June 1999

q. I want to take a cruise in Southeast Asia. What's available?--C.T., Boise, Idaho
a. November through March is high season for cruising in Asia. Radisson Seven Seas' Song of Flower sets sail November 18 on a 12-day cruise from Bombay to Singapore, making stops in Goa, Cochin, Phuket, Penang, and Kuala Lumpur (800/333-3333; from $7,395 per person, based on double occupancy). The ship then leaves Singapore for Darwin, Australia, on December 7; on this 12-day itinerary it will visit spots throughout Indonesia: Jakarta, Semarang, Bali, Komodo, Larantuka, and Kupang (from $7,295 per person, double). Sailing the Indian Ocean from the Seychelles, Seabourn Cruise Line's Seabourn Spirit heads for Singapore via the Maldives, Sri Lanka, and Penang (800/929-9595; from $10,990 per person, double, for 15 days). For a closer look at more-remote areas of Asia, try a smaller ship; Abercrombie & Kent's Road to Mandalay -- a 126-passenger luxury hotel/river cruiser -- travels the Irrawaddy River for four days as part of A&K's Myanmar itinerary. The 13-day package includes the river trip, tours of Buddhist monuments and shrines along the way, and two nights in Bangkok (800/323-7308; from $5,950 per person, double).

q. Can you suggest some affordable family-friendly hotels in New York City?--R.F., St. Paul, Minn.
a. Doubletree Guest Suites (1568 Broadway; 212/719-1600), just off Times Square, offers chocolate-chip cookies at check-in; a playroom stocked with games, toys, and art supplies; and special dinner-and-theater packages. Kids under 17 stay free, and childproofed suites with kitchenettes start at $229. The suites at the Art Deco-style Gorham (136 W. 55th St.; 212/245-1800; suites from $235) have Nintendo and good kitchen facilities; children under 16 stay free when sharing with adults. The Victorian-era Hotel Wales (1295 Madison Ave., at 93rd St.; 212/876-6000; suites from $249) has museum discounts, rooms with fireplaces (some have Central Park views), and complimentary breakfast and afternoon tea -- served in the Pied Piper room and accompanied by classical musicians.

q. Do you know of any island hotels with outdoor showers within easy reach of the East Coast?--P.L., Stamford, Conn.
a. The Jamaican resort Goldeneye -- formerly the estate of author Ian Fleming -- has rooms with private bamboo-screened rock gardens that hold showers, sinks, and deep claw-foot tubs (800/688-7678; villas from $1,000, including all meals). On Cat Island in the Bahamas, Fernandez Bay Village has 12 beachfront villas and cottages where guests can shower surrounded by lush hibiscus and bougainvillea (800/940-1905 or 954/474-4821; cottages from $145). If you want something in the United States, consider Florida's Little Palm Island; the thatched-roof bungalows all have outdoor showers (800/343-8567; villas from $400).

q. How much does one tip a sommelier?--W.N., Ipswich, Mass.
a. T&L contributing editor Anya von Bremzen says that 10 or 15 percent of the price of the wine has always been the standard. However, according to restaurant expert Tim Zagat, "These days most people don't do anything special for the sommeliers, they just merge it with the tip they're giving." If a sommelier is really helpful and informative, and you'd like to leave something, he says, "it's common to give them ten or twenty dollars, depending on where you are." In general, though, "there's no magic number. It's a matter of personal taste."

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