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Seniors prefer cruises tailored to their tastes

Oceania Cruises is a little more than a year old, but has two ships at sea (Insignia and Regatta); it's wooing the traveler 50 and older _ someone better educated and better traveled, who prefers to spend time exploring the culture and history of the ports visited rather than shop the straw markets or bask on the pool deck.

Therefore, half of the typical cruise is spent in the ports of call rather than extra days at sea, according to Tim Rubacky, Oceania spokesman. To accomplish this, the line's vessels often schedule overnight port calls, allowing two days and a night in most of the European ports visited.

A stop such as St. Petersburg, Russia, Rubacky says, will have three days and two nights in port, so passengers "can get a better sense of the area."

Peter Croyle, a destination-services specialist with Oceania, looks for shore excursions that give travelers a sense of an area's cultural history. If he cannot find existing trips, he says, he may craft a tour to provide a better "sense of place," important to the experienced traveler.

In Amsterdam, for example, Croyle wanted a tour that offered more than a look at a single windmill, so he hired onshore operators to conduct an excursion that includes Kinderdijk, which has 20 windmills, Delft, home of the famed blue porcelain, and The Hague, home to international government operations.

Extended stays in ports are possible with mature travelers, according to Rubacky, because they are more likely to have the time to spend on a longer cruise.

Oceania's 14-day cruise from Stockholm to London calls at St. Petersburg, Helsinki, Copenhagen, Berlin and Amsterdam, plus smaller cities en route. The cruise line provides a suggested reading list for each stop.

Onboard activities may include concerts or culinary lectures rather than big-Vegas-style musical revues. And "resort casual" attire is welcomed at the ships' restaurants, which do not have assigned seating. Oceania's ships are relatively small, with about 680 berths each.

For more information on cruises and prices, go to www.oceaniacruises.com or call toll-free 1-800-531-5619, or call a travel agent.

MEDITERRANEAN INTRIGUE. Grand Circle Travel, a company that specializes in trips for those 50 and older, offers a selection of cruises, including "Mediterranean Intrigue," aboard Holland America's Noordam. Fares for that 17-day cruise start at $2,445 per person, based on double occupancy; the fare includes round-trip air from selected U.S. gateways.

This cruise leaves Oct. 30; stops include ports serving Rome, Monte Carlo, Barcelona, Gibraltar and Lisbon. For more information, call toll-free 1-800-221-2610; www.gct.com.

IMPRESSIONISTS OF FRANCE. Elderhostel cruises listed in its Adventures Afloat catalog range from ocean voyages to river adventures. The Seine is the focus of one cruise, which explores the birth and rise of French impressionism in places such as Giverny, Barbizon and Auvers-sur-Oise.

Travel is aboard a two-deck riverboat converted from a barge. Departures are from Oct. 18 to April 14, with fares starting at $3,753. Air fare is extra. For more information, call toll-free 1-877-426-8056; www.elderhostel.org.

COAST OF NORWAY. Thirty-four ports along Norway's 1,250-mile coastline above the Arctic Circle are on the itinerary of Norwegian Coastal Voyage journeys, discounted for seniors and AARP members. The ships combine characteristics of a modest cruise ship and working vessels that carry cargo and local residents and serve as the lifeline between remote coastal towns.

An AARP member can claim discounts of $50 to $150 per cabin and can combine these discounts with the company's seniors savings, which range from $95 to $170 per person on cruises 10 months of the year. Single seniors who sail between Oct. 1 and March 31 will find the single supplement waived for many cabin categories.

Brochures and details are available by calling toll-free 1-800-323-7436 or visiting www.norwegiancoastalvoyage.us.

Contact Adele Malott at P.O. Box 50400, Reno, NV 89513-0400.

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