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The price is right for cruising

Pack your bags and set sail. “Rates for cruises are the lowest I’ve seen since I began publishing TravelSmart,” says Nancy Dunnan, editor of the newsletter. She says this is a “buyer’s market.”

Associated Press files

Pack your bags and set sail. “Rates for cruises are the lowest I’ve seen since I began publishing TravelSmart,” says Nancy Dunnan, editor of the newsletter. She says this is a “buyer’s market.”

NEW YORK — TravelSmart newsletter has a two-part series with tips for booking and taking cruises in its May 15 and June 15 issues. Both issues are available free for the asking by calling toll-free 1-800-327-3633, or you can go to www.TravelSmartNewsletter.com.

"Rates for cruises are the lowest I've seen since I began publishing TravelSmart," said editor Nancy Dunnan. "All lines are offering recession rates — as much as 40 percent less than last year with many giving free or reduced air fare, along with remarkably low prices for children and seniors." She called this a "buyer's market" and added that with departures from more than 20 U.S. and Canadian cities, many Americans can drive to their cruise.

Here are a few recommendations from Dunnan's advice for finding the right cruise:

Look for a cruise with like-minded people. Retirees tend to take longer cruises of nine or more nights. Families sail during holidays and summer, often on large ships with kids' programs. College students like spring-break cruises; scholarly types pick cruises with cultural themes or on-board experts giving lectures. Professional couples may gravitate to quick getaways of five days or less. Well-traveled types like exotic destinations, luxury yachts, four- and five-star ships and river cruises with gourmet dining. Solo travelers often opt for singles-designated sailings or ships offering to find a cabin mate.

Ship size matters. Megaships, with 3,000 or more passengers, have nonstop activities; midsize (500 to 1,000 people) are more personal, like an inn. Small ships (fewer than 500) are great for those who like to read, write and study nature; they easily navigate shallow waters, getting you up close to wildlife.

If you're buying insurance, ask what it covers. Some cruise policies only give you credit toward a future sailing if you cancel.

Book the right cabin. Inside cabins are cheaper, but will you be unhappy without a view? If you get seasick, select a cabin in the middle of the ship. Avoid cabins near restaurants, elevators, galleys, laundry rooms, pools, ice machines, nightclubs and casinos.

Ask about tipping. On some cruises, a daily gratuity is added to your onboard account, and a 15 percent gratuity is often automatically added to bar, beverage, wine and deck chair tabs.

10 free things to do

in Europe this summer

NEW YORK — If you're taking advantage of the relatively strong dollar this year by heading to Europe, you'll be looking for ways to save even more when you get there. Here is a list of free and fun things to do in Europe, compiled by the European Travel Commission:

• In Madrid, the Palace of Liria, the 18th century residence of the Duchess of Alba at Calle Princesa 20, offers a collection of Spanish art, along with Flemish, German, Dutch, Italian, English and French paintings, with guided tours at 10 a.m., 11 a.m. and noon Fridays.

• Rome's picturesque Trastevere area on the Tiber's west bank, a charming and colorful neighborhood, hosts a festival the European Travel Commission describes as "Fellini-esque" for eight days in the second half of July, the Festa di Noantri, with a religious procession, food and entertainment.

• In Leipzig, Germany, Porsche gives free factory tours where you can see cars like the Cayenne and the new Panamera assembled on antiseptically clean floors. The tour includes a museum with exhibits covering Porsche history. If you feel like upgrading your free tour, various packages for purchase include lunch and even driving experiences on a track. Details at www.porsche-leipzig.de.

• In Paris, the Friday Night Fever — www.pari-roller.com — is a mass group tour by inline skaters of the city at night. Meeting point is Place Raoul Dautry in the 14th Arrondissement, between the Montparnasse office tower and the Paris-Montparnasse train station, at 10 p.m. The route varies every week but always covers roughly 19 miles and returns to the starting point at 1 a.m.

• Visit a sculpture park in Oslo with more than 200 works by Norway's most famous sculptor, Gustav Vigeland. The figures depict people in all stages of life and various emotions; details at www.vigeland.museum.no.

• In Lisbon, Portugal, the Gulbenkian Museum houses a magnificent collection of Egyptian, Greek, Roman, Islamic, Asian and European art. Exhibits include Japanese prints, Persian tapestries and European paintings from Rembrandt to Rubens to Renoir.

• Sandeman's New Europe tour company is offering walking tours of nine European cities — including Paris, Madrid, London and Berlin — free of charge except for optional tipping. The latest addition to the list is a three-hour tour of Prague. Details at www.sandemans-new.com.

• Zurich, Switzerland, is known as an expensive city, but a visit to the Church of Our Lady (Fraumunster) is free. The 13th century building includes two modern art treasures: a large stained-glass window done by the artist Alberto Giacometti in the 1940s, along with five stained glass windows designed by Marc Chagall in 1970.

• A monument to Frank Zappa, creator of the 1960s band the Mothers of Invention, can be found in Vilnius, Lithuania. Zappa is of Lithuanian descent, and the monument is located in an area known as Uzupis, known for its countercultural leanings, cafes, galleries and other artists' hangouts.

• In Amsterdam, Netherlands, at the Wooden Shoe Factory, you can watch typical Dutch wooden shoes being hand-carved and painted while learning the lore behind them, which dates to the 14th century. Details at www.woodenshoefactory.com.

Associated Press

The price is right for cruising 05/25/09 [Last modified: Monday, May 25, 2009 4:30am]
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