how to monitor the systems more effectively. For now, ask for bottled water—or bring your own.
Can you suggest a lesser-known Greek island—a spot that hasn't been overrun by tourists yet?
—H.W., BROOKLYN, N.Y.
Only 227 of Greece's 2,000 islands are inhabited, and, luckily, not all of those are as crowded as Mykonos and Corfu. The pristine beaches, dramatic mountains, and aquamarine waters of Amorgos (see www.amorgos.net for hotel information), in the eastern Cyclades, are as unspoiled today as they were when Luc Besson shot his 1988 cult film The Big Blue on the island. Kalymnos (see www.kalymnos.tripod.com for hotel information), in the Dodecanese, is a rugged island known for its sponge fishing, orange groves, and limestone cliffs. It also has a mysterious network of subterranean caverns; legend has it that the young Zeus hid from his father in the Cave of Kefalabefore killing him. Even more isolated are Kalymnos's own islets—tiny Nera and volcanic Telendos, both accessible via water taxi. Agistri (see www.agistriisland-saron.gr for hotel information) is the most picturesque island in the Saronic Gulf. Aside from the requisite nude beaches, it has a pine-forested interior ideal for walkers and cyclists seeking shelter from the sun. It's just an hour's catamaran ride from Piraeus, the port of Athens (for more on Athens, see Update, this issue).
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