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CRUISE INTO TAMPA

Holland America's Ryndam arrives at the Port of Tampa this fall, while Royal Caribbean's Radiance of the Seas will call the city home beginning in October 2010.

Cruisers will soon have two new options for sailing out of Tampa: Holland America's Ryndam and Royal Caribbean's Radiance of the Seas. - The Ryndam has its first sailing of the season from Tampa on Oct. 18, joining Carnival's Inspiration and Legend at the port near the Channelside entertainment complex. Royal Caribbean's Grandeur of the Seas returns to Tampa in December, offering four- and five-night cruises. Radiance of the Seas takes Grandeur's place a year later, with its inaugural voyage set for Oct. 9, 2010. - It's good to have new close-to-home options for Tampa Bay area travelers balancing pinched budgets with the desire to take a vacation. There are four other cruise ports in Florida (Miami, Fort Lauderdale, Cape Canaveral and Jacksonville), but why drive across the state to jump on a ship if you don't have to? Plus, if you keep an eye out for deals and can cruise at the last minute, you'll find even more savings. - Cruises out of Tampa are mostly western Caribbean itineraries unless the ships are repositioning to seasonal ports, usually the Pacific Northwest or Alaska. However, the Grandeur has a 10-day eastern Caribbean swing. - The following facts and figures about the Ryndam and Radiance, plus reviews from several online travel sites, may help you decide if they are the ships for you. Ryndam is knocked in many comments as needing to be updated. Refurbishing work is scheduled for 2010 and 2011.

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ROYAL CARIBBEAN'S RADIANCE OF THE SEAS

Maiden voyage: 2001.

Passengers: 2,500.

Inaugural Tampa seven-night itinerary, Oct. 9, 2010: George Town, Grand Cayman; Costa Maya, Mexico; Belize City, Belize; and Cozumel, Mexico. Radiance will also sail four- and five-night western Caribbean cruises for a total of 44 cruises through October 2011.

Cost: Inside cabins $599; balconies $799 on Royal Caribbean Web site for the initial Oct. 9 cruise. Prices start at $349 and $549 for five-night sailings, and $299 and $499 for four-night trips.

Also sails: Alaska itineraries in the summer and repositioning cruises through the Panama Canal in spring and fall.

More information: Call toll-free 1-866-562-7625 or royalcaribbean.com.

ALASKAN CRUISER, JULY, ON CRUISECRITIC.COM

"The food was good - in the dining room, in the Windjammer, and in both specialty restaurants. I've seen a lot of criticism of the food, but for us, it was great. Our table in the dining room (main seating) was right by the kitchen and I was kind of grumbling about that at first, but it ended up being great - our food always came out first and always came out hot! (Specialty restaurants) Chops and Portofino were both worth the extra money."

ALASKAN CRUISER, JULY, ON CRUISECRITIC.COM

"The stateroom was much smaller than I am used to. We have sailed on five other cruise lines and this was by far the smallest actual cabin portion - balcony was great but actual stateroom was small. It was smaller than anything we have stayed in but had far more cabinet/drawer space."

ALASKAN CRUISER, JULY, ON CRUISECRITIC.COM

"The ship is lovely, very well maintained. Many classy touches. Great indoor solarium/pool. Glassed areas great for viewing Alaska. Elevators ridiculously slow."

SOUTH AMERICA CRUISER, FEBRUARY, ON CRUISECRITIC.COM

"The entertainment in the Aurora Theater was average. ... The two headliners, alleged stars of Broadway productions of Les Miserables and Phantom of the Opera, were unremarkable. I did not stay for their entire show. There was an Elvis impersonator show (Helvis or something like that) I skipped altogether. I eventually gave up on the shows and stopped going."

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HOLLAND AMERICA'S RYNDAM

Maiden voyage: 1994. Staterooms and public spaces have been updated; more refurbishing is scheduled for 2010 and 2011.

Passengers: 1,266.

Inaugural seven-night itinerary out of Tampa, Oct. 18: Key West; Belize City, Belize; Santo Tomas, Guatemala; and Costa Maya, Mexico. Other sailings through December: Nov. 1, 8, 15, 22 and 29; Dec. 6, 13, 20 and 27.

Cost: Prices quoted on Holland America's Web site for the Oct. 18 voyage start at $399 per person for an inside cabin; cabins with balconies start at $899.

Also sails: Alaska itineraries in the summer and repositioning cruises through the Panama Canal in spring and fall.

More information: Call toll-free 1-877-932-4259 or hollandamerica.com.

ALASKA CRUISER, SEPTEMBER 2008, ON CRUISEMATES.COM

"The room (verandah), the food, the entertainment, the staff, everything was absolutely perfect. Every single crew member was totally devoted to making sure that our vacation was perfect and their attitude was absolutely outstanding."

ALASKA CRUISER, AUGUST, ON CRUISECRITIC.COM

"This was the smallest ship we had been on to this point. It was a pleasant break from the super ships where having to go back to the cabin for a forgotten item was a major expedition. I would say the fit was just right for us."

MEXICAN RIVIERA CRUISER, APRIL, ON CRUISECRITIC.COM

"The swimming pool for everyone midship was real dirty, they never drained it, and there was always food in it, and it was just yucky, we went in it once, that was it."

ALASKA CRUISER, JULY 2008, ON GOGREENTRAVELGREEN.COM

"I was expecting mediocre food based on what I had previously heard about cruises. Luckily, the food was amazing. Had it not been for our wedding immediately following the cruise, I would have likely eaten enough to gain 10 pounds in a week."

MEXICAN RIVIERA CRUISER, JULY 2009, ON CRUISECRITIC.COM

"Five times a member of our party had food dropped on them (in the dining room) without even an apology and waiters actually reached down and took food from your lap with their hands and then placed it back on the plate."

Up next:MUSEUM

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