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Actual cruises debunk Love Boat image

Cruise line advertising invariably shows scenes of couples playing kissy-face on deck, Mickey Mouse hugging kids on board or convention groups applauding the chef on theme night, but the ads never show a woman passenger sitting alone during the captain's welcome party while other passengers are dancing to the orchestra's sentimental music. How different from the scenes on the television series Love Boat, where a woman cruising alone encountered friendship, romance and marriage within the hour. Although this series did wonders to boost the cruise business, the scenarios also caused passengers _ especially the woman traveling alone _ to anticipate too much.

Actually, no captain stands on deck to welcome passengers: He is too busy on the bridge before sailing. Nor does he have time to stroll around the deck to seek out individual passengers to find out if they are enjoying the cruise.

No one wants to be a wallflower swathed in expensive sequins. Of course, the woman may tell herselfthat she really took the cruise for relaxation or for the exotic ports of call, but she's just as likely to whimper to herself, "I wish someone would ask me to dance."

Probably the unaccompanied woman's best bet is to select a ship providing hosts for dancing, card partners or accompanying small groups on land excursions. These hosts have been hired with the understanding that they are not tobecome involved with any one woman.

In fact, a host is supposed to offer to dance with a woman passenger a second time only if every other unaccompanied woman has had her whirl around the floor.

At least seven cruise lines promise a minimum of two hosts per trip. Royal Cruise Line, believed to be the innovator of the host program, features more than a dozen hosts aboard its ships, which sail on various European itineraries, mostly the Mediterranean.

When the AAA Peninsula Motor Club, based in the Tampa Bay area, chartered the Costa Riviera for the organization's 50th anniversary last year, eight dance hosts were aboard to provide partners for the 232 single women on the week's cruise.

gers will also be in the late-night rendezvous, epecially those who would not feel comfortable at a scheduled singles get-together, customarily held soon after the ship sails.

As a travel writer, I have cruised numerous times and attended these singles get-togethers. Whether you meet somebody compatible at them depends on the cruise ship _ another reason to check out every detail with a travel agent before selecting a ship.

For example, you can forget the singles party aboard a ship that caters to families with children.

Another tip is to request to sit at a table for eight at the second (later) seating. This is usually the more popular seating, and the larger table provides an opportunity of meeting more passengers.

Take in as many seminars and lessons as possible, again to meet more passengers.

All these require the woman traveling alone to help herself to a good time, which is the purpose of a cruise.

IF YOU GO

Cruise lines with two or more hosts on their social staffs include:

Crystal Cruises

Cunard Line

Delta Queen Steamboat Co.

Regency Cruises

Royal Cruise Line

Royal Viking Line

Sun Line Cruises

Since cruise lines are constantly adding programs, ask your travel agent to recheck a cruise line that you may be interested in but is not on this list.

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