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Lifelong traveler shares advice on cruises

Peggy Hammond of Spring Hill rides atop an elephant with her husband, Gene, and a guide in Chang Mai, Thailand, in 2001.

Courtesy of Peggy Hammond

Peggy Hammond of Spring Hill rides atop an elephant with her husband, Gene, and a guide in Chang Mai, Thailand, in 2001.

Peggy Hammond of Spring Hill was born with wanderlust in her soul 82 years ago in Pittsburgh.

She went on her first cruise — the Queen of Bermuda — in 1949, when she was 19. ("The ships were smaller then," she said.)

Three years later, she was off to Japan to do civil service work for the Army. It was there she met Homer "Gene" Hammond, the career Marine she would marry. He died two years ago after almost 58 years of marriage.

They traveled the world; she can't count the number of trips they were on but says she has been to 43 countries. They were hosted on five continents in their 25 years traveling with Jimmy Carter's "Friendship Force," an exchange-student sort of thing in which you visit a country and stay with a family and then they visit your country and stay with you. "You can't hate anybody if you've had your feet under their table," was Carter's doctrine.

Beyond that, most of their traveling was done by cruise ship. She now takes about five cruises a year — and no more skimping; she flies business class and gets her own outside cabin. "I'm old; I can spend my money," said the fashionably thin and much-younger-than-her-years world traveler.

We recently got her to sit still long enough to answer a few questions for us. Patti Ewald, Times staff writer

1 What advice would you give wanna-be cruisers?

If you haven't cruised at all, book a short trip out of Tampa for the first one. Carnival has frequent sailings, and Holland America offers several at various times of the year. Hunt around online but use a travel agent. They know all the special deals and last-minute offerings.

Take an inside cabin first as it is the least expensive. They have plenty of closet and bathroom space for two adults. All meals are included, but you pay extra for soft drinks (tea, coffee and iced tea are included). Gratuities for the cabin staff, dining room staff and those behind the scene (laundry, cooks, etc.) are added to your shipboard account for roughly $11 per day per person.

Excursions are costly, and you can often do well on shore with local people who know the area and appreciate making a few dollars for themselves.

2 Favorite spots?

(Hesitating like a mom asked to pick her favorite child) . . . Christchurch, New Zealand, with its Canterbury Museum packed with Antarctic exploration exhibits. And the Deutsches Museum in Munich, Germany, with its working models of submarines.

3 How much can one expect to pay for a cruise?

Examining her meticulous records, she found she paid $5,600 for a cruise to Barcelona, $7,300 for a Danube River cruise and $3,300 for a Caribbean cruise. Those are all for outside (best view) cabins. She said a person could go for as little as $1,800 by sharing an inside room with someone else.

4 Thoughts on cruise lines?

Carnival is a real family-oriented line with bright colors and flashy shows in the lounge.

Princess and Holland America cater more to middle-aged families and singles, with less flash and more lectures about the countries to be visited and special things like cooking lessons and international musicians.

There also are the Monarch of the Seas (Royal Caribbean) around the Caribbean, Holland America ships around the Gulf of Mexico, the Primadonna (Viking River Cruises) on the Danube River and the Sea Princess (Princess Cruises) to Alaska.

5 Is there anyplace left to go? What's on your bucket list?

Machu Picchu, Peru, and its pre-Columbian relics; and Petra, Jordan, a city established 300 years before Christ with rock-cut architecture and a water conduit system.

Lifelong traveler shares advice on cruises 09/26/12 [Last modified: Wednesday, September 26, 2012 2:26pm]
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