TIPS ON CHOOSING A CRUISE

Vicki Evinger seems genuinely stumped when asked who might not enjoy a cruise. True, she is a spokeswoman for the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), an industry trade group representing 32 cruise lines in North America. But there are so many different kinds of cruises now, she muses - for families, singles, interest groups. There are cruises to varied destinations for different lengths of time. A hard-core adventure traveler, she finally offers, may find a cruise limiting. Or someone seeking solitude.

But while she couldn't think of a bad cruise, she could recall passengers who had made bad choices. To avoid that situation, she offers these suggestions:

* Talk to a travel agent. Talk is cheap and brochures are free. Evinger recommends one who specializes in cruises (CLIA happens to run a program of seminars to certify travel agents). Agents should be able to direct you to the right trip by asking you questions: How long? With children? Big ship or small? Formal or not? Lots of time at sea or a new port every day? High activity or low-key? Knowledge is power. ``I pity the person who sees an ad in a newspaper, goes to an agent and says `Ann, book it,' '' without knowing enough, she says.

* Pore over the cruise brochures. Check the ship's layout: Do you want an outside cabin? How important is an elevator on your cabin deck? Are you a late sleeper and need to be away from busy hallways?

* Consider the economics. In general, the sooner you book, the cheaper the fare - some lines even offer 2-for-1 specials early on. You may also get a deal at the last minute, but remember: The best cabins book first. Cruises are not cheap: Figure $150 to $225 per person per day. But that compares favorably with a resort vacation, once you factor in food, airfare, and entertainment - all included on a cruise, Evinger notes.

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