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Smart Sailing

1 PICK YOUR PORT
It has never been easier—or less expensive—for cruisers to reach departure ports. With a growing number of ships to fill every year, cruise companies are scheduling sailings from more North American cities than ever before, making it possible for many passengers to drive to their ship.

South Florida, Los Angeles, Vancouver, and New York remain the primary departure points, but cruise ships now sail from New Orleans; Galveston; Houston; Port Canaveral, Florida; San Francisco; San Diego; Jacksonville; Tampa; Charleston; Baltimore; Philadelphia; and Norfolk, Virginia.

The number of departures from these ports is also on the rise. Since 2001, major cruise lines have added more than 400 North American trips to their annual schedules. Departures from secondary ports are often limited, or seasonal, although an increasing number are year-round, especially from Gulf Coast cities such as New Orleans, Galveston, and Tampa. This year, Norwegian Cruise Line added cruises from New York to Miami, the Bahamas, and the Caribbean on its new Norwegian Dawn—the first cruise to sail all year from the Big Apple. Visit www.cruisemates.com for the latest itineraries.

2 WATCH YOUR WALLET
Despite offering all-inclusive rates that cover cabin, meals, and entertainment, many cruise lines are sending passengers into end-of-the-trip sticker shock. As ships get bigger and competition keeps fares low, cruise lines are adding optional goods and services for extra fees. And they add up fast—especially since everything can be charged to the key card you're issued at check-in and you won't see the total until the cruise is over.

Cruise lines won't release exact figures, but Carnival Corporation & PLC—the parent of Carnival, Holland America, Cunard, Seabourn, Costa, Windstar, and Princess—reports that more than 20 percent of its 2002 revenue came from onboard purchases and shore excursions. Some luxury lines cover costs that others don't (alcohol or gratuities, for example), so find out exactly what's included before booking.

Want to keep a lid on expenses?If you need to call home, do it when the ship is in port, not from your cabin; likewise, check your e-mail at a shoreside Internet café. Finally, wait until the last day or two to shop in the ship's boutique, when items often go on sale.

THE HIDDEN COSTS: WHAT LEADING LINES CHARGE

CELEBRITY CRUISES
Ship-to-shore phone call (per minute) $6.50
Specialty restaurant fee (per person) $25
Manicure $44
Group fitness class (per person) $10
Martini $6
Wine (lowest-priced bottle) $17

CRYSTAL CRUISES
Ship-to-shore phone call (per minute) $9.50
Specialty restaurant fee (per person) NC**
Manicure $44
Group fitness class (per person) NC
Martini $6*
Wine (lowest-priced bottle) $18

HOLLAND AMERICA
Ship-to-shore phone call (per minute) $6.50*
Specialty restaurant fee (per person) $20
Manicure $40
Group fitness class (per person) $11
Martini $5.88*
Wine (lowest-priced bottle) $16

PRINCESS CRUISES
Ship-to-shore phone call (per minute) $9.50
Specialty restaurant fee (per person) $12.50*
Manicure $25
Group fitness class (per person) NC
Martini $4.35*
Wine (lowest-priced bottle) $20

RADISSON SEVEN SEAS CRUISES
Ship-to-shore phone call (per minute) $11*
Specialty restaurant fee (per person) NC
Manicure $30
Group fitness class (per person) NC
Martini $5.50
Wine (lowest-priced bottle) NC

NC = no charge
* The median of a range of prices
** $6 per-person gratuity suggested

3 SAVE TIME ON-LINE
Savvy cruise passengers have traditionally rushed to the ship's tour desk right after boarding to register for preferred shore excursions before they fill up. Now they can use the Internet, as major cruise lines upgrade their Web sites.

Guests on Celebrity Cruises (www.celebrity.com) can usually register for shore trips upon making a reservation. Holland America (www.hollandamerica.com) begins offering on-line booking about 60 days before sailing; Princess Cruises (www.princess.com) offers it 120 days in advance. Royal Caribbean (www.rccl.com) passengers have more than a year to book.

In addition, some lines—including Royal Caribbean, Celebrity, Radisson Seven Seas, Holland America, and Princess—allow passengers to fill out immigration and other predeparture documentation on-line, which can facilitate boarding. Holland America offers an express check-in line for guests who have already completed forms.

What's next?Cruise lines say they are working to make high-demand onboard services like spa appointments and specialty restaurant reservations accessible through their Web sites in the months to come.

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